I will no longer update here. All posts in the almost seven years of this blog can be found there!!! Thank you!
1) Venezuelas non-oil GDP is back down to 1977 levels according to Toby Bottome of Veneconomia. I guess this is a backwards revolution, 35 years lost, proving once again the IVth. was bad, but the Vth. is worse.
2) Two weeks ago, I was telling people I did not understand why the parallel swap rate was not soaring given that CADIVI is simply not giving much (Even if we dont have statistics for March). Now that the rate has soared in two weeks, I am concerned that there are no more shortages out there. One notices shortages in paper products and dairy products, but something has to give at some point. According to Association of Supermarkets, the number of products you find in their shelves is down between 45 and 50%. And you notice it when you visit supermarkets.
3) And Minister of Finance Ali Rodriguez correctly said gas prices need to be reviewed but now now, but said that ther can be no devaluation until local production is given incentives to produce more. I guess Rodriguez does not understand that local producers see 30%-plus inflation, over 2% per month, while the Government imports at the same official rate of Bs. 2.15 per US$ than 4 years ago. There is simply no incentive that will allow local producers to invest and work more, it is just impossible to compete under those conditions.
4) And while taking over farmlands is no longer news in Venezuela, this week the Government decided that sugar cane lands in Aragua and Carabobo states are too fertile for sugar cane and have to be taken over and/or planted with different crops. This includes some of the best rum producing areas. Of course, nobody has given it any thought in the Government as to what to do with the sugar processing plants nearby, the workers that are there and what happens to them if the crops are changed. In fact, why doesnt the Government show us how efficient it has been in making productive the 2 million acres of land it has taken over forcefully since 2000. And you know why that is, go back to item #1 on this list.
5) And the Government is also going after farms that breed horses for racing. Government over the years have slowly destroyed what was once a thriving industry in Venezuela. In fact, estimates are that the racing industry during Chavez time has destroyed some 11,000 jobs under the Governments hands. Whats interesting is that while three fairly important horse farms ahve been intervened, the on owned by the brother of a certain Cabinet member was visited but left alone Love the revolution, no?
6) And how about Chavez coop movement? Since 2003 the Government has created 366,000 cooperatives for the development of shared responsibilities and profits. Of these, only 20,000 are functional today. How much money was lost in the process? To say nothing of the wasted effort and illusions of the people who participated who were sold fantasies by the revolution.
This is a remarkable story of the intolerance and selective repression of the Venezuelan Government which ignores the law and at the same time has little respect for those that have spent their life working in and for Venezuela, accomplishing what few do.
Jaime Requena is a biologist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. He is a distinguished and accomplished scientist with over 100 publications to his name (including three books). He has worked at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research and IDEA, a research foundation established in the 80s and is a member of the Venezuelan Academy of Sciences. He was even President of IDEA in 1988. In 1996 he was appointed to the Simon Bolivar Chair at Cambridge University. And that is when his problems began
I like Jaime because he is quite irreverent and outspoken, you may remember the active role he took up to block Chavez from receiving an Honorary Degree from Cambridge, which I published here. . He is not the type to be quieted down easily. In 1997, after spending a year at Cambridge he asked for a months leave of absence, a typically routine and automatic procedure in Venezuelan academic institutions. He needed to stay in Cambridge to finish off a few things he had done there. He never received a reply, but thought nothing of it and stayed. He came back to find out that he had been fired. Firing somebody with tenure is not an easy procedure in Venezuela. In fact, firing someone Venezuelas civil service is fairly hard But Jaime was even fired without following the procedures. Three members of the Board of IDEA took advantage of this procedure to get rid of him.
Jaime spent a decade fighting his firing in the Courts and went all the way to the Venezuelan Supreme Court and won. IDEA had to hire him back and pay all his back salary. His firing however, stopped his career as an experimental biologist. During the years of his fight, he worked at Universidad Metropolitana, a private university, where he was General Manager of its foundation and did research on Venezuelas scientific productivity and history. He compiled what is by far the most extensive and complete database of Venezuelan scientific researchers and published papers.
When he was hired back by IDEA, Requenas lab had been taken apart, so he tried to continue his reaserch on Venezuelas scientific productivity. But he was clearly not wanted at IDEA. Jaime not only disagrees with the direction science policy has taken in Venezuela, but in 2008 wrote a letter to prestigious scientific journal Nature, denouncing the exclusion of social sciences from public financing by the Chavez administration. Requena says that the only time he met the Head of IDEA, he recriminated him for writing the letter.
Requenas life at IDEA was rough, he had no furniture in his office, had to supply it himself, was given nobody to help with his research and was not even given a computer. His access to a database needed for his work was restricted. Requena thus decided to request his retirement, given that he had worked for 41 years for the Venezuelan Government, more than sufficient to retire. He also requested that he be named Emeritus researcher of IDEA.
Instead, eleven days later he was fired for immoral conduct, omissions which affect the security of the workplace and grave faults in his duties. The decision was made by the Head of IDEA and there was no meeting of the Board of Directors of the institution as required by its by-laws.
This was clearly political in nature. The argument by the Prsedient of IDEA was that Requena was still holding his position at Universidad Metropolitana, which is not the case as he resigned when he rejoined IDEA and that he had requested that IDEA buy for him a software package which that University sells, which the President of IDEA called a conflict of interest. Requena needs that software for his research as it is the one that he had been using for years while at Metropolitana. Requena continued to be involved with the activities of the Foundation, but was not getting paid for it.
This is the arrogant and intollerant way in which the revolution with few accomplishments treats Venezuelans that have disntiguished themselves in their careers devoted to working for the Government with low salaries and limited funding, but managing to achieve international and national recognition for their work. Requena represents what Chavismo hates, knowledge, accomplishments and excellence, something quite rare among the Governments supporters. That is why IDEAs President Prudencio Chacon, whose scientific career pales in comparison with Requenas, took it upon himself to fire him and thus remove from his surroundings someone that he envies and who openly opposes the Government he loyally represents.
From left to right:
Chavez: I want to be your friend. Obama: Then you are a Pitiyanqui. Laughter. Obama: Rojo Rojito
While getting Rosales out of the way was clearly an act of revenge, it is clear that a secondary goal of the Chavez Government was to attempt to regain the Maracaibo City Hall in the belief that once Rosales was out of the way, PSUVs Di Martino could easily beat anyone replacing Rosales.
The outlaw nature of the Chávez Government was clearly seen when it had a judge declare illegal Rosales request for a leave of absence due to a formality. Rosales once again went through the process and now Chavismo wants to go through the Courts to insure that the position would be declared eligible for election.
However, someone had the clever idea that the ideal candidate for the position would be Rosales wife. Immediately the Chief Chavista suck-up lawyer in the National Assembly, Carlos Escarra, asked the prosecutors office to charge Rosales wife with complicity. This is Chavismos idea of justice, there is no evidence, it is not even their domain of responsibility, but immediately they accuse, charge and find anyone guilty when it is convenient. To hell with evidence, in Escarras words : The prosecutor can charge her and she will see if she joins her husband in Peru or stays here to face Justice
And if we are there, why not charge Rosales own party as suggested by the other honorary, adjunct Prosecutor Deputy Mario Isea who asked that anyone that advised, talked to or was near Rosales be charged with complicity and cover up. How about all of Un Nuevo Tiempos leaders? Wholesale persecution and injustice is cheaper and more efficient.
The funny thing is, Rosales has yet to be charged formally. Yes, he was going to be jailed, but there is no formal charge against him, so Deputy Isea was simply pissing out of the perol, as usual. But Chavismo does not care about such formalities, so maybe they will find them all guilty of conspiracy or racketeering or whatever.
Because the whole Justice system in Venezuela is so corrupt and manipulated by Chávez and his cohorts, that persecuted politicians are quickly added to Interpols capture list, as in the case of Nixon Moreno the student leader that was never allowed to leave the country after seeking asylum at the residence of the Vaticans representative. Nixon escaped last month, but is already in the list, but curiously, neither accused drugtrafficker Walid Makled, nor la Piedrita leader Valentin Santana appear on Interpols website. This despite the fact that santana was ordered jailed by Chávez himself in what was only an election ploy.
But we are promised that Rosales will be added to the list, just to prove that that going after political enemies is the true priority of this criminal Government.
Rosales meanwhile sent a message to the country, saying he declared all income in his income taxes and there is no evidence of illegal enrichment against him. But as I suggested in the previous post, it may be too late for Rosales. The only silver lining behind his departure may be the fact that with Rosales out of the picture, Pablo Perez and other new faces of the opposition may be able to become known on their own right and come out of the shadows of the old leaders.
When someone in the Court where Rosales was to have had an audience yesterday leaked his sentence ahead of the audience, Manuel Rosales decided to go into exile in Peru in what is likely to become the death of his career as a relevant politician in Venezuela.
Rosales attitude is understandable, the sentencing papers contained information only the Judge knew and they were ready to jail him, but what else did he expect? A fair trial? Understanding? There was no question in anyones mind that this was to be Chavez revenge, so for Rosales to expect any fairness was naive to say the least.
But the move is truly shortsighted politically. Rosales is not a reporter, a second rank military officer or a two bit swindler, he happens to be one of the main opposition politicians in Venezuela and as such it was his job to stay and fight. He should not have considered any other option: Leaving represents playing into Chavez hand, giving up the fight, sending a signal that he may even be guilty. Staying would have represented an honorable and political battle against all odds. It would have made life difficult for Chavez and his Government. He now becomes an irrelevant problem. A has been. So long Manuel!
Yes, it is the human solution. Nobody likes to go to jail. Nobody likes his or her freedom to be restricted. But when you become a politician, more so in a country like Venezuela, it is part of your fight. It is your responsibility.
Just think if Rosales had been jailed yesterday and sent to a prison with Pedro Carmona, Eduardo Lapi, Carlos Fernandez, Raul Baduel, Carlos Ortega and a couple of military officers now in exile. Much like when Hugo Chavez was jailed in 1992 after staging his coup, the jail would become a fertile ground for conspiracy and political noise. An uncomfortable source of news for the Government and a constant distraction from Chavez well orchestrated challenges to the opposition.
People would visit the jail and meet not only their friend, but others, would help them and would send a signal to the country and the world that something is not right with Venezuelas justice and political system.
Instead, Rosales will have been forgotten in a month and his stature will have been diminished in the eyes of Venezuelans. Not because he will have lost it, but because he will no longer be part of Venezuelas daily political fight.
And in a country with mediocre and weak opposition, the people will have witnessed the death of another opposition leader because he chose the exile option. In the end, Rosales chose his own political death.
It may be the right decision for him, but the worng political option for everyone.
Barak Obama goes and shakes Chavez hand and all of a sudden everything is peachy and the US President seems to have lost his ignorance in Chavez eyes as Hugo quickly suggests exchanging Ambassadors and even names one right away. Meanwhile on the side of the formerly ignorant US President he is criticized for his quick rapproachement with our dear thug.
Obama defends himself, saying a handshake does not represent a change in US policy and I agree. Chavez is now Obamas buddy, but lets see how long its lasts and whether this was that Chavez was on a high or simply he was so star struck that he left all his hate and biases behind. After all Chavez has always been like a little kid when meeting legends, including Fidel Castro, Shea Stadium or the Emperor of Japan. And he thinks others are as star struck as he is, but as Obama clearly stated, a handshake will simply not change a countrys policy. He was, of course, speaking for the US, but for Venezuela it did chnage it and it may be chanegd back at any time depending on our dicators mood.
And that is why the whole thing will not last. Because Chavez has now embarked his Government in an adveture that sidesteps democracy and it is unlikely that Obama will ignore than even if we own Citgo. A simplistic and silly argument if I ever heard one. The truth is that Obama seeking Chavez out will have zero influence on what Chavez does and soon Chavez will regress to name calling and insults when the State Department points out his dictatorial ways.
And Obama should have asked Chavez what he did with the billions of dollars Venezuela received in the last ten years and if Galeanos book includes a description of why the money, more than the USs TARP program, barely helped in solving Venezuelas problems. Of course, Galeanos book was written well before Chavez time, but tries to blame other for our own failures. Our problems are not only our own but we have made little headway into solving them as we continue to resort to ideological solutions which have little to do with looking for the well being of our population.
And some are still waiting for Chavez bombastic declaration that he would boycott what he could not boycott, but by now he is saying that he obtained the biggest triumph in the countrys history, a statement he would have made no matter what happened at the Summit.
Except he didnt, because his words and insullts were left hanging in the air of hos own superficiality, while the US President left now doubt that it was he who took the offensive and it was Chavez who was shown to have lightweight positions, which can be changed with a handshake and will be changed back again for whatever random reason he may decide to pick a fight with the Empire once again. And he will.
According to the Bolivarian News Agency, Chavez told Obama he wants to be his friend, but in the picture they both seem to be saying Uck! as they shake hands. Revolution meets the Empire, who will charm who?
I was going to write a somewhat geeky post (ok, a totally geeky post) on the financial statements of our own Banco del Tesoro. But after looking at it, the whole thing is so absurd, that rather than giving you a detailed blow by blow account, I will give you some of the highlights.
The real reason I began to look at the recently published financial statements of Banco del Tesoro was that Government institutions hold their investment trusts at Banco del Tesoro, so twice a year you can look at what is or not there and get an idea of what the Government has in terms of those hidden resources that it is always boasting about.
Just to remind you, Banco del Tesoro was once a good idea. When Hugo Chavez got to power, official (Government) deposits in the private commercial banking system, were less than 5% of all deposits in the Venezuelan banking system. Within five years, they had ballooned to over 30% of all deposits. Why? Simple: Graft. Banks were paying Government institutions commissions to make deposits. With spreads as high as 15-18% points at the time, paying 5-6% points in commissions to get fairly stable deposits was good bussiness for certain banks, not precisely the best ones.
Thus, it was suggested that a Banco del Tesoro would be created that would concentrate all of these deposits and at the same time operate as a commercial bank. The first thing that mystified me was why a new institution had to be created given that the Government already owned Banco Industrial de Venezuela and Banfoandes. I heard that this would be a different bank, but after a few years I fail to note any so far.
You can find the financial statements of banco del Tesoro here. First of all, its a small bank despite its grandiose name. It has Bs. 3.27 billion in deposits (US$ 1.52 billion) (Banesco, the largest bank in the system has ten times more deposits). Thus. clearly it has failed to concentrate Government deposits in it as originally envisioned. (Put in another way, the graft lives on!)
But what truly amazed me, was to learn that Banco del Tesoro has Bs. 1.64 billion of its assets (US$ 760 million) and Bs. 3.3 billion (US$ 1.53 billion) from the trusts it holds for other Government institutions deposited in other local private commercial banks! This gives some Bs. 4.9 billion or US$ 2.23 billion for which Banco del Tesoro rather than lending it in the wonderful projects of the revolution or in Government bonds, it takes the money and deposits it into a private bank, so that those banks can turn around and lend or invest in Government bonds. Weird, no? Not really, the truth is nothing has changed. Looks to me like someone at Banco del Tesoro is making a lot of money out of this.
To give you an idea, Banco del Tesoro has deposits in some 25 local commercial banks. How does it decide which ones to use? You would think the money would be more or less uniformly distributed in our banking system. Well, the blog Venepiramides (in Spanish) a while back created its own ranking system for local banks, by splitting them into three groups: Refuge banks (8), so-so banks (7) and Zombie banks (the rest which were not named). While we dont agree in the details of the ranking, differences are small. But what is truly curious, is that of the 25 banks which Banco del Tesoro uses, only three appeared in Venepiramides ranking and one of them had only a tiny deposit. You can reach your own conclusions
What this clearly shows is that creating the bank has truly been a waste of time. First, its deposits are small. Second, rather than lend money it simply deposits it in other banks. Third, it seems to concentrate part of the old problem (Government institutions depositing money into private banks) in a single institution, and Fourth, it does nothing different than the other banks, except that it holds in trust all of the money from other Government institutions, which was why I started looking at this in the first place and that is part two of this post:
The first thing you find out is that at the peak of oil prices in the second half of 2008, assets in trusts went from US$ 21.5 billion to US$ 14.03 billion a loss of US$7.5 billion.
Who owns these funds? If I understand it correctly: Fonden US$ 8.7 billion, Bandes US$ 4.3 billion, Others US$ 903 million. While an agreement to hold the China fund in trust is mentioned, there is no evidence of ir in the investments.
Of the money in trust as of December 2008, US$ 1.543 billion was in Bs. not US$, which leaves US$ 12.5 billion.
Problem is when you try to delve into the investments of the funds. About US$ 8.7 billion is in short term investments. The rest however is a bunch of structured notes some of which originate from the Ecuador bonds Venezuela used to own or notes issued by Lehman Brothers which went under and have been exchanged for a new note which will depend on how much can be recovered. There is peanuts (US$ 100 million) in Bolivian bonds and surprise, surprise, the Argentienan BODEN are nowhere to be seen, unles they were exchanged for some of the notes listed.
Thus, Venezuela either took a huge loss (part of the drop from June to December in assets?) or exchanged them for notes that may not be worth as much as it says.
Thus, there is little one can say about all this, other than there were US$ 8.5 billion overall on Dec. 31st. 2008 between Fonden, Bandes and the rest. Add to this, the US$ 12 billion in reserves transferred to Fonden from the Central Bank and that seems to be the extent of how much the Venezuelan Government had in mid-January: US$ 20.5 billion in foreign currency, somewhat below the US$ 50 billion plus usually touted by various officials.
This implies that there willl not be enough dollars to import and at the same time supply the swap market in 2009. (Which by the way seemed to do today what everyone had been expecting for weeks )
So, hold on to your seats..or your pockets or simply pray
Hugo Chavez got his way and recovered via unconstitutional treachery, what his PSUV party could not win democratically for the simple reason that the working class electorate of Caracas did not see what Chavismo and its hand-picked had going for them after years under the rule of one traveling fat Mayor by the name of Juan Barreto.
And the National Assembly rubber stamped Chavez wishes and gave him the Bill that violates the Constitution from all angles, but the Dictator orders and the Assembly yields and yesterday Chavez could release all of the orgasmic energy contained in his authoritarian glands and name none other than Jackie F to be the new Chief of Government of the Capital District. It was indeed another joyous occasion for Chavez participative democracy when he violated the rights of the 722,822 voters who very clearly said in November that they wanted Antonio Ledezma to be the Mayor of the Metropolitan area of Caracas.
Of course, if simpatico Chavista candidate Aristobulo Isturiz (He got trounced by over 100,000 votes, despite an outrageously unbalanced campaign), one of the most cynical and fake politicians I have had the dishonor of meeting in my life, had obtained more votes, none of this would have taken place. Such are not the ways of Chavismo. They believe in one way democracy: Always in their direction
And to make clear what he wanted, Chavez appointed one of the most despised and fascist female administrators of the Chavez era. Because to me, someone who found the use of the Tascon/Chaves fascist list to discriminate fellow Venezuelans, to be something completely inhuman and absolutely against all of the principles I believe in, naming Jackie F to this position is an in your face affront to the dignity of those that are against Hugo Chavez and what he stands for.
Who can forget Jackief F, the Jacqueline Faria, Minister of the Environment on national TV saying the Government knew who and where to find every single person that signed a petition to ask for a refrenedum to recall Hugo Chavez and his Presidency. And that she personally would like to change their minds.
And with her Who Me? attitude today, trying to avoid the responsibility that simply accepting her illegal position represents, Jackie F immediately began her own personal totalitarian fiefdom, by removing some services from the poor, just because they took people to opposition ghettos which are apparently not within her scope of interest like Baruta, El Hatillo and Petare.
And in the other fascist corner, the Peoples Defender was too busy defending Chavez threats against the media to even care about what was happening to the real people, the users of those transportation units that Jackie F decided to remove in her spite for anything that smells of opposition.
Thus, the first day under her Fuhress went by and we already saw the signs of things to come. Faria is another one of those faithful servers of the autocrat, who Chavez thinks can be shifted from post to post and be of service to him, confusing the role that they should serve.
Faria was already in our list of those we will never forget if this fascist nightmare is ever over, but with her acceptance of this flangantly illegal position, she has certainly leaped quite a few notches in the ranks of those that Venezuelans should never forget or forgive for their servile and undignified attitude towards the most basic democratic principles of Venezuela and its Constitution.
I am declaring that any criticism of judicial decisions is subversive, it goes against me, and I have asked the judicial system to look into how the media is trying to destabilize the country and my rule. I have also asked the judicial system to find the intellectual authors of the 2002 coup. And I want it done fast! I know who they are, I add a name to the list every day!
And it is becoming clear to me, that I may have to lead this investigation, like I did in the Manuel Rosales case, when I found the Mayor of Maracaibo guilty even before the evidence had been evaluated. Why cant those around me do their work as well as I do them? They could not beat Ledezma in the election, but I had no trouble beating him, I simply changed the law and will name him a boss! Simple, sweet and democratic! Why do I have to do everything?
I mean, why spend so much money on Judges, Courts, Prosecutors, when I can do all of their jobs so speedily and with the impartiality of ten years of trampling the opposition the way I have. After all, if the robolution, pardon me, revolution, is eternal, why carry out any more pretenses? Shut down Globovision, jail the reporters, send the Judges home. Let the Governments TV station VTV give us daily its narrow view of what this revolution is about: Its about me, Hugo Chavez, staying in power forever and not allowing anyone, friend of foe to dissent. Because after all, VTV only carries the official version about the revolution, no dissenters are allowed, interviewed or presented. I mean, if they are pro-Chavez they have to agree with everything I say, if they are not, they are oligarchs from the opposition. Ask Baduel or Ismael Garcia. Serves them right!
This is a democracy because the opposition can say most of what it wants, whici is not the case for the people that support me. I will not allow that!
Because Venezuela has become the worlds most democratic country, after Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe. And if any of you doubt it, just look at Globovision, where the opposition can say whatever they want. Thats democracy, just look at the poor Chavistas, they can only say what they think in aporrea, and thanks God most Chavistas have no access to Internet, so they can not read aporreas subversive garbage.
And imagine that, El Nacional subverting my Government and the democratically elected order of the Bolivarian Nation, claiming that gringo rice is being sold by PDVSA nationwide. Lies! All lies by the oligarchs! Only the Chinese have the ability to write on a grain of rice, and we have thousands of Chinese writing on each grain of rice so that each one says Hecho en Venezuela. It costs a lot (Its cheaper to do it there, so we use Chinese rice, which is the rvce of the future), but since by now every Venezuelan in the barrios has a magnifying glass or a microscope at home, they know exactly where their rice is coming from and it is not from Clintons home state. We will not allow anything to subvert our revolution!
And let Globovision (Por ahora!) say what they want, but we will not allow the Chavistas masses to be told anything but our truth, pre-digested, pre-packaged and pre-evacuated by me, Hugo Chavez. And while many believe I am the King of the Pendejos, it is all media manipulation. Take for example todays report that mighty me, Hugo Chavez, has only built an average of 38,587 housing units per year, while even incompetent Lusinchi did better than that in the terrible days of the IVth. Republic.
Lies! Al Lies! Everytime a housing unit is finished, there is an opposition crew in a Globovision van ready to destroy it! Hundreds of thousands of hoising units destroyed this way. And if we can not even fight crime, how can we stop the millions of opposition oligarchs that spend all their time destroying what we build?
And look at how we have tamed inflation. I just called the Central Bank and brought Giordani back and the guys at the Central Bank have learned how to measure things right. If Giordani has his way, we might get the CPI into negative territory by the end of the year. Thats a revolution!
And there will not be a devaluation! Over my Bolivarian dead body! If necessary, I will stop giving out dollars at Bs.2.15, but I simply refuse to devalue. No way! We cant do that to the people. They have suffered enough in the hands of the IVth.Republic. They shall not return!
And the only thing I agree with Obama on, is the need to print money to get us out of this hole that the world crisis has gotten us into. I have ordered the Central Bank to continue its pioneering work in printing as many Bolivars as we need without control. It has worked so well, that Obama is following my footsteps, printing a gizillion US dollars.
But I will not let Obama top me. I have ordered the Central Bank to print a Yotta of Bolivars, so that I can spend them in making the people happy. Remember, to me, the opposition trash are not people, just trash, so I will give them nothing. Just trample them! I order you to do so!
Enough for one democratic day. I have to go write an article about our democratic process. I have to go fire some people from my Cabinet. Every time I name a civilian, they go screw it up. I thought women were different, or at least Chavista women, but then the stupid lady I named to Science and Technology could not even go buy me a good satellite. So I had to put Jesse in that position. He really confuses people. You never know if he is civilian or military, male or well you get the picture. If he does a good job, I will put him in charge of our atomic program. Thats why I put him there, I want him to catch up on nuclear and atomic stuff and start building us something the gringoes will get scared of. I even gave him a Physics for Idiots book for his birthday, but forgot he doesnt read English. I guess we will take longer, but nothing will stop us. If he cant do it, I will name Merentes, he is really good with numbers. Remember how he lost four billion dollars that year?
Anyway, enought for today, unless I feel like talking later, in which case I may be back, there are no soap operas or important games coming up later tonight. And stop calling me a Dictator. If you do, I may decide to kill you just kidding but the threat works, no? I may have to prohibit words that start with D, I hate them all Democracy, Devaluation, Dictatorship
For the last two months I have been posting here and in my new blog using wordpress. Today, I switched www.devilsexcrement.com and www.devilexcrement.com to redirect you to the new site. In two weeks, I will go away for a while and will blog only in the other site, where in any case I blog first nowadays. So, I recommend you switch your bookmarks there now and start commenting there. It´s faster and less quirky and soon, the only real devil around.
My all orchid site will remain here for reasons that are too long to explain...Thanks to all.
Today is the seven year anniversary of a truly terrible and dark day in Venezuelas modern history. As protests increased for days, Hugo Chavez began planning how to counter the protests with the military. When the peaceful march turned towards Miraflores Palace, the pro-Chavez groups were all ready. Shooting began as Chavez tried to block TV stations from showing what was happening. People started dying, first opposition marchers, after a while, people fell on both sides.
Then a series of coups began. Chavez resigned as told to the Nation by his Chief of Staff. The military did not obey Chavez orders or turn on Plan Avila, the same repressive military operation that gestated the Caracazo in 1989 and made Chavez what he was and is today. Once Chavez resigned, all groups jockeyed for position and forgot to get his resignation formalized so that he could have been tried for what he induced that day. It was a true tribute to our military, how disorganized and unplanned the whole thing was. Somehow, the dumb and dumber group of incompetent Carmona and his military friends won and tried to bypass the Constitution.
Then, General Baduel, today in jail, brought Chavez back. the story was reconstructed, the myth of US involvement was started, the truth commission was buried and the day of the coup was born, even if we are never told which one.
A sad history of the ability of Chavismo to manipulate and twist history. To turn Chavez most damning moment into a victory. His role that day was clear: he wanted to repress the march at any cost. And he did, but he has never paid for it. His meetings the days prior to the march were grotesque for a Head of State that claims to care for his people or human rights. Even the Prosecutor General, whose mandate is to defend the law was there, preparing the attack on the opposition.
Chavez return was also grotesque. All contrite rosary in hand, asking for forgiveness, but ready to attack again, which he is doing to this day. All to promote himself. At any cost. And he will do it again if he has to.
Hopefully, he will not be able to change history again.
(You can learn more about that day here, here or here, I dont have the energy to go back over it beyond my brief summary of that day above. Quico gives an excellent introductory review of this day for beginners and today he has an excellent interview with the author of an upcoming book on that crisis, which tells us a lot about the evidence available for the different stories of that day. )
Everyday that goes by, the lies and the feverish imagination of Chavez and his cronies takes us to new heights in their imaginary wonderland that supposedly Venezuela has become:
- Chavez used his double speak the other day in Tokyo when he said it would be hard to find a kid going hungry in Venezuela, if not impossible. He never made it clear whether he was talking about today or the future. He made use a of a tense that confused you and then talked about statistics and the long road ahead. He obviously does not know. After all, if it took him five years to see the Sambil Mall being built ten blocks from his Presidential palace, he will not see the kids begging or living in cardboard boxes all over the city.
- And in another imaginary leap into his own fantaay world, Chavez said in Tokyo that the Japanese would spend US$ 33.5 billion in Venezuela. Of course, none of this was confirmed by the Japanese, who only said they had signed a couple of agreements to study the possibility of working in the Orinoco Oil belt.
- Then Chavez oil crony Minister of Oil and Energy Rafael Ramirez, said in Vienna that Venezuela produces approximately 800,000 barrels of oil from the Orinoco Oil belt. Hard to believe, given that the four heavy crude projects nationalized by Chavez only had capacity for 600,000 barrels of oil a day of production and 520,000 barrels of upgrading and there has been no investemnt by PDVSA in them. Moreover, it is precisely these projects that have been forced to cut production to try to abide by the OPEC quotas. In addition, the Cerro Negro (now Petromonagas) facility shut down an in January taking out 120,000 barrels a day. Thus, between cuts and shutdowns, the number seems to be closer to 300,000 barrels a day.
- And everyone was quite incredulous to find out that inflation in March only went up a scant 1.5% in March. Particularly, the Government reports that Food and Beverages was flat for the month, which made all consumers laugh, whether pro or against Chavez. This Food and Beverages is a hilarious scam, most beverages are up 100% since the beginning of the year, but the Central Bank seems to be making certain that it does not show. I guess soon we will not even belive international reserves numbers emanating from the Central Bank.
- And while Venezuela claims there are 200-plus drilling rigs active in the country, Baker Hughes reported that last month the number of active rigs, dropped from 69 to 63, making the promise of an extra 200,000 barrels per day in new production for 2009, much harder to fullfil.
- And Chavez taked about the Chinese refinery assuring us that its constructionhad already started. However, Veneconomy reports that the refinery did not get its enviromental permits and the project was moved to a different city, implying a delay of at least two years.
- And, of course, there will be no devaluation, but CADIVI is giving out less and less and forcing people to import at the parallel swap rate near bs. 6 per US$.
- And Jesse Chacon was appointed both Minister of Communications and Minister of Science and Technology. The former Minister of Science was fired over her failure with the Chinese satellite and some inappropriate comments she made in Iran. Chavez just sent her packing from Teheran. Naming Chacon to the position appears to be revenge (or poetic justice?) for naming Mathematician Merentes to the Ministry of Finance a few years ago. Chacon knows about Science and Technology roughly as much as Merentes knows about finance: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Chavez could care less, everything is just peachy in both the economy and science and technology in Venezuela, he is in charge of them both, even if he knows less than everyone
(Cartoon by Weil)
And in what people still think is a democracy, the Chavez Government decided to get back by legislation what it lost in the November elections, as it approved the new Bill for the Capital District, a Bill that castrates the newly elected mayor of the Metropolitan District Antonio Ledezma. Just like that, Ledezma not only will have a boss appointed by Chávez, but the Bill also takes away his office and his budget. His office will now be occupied by the new Chief of the Capital District, who will also get most of Ledezmas budget.
Ledezmas budget will now be only the 10% that is transferred to him by the other Mayors of the Caracas Metropolitan area. As for his office well, he will probably have to rent one with the meager budget left to him. All of which guarantees that he will be able to do very little for his voters, no budget, no office no responsibilities, a eunuch Mayor if I have ever seen one.
Thus, another historic Chapter in Chavez participative democracy was closed yesterday and all we have left to find out is if the new Vice-President for the Capital District will ironically be the same person that was defeated by Ledezma at the polls last November.
Thus, much like Chavez other actions these days, a new coup was achieved Chavez style. To Hell with democracy, lets stage a Metropolitan Coup and take over what we lost at the polls by legislating appropriately, much like it was done last year with the 26 Bills that revived most of the issues rejected by the voters in the 2007 Constitutional referendum, or the February reelection referendum, or the recent decentralization Bill. Just small coup after small coup, which simply disguise the true nature of the Chavez regime.
Not that Ledezma had been allowed to exercise much of the office he was elected to in November. His office is still invaded by a bunch of Chavista thugs, who I am sure will now sheepishly leave now that Chavismo won them back in this epic battle of the fake Chavista democracy.
Which only goes to show that this battle can not be won with the ballot box or peacefully. Ledezma should have hired a couple of hundred thugs of his own and taken over his office a couple of months ago. Because clearly neither the Supreme Court nor the Government will ever return to him what is rightfully and democratically his.
Because this is no longer a democracy, because neither Chavez nor the Assemblys power is limited by the law or the Constitution. They do what they want and how they wanted. And it is not a matter of assigning labels to it, it is a matter that Venezuelans have had their democracy stolen and they seem to be doing very little about it.
People seem to cling to a hope that somehow Chavez will go away magically or will not go beyond where he has so far. But they are wrong. Chávez has no ethics and no scruples. he will do what he has to do to preserve his power. The only way to fight back is to forget about those democratic and legal scruples which are no longer part of this fight.
You dont fight a Metropolitan Coup with the law, you fight it in the streets. And if you dont, you will lose the next battle too. Whichever it may be.
Even now, Sir Allen Stanford claims that authorities are finding billions and billions all over the place. Watch the full video in ABC News. BTW, he claims all customers in Venezuela got their money, which is certainly not the case, as the auction requires replacing part of the capital of the bank:
The story and more video here.
Last week, two local banks owned by the same person, Helm Bank and Banco Real were sold to Investment Bank Baninvest. Baninvest already paid fof the two banks and while I know payment has been made, I have not been able to confirm the price suggested by Descifrado of five times book value.
If Descifrado is correct, and in the end this is almost indifferent to the story here, from the Dec-08 financial statements of the two banks, which you can get here, I get that the payment was roughly US$ 100 million.
Baninvest is owned bin part by Arne Chacon Escamillo. which you might connect with the Minister of the Interior, Jesse Chacon Escamillo, his brother.
When Arne Chacon fisrt bought a stake in Baninvest, the Superintendent of banks was asked about it and he said he would check the origin of the funds for the purchase, but we never heard back from him. Because Arnes career has been truly meteoric.
Arne was a a Lieutenant who participated in the 1992 coup attempt, I have reported on his antics before, here, here, here and here. As recently as 2002, Arne was a lowly employee of the Venezuelan Tax Office, but somehow he has managed since then to become a banker and is now about to own three of them. In the middle, he made an offer of US$ 10 million for a milk company, which I believe never materialized and he is now quite a businessman.
Of course, with Arne being the brother of Jesse, nobody asks anything, least of all the Comptroller who so diligently investigates cases involving the opposition. Since I am becoming an expert in digging info from the Social Security Offices page, I dug out Arnes records and this is what it shows for his contributions to the Social Security system:
As you can see Arne has gone from contributing very little in 1995-2003, nothing in 2004 and then in 2005 he jumps, contributing in 2008 Bs. 36,000, which implies his basic salary is now about Bs. 300,000 per year as President of Baninvest (You only contribute on your basic salary, not bonuses, profit sharing and the like)
Not a bad career for Jesses brother and now he bought two more banks, which while small, are both bigger than Baninvest by quite a bit.
While there may be a perfectly logical and reasonable explanation for Arnes meteoric rise, it simply sounds too good to be true in this era of the pilfering of Venezuela by the friends of the Chavez Government. But, much like other cases, like the purchase of Banco Bolivar, Banpro and Confederado by a single Bolivarian individual, nobody is going to look into it with the interest and diligence that the Rosales, Baduel and Lopez cases had.
Unless, of course, the Chacon brothers somehow became disloyal to Hugo Chavez, in which case they may get the Baduel treatment, jailed and sent to the same jail where they have sent their enemies.
That is why everyone calls it the Robolution.