Friday, June 29, 2007

Nobody cried for Lazaro Candal 

Flanker: During the cry fest of Sunday May 27th 2007, RCTV made special segments regarding its past history, no doubt trying to instill a sense of loss in the audience, noticeably absent from this spectacle was a legendary figure in the history of Venezuelan media Lazaro "papaito" Candal.

It might seem odd how a futbol broadcaster can be so recognizable, famous, and loved in a Baseball nation, but you see every four summers Venezuela becomes one of the most rabid futbol nations on earth. Since our national team is historically deplorable (not a single WC berth) we are forced to back other squads, some back their euro roots, others back our regional brothers, but nearly all of us agreed that Papaito was our only football related celebrity, with a striking galician accent and the uncanny ability to turn the dullest game imaginable into a spectacle worth watching... but then the cup always ends and his presence temporarily is forgotten.

It was during said break that he was fired from RCTV for simply expressing his opinion on the corporate world. He made the slightest criticizism imaginable regarding corporate sponsorship, and said corporation demanded RCTV fire him, which they did in a rather humiliating way. Nobody batted for him, not the SIP, not RSF, not his coworkers, not the media. He decided to retire after doing a few games for MeridianoTV during Germany 06. Ending on a bitter note his whole career.

That said two things changed his mind, the first is obvious, this year Venezuela hosts what promises (and so far has delivered) to be the best Copa America ever. The other event was as dramatic, RCTV was rightfully denied public subsidies and TVes became the "official" channel of the Copa taking RCTV's place on VHF 2 and 3. The first thing TVes did was attempt to rehire papaito. Which he accepted, not because he was a chavista, or because he is vengeful, but for the simple reason that TVes showed him the respect he rightfully deserves. Not surprisingly the reaction was expected, the rabid opposition attacked him and his family in Spain (thankfully only verbal attacks for now). He brushes it aside, for even though he will not admit it, he had the last laugh.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is extortion free speech? 

Flanker:I always wondered where do NGO's draw the line with regards to speech, calling for the assasination of a US president is worth repressing, but coup plotting is a valid editorial line worth defending. So the only logical conclusion that can be drawn up is the exceptionalist rule of foreign journalism, anything that is different from the developed north is simply wrong and worth attacking, regardless of its inherent value. While it might not be fair, at least the government is fully aware of this unwritten law, and anytime criticism surfaces they just point out that abroad they do the same.

That said they were left scrambling after the RCTV case, they banked on the theory that if the media did not balk at Alan Garcia or Thatcher for doing it they would leave Venezuela relatively alone... Big mistake as this was the worst PR disaster in recent memory, the government stood no chance against a vicious media motivated by fake tears, greed and corporate bias.

But are we returning to normal? a good litmus test is the pending case against José Rafael Ramírez an infamous opposition slanderer and now charged extortionist, but also a sacred journalist.

(in this police video you can see the setup, he was given 5 grand up front to not print a particular story)

So will the media balk at this trial? Since libel is ok with them, and afterall he is just charging good money for practicing his right to publish whatever he wants.

I doubt it though, we are safe... for now.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What is the real Boliburguesia? 

Flanker:Living in the world of logic one is leary of anecdotal and circumstantial evidence, but it seems it is the preferred method to propagandize about perceived corruption. Case in point the ramblings of a new elite, those that were poor before but now are rich all thanks to "corruption". The Boliburguesia.

Now granted this is more than enough for most, since both the international and local opposition constantly remind us of this every day. But are they being accurate? are these people really corrupt? I do not know, and while I will not pull a Francisco and blame the opposition for my lack of knowing, I will attempt to debunk the theory of unaccountability.

Almost two years ago I posited a query regarding chavista corruption and impunity, I asked for concrete examples, and I got two (no doubt the only thing that google spit out)

Jesus Caldera Infante, Currently facing an investigation for his stint at FOGADE, he is so desperate that he even ran for president and was on the ballot.


Tobias Nobrega, former finance minister, recently charged for shifty behavior regarding state purchases. The reaction was swift in the opposition sphere... as swift as any conspiracy theory can spring to life. link

So we have two cases of probable corruption from public workers, and as evidenced, there is no impunity.

But the Boliburguesia label includes the private sector as well, businessmen who despite the socialism surrounding them are quite capitalist in amassing wealth. Still capitalism is not illegal (and god knows it is what the opposition defends first and foremost) so we are left with accusations of business discrimination. This theory could make sense had the opposition not locked out x number of days from Dec 2001 till Spring 03, clearly they are unreliable business partners, and whatever whining Polar does for not being included in Mercals, can be justified as simply a logical business decision.

That said even though I do not claim capitalism==corrupution (though it is quite close if you think about it), and can therefore be ignored. The issue of impunity is very important.

Meet Gustavo Arraiz

President of Microstar, he achieved great riches the past 8 years, selling computers to the government, and through posh mall stores throughout Venezuela, he was also a chavista. Last year he fled the country since he was charged for importing ghost computers and defrauding CADIVI. Once caught in Panama the government showed no mercy in asking for his deportation which they did. Today he is a scared man, so scared he decided to donate to the government a very sweet piece of real estate... his other pet project Aeromall:

Here is the letter he published in Ultimas Noticias

In short:

*I donate the land and project, please finish it since I cannot in prison
*You can build it with socialist companies.
*I support your government, and he signs off with "Patria, socialism, or death"

To tell you the truth I kinda feel sorry for him, for even though he might be guilty, nobody is batting for him: The opposition (both foreign and domestic) never provided asylum claiming "political persecution", he is not a Posada Carriles (terrorism), The pair of plaza altamira officers (terrorism), Pedro Carmona (coup), Carlos Ortega (ilegal strike, false papers), Nixon Moreno (attempted rape) Patricia Poleo (coup, murder) etc. They will never face justice, therefore their impunity is real.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Copa America comes to Venezuela 

Starting today the soccer world, or at least the South American soccer world, will be focused on Venezuela. That is because the South American soccer tournament, called Copa America, will take place over the next month in Venezuela. It will include all the South American national teams plus Mexico, and to be fair to imperialist countries, the United States.

While soccer is hardly Venezuela's national sport it is gaining in popularity and it should be fun

To host this tournament Venezuela has been busy over the past year building new stadiums and remodeling old ones to serve as the nine different venues where the games will be played. For your viewing pleasure here are some of them:




Puerto La Cruz


And after a hard day of playing soccer you have to be able to relax:


Monday, June 25, 2007

There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. 

Ironically, due to recent events involving Venezuelan students I haven’t gotten around to an item that will impact future university students – the decision by the Venezuelan government to eliminate the Academic Aptitude Test which is what determines who is eligible to enter universities in Venezuela. The test is roughly comparable to the S.A.T.s in the United States and, as can be seen from this advertisement, like the S.A.T. has spawned its own exam preparation industry:

This year it was administered for the last time to about 100,000 graduating high school students.

Higher education, despite what a casual observer might think, has long been an elite bastion in Venezuela. Despite there being a number of large, and well funded, public universities the vast majority of higher education students in Venezuela come from the upper classes. It doesn’t take much more than a short stroll through the parking lot at the Universidad Central de Venezuela for one to realize that.

In fact, Hector Rodriguez, one of the students who spoke in front of the National Assembly two weeks ago gave a stunning statistic – while 80% of Venezuelan high schools students attend public schools and only 20% attend private schools 80% of Venezuelan university students attended private high schools and only 20% public schools. While I can’t confirm that statistic if it is even partially true it is stunning and shows the huge inequality in access to higher education in Venezuela.

Clearly, this is an unacceptable situation – not just for the hundreds of thousands of poorer Venezuelans who are left out but for Venezuelan society as a whole. No society can be healthy with such a high degree of inequality and clearly the Chavez government is right to want to change it.

However, there are right ways to do things, and wrong ways. In eliminating the Academic Aptitude Test the government has clearly chosen the wrong way. Sure, in one sense, the problem will be solved as probably more poor people who haven’t had access to quality education will now be able to attend universities. Hopefully they will graduate from the universities and go on to a prosperous and fulfilling career.

But a university diploma isn’t a piece of paper – it is a body of knowledge. If that knowledge is watered down because university students are less prepared then that piece of paper become worth less, both to its recipient and to society as a whole. Sure students will at least initially be happy to receive that piece of paper but if their education has been devalued they will quickly find they have been deceived. The fact is, in thinking about this “solution” to a very real problem, it quickly becomes obvious it is a quick and cheap fix that is in reality no fix at all.

In reality it is laziness and lack of imagination on the part of the government because there are REAL solutions to this problem. Rather than eliminating this test because it is an obstacle to the poor why not improve the poor’s education so that they perform as well as anyone on it?

There are many ways that could be done. For example, it is well known that the poor suffer from inferior schooling starting in elementary school. One idea would be to require all university students in the country to work with two or three elementary students and give them tutoring for say 10 hours a week. To make sure the university students take this seriously MORE testing could be implemented for the elementary students. If the young elementary students don’t pass their end of year exam then the university student responsible for tutoring them won’t be allowed to continue with the next year of their classes.
Of course this is just one idea and it may or may not turn out to be workable. But the point should be clear; if the government thinks hard and implements some innovative policies it should be able to remedy the great wrong of educational inequality while at the same time ensuring the type of high quality education that Venezuelan students will need if they are successfully make their way in the world. Short cuts like eliminating Academic Aptitude Test just won’t work.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Welcome back 

Today I made a very welcome discovery - the Lubrio blog is back after having been hacked. Not only is it back posting but all its old posts appear to have been restored.

The Lubrio blog, written by Luigino Bracci, is one of the best blogs on Venezuela and is really a must read, at least for those who understand Spanish.

So to Luigino - WELCOME BACK.


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