Wednesday, November 5, 2008

And now.... Gold....

Chavez is making a clean sweep nationalizing industries which affect Venezuela's national resources. This time he's taking over the largest gold mine. This time it's a Canadian company he's going to expropriate the resource from.

What's left? Aluminum? Or maybe that's already been nationalized.

I guess Chavez has to do something to increase government revenues since oil prices are hovering in the $60's. Surely private industry in Venezuela isn't going to make up for lost profit in the oil market by expanding production and contributing to the tax base.

Why doesn't Chavez just get it over with and declare Venezuela a communist state, and take over all private enterprises? He could name himself Premier for life....

Sunday, November 2, 2008

El Burro quiere hablar....

Pero solamente con el negro.... And this donkey isn't the donkey in the Shrek movies.

So Chavez wants to talk with Obama, if Obama wins the US elections. As Obama has already stated, he's willing to accept an invitation to talk. Maybe Obama has already called to accept, since he's acting as if he's already won. (Hey, do you think that when Obama says 'righteous wind' he means that his flatulence doesn't smell?)

Interesting quote from Chavez:
"I send an overture to the black man, from us here, who are of Indigenous,
black, Caribbean, South American race"

Is there such a thing as a "South American race"? The only native South Americans are the indigenous peoples. Chavez himself is a mix, part of which is African I'm sure. But a "South American race"?

Fact is, the whole world wants Obama to win. Go figure. We didn't do what the world wanted in Iraq, but I'm sure the good ole US of A will come through this time - if you believe the polls that is.

Hollywood elite: Destination Venezuela?

Drudge has a link to an article about how the Hollywood liberals are wringing their hands over a possible Obama defeat.

I'll spare you all of my soapbox commentary on the article (why didn't Barbara Streisand and Alec Baldwin move out of the country after the 2000 and 2004 elections? why would there be blood in the streets if Obama loses, but no if McCain loses? who really carese what Susan Sarandon and hubby/partner Tim Robbins think?)

The reason I bring up this article is I noticed Venezuela wasn't mentioned as a possible destination for these folks if McCain wins. I wonder why.... Sean Penn seems to have an affinity for Chavez and Venezuela, along with Danny Glover and that Spacey guy. Why not Venezuela?

Nope, just Canada.

Maybe Chavez is too liberal/socialist/dictatorial for even the Hollywood libs.... :-)

Chavez Redux: Part Dux

Yes, I know, I misspelled 'deux'. I apologize to my one other reader if they don't get my lame sense of humor.

I also apologize for continuing a bit off track on the US Presidential Elections, but please be patient.

As I was taking my shower today, I was wondering why Obama would want to create a 'civilian national security force'. What 'national security objectives that we've set' would require a civilian national security force established that is just as powerful, just as well funded as the 5 branches of the US Military? (I throw the US Coast Guard in as a branch.)

I compared this statement to what Chavez wants/is doing in Venezuela with armed Bolivarian circles.

At least Chavez has an excuse (or at least an imaginery one): the ongoing impending invasion by the US imperialists. Chavez has vowed that given such an invasion, the US would meet an armed civilian resistance that would keep them out. Of course, the REAL threat to Chavez and the REAL reason for his arming civilians is that he can't trust his own military - something he should be intimately familiar with as he was thrown in prison in the 90's for helping lead a military coup against the Venezuelan President. But I digress.

Back to the US Civilian National Security Force. What does that mean? And why does it need to be equally funded and as powerful as the US Military?

Of course, like many Obama sound bites, we don't know what he means because he has yet to define it.

Alot of possibilities float around in my head: everything from expanding Big Brother (making the Patriot Act like like a fairy tale), to buffering himself against the US Military knowing his policies may not sit well with military leaders.

The only national security objectives I am aware of currently are ones dealing with the new world rising out of the ashes of 9/11 - global terrorism. The US has yet to suffer another terrorist attack on it's own soil since that tragic day, thankfully in large part to swift action taken by President Bush and the military in taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan and putting Osama Bin Laden on the run. Have we caught bin Laden? No. Has his network been dismantled? No. Has it been crippled? Yes.

So that begs the question - why do we need a 'civilian national security force'? Is our military not already meeting our national security objectives by keeping terrorism out of the US?

It appears to me that if this is to be a civilian force, it is not meant to be deployed overseas. It is meant to act on US soil. For what reason? Don't we already have National Guard units which are at the disposal of governors of the States? Don't cities and counties have police and sherriffs in place to keep the peace and enforce local laws?

Progressives cry foul about the erosion of the Posse Comitatus and Insurrection Acts under President Bush. The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 allows "the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of ("refuse" or "fail" in) maintaining public order, "in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

Pretty scary, huh? If you listen to Air America, they've made a big deal out of it. I wonder if they are making a big deal out of Obama's comment to raise a civilian national security force, which on the surface has the same potential as the above statements. Something tells me that they aren't.

There are other questions which need asking as well. What would the command structure of this civilian national security force look like? Who would have oversight over this new force? Would they have their own version of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or would they adopt the UCMJ? Would they be used to enforce federal laws?

Of course the main stream media won't ask these questions. They are too busy worrying about who gets to sit on the plane with Obama.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

PDVSA Drilling capacity

We've all seen the drop in the price per barrel of oil drop precipitiously in the past few weeks, losing more than half it's value from the year's high of $147.

OPEC correspondingly announced a mandatory reduction of output for it's cartel members of 1.5 million barrels (or so), and are calling for a further output reduction if oil prices don't stabilize between $70 and $90.

So where does that leave Venezuela? See Miguel Octavio's blog entry on current Venezuelan oil output and it's affect on oil revenues collected from oil. To summarize, Venezuela already doesn't produce as much as it's allotted by OPEC, because revenue from PDVSA has been siphoned off "for the people". Investment back into oil drilling just isn't there, and it's hurting output.

So Venezuela is looking for partners to help develop the heavy crude fields of the Orinoco basin. This oil requires much more investment to develop because it has to be preprocessed before it can be refined.

But the funny thing is, no one is really clamoring to bid on this project, because of not only the investment requirements and the current economic climate affecting the world, but the craziness that is Chavez. Who is to say that Chavez won't change the terms of the deals when times are tough and he needs more money? As it is with the terms in place (own only 40% of the project, pay royalties and taxes reducing your revenue by 85%, sharing proprietary technology, PDVSA running the show and hiring the workers), I would shy away from a deal like that. I wonder why the private companies like Chevron stayed in Venezuela. Maybe they figured their getting raked over the coals was a small price to pay in the interim until someone with more sense gained control of the government there.

With his nationalization projects, Chavez has effectively closed off investments in the Venezuelan economy from private corporations. Sure, he's got the Russians and the Chinese and even the Iranians, but those are like minded governments looking for a strategic partner.

Could the US be headed in the same direction? Let's hope not!!

Chavez Redux?

Okay, so I was doing my usual browsing of Drudge when I saw a link with the words Obama Vows To Create 'Civilian National Security Force'...

My first thought was "No way.... That's exactly what Chavez is doing in Venezuela with the armed Bolivarian circles!!"

Then I saw the video, and sure enough. Sounds like Obama wants to do something similar.


What is this country coming too?!?! And Barney Frank wants to reduce the military budget by 25% to boot. Interesting, don't you think?

I've refrained from commenting on the US Presidential race in this blog, because there is plenty of that going around and that's not the purpose of this blog. But when circumstances overlap like this, I can't help but comment.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weening US off of Venezuelan Oil

Interesting discussion on weening the US off of Venezuelan oil, regarding Obama and McCain's comments in the most recent debate indicating their plans to remove the US from dependence on oil from Venezuela.

First, let me say that I applaud both candidates for making a claim to remove us from dependence on oil from Chavez. It removes Chavez' ammunition against the US. He'll be able to keep his threat of cutting off oil to the US, if we are no longer dependent on his oil. So I can only hope that the next President of the US will have the fortitude and stamina to see his promise through of removing us from dependence on Venezuelan oil.

The second contributor, Paul Isbell, indicates that the US will still be dependent on Venezuelan oil after the first administration, and even if the US were to develop offshore oil fields that it would only replace 1 million barrels in 6 to 7 years. Hey, that's fine by me. The US imports about 1.2 to 1.3 million bpd from Venezuela. Offshore drilling would nicely fill that gap, and allow us to tell Chavez 'adios muchacho, que le vaya bien."

I don't buy into the whole 'global warming' baloney, but do think that the US must develop alternative forms of energy for it's own survival and self-reliance. Oil is the lifeblood of this country. Imagine no gasoline, no diesel, or very limited supplies of both. We had a taste over the summer, but that was just a taste.

I hope that the next President aggressively pursues drilling oil fields available to this country, from day 1 in parallel with developing alternative energy sources in a parallel track. And I agree with one of the commentators that it will take an act of sheer will to get onto viable alternative energy sources (not ethanol that consumes corn bound for our tables) like it did for the US to land a man on the moon.

Interestingly enough, it would be in the best interests of foreign governments like India and China as well to see the US get off of it's dependence on oil - the more for them, at a reduced price. Cheaper oil would then produce cheaper products, since it would cost less to ship all those toys from China to the US.

I do sincerely hope that in the next 10 years, I'll be driving a car that isn't burning gasoline. And I'd love to see the look on Chavez face when it's announced that the US will no longer be buying Venezuelan oil.

A boy can dream....

El Dictador

Chavez is amused that Sarah Palin has called him a dictator.

His claim is that he has been elected democratically, and there is some truth to that. He's survived a referendum on his presidency (where there were doubts about the result, yet certified by Jimmy Carter), and then was re-elected (because the opposition was too fragmented to get behind a single candidate), and even conceded defeat to his constitutional referendum last year - a constitutional referendum that would have made him president for life.

Pretty democratic, eh? Sure, I'll give him that.

But the problem comes now when his party is facing defeat in the elections coming up in November. His party stands to lose key governorships and mayoral races. What's his response?

Read this article from La Tercera, and it will give you a good idea (hat tip to my oldest brother for emailing me the article):

25/10/2008 - 00:56

El Presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, anunció hoy que está dispuesto a preparar acciones "militares" en el estado de Zulia si allí se impone la oposición en los comicios del próximo 23 de noviembre.

En un mitin electoral en Maracaibo, capital del Zulia, el gobernante anunció un "Plan Chávez" que comprendería acciones militares en caso de que la oposición resultara victoriosa en ese estado.

El líder opositor Manuel Rosales, actual gobernador de Zulia, aspira a ser alcalde de Maracaibo.

El gobernante anunció, sin precisar detalles, que en caso de que Rosales gane los comicios, preparará acciones "militares" dentro de lo que denominó "Plan Chávez".

Este plan se desarrollaría tanto en los estados y municipios en los que su Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (Psuv) resulte derrotado o victorioso.

"¡Qué nadie se olvide que esta es una revolución pacífica, pero es una revolución armada!", dijo Chávez en el mitin, cuyo objetivo fue apoyar a los candidatos del Psuv de cara a las elecciones del 23 de noviembre.

"La mejor manera de evitar la violencia el año próximo", cuando "el imperialismo yanqui" estima que podrá mantener el control del Zulia será "barriendo el 23 de noviembre" en las urnas, señaló Chávez.

Previamente, en otra alocución asimismo televisada, el Presidente venezolano vaticinó que fracasarán "los planes" para convertir al Zulia en "una Santa Cruz venezolana", en referencia a la provincia autonomista boliviana opositora.

"Hablé con Evo (Morales, Presidente de Bolivia) y estamos muy felices porque por fin el congreso boliviano aprobó la fecha para el nuevo referendo constitucional", dijo Chávez previamente, durante la inauguración de una planta de generación
termoeléctrica en ese estado del oeste venezolano.

"Se impone la razón contra el fascismo (...) Por eso los planes de convertir al Zulia en la Santa Cruz de Venezuela fracasarán", agregó al arremeter insistentemente contra Rosales, a quien derrotó electoralmente en diciembre de 2006, en los comicios presidenciales que lo confirmaron en el Gobierno hasta inicios del 2013.

Chávez calificó a Rosales como "un politiquero barato y mafioso" y lo acusó de haber convertido al Zulia en refugio de paramilitares, de mafias del narcotráfico y de grupos de extrema derecha venezolanos y colombianos.
Does that not sound like a dictator to you? "If we don't win the elections, I'm going to send in the army." Haven't heard of that practice in democratic countries. (Side note: notice how Chavez accuses Rosales of the same things that people have accused Chavez himself of, except on the opposite side of the political spectrum.)

This all may be a mute point (at least for Rosales and Zulia), if Chavez jails Rosales first. Apparently, Chavez thinks Rosales is out to assassinate him. Notice in the same article how 272 opposition candidates have been barred from running, due to claims of corruption. Yeah... right. Uh, who was caught with his hand in the cookie jar trying to help his pal win in Argentina?

Of course, that is just the latest evidence that Chavez is not as he claims - a social democrat.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hezbollah in Venezuela

Wow.... I didn't realize that Hezbollah had established a presence in Venezuela. Here is an interesting piece from Israeli newspaper Yedioth talking about their foothold in Venezuela.

Even scarier is this video. There is no way to vouch for it's authenticity, but if it's true, radical Islam (beyond the sleeper cells in this country), is gaining a foothold in our own backyard (along with the Russians of course).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

From Donkey to Devil to Comrade

Wow, what a turnaround. Now Chavez is calling GW a comrade. His words folks, not mine.

Basically, Chavez is calling Bush a socialist for bailing out the failing financial institutions here in the US by having the US government buy stock in the financial institutions to infuse cash into them.

I'm not a financial genius, and by no means do I think the bailout was a great idea. I think that those financial institutions and their CEOs that played fast and loose in the sub-prime mortgage business and credit default swap markets should suffer the consequences of their risky gambles failing miserably.

The interplay of all that is going on in the economy is above my comprehension and something I am not capable of getting into and analyzing. I do know that there are millions of Americans whose assets have been wiped out because of the collapse of the economy and the collapse of financial institutions. Doing nothing is really not an option, in my opinion. And even with the $700 billion, who knows if it will be enough to keep the economy alive.

But I digress....

Back to El Burro's name calling.

Sure, the US Government is investing in failing financial institutions. But from what I understand the stocks being purchased are not voting stocks. If that is true, in effect the government is solely investing in these companies with less rights than I would if I were to go buy stock in one of these institutions. This isn't a corporate raid, or hostile takeover of these companies. This is designed to be a temporary move to infuse cash and free up the credit markets to get the economy moving again. The purchasing of stock was the prudent decision instead of buying up the bad debt on the books of these companies. The stock is an asset that the government can then sell at a later time to pay back the US Treasury and the American tax payer.

Let's compare/contrast this with what happened in Venezuela with Chavez nationalizing the oil industry.

The Venezuelan government didn't buy out ExxonMobil and others at fair market value for assets invested in Venezuela. Basically, it was take what we offer or take nothing.

The Venezuelan nationalization effort is not an investment effort, it's a move by a thug to syphon off profits from those industries for the good of the Venezuelan government - so that Chavez can bribe foreign governments, and put money in the pockets of Chavez and his cronies.

The Venezuelan nationalization effort is not a temporary move to shore up failing industries. In fact, as evidenced in this blog and many articles, Venezuelan nationalization of the oil industry has actually hurt oil output and potential oil revenues.

And here is the key difference between the two nationalizations (yet I wouldn't really classify the US bailout plan as a nationalization, as it is a temporary measure):
Chavez lauds his nationalizations for allowing the state to refocus companies'
activities on helping the poor rather than creating value for their

And in doing so, Chavez is running those companies into the ground leaving Venezuela worse off than before nationalizing the companies.

Oh well. Delusions again by the one man cantinfla show....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What is the right price for barrel of crude?

Interesting blog entry on where the price for a barrel of oil should really be set - a break even point if you will for the countries that produce oil.

The author talks about where the price of oil should be in order for countries dependent on oil revenues to balance their budgets - countries including Venezuela. His guesstimate is from the high $50's to mid $90's. In fact, OPEC is meeting to discuss the output levels in order to control the price of oil.

What I think is missing out of the equation is what will happen if the price of oil continues a free fall. OPEC can control the output, but that is only one side of the equation. Demand is the other. If demand continues to fall due to the global economic crisis, OPEC will have to move to reduce output of oil even further to keep the price per barrel high.

I think though, that countries like Venezuela will continue to produce at the maximum output in order to fill their coffers with money. Oil is the only currency Chavez has. Sure, he's got aluminum, and some gold and diamonds, but oil is king in Venezuela, and Chavez needs those petrodollars to buy influence and look like the benevolent king. Oil is what feeds his socialist agenda, and he needs it more than anything.

On the flip side, if the world comes out of the economic crisis, maybe we'll learn to depend less on oil and spread out energy needs among other sustainable sources. I'm not a believer (term used intentionally) in Al Gore's theory of global warming with man as the main contributing factor, but I sure would like to not be dependent on foreign oil. I firmly believe that if the US were to develop it's own sources of energy and be 100% energy independent, it would re-institute us as the single Super Power in the world again.

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. With US automakers facing extremely tough times, maybe just maybe they'll start developing and producing ideas like cars that run on hydrogen, or even water. Take the US daily consumption of oil out of the overall oil demand equation and see what you come up with. Even the developing Asian markets wouldn't immediately replace that demand.

Chavez says Venezuela is insulated against the global economic crisis. Something tells me he missed a few macroeconomics classes. Just as Americans bet their houses on the continual rise in the price of real estate, Chavez has bet Venezuela on the continual rise or steady high price of a barrel of oil. As another saying goes, there is no such thing as a sure thing....

Monday, October 13, 2008

UPDATE: Free falling....

My oh my oh my..... The price of crude is dropping like a rock, thanks in part to the global economic crisis causing reduced demand for oil.

What will Chavez do if the price of oil drops any further? How will he pay for his 'imperial' foreign policy of giving oil and money away to buy influence in South America and the Caribbean?

Here is further evidence that Chavez turn at the reigns of power in Venezuela has damaged it's economy. The estimate is that Venezuela has lost out on 25% of it's potential output - from 3.2 million bpd in 1998 to 2.4 million bpd now. (I've seen other figures that make the 2.4 figure seem rather generous.)

And why has output declined, when reserves are in the 80 billion barrel range? From the mouth of the president of PDVSA

"The new PDVSA is central to the social battle for the advance of our country,"
said Rafael Ramirez, the company's president and the minister for petroleum. "We
have worked to convert PDVSA into a key element for the social battle."

That's political speak for "we've plundered the profits of our oil and diverted them to buy the allegiance of foreign governments, and lined our own pockets as well." What happens when you don't invest some of your profits back into your business? Output falls - especially in the oil business.

Since 98, Chavez has nationalized the oil industry, ripping the oil fields out of the hands of private enterprise (largely American), in the name of taking back the oil profits. Problem is, those private enterprises invested billions in the oil fields to maintain output and to drill new areas. (Billions that Chavez never compensated them fairly for.) They knew what it took to get the maximum value out of the oil fields in Venezuela.

But no more....

And now, PDVSA is producing food and furniture? They can't perform their main business adequately, yet they have other tasks as well. Wow.... I bet the furniture falls apart when you get it home.

I find the last paragraph very interesting. Experts believe Venezuela won't be able to pay it's bills if oil drops below $80 a barrel. That means even as we speak, Venezuela is having a hard time paying it's bills.

And to think that Venezuela, back in the 70's and 80's, used to be able to pay it's bills when the oil boom produced far lower prices per barrel.

How sad....

UPDATE: See the MATH on how much Venezuela is missing out on per year with it's drop in production.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chavez the financial expert

On Friday, Financial Expert Chavez (representing the financial powerhouse 'Dewey, Cheatam, and Howe') declared that the US would not be able to fix the financial crisis it is currently mired in.

Furthermore, he declared that the US was attempting to buy the world with it's worthless money:

"The Americans harass us and attack us... (they) want to buy the world with paper that does not have any value."
Meanwhile, PDVSA continues to cash those checks that are sent to it by the US petroleum companies for the oil that is imported into the US. And that money continues to flow to Latin American nations in forms of subsidies, 'aid', and down right bribes. Who is trying to buy the world Mr. Chavez?

Why a reporter didn't ask Mr. Chavez about the ever increasingly bad situation in his own country of Venezuela, including rising inflation, crime, etc. I have no idea. Maybe it's because France is a great socialist country that dare not challenge one of their own? Or maybe it's because France wants to fill the void left by the expulsion of American oil and defense contracts, and soon to be automakers? (GM is reportedly looking to get out of Venezuela.)

Mr. Chavez is right in one regard when he said that the crisis won't be fixed "by running the money printer...." Nope, it won't. Yet at the same time, something needs to happen, or Mr. Chavez will start feeling the pinch at home. If the US recession continues to strengthen, the economy will shrink, and there will be less demand for his oil in the short term, meaning less capital in his pocket.

A large US recession will damage the global economy, further depressing the oil market, causing oil producing nations to pump more oil, causing more supply with less demand, thus dropping the price of oil further.

So like it or not Mr. Chavez, this US financial crisis affects you too....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Socialism will save the world.

At least according to El Burro Chavez.

Notice in the article that Chavez sings "you are so like me" in reference President Bush. I'm not sure, but I think someone has the hots for POTUS!!! And it's not Laura Bush!!!

I love the way he states he's been pointing out flaws in the US economic system for years. Sure, he's criticized US for it's 'imperialist' ways, but was he a prophet of the housing bubble burst? I don't think so.

Socialism, communism, or even capitalism are all great theories in a vacuum. Add the element of man into the equation, and any one of them is likely to be twisted into a pretzel to squeeze every ounce of economic advantage to those that are in power or have money. Communism in Russia produced a ruling elite, where long lines for bread were found constantly. Socialism in Venezuela just means that the money has changed hands from the private sector to the Chavez government lackeys. And with capitalism, you have the crisis we face today in the US. No one system is perfect.

Mr. Chavez, socialism isn't going to save the world. No governmental or economic system is going to save the world, because there will always be the haves and the have-nots. It's how the haves treat the have-nots that predicts whether this world will be saved.

And before you, Mr. Chavez, say your model in Venezuela for treating the have-nots is any better than anyone elses, please take a look at the key stats of human conditions in Venezuela. Crime is up (especially homicides and kidnappings), unemployment up, and your infrastructure is crumbling around you as you seek to nationalize key industries. The poor in Venezuela aren't much better off than they were when you took power 10 years ago.

If anything, socialism in Venezuela has helped to concentrate more money in the hands of government officials and those that do it's bidding, and less to the people. Corruption has risen in Venezuela, even though you Mr. Chavez promised to wipe it out. As a popular blogger on Venezuelan issues calls it, you have instituted a 'robolution', not a 'revolution'.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Venezuela among most corrupt nations in the world.

Okay, so the BREAKING NEWS part was a bit of overstatement. Venezuela has always been corrupt in one way or another, but paradoxically it has become more corrupt under Chavez.

Transparency International has released their latest rankings in their Corruption Perception Index Report. Venezuela is ranked 158, compared to the US at 18.

Let's look at the rankings:

1995 - 38/41 (2.66 score)
1996 - 48/54 (2.50 score)
1997 - 44/52 (2.77 score)
1998 - 77/85 (2.3 score)
1999 - 75/99 (2.6 score)
2000 - 71/90 (2.7 score)
2001 - 69/91 (2.8 score)
2002 - 81/102 (2.5 score)
2003 - 100/133 (2.4 score)
2004 - 114/145 (2.3 score)
2005 - 130/158 (2.3 score)
2006 - 138/163 (2.3 score)
2007 - 162/179 (2.0 score)
2008 - 158/180 (1.9 score)

This is pretty fair evidence that things haven't improved much in the corruption arena, or perception there of, in Venezuela despite Chavez' promises to eliminate it.

Compare that to the US scores which have hovered around a rank of 18th overall and a score of 7.3.

Nice revolution Sr. Chavez.

China and Venezuela

China is increasing her investment in Venezuela via a mutual investment fund, and oil refinery building agreements.

As articles have noted, China needs to play out the relationship with Venezuela delicately, considering Chavez public display of dislike for the US (except the billions in petrodollars of course).

China is the obvious choice to replace the US as the major consumer of Venezuelan oil. Chavez has nationalized the oil industry in Venezuela effectively kicking out American oil companies, and China has an increasing demand for oil.

While this is not necessarily breaking news today, I find the following quote from the article rather interesting. I'm not sure who makes the bigger gaffes, Biden or Chavez.

"In the face of the collapse of global capitalism, we can say: how fortunate that China had a revolution, how fortunate that Venezuela had and still has a revolution, how fortunate that we got to know each other."
Yes, how fortunate. Of course, if you examine the details and history you will find that while it may be fortunate, Venezuela and China owe a great deal of their prosperity to capitalism AND are heavily invested in capitalism. China is a leading trading partner with the US, thanks in large part to cheap labor (a capitalist notion: increase profits by decreasing labor costs). Venezuela (or at least it's leaders) are swimming in money thanks to the increase in the price of a barrel of oil, determined by the capitalist commodities markets. Venezuela floats debt on the capitalist debt markets.

Question to Mr. Chavez: If the US economy collapses, what will that do for demand of Chinese goods, or Venezuelan oil?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What if....

I was doing dishes thinking about an article I had just perused in my quick glance at Google for Venezuelan news. My thoughts quickly wandered to what would happen if El Burro were to get his wish and the US were to attack Venezuela.

Before I go off into my day dream, let me first say that the likelihood of the US having to invade Venezuela is VERY VERY VERY remote. Given the two fronts on which we are fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, our forces are stretched a bit thin to start another war.

Furthermore, there isn't enough provocation at this time to even think about invading Venezuela.

But let's continue the thought of what would happen if the US were to invade Venezuela.

There would be some resistance from the military and armed civilian 'militias', but it would be defeated within about 2 weeks at the most. Pockets of resistance would remain in the mountains of eastern and western parts of the country, and maybe in the south in the dense rain forest. Those would be the only really safe areas for Chavez' allies to hide and operate from. Those would take a little longer to eradicate, but would be eventually wiped out as well.

Those in the opposition, including current military and ex-military members, would rise up and help overthrow Chavez and his buddies. There would be a new government quickly formed to fill the void of Chavez exiting the presidency. It wouldn't be a long drawn out, sectarian process like Iraq. A new government could be in place in a matter of months, with a new Constitution in place as well. The Venezuelan people have previously tasted the freedoms of democracy, and are eager to revisit those days again.

For sure, the US would suffer some casualties, and the armed resistance would be a bit tougher than what was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan - Venezuela has a Navy and Air Force which would quickly engage any invasion force. But even so, these forces would be defeated fairly easily, as loyalties for and against Chavez would quickly split the command and control of the Fuerzas Armadas.

If there were ever a 'winnable' war that the US has faced since WWII, it would be against Venezuela.

Heaven forbid we ever get to that point though.....

The base is crumbling, or just a hoax?

I received the following email from my dad, who received it from a colleague. Not sure where he got it from, but the website noted is real. Would be interesting to know if this is legit or not.
Declaración de la Union Nacional de Circulos Bolivarianos

Imprimelo, copialo y pasalo -22 de Agosto del 2008

Chavez ya no representa al pueblo Bolivariano,
todos a votar en contra del PSUV
creador de desempleo, desabastecimiento,
miseria e inseguridad publica

Le aclaramos al pueblo de Venezuela que Hugo Chavez 'El Viajero' ya no
representa al pueblo Bolivariano que tanto apoyo y victorias le ha dado, yo Juan
Carlos Medina Fontalvo en nombre de la Union Nacional de Circulos Bolivarianos
hago un llamado a todos aquellos miembros de los Circulos Bolivarianos a nivel
nacional, a todos los miembros de PSUV que han sido utilizados y engañados por
la nueva elite corrupta, a todos los venezolanos que han sido victimas de robos
y secuestros, a todos aquellos que han sufrido la perdida de seres queridos en
manos del hampa salvage que se adueño de las calles venezolanas, a todos
ustedes, les hacemos un llamado a no votar por este gobierno retrogrado creador
de miseria e inseguridad, Hugo Chavez ya no es garantia de nada para los

Ya en Diciembre del año pasado vieron los resultados de nuestra fuerza
politica y nuestro trabajo furtivo, ahora llego la hora de sacar a todos los
Gobernadores y Alcaldes que fueron puestos por Hugo Chavez que son una partida
de ineptos (vease Acosta Carles), no hicieron nada por mejorar las condiciones
de vida de los venezolanos y llego la hora de pasarles la factura, en Noviembre
recuperaremos los Estados y Municipios de la cuerda de locos fanaticos y luego
le tocara a la Asamblea Nacional, les queda dos meses de wiskhy y caviar, que
les aproveche.

No se justifica que nuestro pais siendo tan rico y que cada dia salgan
miles de venezolanos al extranjero porque en nuestro propio pais el Presidente
no nos garantiza ni la vida (vease inseguridad publica) ni un empleo justo y
digno (de empresa privada) para mantener a nuestras familias, cada dia miles de
miembros de Circulos Bolivarianos emigran aun habiendo apoyado su gobierno y
habiendo arriesgado todo para que usted lograra la victoria, hoy tienen que
emigrar, eso no se lo han dicho ni Elias Jaua, ni Diosdado Cabello, Ni Cilia
Flores, Ni Maduro, Ni Saul Ortega, ni Pedro Carreño, ni ninguno de los ineptos
que sin tener experiencia ni ganas de trabajar hoy ostentan cargos que otros
venezolanos competentes deberian de ostentar.

La revolucion no justifica acciones y leyes que producen mas miseria, somos
Bolivarianos pero no imbeciles, desde hace tiempo venimos observando una actitud
erratica y poco elocuente del Presidente Hugo Chavez Frias y los maximos
representante de la Asamblea y demas organos publicos, existe mucha opulencia y
egocentrismo en su forma de actuar, ya ustedes se desconectaron de la realidad
venezolana y por eso ya no nos representan.

Tenemos todo el peso moral para reclamar y ustedes todo el peso inmoral de
aceptar que fallaron, llego la hora de corregir los herrores y en Noviembre lo
haremos, saldran todos de eso pueden estar seguros,


Bolivarianos SI Socialistas NO
Votemos por los Lideres Regionales
Votemos por nuestra Patria Venezuela
Todos a reproducir nuestro Manifiesto

'Mientras Venezuela Tenga Hijos quie la quieran, Lucharemos por ella'

Juan Carlos Medina Fontalvo
Director General de la Union Nacional de Circulos Bolivarianos

Pagina Oficial de la UNCB

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pot calling kettle...

Okay, so we all know about the Human Rights Watch folks getting kicked out of Venezuela. Apparently there were 'meddling' in Venezuelan affairs.

Um... So a few folks from this organization go to Caracas and hold a press conference and say that human rights in Venezuela are slowly deteriorating due to Chavez heavy handed ways, and they are removed from the country.

That's far more innocent than the revelations about the Venezuelan government connections to the FARC found on the now famous laptop computer taken from the Ecuadorian encampment of the FARC by Colombian troops. I guess that's not 'meddling' in the affairs of Colombia.

Or the revelations coming to light in the 'maletagate' (suitcase-gate) case in Miami where Venezuelans were detained in Argentina with a suitcase of $800,000 (and reportedly millions more that went unfound) bound for the presidential campaign of Cristina Kirchner. Nope, that's not meddling either. That's just good old graft.

Nor the money funneled to Daniel Ortega's presidential campaign in Nicaragua, or to similar efforts in Peru, Ecuador, or Bolivia to name a few. Nope, these aren't meddling in affairs. Not at all. These are just good business.

Aside - I wonder if Chavez has attempted to funnel money to Barack Obama's campaign fund. I'm sure that it would be easier to do up here, don't even have to try to sneak a suitcase full of money into the country. In no way am I making an accusation, just would be very curious to know if an attempt has been made, and by which means.

Chavez loves to use the word 'imperialist' in reference to the US. In effect, he's setting up his own empire in Latin America by selling oil to nations in the region at a preferential rate, financing guerrilla groups in countries that oppose him, pledging troops to places like Bolivia where uprisings are threatening the presidency of Chavez' puppet Evo Morales, and on, and on, and on. Chavez isn't building his empire by war, he's building it by rhetoric, and money. Money talks loudly in Latin America. Always has, and always will.

For instance, in Nicaragua, Venezuelan aid has gone missing. Suspicion is that it has gone into President Ortega's coffers someplace. Even Ortega himself doesn't know exactly how much his country has received from Venezuela. On may he said it was over $500 million. Someone must have told him that over half that had been siphoned off into his own personal bank accounts, because in July, the amount he reported in a speech with Chavez by his said dropped to just over $200 million. Regardless, the aid isn't showing up in the Nicaraguan budget, leading some to think it's going directly to President Ortega.

HA HA HA HA HA..... oops!

Chavez was happy to hear that Lehman Brother's has gone kaput. He said they should have been looking out for themselves instead of putting out negative reports about Venezuela.

Maybe Chavez should have checked with his personal wealth manager to find out if the Lehman demise would affect his portfolio. According to the Wall Street Journal, Venezuela stands to lose about $300 million in debt instruments that Lehman had agreed to cash. Oops.

Sure, it's not billions, but it's not chump change either.

It's just funny that Chavez ridicules Lehman, but forgets he has business dealings with them.

Citgo receives oil from US Strategic Reserve

What?!?!?! Are you kidding me?

Apparently, Citgo needs oil for some reason after Gustav rolled through Louisiana, and they have requested it from the US Strategic Oil Reserve.

As of the report, they were the only ones to have asked.

I guess Venezuela is hurting for oil? Wonder what gives on this.

Response to Dallas Morning News Editorial

I responded to a Dallas Morning News editorial on Chavez and the lack of US involvement in South America.

I'll let you read the editorial on their site, but here is my response:

There is an easy solution to the Venezuelan problem - start producing more of our own oil, and reducing our demand on Venezuelan oil. This is what should have been started back when Chavez came to power many years ago, or at least when he nationalized the oil industry. Take away his petrodollars, and he's nothing. He thumbs his nose at the US, and we pay him anyway. It's insanity.

Yes, the US needs to counter-act Chavez, but we need to do it by bolstering our allies in the region, and adding more. We need more allies like President Uribe of Colombia who aren't afraid to stand up to Chavez.

I don't think that the US government takes Chavez too seriously (until maybe now with Russian bombers landing on Venezuelan soil), because his threats have been hollow. He choses his words vey carefully - 'if' the US invades there will be no oil. Yeah, doesn't take a genious to figure that if you are invaded by a country to which you supply oil, you aren't going to continue to do business with them or they with you. But at the same time, Chavez needs our petrodollars as much as we need his oil so his oil isn't going anywhere for the time being.

You're observation about 'leveling the playing field in the upcoming elections' is a bit naive. That Chavez recognized the referendum last December was a miracle. Reports are that regional elections will gain more opposition governors. Chavez has already moved to divide the country up into sectors for 'defense' purposes with generals over each sector, with the thought that these generals will effectively render the governors useless. You presuppose that Chavez is going to let the elections go on in a democratic fashion - you are sadly mistaken. It wouldn't even surprise me if he were to rig the elections in his favor or through them out altogether.

Drill Here, Drill Now

If there ever was an argument for 'Drill here, drill now...' that the Republicans chanted during their convention, or the protesters chanted during an event attended by Speaker Pelosi during the Democratic convention, it is a single human being - Hugo Chavez Frias, the President/Autocrat (I won't say dictator just yet) of Venezuela.

As I've said before in posts, Chavez thumbs his nose at the US every chance he gets, and he can do it with money that we supply him thanks to our dependence on Venezuelan oil. Sure, it's not the percentage of oil this country imports (Canada is tops), but it does account for 60% of Venezuela's oil exports. And as we all know, oil is king in Venezuela as far as source of revenue for the government. So the oil we import from Venezuela feeds the corrupt political system with Chavez at the helm.

For instance - the scandal where Venezuelan operatives were caught attempting to smuggle a suitcase with $800,000 into Argentina (with another $4.2 million possibly aboard) came from Venezuela's oil company PDVSA thanks to you and me who buy gas.

Not enough? Now, there are allegations on the same tapes used to prosecute the above case in Miami that Chavez' government attempted to bribe nations to vote for Venezuela when a seat became available on the UN Security Council. (BTW, this guy's blog is very good and very current on what's happening in Venezuela - it's a great read. He's a financial expert who I believe I've seen quoted on Bloomberg regarding Venezuelan economic issues.)

And so, with impunity Chavez can run his mouth (I wonder if he's auditioning for an Orbitz commercial), and expel the US ambassador and play war games with Russia and buy billions of dollars of weaponry all at the expense of the US. (Sorry Mr. Wright, I know that's probably a run-on sentence.)

So to Speaker Pelosi, all Senators and Representatives, and the future President of this United States please, please, please - DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW!!!!! Yeah, we won't reap the benefits of an immediate drop in the price of gas, but we could replace or reduce or demand for Venezuelan oil, and stop sending as much money to Chavez. Besides, he's on a trip now to China to explore shipping more oil there to replace the US as a buyer.

I'm back.... (it's been a while)

For the one or two readers that I used to have, I'm back. Took a long hiatus for many different reasons, but with the flare up of Chavez in the news I thought I'd jump back into the game.

In the intervening time between my last post and now, I actually had an 'RLM' (real life meetup) with Jungle Mom. See, my parents used to work with her and her husband in Venezuela. So there is a connection.

In June, I surprised my parents with a visit to their home in California. Turns out it was good timing because they had been invited to Jungle Mom's son's wedding in South Lake Tahoe, and they needed someone to drive them. So we spent a weekend in South Lake Tahoe, and I got to meet Jungle Mom and her family.

Anyway, I'll start posting again on Venezuela and current events down there, and maybe a few other things not so necessarily related to Venezuela as I'll use this to maybe vent some frustrations, etc.

Catch you on the flip side.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Richardson to Venezuela

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico is heading to Venezuela to negotiate the release of 3 US hostages held by the FARC.

He had visited Colombia for the same purpose on a previous occasion.

The article touts Richardson's experience at the UN, and in negotiating other hostage releases. My question is, where was he when the 5 American missionaries were held hostage in Colombia and were eventually murdered?

And is Venezuela now the established conduit to getting hostages released by the FARC? If anything, to me this just adds to the validity that Chavez and the FARC are in bed together. And of course it goes beyond the mutual back scratching: FARC releases hostages to Chavez to make him look good, Chavez pleads the FARC case to the world.

Oh how I wish the full contents of those laptops become available. I'm sure that there is even more evidence on there linking Chavez, Correa and others (even US officials) to the FARC.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Little known link?

Apparently those FARC laptops had alot of info on them, including letters on behalf of Democratic Congressman McGovern of Massachussetts.

The plot thickens!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What happened in Ecuador

Check this article out! Interesting. What happened when Raul Reyes was killed.

UPDATE #1: Brazilian President Lula calls Chavez a peace-maker. He was referencing the whole debacle surrounding the bombing of FARC leader Raul Reyes by the Colombian military in Ecuadorian territory.

Of course, this is coming Xinhua newspaper in China (don't they have enough to cover with the uprisings over there), but if Lula really said that Chavez was the peacemaker in that whole fiasco, then he is smokin' wacky tobacky, partaking some of Evo Morales' coca-paste/leaves, was on a deserted island when Chavez escalated things by sending troops to the border, was asleep at the wheel when Uribe made the overture to Correa and Chavez at the Rio Group, or is just plain clueless.

UPDATE #2: From The Devil's Excrement, something is happening with the info found on those laptops. I agree with the author that something strange is up, especially in light of Lula's statement above. Could Brazil be tied into this whole thing too?

Chavez concerned about Colombian claims

Chavez is now trying to distance himself from the FARC, now that his little escapades have been discovered from that maldito laptops found in the FARC camp in Ecuador.

He expressed concerns over Colombia repeating the accusations of his and Correa's connections to the FARC. He said that making the data on the computers public was a form of 'provocation'.

Hugo, the only way that making that data public is a provocation is if it is in fact TRUE!!! If it isn't true, then it's not a provocation, but a fabrication.

And of course, the last sentence in the article eludes once again to the imperialist US. (Can someone please fix that broken record already?)

UPDATE: From The Devil's Excrement blog: Colombian authorities recover depleted Uranium in the hands of the FARC as described in Reyes' computer.
Uh oh.... Looks like some of what was found on those laptops in the possession of Raul Reyes is true. What's that deodorant commercial? Never let them see you sweat? I think Chavez could use some of that right about now.

Chavez' Land Reform

Apparently, socialism doesn't run in the Chavez' family genes. A member of Hugo Chavez own party is bringing accusations against Chavez' brothers for acquiring 17 ranches via frontmen.

Is this an indication that even his own party is starting to turn against him?

Will be interesting to see what happens.

UPDATE: Here is a little more insight into what is playing out in Barinas and the accusations made against Chavez' family and their land grab. Title of the blog entry is Looking at the forest and the trees in the Barinas soap opera.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chavez on McCain

Chavez says that McCain is even more hawkish than GW. I'm not sure that is entirely true. Sure, McCain is a supporter of the Iraq war, as he feels the US needs to do everything possible for our men and women in uniform that find themselves in harms way.

The article points out that Chavez states he had better relations with the Clinton administration than the Bush administration. I would suspect the reason for that is that his early years as President were Clinton's final years, and Chavez hadn't quite been emboldened yet by the increase in oil prices. He didn't have the oil chip to play against the US, and he hadn't fired up the rhetoric we see today. I don't think Clinton would put up with Chavez' view of the US if he were President today.

It will be interesting to see the relationship change, if any, after the new President comes to power.

Monday, March 24, 2008

U.S. to blame for unrest in Tibet.

According to El Burro, the U.S. is to blame for the unrest that is happening in Tibet.

Wow.... Not content to meddle in affairs only on his own continent, now Chavez wants to throw his two cents into what is going on in China.

Of course, as usual, nothing to back up his accusations.

Notice he doesn't condemn the violence used by China to put down the protests.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

President forever or Jailbird

According to one Venezuelan intellectual, those are Chavez' alternatives if he decides to keep going down the road of sponsoring the FARC.

Aníbal Romero deduces that if the US does designate Venezuela as a terrorist-sponsoring state, the economic repercussions would be tremendous and that the US Justice Department would go after Chavez himself.

This is the first I've heard of that possibility - why haven't we gone after the President of Iran? Or Kim Yung Il (is that his name?). I'm not sure how plausible Mr. Romero's suppositions are on the US Justice Department indicting Chavez, but it's an interesting theory.

I did find interesting Mr. Romero's conclusions as to why Chavez backed down at the Rio Summit group meeting and left Correa flapping in the wind. (Political kudos go to Uribe in sizing up the situation and extending his hand to Correa on that one. He saw a chance to step into the tiny little crack between Chavez and Correa and took it. Makes sense since Correa wasn't really pushing things until Chavez stepped in and started spouting off and commanding troops to the border.)

What I find particularly interesting is the supposition that the Venezuelan Army wasn't really wanting to get into a fight with their Colombian counterparts. Could it be that the military's patience is wearing thin with Chavez? Even if Chavez controls the upper ranks, he may not have the loyalty of the rank and file troops and even mid-level officers. (Poetic justice if a coup were to be launched by a Lt. Colonel paratrooper!!!!) Maybe they are tired of being his day laborer's for his social agenda.

Good article from El Universal (maybe the next media outlet in Venezuela on the chopping block?).

PDVSA troubles

I've posted other articles here indicating that PDVSA, Venezuela's national oil company, is in dire straights. They aren't producing their daily quota under OPEC, and their coffers are being appropriated by Chavez for his socialist agenda.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a good article giving further detail on how badly things are going for PDVSA.

The article mentions the affect of the massive layoff imposed on PDVSA by Chavez after the huelga that shut down the oil fields for quite some time. What the article doesn't really go into is the affect that the forced nationalization has had on the oil industry. Those foreign companies, such as ExxonMobil and TexacoChevron, were investing heavily in the oil fields themselves, and keeping them producing. (The crux of the ExxonMobil lawsuits have been that Venezuela hasn't compensated them adequately for the billions of dollars they put into the oil fields in Venezuela.)

Chavez mistake was to nationalize the oil industry, at the point of a gun, and scare away foreign investment in the oil fields. He could have had his cake and eaten it too, simply by taking the increased profits (from assumed increased output) and invested them in his social programs.

Instead, in an effort to whip up public support against GW and the Empire, he took back the oil fields for himself. Yeah, greed had something to do with it - why share the profits when you can have them all for yourself? But I think Chavez thinks with his political ego than with his practical brain. (Doesn't take a genius to see that.) I would bet, looking back with hindsight, he sees now that he did a really stupid thing. Of course, he'd never admit it - just blame the US for everything.

The fuel for Chavez' 21st century socialism is quickly burning up, and he's the one who lit the match.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Great analysis of Chavez dependence on oil

This article is a great analysis of why Chavez wouldn't cut off oil supplies to the US. The author obviously has a better sense of the numbers and economics of why it would be stupid for Chavez to make good on his threat. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the US wouldn't miss their number 4 oil supplier (in the 10% ballpark I think?).

He makes an argument about becoming energy independent that makes some sense, but I would disagree with him slightly in this regard. The US needs to be energy independent from ALL foreign sources of oil, not just Venezuela. If we were energy independent, we would gain the economic and political advantage over those countries who now hold our economy by the purse strings.

Oil makes this country work, and we have become unashamedly dependent on it. Unfortunately, we're also sitting on billions of barrels of it ourselves that we won't tap because some nearly extinct wild life. Yet we have no problems buying oil from people who don't care about the environment, and are more than willing to take our money.

No one need look too far to see who the growing economic powers in this world are: Dubai helps prop up major financial institutions in the US, and so does China. Sure, both of these countries would be devastated if the US economy were to take a dive, but the fact that they can prop up companies to the tune of billions of dollars? Not such a good thing.

(Okay, China doesn't produce oil - yet - but we've become so dependent on their cheap products - thank you Wal-mart - that they have billions of dollars to do with as the wish.)

Globovision next in the crosshairs

According to the Miami Herald, Chavez is looking to take news channel Globovision off the air.

After revoking Radio Caracas TV's license, Chavez looks to do the same to Globovision.

Read the article to find out why Chavez may not take Globovision off the air. a) it only has about a 10% market share because it's on TV, b) Chavez can claim freedom of the press while they are on the air, c) Chavez can use them as a foil to whip up hate within his loyalist ranks.

Chavez on the decline

I'll juxtapose my last post with this article from Reuters, which indicates that Chavez popularity is on the decline in Venezuela because while he's off spewing rhetoric an blaming everyone but himself for the problems in Venezuela, things are getting worse.

Note that the Venezuelan expert quoted, Daniel Hellinger, is a noted Chavez apologist. So if he's saying things are bad, things must be really bad!!! (Besides the anecdotal evidence that food stuffs are hard to come by, along with other essentials like propane gas.)


Poll indicates that 56 percent of Venezuelans think Chavez played a key role in DIFFUSING TENSIONS during the recent political spat between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

The poll was conducted by Veneop SA.

I'd like to know how that poll question was worded exactly, and if there was a follow-up question to find out if these same Venezuelans thought Chavez played a key role in CREATING TENSIONS between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

From reading accounts of the situation, he definitely played a key role in that regard. If it weren't for him, chances are that Correa wouldn't have gotten into such a huff. Chavez was the gentle breeze that faned that fire into a bigger international incident than it needed to be. Without Chavez' encouragement, Correa would have come to a reconciliation quicker and more quietly.

And from all accounts, at the Rio Group summit in the Dominican Republic, it was the president of the Dominican Republic that helped defuse the situation, along with Colombian President Uribe. While Chavez ordered troops to the border with Colombia, Uribe promised NOT to move troops in response. Furthermore, Uribe was the one who made the overture to Correa by walking over to him during the summit after heated words and accusations were exchanged and offered his hand in reconciliation.

So I'm not sure Veneop was polling, or where these people got their news, but that poll is way off the mark from the reality of the situation. Chavez stuck his nose in where it didn't need to be, and caused the problem to begin with.

More Venezuela and Peru

Here's an opinion piece by Andres Oppenheimer on what's going on in Peru regarding Venezuelan ties. It gives a better picture of what Peru has uncovered, and how they are going about investigating the links with Venezuela.

FARC denies links to Chavez and Correa

Taking a queue from their close friend Chavez, the FARC deny any links with the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian governments. Go figure. You'd expect them to just capitulate after 40 years, and give up all the good drug and ransom money that is supporting their 'war'? I didn't think so.

Interesting that the FARCs statements are reported on the Venezuelan Information Minsitries web site. If you were going to plead innocent, you would go to a neutral party so as to make sure that your statement was sincere.

Note to the FARC: all it takes is the hard drive to be in semi-working order for information to be retrieved off of it. I'm sure that if the hard drive wasn't completely trashed, Interpol is doing its level best to retrieve the little bits and bytes that are on there.

And also, we have no idea where those laptops were found in the camp. They may have been well protected, not just lying out and about.

Chavez Insane?

Apparently, Accion Democratica is going to file a petition to have Chavez mental status examined.

It's about time. This man has been acting about as irrationally as anyone can, although for a very good purpose which is to draw attention away from all that is going wrong in Venezuela.

Not sure what AD thinks they are going to accomplish since the courts aren't neutral in Venezuela, but it's a bold move.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A better article on the Peruvian situation.

Here is a better article from Reuters on the situation with Peru and Venezuela.

The movimiento estudiantil in Venezuela

Good piece from the Wall Street Journal on the leader of the student movement in Venezuela.

I watched this guy on the Globovision web site during the referendum in Dec. '07. He seems to be a genuine person, not out for grabbing power. We'll see.....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Peruvian link to Chavez

Lo and behold, I found the article on the arrest of the two Peruvians carrying $150,000 into the country.

Note, the amount of cash is $150K, not $150 million as previously reported.

The creeping vines of Chavez' socialism

You know that pesky vine that grows on your trees that acts as a parasite? It grows so slowly, but one day you look out your window and all of a sudden you see the tree has succumbed to the parasitic vine.

Chavez is attempting to be that parasitic vine wrapping around the whole of South America. His next victim is Peru. Apparently, Peruvians sympathetic to Chavez' cause are using 'Houses of ALBA' to indoctrinate fellow Peruvians. Thankfully, the Peruvian government smells El Burro coming, and is on the alert.

In the first article there was mention of an arrest of two Peruvians attempting to bring in $150 million into Peru in support of those opposed to the Peruvian government. I attempted to find other articles on the arrest, but couldn't. Would love to know more about that.

Unfortuantely, I'd have to agree...

The Bush administration should NOT put Venezuela on the terrorist sponsoring state list right now.

I agree with Mr. Oppenheimer's theory that doing so at this time would just give Chavez more ammunition for rhetoric to bolster his sagging popularity in Venezuela.

Wait until the data on the laptops can be validated, and yes Mr. Chavez these things can be forensically verified and validated as authentic, and when the truth is validated about Chavez' and Correa's connection to the FARC proceed with putting Venezuela and Ecuador on the terrorist sponsoring list.

At that point in time, chances are only the hardcore Chavistas will still back Chavez. $300 million in support of FARC when you're own country is experiencing high levels of crime and shortages in foodstuffs won't sit too well with the majority of Venezuelans.

You're kidding me right?

Chavez accuses Bush of being a genocidal terrorist.

Chavez must be making reference to the war in Iraq in making his claim. This isn't a new claim by Chavez. The famous 'you are a donkey Mr. Bush' clip from his one man show, Chavez calls Bush a 'genocida'.

The part that gets me is the following quote from Chavez:
"Venezuela's people today are better fed than ever."
Really? Not according to first hand reports from Venezuela, where propane gas is in shortage, and staples such as harina pan, milk, etc. are in shortage. Deny, deny, deny, deny.

Eres mentiroso Senor Chavez!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Terrorist Sponsoring State Designation

As I've stated before, and is relatively obvious, the US silently supports Chavez and his regime and agenda via the oil market. The US buys crude oil from Venezuela, and Venezuela in turn uses that money for various things, including weapon purchases from Russia, along with money funneled to the FARC, and other nefarious corruption schemes.

Even the US Navy has a contract with Citgo to sell gasoline on Naval bases. Citgo used to be Cities Services, and was bought out in the '90s by PDVSA, which is the state-run oil company of Venezuela. The contract runs through 2010.

As the article points out, there has been a call in the US to designate Venezuela as a terrorist sponsoring state due to links with the FARC - a designated terrorist organization by all of the world. This would curtail business transactions, including oil sales, between Venezuela and the US and other countries who adhere to the financial embargoes on countries thus designated. It would allow the US to get out of this sticky contract with Citgo.

Chavez in the past has threatened to cut off it's oil supply to the US for various reasons; this being his only trump card to play in his one-sided war of words with the US and particularly the Bush administration.

The fact that the US State Department hasn't come out and specifically said it wouldn't designate Venezuela as a terrorist-sponsoring state leaves me with the feeling that the Bush administration is calling Chavez' bluff on his threat. The idea being that there is more at stake for Venezuela than for the US. I've not heard any pundits back up this theory, but it struck me as I read the article.

Could be interesting.....

Cocaine seized in Venezuela, go figure....

There is cocaine flowing through Venezuela. Police seize 3 tons of the stuff in Valencia.

So the question I have is; if 3 tons of the stuff are found, how much is getting through? Call me skeptical, but I bet this is the sacrificial load to ensure the world that Chavez isn't in cahoots with the FARC in trafficking their drugs.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Contrast between neighbors

The recent tit-for-tat episode between Venezuela and Colombia brought to the forefront the military capabilities of both countries.

Each side as their strengths and weaknesses. Venezuela has far less troops than Colombia, and Venezuelan troops aren't well trained. On the other hand, Venezuela has more fire power (more artillery, bigger and better aircraft, and tanks). The Colombian Army doesn't have tanks due to the nature of where they operate: mainly in the Andes mountains and jungles, neither place conducive to using tanks, but has been engaged in an on-going war with the likes of the FARC and ELN for the past 40 years. Venezuelan troops have been acting in more humanitarian capacity (by design).

Venezuela is gearing up a militia to defend the homeland in case of an invasion. If you believe Chavez' rhetoric, the US is just chomping on the bit to come and invade his country. As the article also points out, this militia acts as means to rescue Chavez in case of another attempted coup; the last one supported by commanding officers in Venezuela's military.

I would agree with the first article's assessment that Chavez wouldn't be the one to push Venezuela into a war. While he isn't the brightest bulb in the bunch, he's not stupid enough to go against a military force that is bigger and better prepared than his.

The real concern with the ramping up of militias in Venezuela is what will happen when Chavez is defeated in the next election. While that election is in 2012, events may transpire between now and then that bring about the fall of Mr. Chavez term as president. While Chavez' popularity is on the decline in Venezuela, there remains a small stalwart segment of supporters (those that Chavez was supposed to help, but who aren't much better off now than they were before other than they now have weapons to help them express their pent up anger) ready to defend him and fight for him.

At that point, the concern would be that these civilian militias step in, and all out civil war will ensue. That's the point at which the world will find out where the loyalties of the Venezuelan army lie, and if the opposition to Chavez has been able to arm itself as well.

So the powder keg is really Venezuela itself and it's being fueled by petrodollars, and Chavez rhetoric.

Friday, March 14, 2008

FARC - Venezuelan sponsored terrorism

Members of the US Congress are asking the US State Department to put Venezuela on the list of nations that support terrorism.

Of course, Chavez response is to go into his 'imperialism' speech. He'll never answer the question as to whether Venezuela aids and abets the FARC or ELN. Nope, just blaming the hand that feeds him.

Unfortunately, this just feeds into his ability to divert attention from the real problems in Venezuela. It gives him one more piece of coal to stoke the fires of anti-US sentiment among his now dwindling supporters.

I don't think the American lawmakers understand that the best way to keep Chavez quiet is to ignore him. He's a bag of hot air that is all bluff and bluster, and no bite. (Just look to the incident with Colombia for further evidence of that point.) Just as Venezuela depends on Colombia for imports, Venezuela (and Chavez' corrupted cronies) depends on the US for the oil dollars.

I don't think GW and his administration stay up at night worrying about Chavez, as where Chavez and his cronies seem to be in a tizzy about the US.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Good analysis from The Guardian....

Even though they've been partial to Chavez in the past.

Good news...

Not that the death of anyone is good news, but it doesn't hurt that it's #4 FARC leader Ivan Rios. And killed by his own security chief. Maybe things are turning? Marulanda, watch your back.

Hopefully the US and Colombia will pay the bounty on Rios' and that will cause other's to be encouraged to do the same to #1 on down.

Also, there is speculation as to why Chavez and Correa backed down so quickly at the Rio Group Summit. Could it be that Uribe is a brilliant poker player and didn't show all of his cards when he released the emails from the retrieved laptops?

And the capture of a big arms dealer in Thailand is being linked to the info on the computers as well.

Not a good week for Correa or Chavez, who I'm sure thought things would be in a different place at this point. Now Chavez and Correa will have to deal with the real issues at home: natural disastes in Ecuador and Chavez disasters in Venezuela.

Friday, March 7, 2008

I've been looking for this clip

This is HILARIOUS!!!!!!!

The explanation of why Venezuela changed the time forward or backward or forward or you figure it out!!!!

It could get ugly....

Article about shipments of weapons from Brazil to Venezuela, delivered directly to Miraflores. He ain't goin' quietly folks. Maybe the real revolution will take place to oust Chavez and his cronies and re-establish order in Venezuela.

FYI - I have no background on the author, or the web site the article comes from.

Quite an accusation - El Burro lavando dinero

The article articulates a discovery by the US Treasury of the government of Venezuela laundering money for terrorist organizations. Could be interesting. - Great music!!!

Go to if you like good llanera music (harp, cuatro, guitar, maracas).

This transports me back to Ciudad Bolivar, and travelling up and down the Orinoco River.

The twist is that alot of the music is political in the lyrics, surprisingly enough against Chavez from what I can tell.

Of all Latin music, I think Venezuela has the best.

What about kidnapped Venezuelans?

Chavez, in his effort to grab international headlines, has forgotten that Veneuelans are in the mix of FARC and ELN hostages.

How sad that Chavez forgets his own people.

Of course murdering and crime is bad enough in Venezuela and he's not done a thing about that. I guess this is on his laundry list of 'to dos', just at the bottom.

Kiss and make up

Correa and Uribe made up in the Dominican at the Rio Group summit.

Uribe rolled the dice and won. As the article states, he knew it would be a gamble, but didn't think his neighbor to the East would stick his big nose into. (What Uribe forgot is that El Burro is scared Colombia will do the same thing on Venezuelan soil and it will even further prove that El Burro is a liar.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why Chavez deflects attention from what is happening in Venezuela

The Christian Science Monitor has a great piece on Chavez' waning popularity in Venezuela.

Hopefully this is a sign of things to come in Venezuela. The question on my mind, as voiced in other articles I've read, is will Chavez and his supporters go quietly when he is defeated? And whose side is the military on? The answer to that question may ultimately decide the fate of Chavez' movement.

Este Video dedicado al Burro Chavez

Okay, every time I've watched Chavez talk out of both sides of his mouth (see the blog entry below), I ALWAYS think of this song!!!!

This is a VERY updated version of the song that I can remember as a kid being played all throughout Venezuela. When we lived in Ciudad Bolivar, our neighbors (about 100 yards away) used to crank this song, and my older brother would start singing it at the top of his lungs.

And yes, the gender of the song doesn't quite fit dedicating it to a man, but I can't help but think of this song when I hear Chavez speak.

Este video is para ti, mi Teniente Coronel Burro!!!!!!

Who's the liar?

Chavez and Correa accuse Uribe of lying. I guess Chavez' memory is going bad from the coca that he's chewing.

Thanks to The Source.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

War on Imperialist language

I forgot about El Burro's decree to wipe out English for everyday usage in Venezuela. I don't have the original article, but here is a blog entry with it.

And commentary from across the pond, although the bottom half of the article doesn't quite pertain to the subject.

The Emails, read them yourself!!

or for a synopsis...

Not the evidence that Uribe gave to Chavez on the whereabouts of a FARC leader in Venezuela. Even more evidence that Chavez is hiding kidnappers and killers.

Another great blog

Pardon the title: Devil's Excrement

It is very good though!!!

Great Blog from a first hand perspective.

Check out

This is a great blog from a first hand perspective, stuff I'd never be able to relay. I've added the link to my links on the right.

Love the cartoon from today's post.

That nasty little laptop.

Read the article here on what was found on the laptop.

Mounting evidence that Chavez/Correa/FARC are linked.

Colombia and Ecuador reach agreement

At least two of the parties are making some sense.

Here is the article from Bloomberg.

Key piece of the article is the following quote:

"Ecuador is a nation of peace that rejects violence from wherever it
comes,'' said Maria Isabel Salvador, Ecuador's foreign minister. "This accord
guarantees that no country again violates our sovereignty.''

Huh? Your country is found to be harboring a leader of the FARC, a group that infamous for kidnapping and murder, and you say that you reject "violence wherever it comes"? Sra. Salvador, would you please follow up this statement with one condemning the likes of FARC and ELN?

Also notice the theory is reiterated that Venezuela's troop movement is a ploy to bolster support for Chavez in his time of waning popularity. It gives him one more opportunity to wag his finger as an 'anti-imperialist' at the US and divert attention away from the poor state of affairs in Venezuela.

Talk about Wag The Dog!!! (A great movie by the way!)

An excuse to live the glory days....

Chavez says he wants peace, and of course gets a shot in about how Colombia is a lapdog of the US.

Read the Reuters report here.

I personally think that El Burro wanted a chance to put his military duds back on and play cowboy for a bit.

BTW, food stuffs are flowing in from Colombia to Venezuela still. I guess El Burro isn't stupid enough to cut off the major source of food stuffs to Venezuela. I wonder how long his troops would last without food? They are outnumbered, out-equipped, and are battle tested against the terrorist forces of FARC and ELN. Last known Venezuelan conflict I am aware of is when there were guerrillas in Venezuela when I was a kid. And not much fighting happened there.

I also read somewhere else that Colombia doesn't have to mobilize any forces to the borders because they can move more quickly than Venezuelan troops. (Thanks to Uncle Sam?)

Who is the Imperialist now?

Interesting report from AP.

Reading it, and of course all of the free money that El Burro is throwing around to his neighbors, who the real imperialist is? Chavez wants to use the FARC to overthrow Uribe.

Note the reference to US contacts at the bottom. This is the first I've heard about it. Will be interesting to see if their prediction of who will become Prez will come true.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Troops are on the move

As of yesterday, troops were not moving to the border between Venezuela and Colombia.

Now they are. AP is reporting that troops are on the move from bases in Lara and the Paramaracay base.

Interesting to note that Colombia has more than twice as many troops than Venezuela. Could the larger number of troops that Colombia has be due to the 40 year war they've been waging against the FARC and ELN? I would be the Colombian troops are more battle-hardened than the alcabala tending Guardia in Venezuela.

Couple of notes about this article:
  1. Colombia wants Chavez tried for aiding a terrorist organization.
  2. Venezuela is accusing Police Chief Naranjo of aiding drug traffickers with evidence it has found on a laptop. (Pot calling kettle black? And no mention of where this mysterious laptop came from. At least the Colombians have a viable source for their information.)
  3. No mention as to why Chavez would think that Colombia would perform a similar military operation against Venezuela, so the assumption is made that Chavez is harboring 'Tirofijo', head terrorist for FARC. Other reports posted here support that theory.

We'll see where this goes.

Are the poor better off than they were under AD?

Here is a fascinating article forwarded to me by The Source regarding Venezuela, and how the poor are actually WORSE off under Chavez than they were under the leadership of former President Carlos Andres Perez.

Note the author is a former member of Chavez' government and was kicked out for highlighting that Chavez wasn't living up to his promises. He is an economist by trade, and his statistics cut to the bare-bones of the matter. Nothing like good solid numbers to cut through the rhetoric and tell the real story of what's actually going on in Venezuela.

Caught red handed

Even more evidence mounts that Chavez and Correa are supporting FARC.

Here is an article from a Colombian news site detailing what has been found on laptops recovered from the site where 'Raul Reyes' was killed.

Of course, all of this will be washed away by the encroachment on foreign soil by Colombia when they killed Mr. Reyes in Ecuador. Of course, harboring a known killer, kidnapper, and terrorist will be swept under the rug by the MSM.

I can only hope that the US is able to stay out of this one.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Saber rattling....

As everyone knows, Chavez has stated he is moving troops to the border with Colombia in reaction to Colombia's incursion into Ecuador to take out Raul Reyes, a senior leader of the FARC.

Chavez' decision to move troops is a tacit acknowledgment of his harboring FARC leaders in Venezuela. Why would you move troops to the border, unless it's to defend against a similar incursion into Venezuela? Besides, Chavez has called Reyes a good revolutionary in the past.

But this is all saber rattling at this point. The Source tells me there are no troop movements in his area on the border between Venezuela and Colombia.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Caught Red-Handed

Here is an article where someone got caught with their hand in the Venezuelan treasury.

Thanks to The Source.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Life on Mars

According the great astronomer Hugo Chavez, pigs used to run around on Mars. He got that from theory from chief astronomer and astrophysicist Fidel Castro.

Here's the article.

I think they got their degrees off the wrapper of a Toronto!!

Thanks to The Source for this bit of hilarity.

The Threat

Hugo has threatened to cut off oil to the US. Here is the article. All because Exxon Mobil has sought legal recourse from Chavez strong arming them out of the oil fields in Venezuela without proper remuneration for their investment.

Exxon Mobil has won a judgement to freeze $12 billion in assets of PDVSA, the Venezuelan national oil company.

This gives cause for Chavez to whine and point fingers at the bad U.S. of A. which is his biggest customer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bring on the Guardia

I need to digress from blogging about Venezuela and share my frustrations with the US for just a post or two.

I went on a business trip for two days early this week. I flew out on Sunday and back home on Tuesday. It was the first time I'd flown since the tragedy on 9/11/2001. I'd heard the stories about the 3 ounce toiletry limits, so I was prepared in that regard. (Shaved the night before, bought sample size deodarant and toothepaste at the store, put them in a plastic baggy, etc.) But I wasn't aware of the other hoops I had to jump through until I got to the airport and joined my travelling companions at the check point.

We queue up in multiple lines, waiting for a TSA employee to check our boarding passes against our IDs, giving us the once over. (Kinda reminded me when I would go into Venezuela with my Venezuelan passport, and I'd get the once over from the Venezuelan immigration folks at La Guardia.)

That was the easy part. I follow along in line with everyone else, and the first thing odd that I noticed was that people were taking off their shoes!!! What?!?!?!?! This is nuts I thought. Glad I wore some slip ons. I also noticed that there were plastic bins that people were putting jackets and shoes and other loose items, so I followed suit. I put my jacket, and shoes in a bin, and put the bin and my laptop case and backpack (also with a laptop) on the conveyor belt.

Thinking I'm okay, I step through the metal detector only to be reminded that my cell phone needed to be scanned. So I put that on the conveyor belt, hoping I don't forget it. I step through the detector, nothing buzzes, and step back over to collect my belongings.

And the trouble ensues. A bigger, older gentleman bellows out asking whose bag this was, holding up my backpack. I claimed it, and was asked if there was a laptop in it. I said yes, and he chastised me for not taking the laptop out of the bag and putting it through separately. (Hey, if you could tell it was a laptop, why do I have to put it through separately?) Just as I was about to respond, another older gentleman (not so big, but with a bigger attitude) did held up my laptop case asking for the owner, to which I responded. He gave me the same shpeel about taking the laptop out, etc. and was rather condescending.

So now I have one guy who has my personal laptop and one guy who has my work laptop, and I'm trying to keep my eye on both of them. Work laptop goes through first, and all is well except for when I go to pick up the case, which was left unzipped, stuff fell out. I was a bit peeved about that.

The big dude who had my personal laptop waited until I had buttoned up my work computer and had put on my shoes and collected my other personal items. He then proceeded to ask me again if the backpack was my bag and explained that I was supposed to put the laptop through separate from the bag. He asked if I had two computers, and I said yes, one personal and one work. He then proceeded to put my personal laptop and backpack back through the xray machine. I collected both, put the laptop back in the backpack and was on my way, with a bit of attitude myself.

Coming back was equally annoying, but at least I had the procedure down. This time I had the laptops out in separate baskets, along with my other belongings in baskets. I made it through with out incident this time, but still none too happy. The odd thing was, at the airport I left from to come home, my boarding pass was checked twice: once before getting to the xray/metal detectors, and once after I walked through the metal detector. As if somehow I was going to morph into something else between those two points.

I thought of the many times I travelled in Venezuela on an airplane, and the many checks in the airport we would go through. First the Guardia would check your luggage that you were checking on the plane. Then, if you had a travel permit, you'd check in with DISIP. Then on the way out the door to board your plane, your carry-ons were checked. And finally, before you boarded the plane, you were frisked.

I used to think that was an annoyance. But my experience here was more annoying for some reason. Part of it was the attitude of the TSA employees. I'm sure they get a share of attitude back, but they seem to have a chip on their shoulder. I'd hate to stereotype them, but as a group don't appear to have a great degree of education, and seem to have an ax to grind with society and this is how they are going to get their ability to grind that ax.

And part of my annoyance was the fact that while the checking is more thorough, I could think of so many ways to get something through that wouldn't be checked. What's that saying? You can't see the forest for the trees? If someone were going to try something, don't you think they'd attempt something other than what has already been tried? (Shoe bomb, box cutters, etc.) But hey, that's just me.

My annoyance is that we've put these extra checks in place, but probably to no avail. A big waste of taxpayer money and taxpayer time.

I'm not saying something shouldn't be done, just that those in power should be thinking one step AHEAD of those who want to attack us, not one step BEHIND them.

I'm glad I don't travel often for business. I'm sure I'd get used to the annoyance, but it would take some time.

Funny thing is, my wife took the test to work for the TSA and she didn't pass. We're thinking that she was too smart to work for the TSA. :-)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chavez' Popularity Slipping

Here's a blog entry and article about the goings on in the barrios of Caracas.

Not the intro paragraph where it is noted that Chavez overall popularity is on the decline, and the opposition now outnumbers the Chavistas.

The article speaks for itself.

Desperate Times...

Call for desperate measures. And in Chavez' case, he must truly be desperate.

Here is an article from the AP where Chavez accuses Colombia and the US of conspiring against him.

Funny that he accuses Colombia of aggression when he sought to undermine Colombian President Uribe with his negotiation antics with the FARC. Getting only egg on his face with that situation, he is acting like a cry baby and playing the imperialism card again.

No wonder he lost the last referendum. He's losing his fan base, because all he just a bag of hot air. Sure, in the beginning the anti-US talk resonated with a vast majority of his supporters. There has generally been an anti-American sentiment in Venezuela among the poor and lower middle-class since I can remember. Chavez fed on that resentment to gain support, and to feed his ego.

Since that time, while some people have gained the benefit of petrol dollars (which are dwindling as previously sited on this blog), he hasn't done much to address the core problems faced by Venezuela: crime, corruption, and lack of work. People can only last so long on vapor ware before becoming disheartened.

So he goes back to the well this time, citing 'intelligence' reports that the US and Colombia are out to get him, in an attempt to whip the faithful back into a frenzy. Something tells me, his message won't be as well received as time goes on without tangible headway made against food shortages, crime, and general infrastructure issues in the country.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

He Did It

Found this on Drudge Report.

Chavez followed through and confiscated food from a private company. 27 trucks from Polar were stopped and the contents confiscated. Chances are these weren't beer trucks but harina pan, and other food stuffs.

With reports out that Venezuela is reaching an economic crisis, and the government is running out of money, one wonders if this isn't just another way that Chavez is using to 'procure' goods for his state funded food stores.

It's convenient that the excuse for confiscating the goods bound for western Venezuelauy was smuggling to Colombia, and the confiscation of food stuffs in eastern Venezuela was hoarding. (Probably not much smuggling going on with Guyana, thus another excuse has to be given.)

And the number of trucks is curious as well: 27 trucks, 500 tons of food. I bet that Polar sent more trucks than 27. If you suspect someone of smuggling, wouldn't you shut them down completely? Sounds to me like those 27 trucks were the price of Polar doing business.

What I don't understand is that if Chavez really wants to open the floodgates of food, negotiate with the private companies. Buy in bulk to lower the wholesale price and you can sell it cheaper in the government run food stores and not hurt the rest of citizens who shop in regular super markets. I'm sure Polar would be willing to work something out, as long as they wouldn't have to sell at a loss, which is what the government is trying to make them do. Chavez blames the black market for food shortages, while his own economic policies are creating the black market.