Sat, 15 Oct 2016 19:37:46 PDTThis is kind of a melancholy post. For years now I have been calling this a dictatorship. It took sometime to start seeing it expressed in the foreign press. And even as I type there are some in Venezuela or overseas (I am looking at you, Zapatero just for today's denialist) that still refuse to use the D word, expecting who knows what leniency from who knows where.For me the D word applies since Chavez closed Radio Caracas in 2007. Or if you want a more material date you can use early 2013 when the constitutional coup of the moment allowed Maduro to become Chavez successor. And many other moments you may prefer. It really does not matter much, the dictatorial nature of the regime has been obvious from the start, from the very first social program of Chavez "Plan Bolivar 2000" that established the Venezuelan army as a discretionary manager of public money, and thus corruption.I remember it all. Try me.This year the dictatorship has been forced to become more frontal, more classical. Until this year the excuse that Venezuela was an autocratic regime and not a dictatorship was that the opposition did manage some electoral victories, that there were still an opposition paper here and there, albeit on trial. Etc. But all those were mere excuses. For the left there was no way that the beloved populist could have generated such a monstrously corrupt and inefficient system. For the right it was that declaring Venezuela to be a dictatorship would mean taking action for which democrats seem to have lost the taste for, and for quite a while now. The last outrage and successful international take, if I remember well, was against Fujimori who in my book is not any worse than Chavez, and certainly less calamitous for the general welfare of the people. Honduras and Paraguay were mere side shows where the changes eventually prevailed because, well, these changes had a true legal foundation.But never was Chavez to be sternly criticized until Argentina's Macri made it to office. And yet, with more bark than bite so far.But now things have become unacceptable and Venezuela is preparing to be suspended from Mercosur in a little bit more than a month while the OAS may suddenly decided to make a concrete Democratic Chart application. Only Erdogan receives Maduro.Since last December the regime has proceded to the following:*Using the judicial power to block almost all actions from the National Assembly*Rule through a state of emergency system bypassing any legal control*Go through a wave of arrestations and creation of political prisoners without any legal supervision, with "evidence" planted directly by the people performing the arrest*Sue the last two remaining national daily papers*Block any control activity that the National Assembly has in the constitution*Suspend any election, going as far as saying that elections were not an important right*Dispose of national assets to find fresh cash*Decree that all remaining private companies must sell 50% of their production to the government*Etc...... including heavy intelligence insulting propaganda to pretend that all is fine and dandy in VenezuelaBut the latest was in my opinion a fatal mistake for the regime. Maduro decided that the National Budget would be approved by decree law, with the support of course of the Judicial Constitutional Court. Now, I am not going to go into the unconstitutional and illegal ways in which the regime decides taxation and how it disposes of the funds through appointed folks.Trust me, the case is clear against the regime. Since "No taxation without representation", and we know how that ended, it has been the rule in any and every democracy that the budget must be validated by a parliament. Even if that parliament is elected under fraud, but there must be a Parliament Act. Why is such a parliamentary act a requirement? Because it is the contract symbol that the state is the guarantor of the money lent or borrowed. Failure to do such an act means simply that the only responsible party is the guy in charge and that his mere death slipping at night in [...]
Sat, 15 Oct 2016 19:39:08 PDTUPDATE: this entry will remain on top for the time being and be updated as needed. Poltical ones below as they appear.#1 updateSince many people have asked many questions I will answer the general ones here and individual ones as time allows. But my gratitude is all the same.MONEY: I am not asking for money. Asking for money is a sign of failure for me. I know, it is stupid in a time where so many people ask for so many stupid things, but I try to preserve my pride as long as I can.The time I would ask for money would be if I need to travel suddenly as good prices are not possible when you travel on short notice. I prefer to keep my savings for the care of my spouse. I will let you know when the time arrives if I cannot find a decent deal. And in that case I would limit myself to the extra expenses. Meanwhile I thank very much those who offered and you are on notice :-)SOURCES of medicine: This is the toughest to resolve. There is one in particular we need and I do not want to put it publicly. The company that makes it in the US so far has not been forthcoming but there are still ways to reach them. Meanwhile we are trying it from France, the USA or Colombia as the countries where I can travel the easiest if I need to do so.If by any chance you are a doctor in your country, or you have contacts to cancer treatments only delivered through hospital pharmacies, let me know. For more common medicines, the ones delivered through normal pharmacies through normal prescriptions, I can get them from France already.-----------------------------------I know this blog used to have personnel from the US foreign service reading it. These days it may not be the case but I need to try. Besides, other people reading may be able to help, even if not from the US.The situation is that there is no more treatment available in Venezuela for the cancer of my life partner. And there will not be as long as Maduro remains president (or anyone sponsored by the regime). It is abundantly clear that the regime will not spend money on health care anymore besides aspirin and a couple of basic antibiotics. High cost medicine is simply not in the regime's agenda anymore. It has become a genocidal line at this point.That would not be so bad if the regime allowed people to fend for themselves. But we are not allowed. Not only we have no access to USD, but even for those of us with some savings outside, it is difficult to ensure supplies unless we travel ourselves overseas. Under the pretext of fighting drug trafficking all couriers with pills are confiscated (though surely those destined to higher up in the regime must manage some exceptions).But there is an additional problem that was unexpected by us: many of the treatments for cancer are controlled medicines that are delivered only through hospitals, or extreme controls. I am finding that no matter what, manufacturers do not want anything to do with Venezuela, or demand that the patient be treated in the US. Which is nearly impossible without international health insurance that are, anyway, unavailable now in Venezuela.Beyond the cost of the medicine we seek, which we could afford for a few months, the real problem is finding ways for it to be sold to us. Things we would need is support from the embassy in Caracas, be it from the US or other countries. Or perhaps support from an NGO in getting it. Or an adventurous MD who understands what we are going through and can maneuver the obtention of hospital controlled medications. My partner cannot travel but I can.In other words anyone, or organization, that can vouch for the Venezuelan situation, that can report our case as a humanitarian situation can write privately to me to see how we can manage. No costs will be incurred to this generous soul as I have some savings that can tie us through for a few months. Though if some folks can help us purchase the medications, we would be immensely grateful since there are many more expenses we must tend to. But again, this is not a plea for cash, it is a plea for paperwo[...]
Mon, 03 Oct 2016 12:57:09 PDTSo the regime of Nicolas Maduro has a problem: how to pass the 2017 national budget controlled by the opposition held National Assembly? Really, if we cannot loot in peace, what good is the revolution for!?
Mon, 03 Oct 2016 12:42:50 PDTI have read so many idiots in the last three hours that I am forced to write about the Colombien plebiscite of today. Never mind that it will also have consequences for Venezuela.When you go on vacation to Cartagena and think youhave been whitewashed by your travel agentI heard "Brexit again! Trump next!"I read the NYT being shockedI see people wondering how could Colombians be so stupid, ungrateful, war loving folks!?So let´s bring some of that hubris down, shall we?First, the idiots doing amalgam. Today's vote in Colombian is not remotely close to the conditions of Brexit or Trump. Colombia is a, partially, warn torn country where everyone knows first or second hand the consequences of decades of a FARC guerrilla cum narko organization. Most people who voted in Colombia knew full well what they were voting for even if using the same facts led to different choices. With Brexit and Trump we have people that do not have enough problems in their real lives and are thus looking for new ones.Second, the shock of the NYT and many other pundits lulled into quite a lot of confidence of a SI result in a country notoriously wrong in its polling folks. Does anyone remember how Antanas Mockus was a shoo in against Santos 6 years ago? But even if we assume that polls are better in Colombia than what some past mistakes may want you to think, the "shock" reflects also an inexcusable ignorance about what moves people in Colombia. Here in Venezuela the regime was careful not to embark in excess optimism, for once. The opposition, if anything, was shocked that the SI rode high in the polls. We all knew better. The cartoon on the side tells you what we thought of the Trojan dove.So we come to the explanation of what happened. I had decided not to write about the whole peace process much because, well, I have other priorities these days. But inspiration came tonight. Let's first go into the errors of Santos,We can start with hubris, thinking that because he defeated the FARC as Uribe defense minister he was the hawk that could make peace credible. He got so enamored of this role that when things started becoming difficult he was unable to backtrack and forged ahead until today's crash.Then came the choice of Havana and Castro's guidance to negotiate with its allies, the communist FARC. If at first there could be a case written for it, if anything to guarantee the discretion that the Cuban jail brought, it soon became clear that Santos was negotiating on the FARC turf, on the FARC mood swings, etc. But it got worse. As Venezuela started to unravel fast, that this one was a guarantee of the process became a minus. Colombians simply could not help but think as to whether an agreement with the FARC, made in Havana under the eyes of Venezuela's colonial masters, had a Venezuelan like future in store.And there was Santos reelection problem. For many reasons having been elected the first time by right wing votes he got his narrow reelection courtesy of weak left wing votes. That gave back some strength to a left that most thought Colombians had outgrown in its ideologies and appeal. Many did not appreciate.I suppose that a mix of all that, plus an economy not performing too well in recent years pushed Santos to make concessions he should not have done. But the man wants a Nobel and a blessing by Pope Francis, so a special judicial court, and special political rights, and no jail terms were a low price for the "surrendering" FARC. In fact, I understand that some thought that the FARC got it easier than what the paramilitaries got in the much criticized deal of Uribe.I for one always thought that the NO would prevail. I was surprised to hear that polls gave a significant lead to the SI, but "Mockus" I thought! Then again I found it fishy that one week before the vote Santos had in Cartagena a massive signature ceremony with all dressed in white and coming from all around the world, including the UN secretary. Before the vote?But I suppose I had hear[...]
Thu, 22 Sep 2016 18:38:16 PDTEl régimen chavista ha trabajado mucho en alterar nuestro idioma para poder imponer sus ideas, debilitar nuestro pensamiento y afectar nuestra ética. Ya George Orwell nos explicaba ese fenómeno totalitario en "1984" o "Rebelión en la Granja".
Thu, 22 Sep 2016 18:09:11 PDTI am happy about yesterday annulment of the Recall Election. I know, it is perverse but I have my reasons.First, there is no need to discuss anymore the dictatorial nature of the regime. Under Chavez there were elections at any turn. Now, there will not be elections, not even for dog catcher. The last argument that chavismo could use internationally "we never lost the boatload of elections we do" only works if you have regular elections.The consequence of this is that any opposition group that does not call the regime for its true nature will lose quickly its supporters. These simply will fail to understand how faced with the truth their "leaders" do not react more assertively. I agree that increased polarization is dangerous, but at this point, what else can we lose?Second, as a consequence from the above, the opposition alliance MUD needs to purge itself of its wishy washy elements. Either you support the regime (silence counts), or you oppose it. Again, dictatorial regimes can only be dethroned through unity (or foreign disaster like invasion). See the examples of Chile where all allied against Pinochet. Or even Mexico when all rallied behind the right wing PAN to kick out the eternal PRI and its "perfect" dictatorship. Never mind the exit of Fujimori where the unity of the opposition behind Toledo allowed international sanctions to be effective.Third, and surprising, any negotiation to get out of the crisis is now more likely to be successful if the opposition unifies better, becomes more assertive. By blocking any election the regime in fact traps itself into a repression must that is not acceptable today in Latin America, at a time where even the Castros are starting to be questioned. Through negotiation we may not get quick regime change but a true negotiation which includes a real progressive release of the tools of power by the narco regime may be a better outcome for the country than ousting suddenly a corrupt elite that will immediately sabotage whatever the incoming administration will try. One reason why some inside the opposition are not as assertive as others is that they simply do not want to deal with the mess.[NOTE: I am painfully aware that Venezuela is a neutered country. The sacrifices seen in Chile or Peru are not going to happen here. There are too many of us that can only be deranged for a looting party. There is a perfect French word without direct translation to characterize what I think of the bulk of the Venezuelan population: veule. a mix of spineless and coward. And I include there those that are keyboard warriors, calling for all sorts of action from the MUD that they have little intentions to lead themselves. Never mind the chavista colectivos who only attack under pay and military protection. Certainly there are steel soul heroes like Lopez but the indignation only goes so far.]In front of all this what are the options?It is time for the MUD to put its neck forward. It has been 24 hours since the CNE did what was foretold. Last night the only minimally acceptable answer for the MUD was "We are not accepting this. We knew it was coming and we have plans. We will not reveal them now because we needed first the details to complete them. Tomorrow we will tell you".We had to wait a couple of hours until finally someone said something without any further immediate perspective. In short, the MUD is not sure what to do. I assume, hope, they have an idea, that the delay is part of a strategy.Clearly, if the MUD does not react we are in for a full Maduro term with utter destruction of the country. Never mind that the regime will use the two years left to destroy physically the opposition and plan for a totally fraudulent presidential election in December 2018. Or later, as the crisis is an open door for all sort of excuses.Today, for good measure the high court TSJ annulled yet another key vote from the National Assembly. And yet this is where the resistance[...]
Wed, 21 Sep 2016 19:39:55 PDTThere will be a lot of brouhaha in the next days about the ignominious decision of the CNE to do its utmost to violate the constitution in order to block the Recall Election against Maduro. Let me try to make it clear for readers still hanging around here.1) The motivation in any case is to annul the Recall Election, or in the very worst case push it to 2017 which means that the regime remains in office until January 2019 at the very least.In fact, the regime has announced today through one of its formal provocateurs, Pedro Carroña Carreño, that voting was not a fundamental right, that there was more pressing needs like food or medicine than elections. The provocation is, of course, the public knowledge that the crisis is the regime fault and thus it will never win an election again, and it knows it. Never mind that there might not be money for elections but there was cash for the useless NOAL summit in Margarita last week that could have easily paid for an election. Nevermind on how much medicine could have been bought out of the food given, say, to Mugabe.In short, before I go into details, as I already wrote in previous entries, the regime does not want elections. Period.2) The constitution states clearly that any recall election must be asked by 20% of the voters in the district that elected the said person. The electoral board CNE today announced that even though Maduro was elected nation wide the opposition will need to collect 20% in each and every state. So, even if, say, 30% nationwide signed for the recall election it is enough that in a single state there is ONE VOTE missing for the 20% to annul the whole experience. The article 72 is clear and precise, there is a need for a 20% nation wide and it is irrelevant if that number is reached through 100% of voters in state X while state Y has 0% signatures.Thus we have right there a flagrant violation of the constitution. If they do that so bluntly what can we expect for the "details" next?3) The CNE said that it would give the opposition only 3 weekdays, 7 hour week day, with one hour for lunch for the CNE workers. That is there will be a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday allocated, from 8 AM to noon and from 1 PM to 4 PM. That is, unless your boss gives you the time to stand in line for hours you will not be able to sign up for the recall election. Never mind public workers who will be tightly controlled those days and fired on the spot if they are out of office during that timetable.4) And to make sure that this timetable is even more difficult to fulfill the CNE has allocated only 5,392 finger printing machines. Let's do some simple arithmetic.If all goes well, no electric outage, no sabotage, no violence, etc, etc... we have 21 hours per machine. Let's assume that each machine can collect one signature per minute in such perfect conditions. The maximum signatures that can be thus collected in those three days are:5,392 X 21 X 60 = 6,793,920 signatures.We need, besides the per state quota difficulty, 3,893,129 signatures. That is not bad you may say. Think again. I have assumed that the 21 hours will be indeed perfect 21 hours. Also, there are always imponderables and we know from experience that the CNE has a proclivity to annul signatures at will, even if collected by themselves. The "safe number" is not 20% per state, it is 25% per state, which is above 5 million nationwide.A couple of rainstorms across the country is enough to already make you lose half a million. A few well designed power outages and there you have another half a million gone. Since it is to be collected state by state all those that cannot return to their home state will not be able to sign. Etc.....Not collecting on a week end makes it, just becasue of logistics, very difficult to get that 4 million signatures. Since elections are on Sundays, you can appreciate in full the hypocrisy and cynicism of the CNE in deciding on [...]
Tue, 20 Sep 2016 18:38:37 PDTLong time I did not write a summary of what is going on. As usual there is a big yawn along as everything changes fast but everything is, in the end, the same: a gang of thugs will do whatever it is possible to retain power because they know what awaits them once they lose. Nevermind the culture of violence that goes with such mentality where only brute force is the argument. Negotiation? Only to gain time until I finally find a way to screw you once and for all.This been said things are not going any better for the regime. True, the vice president and the communist minister of economy are saying that lines are lesser, that we are turning around a corner, that imports are on the rise since January, etc. The reality is that indeed lines are lesser. See, supplies are lesser so there is no need to stand in line for stuff that will not come in. Shopping on weekends for groceries is great: since there are no deliveries anymore on Saturdays then what is left is for the people that have money enough to buy what the hoi polloi cannot afford. For the first time in years I am hitting again grocery stores on Saturdays (Sundays are, well, empty no matter what). As for the commie minister (he used to be a PCV member before jumping ship to Chavez), someone in his office should point to him that historically January has always been the lowest month for importation since the country is out of business until mid January. No dockers....Politically the big fight remains the Recall Election before January 10 2017 since after that date a chased Maduro can name his successor, no election needed for the next two years. As I suspected long ago, it is not going to happen no matter what the opposition does. Too much at stake for the regime. Yet the good fight must be done in the off chance that a division inside chavismo allows in the end for the recall election; or, better, we have Maduro resign before January 10 (which I think is what will happen if chavismo decides not to go full metal jacket on repression).The strategy of the "legal" chavismo (and institutional military?) is to wait as long as possible in the vain hope that oil prices go up just enough to resupply a little bit food shelves and thus make electoral defeat not a fact. Since production is not promoted and that economic repression is getting worse, I do not see how can this happen even if within one year oil were to go back to, say, 80 a barrel. But chavismo is entitled to dream too.Meanwhile the "illegal" chavismo (and narko military?), the one that does not give a crap about appearances and that wants not only to get rid of the opposition but also of timorate chavistas, is forging ahead. The packed high court (never a dissenting opinion in the TSJ) has annulled anything the National Assembly does. The problem is that we need to vote next year budget and the constitution is quite clear in that it can only be approved through a National Assembly vote. We are sure that the TSJ will write something to annul yet a new sector of the constitution which for all practical purposes is only good enough to replace scarce toilet paper. The final head-on conflict must happen in the next weeks as the to-do list of TSJ before the end of the year is 1) annul the recall election proceeding 2) decide the budget 3) bar the nomination of a new electoral board 4) support legally repression and, why not, 5) disolve parliament without electing a new one.While chavismo is desperately establishing a dictatorship without any popular support things outside are not improving for them either. The non aligned summit of last week was a fiasco as only a dozen of the 100+ head of state showed up. And we are talking here of Mugabe, Castro and other undesirable ones that have zero credentials on democracy. No luster from the summit except perhaps for some lumpen chavismo, part of it being carried to a refuge[...]
Sun, 31 Jul 2016 16:05:36 PDTIt is now vox populi that Venezuela is suffering a major politically induced economic crisis which has yielded bread lines and people dead from the lack of medicine. The two root causes are well known. Historically it starts with a dependency on a major resource to feed a dysfunctional patronage and welfare state; oil. Populism has been the continuing line of politics since the late 60ies, a line dramatically expanded by Hugo Chavez since 1998. To this tradition Chavez added incompetency, empty ideas, willful prejudice, corruption and even drug traffic, the lone prosperous industry in Venezuela these days.It is not the aim of this entry to detail the catastrophe that has befallen Venezuela. I will only write some of the key events that have happened to my business, making it nearly bankrupt not through my own possible incompetency but through regulations that have strangled the life of all private business that are not associated with the corruption of the regime.Chavez started with a new constitution that had a "free property, but..." feel. At first things kept as they were in 1998 which is to say not very well. But we could work, we could import raw materials to work, an important element since already in 1998 Venezuela was a net importer of raw materials and semi processed goods. Still, my business, agribusiness in nature, was able to do some small exports and was poised to expand these significantly to Colombia. Other plans included a project to export to Europe a choice crop from our family farm once our volume justified the export needs and costs, a farm for which we had obtained organic certification.Then, slowly but surely the regime started to establish a series of controls that wrecked the economy. I am not going to go through them chronologically, just giving a main list.In fairness not all chavismo intents were nefarious. For example the LOCTI law was voted to promote investments in technology by the private sector. That law created a tax that you could be exempt of if you used the tax amount in an investment project. That is, if your project was approved you could purchase, say, research equipment and then import it tax free to Venezuela. You could also include in the deal expenses to develop the system in your business. It was not a tax break per se, but autonomy in using some of the tax money for a productive project. An incentive to invest, in other words.We did that, we purchased an analytical tool worth at the time 50,000 dollars, including miscellaneous expenses. Plenty of people did as we did, small projects like us or large laboratories set ups. But we should have known that such goodwill and constructive legislation would not last. First came the state inspections to verify whether we had actually done what our project stated. One day I saw a contingent of a dozen people arrive unannounced to inspect our purchase. We wasted two days explaining everything. We passed with flying colors, of course, but we already noticed the growing distrust of the regime as to anything private. And the increasing bureaucratic nature of the regime to send a dozen people where a single inspector would have sufficed, for one day at most.You could be forgiven to believe that our track record would have allowed us to invest in yet a new piece of advanced technology, but this was never to pass. The regime saw LOCTI as a way to distract tax revenue for the state, not for the technological advances it brought to the country, in addition of creating new high paying jobs. The LOCTI was modified. Now only if the government approves the project would you get from the government the money for it, allegedly out of the tax pool collected. That is, first you should keep paying the LOCTI tax required without any guarantee that someday you could recover part of it in a suitable project. Of the diverse companies I do bu[...]
Sun, 03 Jul 2016 09:49:04 PDTThis past week we got dramatic examples on the limits of democracy. Let's dispatch Brexit fast as the "revocatorio" will require some details.Some claim that Brexit was an exercise in Democracy and sovereignty. But this week has shown that it was anything but. From the quick collapse of Boris Johnson to the obvious intentions of a few in the Tories to remove Cameron at all costs, without forgetting Corbyn's naked intent at turning Labour into a British version of PODEMOS (or is that English now?) we can see that the voters interests were, well, accessory. Now Scotland is veering fast towards a new independence vote while the idiots that did not bother voting are now marching in the streets of London. And never mind the flow of racism that opened after Brexit, showing clearly what the vote was for some.The saddest part of all this is that not only the UK voter took unnecessary risks to exert their "esprit de clocher" (podunkness?), but they are dragging Europe down with them, breaking up a peace zone that was so difficult to build up. Now that I think of it Europe should also have been voting as to whether keep Britain in. Things would be clearer today, for better or for worse.The revocatorio in Venezuela is quite another expression of the limits of democracy, but with cruel fascist political garbage to boot. The objective here is that 20% of the electoral body can sign up, under certain conditions, to ask for a recall election of any given elected official. This may work out in countries like the US where people are used to register with a political group and where the given political group can never take for granted the amount of people that claim intent to vote for them.But in savages country like Venezuela, a recall election is a sure way to destroy the secrecy of vote. It happened in a really bad way in 2004 with the Tascon list (yours truly was denied passport for a while for having signed up to recall Chavez, to give you an example). But now, without Chavez and with a group of renegades on top with too many crimes to confess, a recall election is out of question and any, ANY pseudo-legal trick will be tried to avoid such an election.The latest one is that after an arduous process to collect 2% of preliminary signatures (not because of the lack of will of the voters to sign up but because of all the political pressure exerted by the regime to block the signature drive) rumors are that the regime will toss away these signatures anyway. The argument? A handful of signatures were ill collected and thus none of the million + is valid. Never mind that the electoral bord, CNE, supposedly did its job by filtering and rejecting already 600,000 signature including some of those from opposition leaders that signed in public, in front of news cameras.What we see here is the profound anti democratic reasoning of chavismo. Since this one has had no convincing argument, for years now, their only debating strategy is to negate all because of one. That is, you can advance 100 solid arguments, if one is slightly shaky this will be used by chavismo as a proof that the other 99 are worthless. Self exempting themselves along from sustaining their own arguments, by the way. Note, such systemic reasoning is not exclusive of chavismo as we could see in some of the comments in my previous entry, quite similar to those of chavismo in the days where they infested all opposition blogs.Thus in addition of the Venezuelan high court preparing itself to destroy the will of the people, we already see the regime creating a new version of the Tascon list with those poor sols that signed over a month ago. And the victims are the 8% that signed, even though the CNE "rejected" a good third of them. For apartheid, they are suddenly all valid.As a I wrote, thus went away the secrecy of vote in Venezuela. The rema[...]