Saturday, April 15, 2006

Venezuelan economic notes 

The good economic news keeps on pouring in. First, it appears the economic will grow much faster than expected this year:

Venezuela's oil-driven economy grew sharply in the first three months of this year -- even more than the annualized rate of 7.9 percent growth logged during the same period last year -- a central bank official said Friday.

"Growth in the first quarter of 2006 will be superior to that of the same period last year," Domingo Maza Zavala, one of the bank's seven directors, told the government run Bolivarian News Agency.

He did not give a precise figure for first-quarter gross domestic product growth. Official data are due out in late April or early May.

The bank's preliminary estimates showed the strongest growth in the non-petroleum sector, particularly construction, Maza Zavala said.

The Finance Ministry has forecast the economy will grow 5 percent in 2006, a slowdown from 2005's 9.3 percent expansion

The same thing happened last year where the government gave a very conservative forecast for economic growth which was then greatly exceeded. This year looks to be shaping up the same way. It will certainly be very good if they can even beat last years strong growth. Can't wait until the official numbers come out.

A couple of months ago Venezuela announced it would use some of its current account surplus (that is the excess revenue from Venezuela selling more to other countries than it buys from them - something people in the U.S. can only fantasize about) to pay down its foreign debt in the amount of about $4 billion. They have now done much of that:

Venezuela said Wednesday it has completed 75 percent of a planned buyback of US$3.9 billion (euro3.22 billion) in bonds as the world's fifth-largest oil exporter pushes ahead with efforts to reduce its public debt amid high oil prices.

Venezuela announced its plan to repurchase Brady bonds in late February as part of an aggressive strategy to ease its debt load.

To date the government has made payments totaling US$2.33 billion (euro1.92 billion), euro473.2 million (US$573.76 million) and 59.2 million Swiss francs (US$45.5 million; euro37.53 million), the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

It will make additional payments on April 24, May 19 and May 31, it said.

That will save the country US$676 million (euro557.53 million) in debt servicing this year and slash its total outstanding debt by 10 percent to US$41.85 billion (euro34.52 billion), it said.

The government plans to use the money released from collateral held by the Brady bonds to continue funding President Hugo Chavez's popular social programs.

Venezuela is using its surging oil revenues to reduce its public debt. Chavez says such debts often benefit rich creditors while saddling poorer countries with crippling interest payments.

In the coming months, the country has said it also plans to pay off US$779 million (euro652 million) in multilateral debt, including roughly US$200 million (euro167 million) in World Bank loans.

Its good to see that with high oil prices Venezuela not only has a booming economy with ever expanding social programs, to pay down the social debt, but it is also beginning to pay down its foreign debt. The savings of $676 million in interest payments this year alone will be put to good use I'm sure. They can probably fund a couple entire Missions with that money. Also, I never knew they had money tied up as collateral for the Brady bonds but having that freed up will also be a positive.

Also, this is not the only debt being paid down as shown in todays edition of Panorama newspaper. Under prior administrations the state oil company, PDVSA, was also put into debt. In 2001 it had $8.427 billion in debt. That has now been reduced $3.165 billion in outstanding debt. The opposition only notes the fact that PDVSA won't have to file statements with the SEC anymore due to it no longer having any outstanding debt in the U.S. They neglect to mention that debt held by a state oil company is really debt held by a country and that the Chavez administration has now reduced this debt by more than $5 billion. Not bad!!

Lastly there was a rather curious article in BusinessWeek. They mentioned that more than $3 billion in contracts were given to Italian firms to build new rail lines:

The Italian construction firm Impregilo SpA said Thursday it won contracts worth US$3.7 billion (euro3.06 billion) to build two new railway lines in Venezuela and extend a third.

The two new lines will cost US$2.2 billion (euro1.8 billion) and the third line, already under construction, another US$1.5 billion (euro1.24 billion), Impregilo said in a statement. The contracts also include options for US$1 billion (euro830 million) to design and build systems such as signaling, controls, telecommunications and trains.

Venezuelan officials had previously announced plans to work with Impregilo to build the two new lines, one connecting San Juan de los Morros with San Fernando de Apure and the other linking Chaguaramas with Cabruta in central Venezuela, to span a total distance of 200 kilometers (125 miles).

Very strange. Spending so much money on projects that, as we've previously seen, are all imaginary.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

What elections were like before Chavez was in power 

Those following events in Venezuela closely will know that much has been made of the quality and fairness of elections there. In spite of the fact that international observers, from the Carter Center, to the O.A.S. to the European Union, have consistently said that the elections were transparent and reflected the will of the electorate the opposition has continued to cry fraud and claims that the electoral system has been set up to facilitate and hide manipulation of the vote. For example, they question why computers are used for voting instead of simple paper ballots which could be tallied manually and they also challenge the accuracy of the voter rolls.

In general I have had little to say about all this because the international observers have made it clear most of these complaints are without merit and even most Venezuelans recognize that the opposition is simply looking for an excuse to not participate in elections they are sure to lose. But in re-reading the observation report written by the International Republican Institute on the 1998 Venezuelan Presidential elections I thought it would be interesting to compare their findings to some of the ongoing complaints by the Venezuelan opposition.

The report can be found here. Please note who headed this observation mission – yes, none other than Otto Reich. So we are not likely to find any Chavista spin in this report. And remember, during these elections of 1998 Chavez was a candidate and the government agencies, the congress, and institutions such as the C.N.E. (the electoral council) were controlled by what is today the opposition.

So lets look at some of what the report contains. On page 5 we have this:

President Rafael Caldera signed Venezuela’s Organic Law on Suffrage and Political Participation on December 13, 1997. The new election law introduced two sweeping changes in the way elections are administered. First, it called for the use of voting machines to automate the elections. Second, the law curbed the influence of political parties within the country’s election institutions.

Automation quickly became the CNE’s top priority. As early as 1996, the electoral council issued a report calling for automation of the entire voting process using machines that would (1) verify the voter’s identity, (2) allow the voter to cast an electronic ballot, (3) tally the votes cast, and (4) send the totals electronically to a central counting facility. The CNE eventually opted for a less ambitious alternative: automation of the vote count (steps 3 and 4 in this list).

After a long and controversial bidding process, the CNE reached agreement on June 10, 1998, with a Spanish firm, Indra, to automate the vote. Caracas newspapers reported that Indra’s initial bid of $262 million was the most expensive of those received, but later reports indicated the fee (and the scope of work) was reduced to approximately $175 million. Nonetheless, other firms underbid Indra by tens of millions of dollars; Unisys, for instance, placed a bid for $132 million, though its proposal covered a smaller geographical area. Under its contract, Indra managed the voting machines (which the CNE chose to buy rather than lease) and provided technical assistance for both the November 8 and December 6 elections. In addition, Indra will probably be invited to provide assistance to the CNE for Venezuela’s June 1999 municipal elections.

Well, this is interesting. For all the jumping up and down and bitching about why are we using computers it was the opposition under the previous administration that MANDATED THERE USE. And then they slam the current government for following the law that THEY wrote?!?!? Imagine if they didn’t use computers to vote – the opposition would be screaming to high heaven that the government was breaking the law!!

And there are a couple more gems there too. For example, the opposition mandated that the process for identifying voters be automated too. Currently the C.N.E. uses fingerprint reading machines to do this. It does seem like overkill and the opposition constantly complains about it - but again, THEY MANDATED IT!!

Lastly, you may find it curious that they used the machines from the company that put in the MOST EXPENSIVE bid. Strange, huh? Well, welcome to how things were under the Fourth Republic. The country wasn’t exactly Switzerland before Chavez took over.

Then on page 6 we have this:

A third major change to the electoral system came on May 28, 1998, when Venezuela’s Congress amended the new election law to separate the upcoming elections into three rounds in order to simplify the voting process. Prior to this amendment, balloting was to be held on December 6 for every elected office in the land, with a total of 3,362 posts to be filled. After a month of debate, however, both chambers of Congress offered broad support for electoral reforms advanced by the Convergencia party and supported by deputies from AD and COPEI. Elections were held November 8 for the entire Congress (189 deputies and 48 senators were elected directly), 23 state governors (including Vargas, a new state carved out of the Federal District), and state legislatures (a total of 374 state deputies). The presidential vote was held December 6, and elections for mayors and other municipal officials are now slated for June 1999.

Some of the smaller parties and independent candidates objected to the change in the electoral calendar, saying the proposal to separate the national and local elections came too late and was designed to strengthen AD and COPEI. They argued that if the elections were held as planned, the traditional parties would lose seats in Congress as well as several important governorships and mayoralties. In the event, both parties lost ground in Congress anyway.

The opposition complains about how the Chavez administration cheats and is underhanded, doing everything it can to give itself an advantage. Yet look at this little trick the opposition pulled off to try and deny Chavez a sweeping victory. Instead of having the elections be for the Presidency and Congress at the same time, as they always had been, and allow Chavez’s coattails to help his party to get a majority in the Congress they moved up the date of the Congressional elections so that Chavez wouldn’t be on the same ballot and hopefully his candidates wouldn’t win as many seats.

How slimy and underhanded is that? Yet, did Chavez bitch and moan and pull out of the election? Nope. He sucked it up, played ball, and won.

On page 7 they get to the electoral registry:

Voting is mandatory in Venezuela, and citizens are automatically inscribed in the voter registry (registro electoral) upon obtaining the official identification card (cédula de identidad). During the registration period that ended July 26, 1998, the CNE added 900,000 new voters (mostly Venezuelans who had recently reached voting age, which is 18) to the registry, pushing the total number of registered voters to 10.9 million. The CNE also eliminated from the list the names of 500,000 people who had either died or moved.

Nonetheless, the CNE’s registration effort — and the integrity of the voter registry itself — has been subject to intense criticism. It is widely agreed that as many as two million citizens are unregistered. In addition, commentators writing in leading newspapers repeatedly charged that the CNE, allegedly influenced by representatives of the traditional political parties, purposefully limited its registration drive to prevent pro-Chávez voters from participating in the elections. Underscoring the CNE’s poor record keeping in this department, newspaper reports in early November indicated that six dead people appeared on the ballot as candidates.

So they were intentionally trying to keep millions of people off the electoral roles to keep them from voting for Chavez. And I thought only the Republicans in the U.S. did stuff like that! What’s more, while they complain about some dead people still being registered to vote under the current CNE when they were running the show they not only had dead voters they had dead candidates!

On page 11 I ran across this interesting fact:

According to CNE procedures, results are transmitted to the corresponding State Electoral Council’s counting center (centro de totalización), and thence to the CNE’s central counting facility in Caracas. Once the results are transmitted, the voting table president and the machine’s technician are instructed to turn their keys again to allow the machine to print the official tally document. Each machine prints two original copies of each voting table’s tally document, each of which produces four carbon copies (for a total of ten per voting table). This process is repeated for each table at the voting center.

This is sort of technical but during the Recall Referendum the opposition complained mightily about the vote results being transmitted to the central tabulating center BEFORE the vote tallies were printed out by each machine at the polling station. There is logic to this complaint because in theory the central computers could be adding up all the results, manipulating them, and then changing the vote totals on the individual machines that would then print out a sheet to match. Yet when they were running the elections they... did the transmission and then printed the voting results. Another case of “do as we say, not as we did”.

From page 12:

Only after results are transmitted and official tally documents are printed is the ballot box opened and its contents transferred to an official storage box. Copies of the various official documents produced during the day, including the official tally document, are placed in a pair of envelopes together with the machine’s Flash Card, the storage device upon which the machine electronically records election results. At this point, military personnel assume responsibility for transporting the election materials to central collection facilities at the state and national levels

Another big grievance has been that not all the paper ballots printed by the voting machines get counted. That is, the computers they currently use print paper receipts that indicate how a person voted and that then goes in a box. You can count the ballots in the box as a test to confirm the result the computer gives. The C.N.E. has done this but only with a random sample of 47% of the boxes. The opposition claims they should count 100% of the ballots. Yet when the opposition ran the voting in 1998 (and the machines they used had punch cards that were kept in boxes and could have been counted) they DIDN’T COUNT ANYTHING. This is getting repetitive but again its “do as we say, not as we did”.

One last complaint frequently heard by the opposition is that Chavez never had a mandate to carry out a sweeping transformation of the government, or implement large-scale social programs, or change the way the oil industry was run. They often assert he ran little more than a “good government” program and vowed to reign in corruption, but not much more. Yet look at what the I.R.I. says about his mandate:

Early indications are that the policies of President Chávez will be more moderate than those promised by Candidate Chávez. On the campaign trail, Chávez issued socialist promises of more generous government handouts and nationalist curbs on foreign capital. At times he suggested he would nationalize new foreign oil installations and suspend international debt repayments. In his first week in office, the new agriculture minister revealed new measures to protect the agricultural sector from imports, and other officials announced the creation of military brigades to take part in economic development activities ranging from health to road construction.

So he “issued socialist promises of more generous government handouts” and now he is doing precisely that. Sounds like a man means what he says and says what he means. What a breath of fresh air.


More of the standard U.S. hypocrisy 

A couple of years ago there were a number of bombings around Caracas. Fortunately there weren't really any injuries but there was property damage and it appeared that someone was trying to spread fear and create an atmosphere of political instability.

Government investigators have since traced at least two of the bombing, of the Spanish and Colombian embassy's, to military officers who promptly fled to, you guessed it, the United States.

Venezuela proceeded to ask for them to be deported back to Venezuela so they can be charged. Of course, one shouldn't get their hopes up too much regarding this as Posada Carriles, who blew up a civilian airliner, hasn't been sent back to Venezuela is spite of an extradition request. So much for the war on terror.

But given that the Cuban lobby has no reason to be involved in the case of the two officers, Jose Antonio Colina and German Varela, one could at least hope the U.S. would do the right thing and send them back. Alas, no such luck. According to their lawyer the U.S. has decided not to send them back.

While not surprising I have to say it is an outrageous decision. Why? Because of the reasons given. Apparently the judge read a U.S. State Department report that said a military officer in Venezuela had been psychologically tortured. So the judge refused to allow the deportation on the grounds that the U.S. doesn't deport people to where they might be tortured!?!?!?!?!?

So I guess we can only conclude this judge has had his head up his ass for the past few years and doesn't know what has been widely reported, that a) the U.S. carries out many "renditions" whereby people are intentionally flown by the CIA to countries that practice torture for the express purpose of having them tortured b) Guantanamo Bay isn't exactly a Club Med destination and what goes on there certainly fits any reasonable definition of torture (certainly psychological torture) c) the U.S. imposes the death penalty which most countries long ago rejected as inhuman yet the U.S. still insists that other countries deport people to the U.S. d) do the words Abu Ghraib ring a bell?

Maybe the honorable judge shouldn't rely so exclusively on State Department reports that are B.S. to begin with and actually read a newspaper once in a while.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Too far is too far 

Take a close look at these ads and see if there is anything in particular you notice:

See it yet? Ok, here is another one to help you out:

Hopefully by now you've noticed what this post is going to be about but if not here it goes anyways. Each of the advertisements I have posted here were government placed ads in the Ultimas Noticias newspaper (Venezuela's largest newspaper). Notice than on each ad there appears the slogan "Con Chavez Gobernamos Todos" which means "With Chavez we all govern". I first noticed this slogan starting to appear on some government advertisements and notices about a month ago but it is now appearing on virtually all of them. And of course what is impossible to deny is that this is a very blatant partisan political slogan being plastered all over the the place.

This is clearly wrong on a number of levels. First and foremost the government is clearly paying to promote one particular politician - Hugo Chavez. Almost as bad, it appears to merge the government and the President creating the impression that the government is being run only to benefit people of a particular political persuasion. When the European Union wrote its observation report on the legislative elections of last December, although they said the actual voting process was excellent and virtually flawless (people in the U.S. - quit drooling with envy,) they pointed out that "ventajismo" - or the government giving an advantage to one side - was a problem. State resources were used in the campiegns of pro-Chavez candidates, they were used to get people to the polls and they were otherwise used to influence the vote. Truthfully this happens in all countries to some extent and in Latin America it is rampant. The government of Hugo Chavez is by no means unique in doing this either by the standards of the rest of Latin America or by historical Venezuelan standards.

Nevertheless, this is clearly an egregious breach of normal standards of how a government should conduct itself. Clearly putting the slogan "Con Chavez Gobernamos Todos" is going way too far. Rest assured who ever comes in to observe the upcoming presidential elections will slam the Venezuelan government over this. And justifiably so. Sure, some will justify this saying that the vast majority of the media is controlled by the opposition and long ago gave up any pretense of objectivity. That is certainly true. In fact it could be said that most of the opposition controlled media is nothing but one big anti-Chavez commerical. But as most of us learned in the first grade, two wrongs don't make a right. So this slogan should do a quick disappearing act.

By the way, think those ads were the extent of it? Not by a long shot. Here are some more and bear in mind all of these came just from todays edition of Ultimas Noticias.

This ad clearly shows there is no ban on mixing religion and the state. It is from Seniat, the Venezuelan equivalent of the IRS

You may ask, does the government normally put so many ads in the paper? No. On average in Ultimas Noticias they put two. I'm not sure why there were so many today. Maybe it has something to do with it being a holiday week.


Four years ago today 

On April 12th, 2002, four years ago today, the forces of reaction dissolved the democratically elected government of Venezuela. To do this they issued what is now called “the Carmona Decree” after the person who was proclaimed president during the coup. The entirety of the text can be found here in Spanish. I have translated excerpts of it which are given below. Please keep in mind that it is now known that this decree was drafted days in advance of the events of April 11th (a detail conveniently left out in all opposition accounts of those events) which helps show that the events of that day constituted a pre-planned coup:

Act of Constitution of the Transitional Government of National Unity

The Venezuelan people, true to their republican tradition of struggling for independence, peace, and liberty, represented by diverse sectors organized by the national democratic society, with the backing of the united Armed Forces in a act of patriotic reaffirmation and to recover the democratic institutions and our constitutional path, and utilizing its legitimate right to reject any regime, legislation, or authority that are contrary to the values and principle democratic guarantees established in article 350 of the Constitution of December 30th, 1999.
In agreement with the tenets and principles established in the InterAmerican Democratic Charter signed by the member of the Organization of American States including Venezuela.

That yesterday, the 11th of April 2002, a date that will be remembered with profound indignation and national sadness, there occurred violent events in the city of Caracas that owed to orders given by the government of Hugo Chavez Frias to attack, repress and murder innocent Venezuelans that peacefully demonstrated around Miraflores palace and inflicting upon them grave crimes against the humanity of the Venezuelan people.


That Hugo Chavez Frias and his government from their high positions have instigated to commit crimes, sponsored violence against all types of private property, as well as obstaculized investigations....

Considering: That Hugo Chavez Frias and his government have irresponsibly promoted a climate of confrontation and social violence, contrary to national unity, democratic pluralism and the principles and values of democracy, against all the institutions and sectors of Venezuelan society.

That Hugo Chavez Frias and his government have planned and executed a foreign policy contrary to the highest economic, political, and social interests of the nation, bringing about an isolation with grave consequences for the country, having an ambiguous policy with respect to international terrorism and developing undeniable links to the Colombian narcoguerillas.


Considering: That Hugo Chavez Frias yesterday presented his resignation from the position of President of the Republic before the High Command of the Armed Forces, and the Vice-president of the Republic abandoned his office which has brought about a constitutional vacuum of power, so that the republican government can be adapted to the demands of the situation and constitutional principles and to those established in the InterAmerican Democratic Charter

We Decree:

Constructing a democratic transitional government of national unity in the following form under the following principles:

Article 1:
Is designated the citizen Pedro Carmona Estanga, Venezuelan, of age, and with I.D. number 1.262.556 be President of the Republic. He assumes by this act immediately the position of Head of State and the National Executive for the period established in this decree. The President of the Republic with the Council of Ministers is empowered to give such edicts as are necessary for the execution of this decree and the consolidation of the national government.

Article 2: Is re-established the name Republic of Venezuela, by which will be identified our homeland from this moment on.

Article 3:
Are suspended from their offices the deputies and their alternates of the National Assembly. National legislative elections will be head no later than the end of December 2002 to elect the members of the National Legislative Power, which will be empowered to reform the Constitution of 1999.

Article 4: Is created Consultative Council which will exercise the functions of advising the President of the Republic. The Council of State will be composed of 35 principle members and their alternates representing the diverse sectors of Venezuelan democratic society; the principle members can temporarily leave their seats without losing the right to occupy positions within the National Executive, state, or municipal governments and their temporary absence will be covered by their alternates. The Consultative Council will elect from its members a president, two vice-presidents and a secretary. The Consultative Council will be made up of 35 citizens named by decree.

Article 5: The President of the Republic of Venezuela will coordinate the national democratic transition policies and other acts necessary to secure the state and municipal powers.

Article 6:
National general elections will be held within 365 days beginning from today’s date. The transitional government will cease to exist once a new democratically elected president assumes office. The President of the Republic designated in this act cannot be a candidate for the Presidency in the said elections.

Article 7:
The President of the Republic with the Council of Ministers can designate temporarily the heads of the public powers, at the national, state and local level to assure democratic institutionality and adequate rule of law, along with Venezuela’s representatives before the Andean and Latin American parliaments.

Article 8:
Is decreed the reorganization of the public powers with the purpose of recovering their autonomy and independence and assuring a peaceful and democratic transition, from which posts will be hereby deposed those illegitimately occupying them at the present including the President and Magistrates of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General of the Republic, the Comptroller of the Republic, the Omnsbudsman, and the members of the National Electoral Council. The President of the Republic with the Council of Ministers will consult with the Consultative Counsel will designate as rapidly as possible the citizens who will exercise those positions.

Article 9: Are hereby suspended the 48 decrees with the force of law, dictated in accordance with the Enabling Law of November 13, 2000. The President of the Republic will install a commission to review the said laws made up of representatives of the diverse sectors of society.

Article 10: Remain in effect the judicial order in as much as it is not revised by this decree nor by orders of the newly constituted transitional government. Similarly are kept in effect all the international commitments properly entered into by the Republic of Venezuela.

Article 11:
The democratic and national unity transitional government will relinquish its powers and give account of its actions to the Public Powers that are legitimately named in accordance with what is established in this decree and other constitutional and legal orders.

Given in the Palace of Miraflores in the city of Caracas on the 12th day of the month of April 2002. The 191st year of independence and 142nd of Federation.

Ladies and gentlemen for the purpose of moving forward with this project of all the national democratic society, in the entrance to this hall we ask you to sign the decree that has just been read to as a way of joining this process.

So in one fell swoop they overthrew the President, Vice-President, National Assembly, Supreme Court, and Attorney General. And these are the people who constantly lecture on the need for independent institutions and checks and balances!!!!! For good measure they also changed the countries name. All this in one day. Imagine what they could have accomplished if they had a whole week.

Nowadays they try to claim this was all the work of one man – Pedro Carmona. And in spite of the fact that he was a top leader of the opposition and the head of the national chamber of commerce they often make it sound like they had never heard of the guy. Yet when the call went out to sign on to the process the line was out the door to sign on the dotted line. In fact here is a list of the 350 people who signed which more or less reads like a social registry of eastern Caracas. For fun, see if you can find Maria Corina Machado on the list.

So many signed it went off the end of the pr-printed sheets. Note the signature of a prominent member of SUMATE.

Fortunately, thousands of people all over Venezuela took to the streets to defend democracy and overthrow this nascent dictatorship. That helped bring this nightmare to a quick end. But it should never be forgotten what the opposition tried to impose on Venezuela when it had the chance.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Who needs the truth when you have an agenda to push? 

People who read the Washington Post probably already Jackson Diehl is no friend of Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. They will probably also know that he hasn't much use for the truth - for example he previously asserted that President Chavez made it a crime in Venezuela to insult the President which, of course, is a lie (the law he was referring to has been on Venezuela's books for at least 40 years).

Today he was at it again. In todays Op-Ed piece he was shedding tears over a couple Venezuelan opposition supporters who currently find themselves in hot water. First we have Maria Corina Machado who on April 11, 2002 apparently could think of nothing else to do but go visit a family friend smack dab in the middle of presidential palace while the government was being overthrown. At least that was the excuse she gave in her interview with Juan Forero of the New York Times. Sounds fishy to me, but hey, I'm a Chavista not a judge.

The Mr. Diehl gets all sentimental over an opposition politician named Henrique Radonski. Many of us who watched the film of the events outside the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002 could swear we saw a mob assualt the embassy, destroy its property, rip out its phone and electricity cables and cut off its water vowing to starve out those holed up in side with Mr. Radonski doing nothing, if not egging them on. Now he swears he went there to disperse the crowd and help protect the embassy. Thats sort of funny given that if he wanted to disperse the mob coulnd't he have sent in the police of Chacao given that he is in charge of them as the mayor of that municipality. Yet he didn't. Oh, yes, I forgot. The police were otherwise busy hunting down pro-Chavez legislators, mayors, and government officials.

Anyways, Mr. Diehl is certainly free to befriend whomever he pleases, no matter how unsavory they may be. Buts its what came next that shows how utterly dishonest he is. I quote:

Contrary to his own propaganda, Chavez has reason to worry. He has never enjoyed overwhelming support in Venezuela; his ratings have mostly fluctuated a few points above and below 50 percent. A tidal wave of corruption revelations, infrastructure failures and sensational crimes has dominated attention in Caracas in recent weeks. Chavez is rooting for the opposition boycott Capriles opposes; he recently said that if it occurs he will propose abolishing the constitutional limit on his tenure.

Of course, if he kept up with this blog he would know that Chavez’s approval rating is over 80% - more than “a few points” above 50%. But maybe he doesn’t trust me, after all I’m an avowed Chavista. No matter, he could have read these numbers from a hard core opposition blogger showing Chavez blowing away the opposition 55% to 26%. You can slice and dice it any way you want but Chavez has nothing to fear from the opposition as pretty much every poll in the land has him winning in a land slide.

But, hey, why should Mr. Diehl worry about the truth. He has to push his paymasters agenda and collect a check.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Open thread on Peruvian elections 

Lest we forget, millions of Peruvians are going to the polls today to possibly elect another leftist government for the region. We can use this thread to post updated information as results come in.


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