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Venezuela News And Views

A blog about surviving the Chavez and heirs neo-dictatorship


Actually, is a split in Venezuelan opposition unavoidable?

Tue, 21 Mar 2017 20:34:06 PDT

I was musing about the opposition divisions becoming more intractable. And they are.What makes me think the opposition alliance, MUD, will divide is paradoxically, in a way, an editorial of Rafael Poleo in his magazine Zeta where he attacks Diego Arria (not available on line). Whether Poleo is right in his assessment is irrelevant to our discussion. What is relevant is his vehemence against Diego Arria and what he supposedly represents.In short, Poleo accuses Diego Arria to be some sort of Trojan horse that is trying to divide the MUD for the benefit of his allies. Poleo stops short from accusing him of having some kind of situation room where gazillion of anti MUD tweets are emitted, or something like that.  There are some flaws with Poleo argument. The obvious one is that the failures of the MUD make it an easy target. As such Poleo attack reeks a tad of "shoot the messenger". Second, even though Diego Arria has a lot of followers in Twitter, his impact on Venezuelan politics is not proportional. After all he did poorly in the primaries of 2013, and furthermore he has been forced into exile after having been robbed pretty much all that he has in Venezuela. Poleo is also an exile, for that matter. My point, in short, is that Poleo's attack probably help more Arria than hurt him.But this is all a symptom, due to the original sins of Venezuelan politics: nobody wants to be center right. Not even center. At least not nominally. Poleo is certainly one of those guilty of that.Whether you like it, there is always a dichotomy inside any political system. There are those that identify with "right" values such as family protection, or strong national security, or law an order or simply fiscal restraint. And those who favor social programs, or more liberal attitudes in social mores, or peacenicking at any cost.  We call that in French "la droite/gauche parlementaire", that is the political parties that do respect the rule of law and the necessary alternance in power, be they left or right. This division is healthy and is what makes for stable democracies. We never had that in Venezuela. For example the Socialist International lists 4, FOUR, political parties from Venezuela. It is not unusual to have a left division reflected in the membership of a country, but never four (and I may say there is at least two more Venezuelan political parties that would not mind being invited to the organization). The consequences are very simple: the alleged similar ideologies from these parties is not a unifying factor because what will make the real difference are the personal ambitions of its leadership.We have seen in the last three months how the divisions are taking place, no matter what Arria or Poleo may think. First there was the betrayal of Manuel Rosales and his vehicle UNT (Un Nuevo Tiempo). This allowed the regime to pack the electoral board (CNE) and render more difficult any future election. In exchange Rosales was released from a rather comfortable jail, by Venezuelan standards, and is now saying that there will be no elections until 2018.The next betrayal, though not as direct, was when Avanzada Progresista (AP) decided to go for political party renewal without awaiting a final MUD decision. To make a long story short, once the CNE was back firmly in the hands of the regime this one decided to demand that all political parties prove that they represented something. On paper it is not necessarily a bad idea for a political party to prove that it means something, in particular to receive electoral money. But see, in Venezuela, the state is not allowed to finance electoral campaigns; so what difference would that make if a party has 1.000 or 1.000.000 members?It is all of course a strategy to delay by a few more months elections which are already 3 months overdue. But it also has another sinister objective: to validate, a party needs to surrender to the CNE a list of the people who signed up, including their home address "for aleatory verification" which will take who knows how many months. This, in a dictatorial regim[...]

In praise of the two MUD solution: 2- Solutions? Really?

Sun, 19 Mar 2017 19:30:35 PDT

Let's see.What a difference a "revolution"makes! Maikel from truant to boss.The president of Venezuela, his excellency Nicolas Maduro Moros, has two of his nephews in jail in the US of A because they were found guilty of drug trafficking. This after a trial where the defense lawyers used were the best money can buy.The vice president of Venezuela, albeit a by-appointment office but second in charge nevertheless, his worthiness Tareck El Aissami, was put a few weeks ago on the OFAC list by the Treasury Department of the US of A for drug trafficking, capital laundering, terrorism abetting through fake passports or what not. I cannot keep up.The newly sworn head of the TSJ, the high cum supreme court of Venezuela, Maikel Moreno has a police mug shot from previous criminal offenses for which he was declared guilty. I mean, one may believe in second chances but there are limits.So, what can a democratic opposition do when it has in front of it a publicly recognized criminal state? A state that has no intention whatsoever of relinquishing the faintest parcel of the power it accumulated? A state that does not blanch at the sight of the extensive misery it has created? A state which now wallows in gratuitous cruelty, by the way.And what can that opposition do when it is, well, falling apart? Because that is the real drama today, the opposition common front is barely held together by an increasingly weaker electoral alliance. In truth there are centrifugal forces inside it that are skilfully exploited by a Fascisto-Mafiosi regime for which duplicity is a second nature.That does not mean all is lost. For example this week, showing some spine, the opposition controlled but castrated National Assembly seems ready to ask openly for the application of the OAS democracy charter with the implied sanctions against the regime if it is voted up. Also it decided to keep as its main electoral presentation card the "Unity" political label as a common political party, regardless of whichever parties constitute the MUD alliance. No mean feat considering that the regime is trying to annul political parties under silly requirements. This way the regime thinks it could run unopposed.But for every step in the right direction there seems to be so many steps backward, or at least side ways.The problem comes from two visions of the political country inside the opposition. On one side are those who do not have the stomach to confront the regime as it should be done. Thus they are willing to "negotiate" some kind of deal where the regime would recognize them as the official opposition. The idea is that crumbs would be thrown at them in exchange of the continued lease of Miraflores Palace to the regime.  Charitably, so as not to sound too cynical about it, we could say that this opposition thinks that a long transition is needed but that they have no time to wait for a transition that will come one day or the other. As such they want to secure something, albeit weak, that would place them in better position when the said transition finally comes.In short, that opposition is not pro regime, it loathes it actually, but they sort of gave up. They prefer to wait for the "right" opportunity.  History tells us that there is never a "right" opportunity after a Munich episode.  In fact, waiting for that opportunity makes things worse when the time comes when it is not possible anymore to wait for that opportunity. But what do I know? It is certainly not me having read dozens of history books, educated in scientific ethics that would qualify me as a better strategist than the cheap Venezuelan politicians in that opposition wing.The two main negative leaders in that opposition are Manuel Rosales and Henri Falcon. For Manuel Rosales the case is quite clear cut: he is a politician from Maracaibo and that is that. We can add that he knows that he will never win the opposition primary to become Venezuela's next president. He probably knows that he had his chance and he blew it. For that matter I suspect that he cannot be both[...]

In praise of the two MUD solution: 1- a new realitity

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 18:26:43 PST

Let's be frank about it: when Obama and the Pope imposed a dialogue on the Venezuelan opposition MUD alliance they screwed us bad. But at least there is a tiny silver lining: the contradictions inside the MUD are now apparent and must be dealt with.The recap is simple and at this point in this blog seems redundant. Obama did not want any trouble in the Caribbean while he was trying to bring out of the cold the Cuban dictatorship. In the failed hope that it would favor Hillary electoral prospects when the political situation in Venezuela became tense last summer State sent Thomas Shannon several times to Venezuela to promote a "dialogue". To add weight to the pressure the Vatican was recklessly brought in; a Vatican, need I say, led by a Pope with what we could call more socially liberal ideas, rarely adapted to real politic when you deal with dictatorships.The rest is history. The Venezuelan regime surfed comfortably over the dialogue wrecking it as wanted, while claiming that they wanted dialogue and more dialogue. The MUD unraveled, the streets got cold and the regime got a very significant extension on its life. Probably until 2019 at the very least. In what shape will the country be in 2019 is not difficult to predict and by then probably no one but narco-chavismo will want it.But the political scenario emerging this year is not what everyone expected. See, history has a way not to repeat itself. Obama lost its gambit, Cuba is more repressive and so his Venezuela. When the question "who lost Venezuela/Cuba?" will be asked the guilty will not be Bush or Clinton but Obama. Never mind that his indecisiveness masked as grace by his late supporters have probably done a lot to bring forth the "need" for a strong man among enough US voters. Thus the uncomfortable truth that Obama helped a lot to bring the promising disaster of Trump. I have the feeling that in the end Obama will be ranked poorly as a president, when all have a chance to examine how all of his unfinished and untied schemes unravel. Having a scandal free White House simply is not enough to make a Rushmore like president.So there is Trump and he owes nothing to the Pope. He actually does not give a shit about the Pope. And so far, amazingly, the only aspect in which he has been coherent is toward his non Mexican Latin America policy. If the approach to Mexico is a reckless disaster that has not been the case with the rest. President by president have received a friendly phone call, considerate, business like and often including a conversation about Venezuelan prospects. At least thus it comes from Panama, Peru and Argentina. The now famous "best tweet" of Trump receiving most known political prisoner wife Lilian Tintori at the White House has not been a shot in the dark.To this you certainly must add that the Vice President of Venezuela has been put on the Treasury Department black list. For drug trafficking. For fake passports. For corruption. For whatever. Us here in Venezuela know very well that Tareck El Aissami fate is to rot in hell, preferably after a few years in some earthly slammer. The problem for the Venezuelan regime is not that Tareck has been penciled in that list. The problem is that he was not the first one and apparently he will not be the last one.Thus the happy regime that made it to January 10, without a single sanction for violating the Constitution in blocking the recall election is again on the defense. The lull will have lasted barely a month.Right now the regime is circling its wagons. All rally around Tareck not for love but for survival. I can assure you that if there was a way to send Tareck to the US without internal consequences, he would already be in lots of trouble at home.If you are not in agreement that the support for Tareck is not out of good will and sincere love, look at what the regime is doing to Venezuela. There is hunger and disease all around and yet, money keeps flowing to Cuba, interests on debt are payed and corruption rakes whatever is left. The heartless na[...]

Tareck does the New York Times

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 19:01:30 PST

Everyday brings a new outrage with the Bolibanana revolution.  Today it was Venezuela’s vice-president the Tareck El Aissami publishing an open letter in the New York Times. Before I get into the outrage let's look briefly at said letter.Let me be short: the letter is ill written, shows no understanding on how the US system works, and thus is read more as an insult to the US than a serious demand for redress. With the title and the mere first two paragraphs you get the point and need not go further.Already the "public letter" shows that whomever translated the Spanish draft has a mechanical understanding of English. It might be quite proficient but that person is not welg l read in English. And I am not even speaking of books, just reading real newspapers, of the ones published in major US cities. Not knowing that in the US the favored term is "Open Letter" is just crass.The second paragraph nails it. Saying that the US treasury has been deceived by politicians, lobbyists and stakeholders (?) is not even stupid, it is insulting. At that level in the US no one is deceived. At best they may pretend to be deceived. Whoever wrote that letter for our Tareck boy must truly think that, as is the case in Venezuela, a newly appointed hack in the Trump administration just hired someone of the GOP roster to fuck Tareck. That the dossier might have been researched by an Obama hack and that a Trump hack may respect and want to use it is a thought will not cross a chavista mind. They have spent the last 18 years reinventing sliced bread, at which they failed, by the way. Surely everyone is new at Treasury.I am sure that by this paragraph the new Treasury Secretary must have rolled to the waste basket. If Tareck expected to convince anyone at Treasury I want to reassure him fast: it has been a waste of time.This being said, let's give the charitable explanation: this "public" letter was for domestic consumption and its publication in the NYT as paid advertisement is just window dressing.Now for the outrage.Whether Tareck is innocent is a non sequitur. It has been years already that he has been finger pointed. Surely these sanctions could not have been a total surprise. Thus, if innocent, the option was not a red lettered advertisement in the NYT, but a law suit somewhere against Treasury. To drive the point, since Tareck claims that he is poor as Job, who did pay for that advertisement? Did he, the poor revolutionary guy? Or was it the state of Venezuela footing the bill for what is, well, a private matter since the sanctions are against Tareck, not Venezuela?According to NYT fees for full page ads, plus the money he paid for lawyers, writers, translators and what not, Venezuela's government forked up to 250,000 USD. This for an ineffective ad, which may not even have significant tracking amongst its followers.In a country where the government keeps its people without food or medicine, this, my friends,  is an outrage, the real, enormous, outrage.[...]

La terrible semana de Nicolas Maduro

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 08:18:58 PST

Hay momentos politicos que son explícitos en cuanto a la descomposición de un regimen. Si bien no vemos la fecha de expiración sabemos por el olor que el producto esta venciéndose. Esta semana a sido una de esas, donde se agregan mas letras a lo escrito en la pared.

El vice presidente de Venezuela ha sido sancionado por corrupto, traficante de droga y sostén de terroristas. Además ya no podrá ser presidente de Venezuela porque ningún pais que haga negocio con el malvado imperio podría firmar acuerdos con  Venezuela. O mas bien dicho, tendrían que escoger entre Venezuela y los EE.UU.  Pueden adivinar a quien escogerán.

En represalias al desgobierno del regimen no se le ocurre otra cosa que prohibir la señal del canal de noticias mas conocido del mundo, CNN. Una insensatez extrema que posiblemente ni le de réditos entre sus seguidores que se preguntarán si la censura a CNNE acelerará las distribuciones del las bolsas CLAP.  Pasará a la historia como uno de los mas ridículos asesinatos de mensajeros. Hasta las abuelitas tiernas aprenderán a hacer streaming de Internet.

El gobierno inocentemente cree que es necesario apaciguar a Trump en caso de que Putin le eche una mano. Trump les contesta clavando por el pecho una foto de Lilian Tintori en la Casa Blanca twiteada por el mesmo.... El apoyo mas explícito de gobierno norteamericano a la oposicion de Venezuela hasta ahora. Y una lección magistral sobre la diferencia entre "políticas de estado" y "políticas de caudillos".

En venganza al TSJ  se le ocurre emitir la sentencia final sobre el caso Lopez. Otro craso error porque así al fin los defensores de Lopez pueden proceder a las cortes internacionales en toda legalidad.

Pero si a Trump no se insulta sí se insulta a Rajoy. Con eso se asegura la unión de los demócratas españoles y se confirma la pobredumbre de PODEMOS, uno de los escasos aliados,  que cada dia apesta más a chavismo. Y de paso matan a Zapatero para enterrar un dialogo que les había ayudado bastante.

Y no nos olvidemos de los errores internos que también cuentan. A los estudiantes de la Universidad Central el  TSJ les suspendió las elecciones porque le dio la gana y punto. Pues a los estudiantes nos le pareció respetar al TSJ y hoy fueron a votar igual. Veremos si los antiguos tira piedras de la UCV ahora en el gobierno van a reprimir.

Y rematamos con la extension por un mes mas de la validez del billete de 100 bolivares. El billete de 100 que Maduro había querido matar en 3 dias ha sobrevivido por 3 meses. Y después hay gente que no entiende que el bolivar de Cúcuta cruzó la raya de los 4000 por un pobre dolarcito. No es la especulación, estúpido. Es la incompetencia.

Pero no todo ha sido malo para el regimen. La MUD se reorganizó de una manera muy poco prometedora. Y hay un concierto de inutiles que prefieren criticar a Lilian por sabotear la oposicion. Veremos cuales de ellos marchan mañana para Leopoldo.
Pero así son las cosas, en las horas mas negras parece que el pobre Nicolas puede contar con la mano amiga de la oposición.

In praise of the Trump-Tintori meeting

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 09:52:56 PST

The meeting between Leopoldo Lopez wife, Lilian Tintori and the US president Donald Trump has not found favor among many people, many of them that should have known better. Thus the need for this brief post that I am sure will please no one.

The Venezuelan currency on the black market lost 50% of its value in not even ten days. Note that in October it was hovering at 1100 and this afternoon it has already crossed the 4200 barrier. Thus we can say that the depreciation over a month is around 75%.  I do not think that historically Venezuela's currency has experienced such a drop in such a short time.

Economist will have all sorts of fancy explanations to give you. The regime will speak of a terrorist attack on Venezuela by the imperialism, refusing to consider that the Fidel Castro, finally croaked, model is the guilty party. What I am going to tell you is what this means at ground zero, the one of yours truly.

It means that with the hyperinflation setting in with our two paycheck combined we may not be able to cover food and medical expenses of my SO, even with insurance.

It means that assuming that I can find and purchase raw material to keep producing it would be so expensive to produce that no one will be able to afford me (or no one else for that matter).

It means that considering that national food is insufficient we will not be able to purchase imported food.

It means that come February, when the full effect of this is felt, I may be out of a job, out of food, out of medicine for the SO. And it will not be a question of price and money in the bank. Simply, the shelves will be barren.

Why o why?

Well, it all started when the regime decided to pass a national budget without approbation by the National Assembly. As expected, once creditors were told that nothing outside of a National Assembly vote would be recognized as debt, then loans stopped. Oil prices did not go up. Plus other well known factors of a dysfunctional economy. Conclusion? Bankruptcy and a dollar that goes from 1000 to a USD to 4000 in about a month time.

It is just that simple folks, truly. An absolute lack of confidence in the regime.

The worst thing of all is that there is little that can be done at this point, the damage is too deep. A mere relaxation on price controls or currency exchange will not do. We are like in Eastern Europe circa Berlin Wall collapse. The regime tried for so long to avoid an economy bang that it created the conditions for a nuclear economic bang. Now we need to do, SIMULTANEOUSLY, removing currency control, removing price controls, negotiate with the IMF some sort of bridge loan to help the poorest people to eat.

And all of this is only possible with a change of government. It is not even a matter of sharing responsibilities with the opposition, it is too late for that (and I have my doubts about the opposition wanting to reach office now, but that is matter for a future post).

Obama's debacle

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 22:09:13 PST

I used to be upset when people in the US were surprised that I did not like spicy food. For them, we in Lat Am ate all Mexican spicy hot. Venezuela has actually a rather bland cooking, and hot is preferred by few for a few only.I am reminded of that because as I am watching the Trump transition I am starting to get cold shivers. I am afraid that those Trump will put at National Security and State are going to see everything South of the Rio Grande as, well, the same thing. Just make a big wall and the US will be juuuust fine.But this weekend I have been getting truly cold sweats as I am listening to Obama's farewell tour and his unseemly plaintive speeches as to the values of the West, as to wait and see on Trump even if Obama's eyes and tone say something else totally. Trying to pass the baton to Merkel was a sad moment. What we are witnessing is a man that realizes that not only his 8 years have been lost but his complacency may have greater consequences.He has only himself to blame for that. I am not going to go into how he was slapped for the economy when he should have been thanked. Nor am I going to speak about his turning US foreign policy towards Asia so that in the end China may benefit more than the US. This one, after all, may have been unavoidable and the only thing any US president could do is to work out the time timetables and the distribution of bitter pills.  But I am going to speak with property on the mess that Obama is leaving Venezuela in.The grand scheme of Obama was the opening to Cuba that he would start and Hillary would complete. One of the condition for the success of that policy was for Venezuela not to blow up. One reason was that Venezuelan money was needed to pay for Cuba transition. Another one was to allow Santos in Colombia to do whatever wicked game he had in mind. Yet another one was that the US did not care much about a country that would so willingly inflict so much damage on itself (can't blame the US for that!).Unfortunately for Obama the old guard reared its ugly head in Cuba and decided that as long as the Fidel colleagues were alive no change would come. Maybe when enough of them were dead or gaga then, and only then, the dictatorship could start to evolve. Sometime in the next decade. And then oil prices bottomed out for the long run and Venezuela went broke, dragging Cuba down but repression up.Thus Obama decided to wait and see, to let Hillary get elected and let her finish his legacy. Now he is not only getting neither, but his delays are going to make everything worse for the whole subcontinent.In Venezuela Obama's last act was to defuse a break down just before election day. When tensions were rising he dispatched Shannon to browbeat everyone in the opposition. As it has always been the case, whenever Shannon intervenes, the democratic opposition of Venezuela suffers a set back. This time was not going to be different.  Within days Trump was elected president and instantly Obama lost any capacity of pressure against the Venezuelan regime. This one slowly but surely has started to rise again as the opposition concession of a truce at the bequest of Obama and the Pope has caused a rift inside. This rift threatens the dissolution of the front, with catastrophic consequences for the country.In short, if Obama and the Pope wanted to avoid civil war in Venezuela they may have actually increased the chances of this happening. May? Actually I am almost certain. I am actually surprised at some of the bold recent moves that show that the regime is not even concerned by the OAS. Our fate is strictly with MERCOSUR and whatever the Pope may decide to wriggle through its mediation efforts (though for all appearances one even wonders about the Pope listening to the Venezuelan church). Peanuts, in the end.In short for Venezuela there will be no recall election, there will be no liberalization of the electoral system, [...]