Saturday, November 11, 2006

Callling the bluff on the polling numbers poker game. 

There has been a curious little thing going on over the past few weeks. Some of the opposition internet denizens have been running around claiming that Rosales is gaining on Chavez, has caught him in the polls, or at least is getting close to catching him. They have also tried to cast aspersions the polls showing Chavez way ahead.

Soooo, to humor all the opposition types who frequent this blog can any of you provide a link to a poll showing Rosales been essentially even to Chavez or even getting close (hell, I'll take one even showing him getting within ten points)? Three conditions: it has to be a poll by a known polling firm (eg, Datanalisis, Keller, Datos, Sejias, Hinterlaces, Consultores 21, etc) and it has to have been published in a known newspaper (i.e. links to unsubstantiated Noticiero Digital articles don't count), and it has to actually ask people who they would vote for. I think those are pretty straighfoward conditions easily met by any REAL poll.

All the polls I have seen, and blogged on, show Chavez with a clear and consistent lead of between 15 and 20 percentage points. But if our opposition friends can show a poll that says otherwise the comment section is all yours. Put your cards on the table and show us the numbers. We're waiting....


Friday, November 10, 2006

Lies and the liars who write them 

Lies from the Venezuelan opposition tend to come fast and furious and therefore generally not worth even commenting upon. But this one was just too funny to let go by. From the opposition internet columnist we have this:

A coup d'état is in progress in Venezuela at this very moment. Hugo Chávez leads it in his double role as president and presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. This open rebellion against the constitution and the laws of the republic started several days ago, when Rafael Ramírez, the Oil Minister cum president of the State oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), addressed employees of the company to tell them that whoever was not with Chávez had to leave the company immediately. Ramírez threatened to fire anyone who dissented, in the same way that Chávez sacked 19,500 PDVSA employees in 2002 for being "enemies of the revolution."

For a moment ignore the non-sense about a coup detat in Venezuela, about Chavez having a double role as President and Presidential candidate (?!?!?) or the fiction that Rafael Ramirez said that people who weren't with Chavez had to leave the company immediately.

Just for a minute, lets focus on the last sentence: "Ramirez threatened to fire anyone who dissented, in the same way that Chávez sacked 19,500 PDVSA employees in 2002 for being "enemies of the revolution."

That is odd. I thought they got fired after they didn't show up to work for a couple of months. I thought it had something to do with them saying they wouldn't go back to work until Chavez resigned (and Rafael Ramirez too!!!). I thought they got fired, after weeks of being implored to return to work, for bringing a whole country to its knees for the high crime of electing a President that the managers of PDVSA didn't like.

Of course, Mr. Coronels assertions, like most of what he writes, are just complete non-sense and fabrications. It is perplexing though to try to understand who he thinks he is writing for. Does he think that people who manage to find his lonely editorials don't already have a sufficient knowledge of current events in Venezuela to know that the 19,000 PDVSA employees who were fired were fired not for expressing anti-Chavez views but for going on an indefinite strike with the aim of overthrowing the government? I think it unlikely that he will find people who can be that easily duped.

Then again, maybe he thinks all Americans are gullible fools. After all, he got CNN to fall for his lie that he was a former member of the Venezuelan Congress!

Screen captures courtesy Common Prejudice


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Boosting prices and cutting your losses at the same time 

Today we get more details on exactly how sensible Venezuelan oil policy has become under Chavez.

Readers of this blog will be well aware of Chavez taking a leading roll in the late 90's in revitalizing OPEC and its strict adherence to OPEC quotas. Venezuela has reaped huge dividends from those policies.

Recently OPEC has again taken oil off the market in order to stabalize prices and maintain the high levels of income that oil exporters have seen in recent years. So far OPECs cuts seem to be meeting with some success, although additional cuts will probably be needed.

Of course, while price stabalizing cuts are a good thing they aren't cost free. After all you have to reduce production and that cut back on your income and profits to a certain extent (although the whole idea is the increase in prices more than offsets the loss of income from reduced sales.) But in Venezuela's case this turns out not to be so bad, as the following article hints at:

Oil firms teamed up with PdVSA in the 1990s to build integrated oil production and refining operations that produce roughly 500,000 barrels a day. Venezuela recently ordered the Orinoco to cut 138,000 b/d of output to comply with an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' quota reduction.

Amid record oil prices and a domestic policy of resource nationalism, the Hugo Chavez administration has already hiked taxes and royalties on these deals.

As part of the recent OPEC cutbacks Venezuela was required to cut 200,000 in daily oil production. From the above article they are forcing the Orinoco heavy oil associations bear the great majority of the cuts.

Why is this good for Venezuela? Simple. These production associations are mainly owned by foreign oil companies and those companies get the majority of the profits. Further the production costs on this oil are higher than regular oils and the taxes and royalties are lower. The end result is that Venezuela makes a lot less money on the Orinoco crud than it makes on its conventional crudes. So if you are going to cut back doesn't it make sense to cut back on your least profitable product? Absolutely. And that is what the Chavez government has very wisely done.

One can be sure that if the opposition was running the country this would never happen. Never mind that they don't believe in supporting OPEC and would never agree to cutbacks to begin with. You can be sure that if they did make cutbacks the cutbacks would be made from PDVSA's conventional crudes not the foriegn oil companies production. I can hear all the excuses now; "we can't scare away foriegn investment", "we can't break contracts", "we can't alienate our partners", etc.

Fortunately Venezuela has a government that is willing to stand up for Venezuela's true interests. And Venezuelans like it that way. That is why the election of December 3rd is a foregone conclusion.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I wonder what this is about? 

These very curious advertisements have been popping up in Venezuelan newspapers recently.

This one talks about the state government of Zulia giving out land to people (without adversely effecting private property, of course). So proud of this accomplishment are they that the state of Zulia paid for this advertisement in a Caracas newspaper. Then on the bottom it has the curious statement; "Imagine everyone on this path".

In this one the state of Zulia brags about all the school lunches it has given out. So proud are they they again advertise this achievement in Caracas - hundreds of miles away from Zulia. And again we get that curious statement; "Imagine everyone on this path".

In this one the state of Zulia brags about all the free operations that have been provided by its government. And again, they are bragging to people in Caracas about what is happening in Zulia. I suppose a little regional pride never hurt anyone. But that confusing statement keeps popping up on the bottom; "Imagine everyone on this path".

It would appear Zulia is looking for more people. Obviously they want everyone else in the country to move to their great state.

That has to be what these ads are all about isn't it? I mean the only alternative explanation - that the state of Zulia which is controlled by Manuel Rosales and his allies are using government monies to further his campaign - simply can't be. The highly upright and ethical opposition would never stoop to illegally using government resources to further their political ambitions would they? Nah - they would never do that!


Another week, another victory for Chavez 

Last week it was Lula's turn to give a big victory for the Left. This week it is Nicaragua's turn.

Ulises Fernandez, a teacher-turned-squatter, lives with 26 other families in a buckled and broken building condemned more than three decades ago after Nicaragua's devastating 1972 earthquake.

He lost his job in 1990, the year Daniel Ortega fell from power — the new government of Violeta Chamorro fired him and others who didn't have university degrees. He moved into "The Ruins," a shattered Art Deco building of twisted metal and crumbling concrete behind the president's office. Life since then has been a daily struggle just to find enough to eat.

"It's like we don't have a right to life," Fernandez said. "We've always planned to leave, but there's no money."

Fernandez and his family voted for Ortega in Sunday's election — among the impoverished Nicaraguans who make up the former Marxist revolutionary's base.

With 61 percent of the vote counted Tuesday, Ortega had 39 percent compared to 31 percent for Harvard-educated Eduardo Montealegre, enough to win the first round of voting outright.

Ortega has refused to declare victory, but his vice presidential candidate, Jaime Morales, told The Associated Press he was confident the Sandinista leader had won. "You can't hide reality," Morales said.

The United States, which had warned against an Ortega win, has refused to comment on the results. But former President Jimmy Carter, who served as an election observer, said Tuesday that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice "assured me that no matter who was elected, the U.S. will respond positively and favorably." Rice's office confirmed the two talked, but gave no details.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez celebrated, saying: "Latin America is ceasing to be — and forever — a backyard of U.S. imperialism. Yankee, go home!"

He was joined by Ortega loyalists across Nicaragua, who danced in the trash-strewn slums of Managua and watched results trickle in on televisions in the jungle. Like Fernandez, they are convinced things are going to change in the poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti.

The middle and upper classes warn that Ortega will scare away investment, jeopardize U.S. relations and even plunge the country back into civil war like the 1980s, when about 30,000 people were killed.

Some are preparing to flee to Miami or neighboring Costa Rica, haunted by memories of the uncontrollable inflation during Ortega's decade-long rule, when the dollar rose 33,000 percent against Nicaragua's currency.

But Fernandez remembers a better life.

Ortega's regime sent Fernandez, a Miskito Indian from the remote, northeastern border with Honduras, to Cuba for two years to be trained as a teacher. When the civil war threatened his village, Ortega's government relocated everyone to a safer town.

Thousands of Miskitos were outraged at being forced to move and many joined the U.S.-backed Contra rebels fighting the Sandinistas. In September, some accused Ortega of genocide in a complaint filed with the attorney general's office.

But others have turned toward the Sandinistas in recent years.

Among them is Fernandez's family, who say at least under Ortega they had access to state-funded medical care and schools.

"Even though there was war, I never went hungry," said his daughter, Noemi Fernandez, a 29-year-old single mother of two.

For those of us who remember like it was yesterday all the U.S. dirty tricks in that country, from mining the country's harbors and other terrorist activities, to funding and getting save haven for their own little "insurgency", to even getting oil supplies cut off, Ortega's victory is sweet.

So put another one in the win column for Chavez. And the most important prize of all is coming up - December 3rd.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lest we forget who used PDVSA as a political weapon 

Over the past couple of days a small uproar has ensued from some inappropriate remarks by Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, president Rafael Ramirez. In his statements (video here) Ramirez said that PDVSA was “with the revolution” and that people who opposed Chavez should consider resigning from PDVSA.

Mr. Ramirez’s remarks clearly seem to have gone too far. PDVSA is a national company and most of its employees should be judged solely on their work performance, not their political leanings.

But while deploring Ramirez’s remarks we should keep in mind who it was that first turned PDVSA into a political weapon – yes, none other than the Venezuelan opposition which is now so loudly decrying what Ramirez said. Over the course of two years they used repeated strikes as a weapon to force Chavez from power – succeeding briefly in April 2002.

Their biggest and most costly use of PDVSA as a weapon came in December 2002 when they launched a two month long “oil strike” in an attempt to overthrow the government. The striking PDVSA managers formed a group called “Oil People”. They brought oil and gas production to a standstill, caused the country to lose about $14 billion dollars in revenues, sabotaged oil installations, threw the Venezuelan economy into a depression and caused hundreds of thousands of other Venezuelans to lose their jobs.

Of course, when one hears the word “strike” one thinks of workers struggling for better wages and working conditions. Yet those things weren’t in the list of demands in this strike of highly paid executives, managers and office workers. Lets hear in their own words what they were trying to accomplish with their strike. Here are excerpts from their list of demands:

December 12th, 2002

La actitud del Presidente de la República, quien no ha respetado la voluntad y el derecho de más de dos millones de venezolanos que legítimamente solicitamos un Referendum Consultivo para solicitar su renuncia y elecciones inmediatas.

Acordamos: • Mantenernos en Paro Cívico Activo hasta tanto se produzca:

La renuncia de: Gustavo Pérez Issa, Alfredo Riera, Alí Rodríguez Araque y Rafael Ramírez por propiciar la violencia contra los trabajadores y poner en peligro las instalaciones, el personal y las comunidades cercanas a las instalaciones

La renuncia del Presidente de la República por ser el principal responsable del clima de violencia y el odio que hoy consume a los venezolanos y convertirse en el factor que impide la salida democrática que estamos exigiendo los venezolanos.

Noting: The attitude of the President of the Republic, who has not respected the will and rights of more than two million Venezuelans what legitimately solicit a consultative referéndum to solicit his resignation and immediate elections

Resolve: To stay with the National Civic Strike until we achieve:

The resignation of Gustavo Perez Issa, Alfredo Riera, Ali Rodriguez Araque, and Rafael Ramirez for promoting violence against the workers and putting in danger the installations, personnel and the communities near the installations.

The resignation of the President of the Republic for being the principle person responsible for the climate of violence and hatred that today consumes Venezuelans and had become the factor that impedes the democratic solutions that we Venezuelans are demanding.

December 20, 2002

Mantener el Paro Cívico Activo hasta tanto se produzca:
- La salida presidencial de Ciudadano Hugo Chávez Frías..
- La salida de Rafael Ramírez, Alí Rodríguez Araque, Gustavo Pérez Issa y Alfredo Riera.

We will stay on strike until we produce:

The presidential exit of citizen Hugo Chavez Frias.
The exit of Rafael Ramirez, Ali Rodriguez Araque, Gustavo Perez Issa and Alfredo Riera.

December 26th, 2002

• Ratificar que nuestra reincorporación al trabajo se producirá cuando hayan sido alcanzados los objetivos acordados en las asambleas anteriores, principalmente: la salida del Presidente Hugo Chávez y el llamado a elecciones.

Ratify that our resumption of work will come about when the objectives of our previous assemblies have come about, principally: the exit of President Hugo Chavez and the calling of elections.

This is just a portion of all the things they were demanding. I highly recommend that people visit their site and read their editorials in full. Their news bulletins in “Ultima Hora” are also quite interesting and reflect the grave damage they did to the country. That damage is also shown in these videos:

What we have here are a group of people who thought they could use their employment in a highly strategic company that accounts for half of the governments revenues and 80% of the countries export earnings to overthrow a government they didn’t like and demand that others, such as Rafael Ramirez himself, be ousted. Also remember, this all happened 8 short months after these same PDVSA execs and managers helped oust Chavez through a coup. Chavez later called for national reconciliation and this is what he got from the opposition in return.

While none of that justifies Ramirez’s speech it sure does help put it in context. And it also explains why some of us are quite skeptical over the opposition’s newfound concern about PDVSA being used for political ends.


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