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Venezuela News And Views

A blog about life under, and resisting, a dictatorship


Update on French elections

Sun, 23 Apr 2017 21:14:58 PDT

Yesterday I went to vote at the Caracas French embassy. I smelled tear gases wafting around us.  On one side democracy, on the other democracy's assassins.Now that I managed to follow this blog principle of always including something about Venezuela in posts not about Venezuela I can give you an update on a very complicated election, for those who care here.Good news first.Pollsters, amazingly, got it right. And more than one of them. Compare to Brexit, Trump et al. Maybe US and UK pollsters could take lessons from French pollsters that tend to get it right more often than not.The other good news is that the round up election from hell, Le Pen verses Melanchon has been avoided. We still have to get rid of Le Pen, but at least we do not have to chose between two ways for our own destructions (even though earlier reactions from the Melanchon camp seem to reflect a lot of ominous negative bitterness complicating the second round vote).The bad news next.The two extreme candidates add up more than 40% of the votes, more than 45% if you add some minor ones anti Europe, anti capitalism, etc... The three clearly pro Europe candidates sum 23.9 + 20 + 6.3 = 50.2%. The truly democratic parties barely reach half of the country. Other have misgivings about many things and are more than willing to change constitutions, close up the country, leave Europe, get rid of capitalism, and what not.  Fortunately among them there are enough who hate Le Pen so that Macron should make it to the top in two weeks. Probably with 60% +All of this being said it will be an exciting campaign.One one side you have Emmanuel Macron, a successful technocrat who never run for office and is going to become the youngest president of France. His wife I understand is about 20 years older than him and used to be his French teacher. He majored in philosophy until he went to the private sector, namely high banking. From there socialist Hollande got him for his Elysee staff from where he became finance minster. The rest his history. After Giscard D' Estaing he will be the second finance minister to make it to the top, coming from the ministry most hated by the French, the one that taxes you.What this says to us is that in spite of the image of adventurer that I do not like much, he is certainly a non conventional character and as such it is probably what France needs no to get out of its institutional and economical tailspin. Yes, I voted for him yesterday and I shall vote again in two weeks.On the other side there is Marine Le Pen who would be the first woman president, which she will not because regardless of her ideas she starts with already more scandals around her neck than Macron. She is against gay marriage, against Europe, against the Euro, against immigration of any type, not as much against the US since Trump but pro Russian, etc.Her unconscious betrays her more than it should which means that she is a bigot.Clearly there is no way I could vote for her, the more so that Trumpians and Brexiters sort of like her more and more. Birds of a feather.  Still I should add an important point. Le Pen does not have the monopoly of all "resentidos" as we call them in Venezuela, those people who carry grudges and follow any who may be able to avenge them. She has had to share that crowd with Jean Luc Melanchon with his very honorable 19% score, but oh so worrisome,  The Melanchon supporters are just a tad less anti-Europeans unless Europe acts as they want. At least Le Pen truly wants Europe dead. We can grant her that sincerity. Melanchon wants to kill capitalism, she wants state control, or a capitalism more directed by the state. You know, like Korea or China. I suppose that we should be happy that they are divided considering that together they have 40.9%Read that well, 40.9% of French do want to get rid of what gave them the longest peace and prosperity in history. Not reform it, get rid of it as Melanchon wants following the recipe of Chavez.To give you an idea sum up the primary votes of Sanders and Trump and you are getting th[...]

And the next stop is....

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 22:35:51 PDT

OK, a lot has been going on. I cannot catch up with everything. So here follows a summary of sorts mixed with my conclusions. Sort it out if you can, I can't. The recent crude factsFACT 1April 19 was the nail in the coffin for street protest from chavismo. The opposition drew a GIGANTIC crowd from Eastern Caracas. Basically any one that could make it did so. And there were marches starting from Western Caracas which not as large were the largest one ever coming from that area. Some experts put at 3 million those who set foot on the street if anything to wave a flag as marchers went by. I will settle for two million which is A-W-E-S-O-M-E by itself.But that is not all, there were huge marches in many places of Venezuela, something unheard of in some of these places. See, the provinces suffer more than Caracas and even the provincial apathy is shaken. In Valencia it was huge. Even in San Felipe my people reported to me in awe.Whatever millions the opposition truly put in the streets is irrelevant, now, because what the regime dragged to the streets the same day, in comparison, was irrelevant. They could not, buses and blackmail included, fill up the Bolivar avenue of Caracas that we all know cannot host much more than a 100 thousand. And the opposition just on the highway, the portion that got gassed in the upper deck, had more people than in Bolivar avenue. And inside the country? Nothing, just some lacking gatherings here and there.In front of the whole world it is now clear that the regime has lost any popular fervor that it may have had. Blackmail of public workers and all, the world also knows about that. The opposition without means can bring down to the streets whatever it wants, even two days in a row as it happened on April 20.FACT 2One would think that holding the street fervor in such a lopsided way would be enough to overthrow an hyper corrupted regime. But it is not so. The reason is the outrageous repression that the regime is willing to do.The repression of the last two weeks was bad enough as it was. But what happened on April 19 should get to whomever gave the order a one way ticket to The Hague international court. The indictment could be on Crime Against Humanity or even simply War Crimes. The merits are there for any type of indictment the court may wish to use.  Proving that the order may have come from Cuba will not be easy, perhaps, but proving that the Venezuelan Generals in charge gave the order, or did not try to stop it, is, well, vox populi. As of April 19, General Padrino, minister of defense, is passible of indictment at the Hague because either he did, or he did not stop. And he certainly has not resigned in protest.  Whatever it is, it will a tough act for him to clear his name now. The others do not even bother with cleaning their names anymore.At any rate, the fact here is that the regime has decided to kill as many people as there will be a need to kill. Period.FACT 3The popular discontent can only but grow. The tweet below gives a fascinating video, if your Spanish holds, about how the message of chavismno is not going down anymore. The background are popular districts. The "pueblo" is brown skinned. The only pale guy is the chavista official, ironed red shirt, impeccable shave and hair cut (and apparently some type of body guard).  And yet he is booed, he is told that the CLAP food program does not work, that people are tired of getting blackmailed and that the fault is with Maduro and no one else. The chavista poor soul tried desperately the old trite arguments, resorting to "we should not fight among ourselves" to no good avail. He is the enemy now, not the leader. And he does not seem to quite understand what is going on, truly in shock that there is no one taking his side and that everyone that has a cell phone is recording the scene.1) In this remarkable video a local chavista "leader" is booed because "there is no food on the hills" via @YouTube— daniel duquenal (@danielduquenal) April 21, 2017I will not attend t[...]

Day 2 of dictatorship: just the morning and a bang

Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:40:18 PDT

This is moving folks.

First, as expected more and more international condemnations are coming. Even Colombia straightened somewhat its statement of yesterday.

Second, sporadic protests are taking place and we can sense that it may get worse. And as expected the regime moves fast to squelch any, at least in downtown Caracas. In particular journalists seem the favorite target.

But the shocker is the first major defection of chavismo. For sure it is not a scandalous soap opera break up. But the Attorney General of the country (Fiscal de la Republica) who has allowed so many abuses of the regime decided that no, the TSJ decisions of this week are not constitutional.

And the regime was not expecting this as her words were pronounced live on State TV as she was giving the annual balance of her administration. She said them at the end so VTV would not have a chance to comprehend what was going on. {correction: VTV did cut but Globovision kept it up so the country knows}

Certainly on the video she seems hesitant, perhaps a tad scared about the magnitude of what she was unleashing. But she did say it and this is a FIRST for a sitting chavista. Luisa Ortega may be trying to save her skin for a future government, but she is also risking her skin if Maduro prevails for a while. Let's give her some kudos even if we hate to do so.

Day first of dictatorship: the local fate

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 21:00:13 PDT

(image) Well, folks, I never thought in my already long life that I would live in a country that has been officially declared a dictatorship.

And those are not my words, there those of many newspapers, countries and foreign dignitaries. As far as the civilized world is concerned Venezuela is now a dictatorship. Only creeps like Bolivia pretend it to be otherwise. But then again Bolivia is about to annul the referendum that Morales lost, so what would one expect...

What to do?  This is a personal blog and I am too old and tired to be as active as I used to be and I have too many family problems. This was reflected in the lack of steady activity in the last two years. But I made the effort to keep it alive even as readership dropped as expected. Blogs require a regular stream of texts to retain readership. Let's note in addition that what was the speech of a few voices in the world when this blog started in 2003 is now vox populi.  There is no point to come back to drive of these years.

However one of the things that helped me find some energy to keep posting at least a couple of times a month since 2013 was the knowledge that one day we would be in an officially declared dictatorship. This blog needed to be kept alive for that day. The day has come. Time to write again until I am jailed or forced to leave the country or killed or something. But now I am certain of one thing: as there are much less native media voices from Venezuela, and almost nothing in English, I am bound to become a target. That day also will come now.

Watch over me.

PS: nothing much to report today. The regime has been rather silent, probably in shock at the intensity of coverage and reactions overseas. I suspect that truly they thought it would not be that bad, only the usual suspects. But now even ambassadors are beginning to be withdrawn and the OAS is calling for a new assembly of unpredictable consequences....

And I did put up a new page on the marquee, in bold. It is a work in progress so suggestions are more than welcome to create as precise a possible a description of what a XXI century dictatorship looks like.

What can the opposition do now?

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 07:39:31 PDT

As an appendix to the preceding blog entry this short post. Short because there is not much the opposition can do.

1) It needs to react strongly, and unified. On this respect, the opposition needs to break in two if necessary. The latest ruling by the TSJ is just too much. If Rosales or Falcon want to negotiate some shit, let them do it. It is time to take a stand on principles. After all, whether you take that stand will make no difference as to your destiny into exile of next cell to Leopoldo Lopez in a military prison. Thus if unity is not possible, so be it, take your chances.  We are now at the time where historical judgments are made.

2) Keep seating and making laws. It does not matter, the TSJ will even annul your bathroom break schedule if it needs to. But make points, vote outrageous populist laws if necessary.

3) But start with a debate on annulling the TSJ itself. Preparing thus the terrain for the application of article 350 which allows civil rebellion in front of institutions that violate the constitution. Timne to be strong.

4) Remind folks that it does not matter whether the TSJ approve a monetary deal. IF that one is not approved by the NA, the day the regime falls the state will be under no obligation to pay debts incurred by Maduro and the TSJ alone. If the regime accuses you of starving the country let them do it: people now know better.

5) Get ready to call for a constitutional assembly. Nothing else will work out, so might as well go straight for the biggy.

6) AND there is of course article 350 of the constituion station that allows and demand rebellion against a government that does not act democratically or legally. The problem is that you declare rebellion and the "right" side is in the eye of the beholder; thus start civil war. Though I suppose it could be invoked by the NA to suspend the TSJ......

That is about all what I can think of.

And thus it came to pass: Venezuela's high court ends National Assembly's functions

Thu, 30 Mar 2017 00:09:48 PDT

Of course, this is not a surprise. The regime has been diligently eroding all functions of the Venezuelan National Assembly (NA). For this it has used the packing of the Venezuelan High Court (TSJ) in December 2015, just in the days between the election of a 2/3 dominated opposition NA, and its swearing in of January 2016. Since then a bevy of decisions without a single dissenting vote have been pronounced that ended up this Wednesday when a final decision declared that the TSJ will from now on assume all the duties of the NA while they refuse to obey the TSJ dictates.  This thus adds a new shade of meaning to "Damned if you do and dammed if you don´t".For good measure last Tuesday the TSJ voided the parliamentary immunity of the NA, allowing the the regime to send representatives to military courts under accusation of high treason for supporting the OAS latest moves. So that is that. What is next?First, let's observe the timing.The official annulment of the NA was coming, even if this one is still allowed to have sessions. This is in the logic of the totalitarian system of all eras. It used to come earlier in the regimes such as dissolving the elected Douma before it could even be sworn in, or burning down some Reichstag. Here it took Maduro a year and a quarter. But the regime did it even though it could have muddled for a while longer. Unfortunately for the regime this one lost its first vote at the OAS, organization of American States, as copious insults from Venezuela's foreign minister Monday and its representative to the OAS on Tuesday failed to browbeat 20 members who voted to start dealing with the Venezuelan crisis; hence the triggering.Since some form of sanctions are inevitable, and since more and more countries are going to not only criticize more openly the regime, but are also going to limit their relations to the evolving narco-dictatorship, the regime must do something. And as it is usually the case in such situations, instead of trying to make a deal and moderate, albeit temporarily, its abuses, the regime dives in. What is more than likely to happen in the next weeks, if not days, is that Venezuela will leave the OAS. And to escape its obligations to the OAS that last for a while after the official departure (see Brexit in case you do not understand what I mean), the TSJ is serving the regime a "legal" argument. Considering that the OAS is conspiring through the opposition AN to overthrow Maduro then this is one is REQUIRED by the TSJ to take necessary actions. In other words, as far as Venezuelan "law" is concerned, Maduro can send packing the OAS whenever he pleases.After all Cuba directs Venezuela foreign policy. Cuba has been out of the OAS since 1962. Its people starvation are in part due to that event, but Fidel died in his bed. So what is your point?On all practical purposes this means that now we are in a naked dictatorship, where no elections will be ever held, where no foreign eye will be allowed to come and check out the situation, where yours truly can end up in a military jail just for blogging that he supports the OAS timid actions and wants more of them _ASAP_I am not exaggerating.The dictatorship has already existed for a quite a while and thus on day to day basis nothing much has changed. Only the added provision that supporting the OAS can land you in a military court which is way more convenient to suppress political ennemies than civilian courts even in the hands of the regime. We just get now the nice formal touch in this paragraph taken out of today's TSJ decision4.4.- Se advierte que mientras persista la situación de desacato y de invalidez de las actuaciones de la Asamblea Nacional, esta Sala Constitucional garantizará que las competencias parlamentarias sean ejercidas directamente por esta Sala o por el órgano que ella disponga, para velar por el Estado de Derecho.We warn that as the situation of refusal to accept TSJ decisions a[...]

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 [...]

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 th[...]

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 Venezue[...]