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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

El Burro does Coca (and not the Cola kind either)

I'm sure this is old news, but had to blog it to keep it in the archives for later recall.

Here's an article from the Miami Herald on how Chavez admits that he chews coca leaves, and also apparently coca paste, and recommends it. This revelation came during his address to the National Assembly when he brought forth the thought that the FARC and ELN in Colombia should be considered 'beligerent armies'.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Baby Hates Chavez

ROFL!!!!!!! This is HILARIOUS

You have to read this! My apologies for anyone who doesn't read Spanish. Mine is a bit rusty, but I got enough of it to get a great laugh from it.

Again... from The Source.

Uribe pide beligerancia para el hampa venezolana

¡EXTRA! ¡TUBAZO / Laureano MarquezBogotá. (SNE, que no CNE) El presidente colombiano Álvaro Uribe Vélez informó hoy, a través de su secretario de prensa, que piensa enviar una misiva a su homólogo venezolano con la finalidad de solicitarle que se le dé al hampa venezolana status de beligerancia. Considera el presidente colombiano que, por producir el hampa del país vecino más muertos que el conflicto armado que desangra a Colombia, el asunto reviste mayor gravedad (por no decir suprema) y él se ha ofrecido, demanera unilateral, a mediar entre ambos grupos, quiéralo el presidente Chávez o no.

Lo primero que el presidente Uribe pide es que se reconozca a la delincuencia venezolana como un ejército en armas que produce más muertos en Caracas que los que el genocida de Bush produce en Irak cada semana, con lo cual tiene ya dimensiones de una guerra internacional.

Al regularizar el conflicto, el enfrentamiento malandros-ciudadanos podrá regirse por la convención de Ginebra, o en todo caso por la de Caballito Frenao. La idea es que los cuerpos policiales venezolanos se mantengan neutrales, como han hecho hasta el momento, y regularizar atracos y secuestros.

Según el presidente de Colombia, el acuerdo se regiría por los siguientes lineamientos:

Se creará una "zona de despeje" donde los malandros no atracarían a nadie y donde ellos tampoco podrían ser detenidos.

Se prohíbe el "secuestro ", el ruleteo y la captura de rehenes.

Se prohíbe la agresión a terceros no involucrados en el atraco y/o mirones desprevenidos ajenos al conflicto.

No podrán ser asesinados niños, mujeres, ni ancianos.

Los atracos se realizarán siguiendo la convención internacional y se iniciarán con la clásica expresión de advertencia: "¡Manos arriba, esto es un atraco!".

Los trabajadores del transporte público quedan exonerados de ser atracados en los vehículos que ellos conducen, sin que esto implique la supresión del delito en contra de terceros.

Los sábados en la noche se suspenden las hostilidades, a objeto de que la gente pueda ir al cine, a cenar o a otras cositas a discreción, en vías solitarias y mal iluminadas.

Queda terminantemente prohibido el maltrato a las víctimas. Si ésta debe ser asesinada, se procederá, en lo posible, limpiamente, evitándole dolor, tortura o situaciones infamantes.

Por su parte, las víctimas se comprometen a prestar la mayor colaboración posible con los malandros en los siguientes términos:

No resistirse a la autoridad hamponil.

Tratar de cargar encima suficiente dinero en efectivo, a fin de evitar que el delincuente pierda la paciencia al no ver recompensado su esfuerzo.

No aferrarse a los vehículos como si fuesen el Santo Grial y recordar que se trata de un pedazo de hierro con 4 cauchos, que se puede comprar otro o que se puede vivir sin carro.

Advertencia: El siguiente escrito es del género ficción humorística absurda. Es decir, lo que se cuenta es mentira (NO HA SUCEDIDO Y SERÍA INADMISIBLE QUE SUCEDIERA) y además, pretende mover a quien lo lea a la hilaridad, broma o gracia. De modo que todo lo que seguido se dirá es un invento, eso que los latinos (de Roma) llaman animus jocandi. No obstante, esta advertencia, aunque forma parte del escrito, sí que es seria. ¿Sí se entiende? ¿No?

Una vez iniciado un atraco, está prohibida cualquier actitud hostil o agresiva que provoque la justificada ira del malandro.

Se pueden establecer normas preventivas, como las habituales rejas, alarmas en los vehículos, tranca palancas, etc.

En estos términos, según Uribe, podría regularizarse el tema de la violencia hamponil en Venezuela. Al ser reconocidos como ejército beligerante, podrá crearse un Comando Unificado Malandril que coordine las acciones delincuenciales y con quien pueda negociarse la devolución de secuestrados, pago de rescate por vehículos robados,etc.

Naturalmente, al reconocérsele representación política, los delincuentes –según el presidente colombiano– podrían constituir un partido con posibilidades de presentar candidatos a cargos de elección popular. Dicha organización debería llevar en sus siglas la palabra"choro" para diferenciarse de otras formas delincuenciales de cuello blanco ejercidas por otras organizaciones políticas.

Se recomienda a las autoridades electorales evitar situaciones fraudulentas que perjudiquen al partido "choro", a objeto de evitar situaciones desagradables.

El presidente Uribe señaló que ya tiene en su poder las coordenadas de Jeferson de Jesús, Wilkerson, Robinson y Kevin Aleixi y que, apenas el gobierno venezolano autorice, mandará un par de helicópteros a recogerlos y así pagarle el favor al presidente venezolano.

The Post Got it Right....

Check out this Editorial from the Washington Post forwarded to me by The Source.

Interesting point that the FARC hides behind it's Marxist ideals, but really has just become a drug trafficking and kidnapping gang.

Also interesting to point out towards the end of the article that this is substantiated by human rights groups that aren't particularly happy with the Uribe government.

And last but not insignificant, Chavez own allies in South America distanced themselves just a little bit from his comments calling the FARC and ELN "genuine armies" and "not terrorists."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Colombia Fires a Political Shot

Apparently, the Colombian government is getting a bit tired of Chavez meddling in their affairs. Here is an article from El Tiempo depicting a note of protest that was sent by the Colombian government to the government of Venezuela.

Notice the response from Chavez. He's got his pat answer: Uribe is a puppet of Bush, and Bush is pushing all the buttons in Colombia. Yes, Colombia is one of the few governments left in South America not affected by Chavez own imperialism, and is a strong ally of the United States. But charges like those made in the letter of protest need to be answered point for point, and they were simply deflected.

But of course, that is Chavez answer for anything and eveything. It will be interesting to see what his new excuse will be once the U.S. has a new president that still doesn't care for him.

Her is a video clip

Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Has Thin Skin

Anothe article from The Source.

From El Universal, here it is. A widow registered her disgust with a decision handed down by the court, and she was fined Bs. 46 million (BSF. 46,000).

As The Source says, read the 'disrepectful' language.

Venezuelan Economy To Tank in 2008?

Here is an article that The Source sent me from (It's cool, check them out, they play Venezuelan music while you surf their site. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!! I used to not like Venezuelan music much, but I didn't realize how much I missed it.)

I'm putting the article here because I didn't find it on their site, but it comes from SOVENOR. The basic gist is that Chavez and company are over reporting oil and gas production and they are running out of money. Crude oil production has steadily declined since 1999 due to lack of investments in oil production, and the lack of skill after the oil workers were replaced during the strike in December of 2002 and January of 2003.

Here is the article:

Fin de un mito, muerte de una revolución

El mito de una economía venezolana próspera y saludable llegará asu fin en 2008. Antes de que culmine el año, la economía se sumirá enuna profunda y prolongada recesión aunque el precio mundial del crudosobrepase los $100 por barril. Tras cuatro años de extraordinariocrecimiento económico alimentado por precios del petróleo cada vezmayores y un masivo gasto público, los venezolanos sólo pueden esperardurante 2008 y 2009 una profunda crisis de la Balanza de Pagos, lamayor devaluación de la historia del país y la más alta inflación dela que se tenga memoria.

El festín bolivariano está llegando a su fin y la consiguienteresaca nacional probablemente desencadenará agitación política ysocial que podría producir un cambio de régimen, cuando millones devenezolanos pobres lleguen a la ineludible conclusión de que elpresidente Hugo Chávez es incapaz de cumplir sus promesas de unanación más justa y próspera.

Los síntomas de una enorme e inminente crisis económica seperciben por todas partes. La expansión de la economía se estádesacelerando rápidamente, a pesar del incremento del gasto público yde los créditos bancarios. El tipo de cambio paralelo casi triplica aloficial de Bs.F.2.15:$. La inflación se disparó hasta 22,5% en 2007 yha seguido acelerándose durante los primeros días de 2008. El país seestá quedando sin alimentos, medicinas y prácticamente cualquierproducto de consumo para los venezolanos. Fabricar localmente losproductos desaparecidos no es una opción, ya que las políticas delGobierno de Chávez han acabado con casi dos terceras partes de la baseindustrial privada de Venezuela.

Mientras tanto, el retraso de Cadivi en la autorización dedivisas es cada vez mayor y muchos empresarios señalan que el totalalcanza entre $15 y $18 millardos. De ser cierto, significaría queVenezuela está sentada sobre un déficit de la Balanza de Pagos querondaría a los $20 millardos o más, en comparación con el déficitrelativamente moderado de $3,5 millardos registrado en 2007.

El Gobierno de Chávez sigue apostando a los altos preciospetroleros, pero éstos ya no son un factor viable para seguirsosteniendo la falsa prosperidad de la revolución bolivariana.Petróleos de Venezuela segura que la producción de gas y petróleoaumentará significativamente en 2008, gracias a nuevas inversiones quesuperan los $10 millardos. Pero PDVSA no está siendo sincera. El PIBpetrolero ha estado cayendo constantemente desde 2004 y la contracciónde la capacidad de producción real de PDVSA se está acelerando. Esdifícil dictaminar el alcance real de la crisis que se avecina para laeconomía, ya que el Gobierno de Chávez manipula las estadísticasoficiales para que se ajusten a sus afirmaciones retóricas en cuanto aun sólido crecimiento. Sin embargo, son muchos los indicadoresconfiables que apuntan que todo terminará en lo que probablemente serála peor crisis económica que Venezuela haya experimentado en décadas.

Por ejemplo, el Gobierno se está quedando sin dinero. Variosindicios confirman esta afirmación. En primer lugar, desde el 1° deenero PDVSA está exigiendo a sus clientes que paguen sus envíos dentrode un período de ocho días calendario contado a partir de la fecha deenvío del crudo. Anteriormente, los clientes de PDVSA tenían hasta 30días a partir del día de recepción del crudo, para pagar la factura.En segundo lugar, los impuestos a las bebidas alcohólicas, cerveza ycigarrillos fueron prácticamente duplicados el 15 de octubre de 2007,apenas seis semanas antes del referendo constitucional que perdióChávez. El Gobierno también estableció un Impuesto a las TransaccionesFinancieras que grava con 1,5% cada etapa de la cadena de producción yrepresenta una mina de oro fiscal para el Gobierno, el cual recaudó almenos Bs.2 billones durante los dos últimos meses de 2007 y percibiráalrededor de Bs.12 billones en 2008. Pero este impuesto agregará almenos 5% a la inflación proyectada para este año.

La deuda del sector público se incrementó en $9,85 millardos en2007, hasta $36,75 millardos, casi el doble de la estimación oficialdel déficit proyectado para el año pasado. Por su parte, PDVSAcontrajo entre $11,5 millardos y $13 millardos de deuda en 2007,ostensiblemente para financiar las necesarias inversiones en crudo ygas. El ministro del Poder Popular para Energía y Petróleo ypresidente de PDVSA, Rafael Ramírez, asegura que la estatal invirtió$10 millardos en 2007, pero esta afirmación no puede ser confirmada acausa de los escasos datos que emite el Gobierno. Es más, PDVSArealizó más de $2 millardos durante los últimos 18 meses, vendiendoactivos en Estados Unidos, entre los que se encuentran dos refineríasde asfalto propiedad de Citgo y el 41,2% de participación de Citgo enla refinería Lyondell en Houston, así como su terminal Borco en LasBahamas. Ramírez informó que PDVSA está reestructurando sus activosinternacionales para maximizar las ganancias consolidadas, pero, conlos precios petroleros en máximos históricos, la venta de estosactivos es otro indicador de que los problemas de flujo de caja delGobierno están empeorando.

Las falsas afirmaciones de PDVSA en cuanto a la salud y solidezde la industria de gas y petróleo colapsaron en 2007. Entre otrascosas, la OPEP obligó a Venezuela a aceptar una reducción de 700.000b/d de su cuota de producción, con el fin de alinear su cuota con laproducción real. El presidente Chávez asegura que Venezuela cuenta con unacapacidad de producción de crudo de 3,4 millones de b/d. Fuentessecundarias fidedignas como la Secretaría de la OPEP y la AgenciaInternacional de Energía aseguran que el nivel real de producciónvenezolana está cercano a los 2,4 millones de b/d. La capacidad deproducción de Venezuela ha estado declinando constantemente desde 1999debido a varias razones, entre ellas la inversión insuficiente y laincapacidad de la empresa de sustituir más de 20.000 empleadoscalificados que fueron despedidos en 2003 después de los dos meses delparo petrolero entre diciembre de 2002 y enero de 2003. Es más, lacrisis de producción de PDVSA podría ser considerablemente peor.Fuentes de la industria aseguran que la producción ha caído aalrededor de 2,1 millones de b/d, lo que significa que Venezuela haperdido más de 1,3 millones de b/d de capacidad de producción neta enlos últimos nueve años. (Mayores costos y múltiples descuentos aclientes favorecidos, y no la reducción de la producción, son la razónprincipal por la que el Banco Central señaló un PIB petrolero de 5,3%en 2007).

Chávez asegura que el cambio mayor de su Gabinete Ejecutivo, enla que 12 ministros fueron sustituidos, es el primer paso para lareestructuración y el relanzamiento de la revolución socialista. Peroninguno de los nuevos ministros posee las credenciales necesarias nila autoridad para tomar decisiones que no hayan sido aprobadas antespor el presidente Chávez. No obstante, nadie está menos calificado queel propio Presidente para tomar decisiones económicas sensatas, lo quesignifica que cualquier decisión que él tome en las próximas semanas ymeses no hará más que agudizar la crisis económica.

Visto lo anterior, el problema no es el país, su gente o susinstituciones, el imperio, etc, es su presidente, quién hace escasosdías acepto haberse equivocado y conducido el país al fracaso y lamiseria, equivocación que nos a perjudicado a todos por igual. En otropaís, ese presidente ya habría renunciado !!!!!

Sean Penn in a snit with the SF Chronicle

First off, my apologies for not keeping up. Life got in the way of fun. :-)

So now I have to catch up on the news on Chavez and Venezuela.

Here is a letter to the editor from Sean Penn to the San Francisco Chronicle. Apparently, he took offense to an article in the newspaper where Chavez was likened to a dictator, and pot shots were taken at himself and Oliver Stone. (I'll have to track down that article. I'm sure it's a hoot!)

Couple things to note about this article. First off, Mr. Penn aptly points out that Chavez was elected in a democratic fashion, which is true. Some argument remains on whether he really survived the referendum on his presidency a few years back, but we can thank the Carter Center for adding validity to the outcome of that "election."

Mr. Penn also points out that dictators don't lose votes on constitutional referendums. Once again, Mr. Penn states the obvious, as dictators of countries pretty much nullify any constitutions their countries once had.

The problem with Mr. Penn's statement though is that the heart of the constitutional referendum proposed by Mr. Chavez included provisions to allow him to remain president for life!! Sounds pretty much like a dictatorship to me, doesn't it? True, it didn't quite happen as thankfully the No vote won the day (after many hours of delay in result reporting), but it sure came close. Maybe Chavez would have become a democratically elected dictator. I guess that would be possible.

And last but not least, Mr. Penn calls himself a journalist. I guess he's about as much of a journalist as I am an actor. I had a starring role once in my school Christmas play when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade (sorry, I'm getting older and I can't remember which year, but I sure did love the smell of that memiographed script!!! :-)), so I guess I can call myself an actor. Mr. Penn likes to play journalist and pen (no pen pun intended) missives from his point of view that gloss over facts and reality. I think that is called a commentator, or columnist, not a journalist Mr. Penn.

Thanks to The Source for pointing out this article.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Jackal and El Burro

Interesting article on Carlos "The Jackal" from MiPunto.Com, probably the most famous Venezuelan next to Simon Bolivar. Unfortunately, his fame is as an assassin and terrorist, not a liberator of continent.

Apparently, Chavez is a big fan of The Jackal - read the last paragraph - and employs his brother as Minister of Energy and Mines and President of PDVSA. (That relationship isn't in th article, nor is the next part.)

Rumor has it that there are secret negotiations going on to swap the FARC hostage Ingrid Betancourt (a French-Colombian) for The Jackal, who is currently being held in France.

One interesting note, for all the idealism that The Jackal represents regarding the revolutionary causes he has supported, he sure liked to live the high life and spend lots of many. Didn't realize that those ideals meshed with communism and socialism in their purist forms. One would think those are just a front to extract money and feed his blood-lust of killing people and garnering attention.


I haven't posted much on Maletagate as it is being called in Venezuela and Argentina, because I haven't been following it.

But this NY Times article popped up on Drudge, so I figured I'd check it out.

Basically, Chavez attempted to help Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's presidential campaign with $800,000. Involved is a Venezuelan-American who got caught in Argentina with the money. He comes back to the States and looks for help from the US government to get himself out of this mess. After FBI investigation, some Venezuelans are arrested as unregistered foreign agents and are on trial. Venezuela and Argentina deny the whole thing, with Venezuela pulling out the whole CIA accusation. (Funny, considering one of the people involved is believed to be an intelligence operative from Venezuela.) Argentina wants these guys extradited back to Argentina, and Venezuela is surprisingly quiet on the subject other than to hurl false accusations.

Sounds to me like someone got their hand caught in the cookie jar.

(Where I went to school in Venezuela, we had a parking lot in between a couple of dormitories. It was in need of resurfacing, so a Venezuelan company was called in to take up the old asphalt and lay down fresh asphalt. In a local newspaper one day, an article was written how we were making a helipad for the CIA to be able to land. And yes, this was BEFORE Chavez, and even before he attempted his coup in 1992. This was in the 80's. Interestingly enough, we did have helicopters land at our school, but they ferried the President of Venezuela Carlos Andres Perez in to the Andean town where our school was. He'd come on occasion and use our soccer field to land on. He'd stay with relatives of his in town, whose son went to our school.)

That didn't last long...

The kinder, gentler Chavez didn't last long. In this AP article, he is back to his old ways of threatening to sieze private property. In this case, basic foods being 'hoarded' by businesses. The excuses given are because there are shortages of food, and because of high inflation. Businesses deny hoarding food to sell at higher prices later on.

At least he is accusing everyone this time, from the 'large capitalists to the small shopkeepers."

I find it interesting that he blames part of the inflation problem in Venezuela on possible hoarding, and yet turns a blind eye to the economic policies he and his government are following. Chavez uses the PDVSA as a blank check for whatever he wants, infusing massive amounts of capital into the economy. Of course, THAT can't be the problem, can it?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vindication for Uribe

I'm sure this is old news by now, but Colombian President Uribe's revelation that the child Emmanuel that the terrorist FARC rebels claimed to have had actually been in foster care in Bogota. DNA tests proved that fact.

The childs mother, Clara Rojas, and fellow hostage Consuelo Gonzalez, were released today in the Colombian state of Guaviare.

Here is the article from the AP.

I find it interesting the bent of this article against President Uribe, basically blaming him for the breakdown in the original hostage turn over at the beginning of this year. While they mention that the FARC didn't have Emmanuel, they did fail to mention that Uribe is the one who revealed that the FARC didn't have the child and thus revealing the FARC for the sham of rebel group that they are.

By the way, where is the condemnation from Chavez for the FARC lie? In a previous article I posted a link to, I think he said shame on the FARC if they lied about not having the child.

Also note Chavez' indication that he, or his government, are in contact or communication with the FARC. Lends further credence to the article from El Pais that there is a strong connection between upper levels of the Venezuelan government and the FARC.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Angel Rebelde

That award winning, maid hitting journalist Naomi Campbell scored the ultimate interview with Hugo Chavez for GQ magazine. Who knows what GQ wants with an interview with Chavez, but they got one. (Maybe those sassy red berets are coming back into fashion, and she's just got to find out where to pick one up.)

Anyway, here is the article from the AP. This isn't the article that Ms. Campbell wrote, just an article the AP wrote about her interview. You can pick up the latest edition with the article on Thursday to find out the hot details of Ms. Campbell's interview with El Comandante.

Some highlights from the AP article.

El Burro astutely noted that Dubya is on his way out. I think any person with a firm grasp on how term limits for the President of the US work would be able to make that very same brilliant observation. Of course, they wouldn't be able to aptly further deduce that the 'empire' is falling.

And by the way, does the Venezuelan military have a "don't ask, don't tell policy?" When asked by Ms. Campbell that hard hitting question of who the most fashionable world leader is, Chavez answered with the name of his buddy Fidel. It's the 'elegant beard' and 'polished boots'. Hmmmmm........ Inquiring minds want to know. (I wonder if Ms. Campbell asked the logical follow up question: does he shine his own boots?)

I'll skip any commentary on the muscle touching part. That's just a bit awkward. Besides, he didn't ask Barbara Walters to touch his muscles when she did her patsy interview with him.

This article doesn't mention it, but in the interview Chavez compared himself to, or called himself a "rebel angel".

I wonder if Chavez knows his Bible very well. (He's always crossing himself and comparing himself to Jesus Christ, so one would figure he has some familiarity with La Santa Biblia.) In Genesis, there is another "rebel angel" who goes by the name of Lucifer. So in a sense, Chavez called himself the devil. That's rather interesing, considering he likes to call other heads of state the devil, mainly GW. Freudian slip maybe?

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Shake-up Begins

As the primaries kick off here in the US, Chavez is revamping his cabinet after his defeat in the Constitutional referendum. First to go was his Vice President Jorge Rodriguez. He is being blamed for the loss.

Here is the article from Reuters.

With these changes, Chavez hopes to reach out to the middle class and make amends, or so he says. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Venezuelan News

Here's a great site for news stories on Venezuela.

Check it out.

A New Year, a New Chavez

Apparently Chavez isn't completely blind to what is going on in his country besides visits by Hollywood stars and his attempts to rescue his reputation.

In 2008, he pledges to be a kinder, gentler president that is going to address things like the trash in the streets and the increase in crime (which includes kidnappings and murders).

Here is the article from Reuters. (By the way, Reuters is the same news agency that declared the last referendum was won by Chavez before it was officially announced by CNE. I saw the story on Yahoo! while watching Globovision on the web. It was curious that the report came out so fast. It was up for a bit, and then pulled down. After the announcement came from the CNE that the referendum lost, then they posted a story indicating such.)

He's very magnanomous by pardoning the plotters of the coup in 2002, but not as magnanomous as the government was when they pardoned him and all of his cohorts that attempted a coup in 1992. Those coup plotters were pardoned unconditionally, and the pardon extended to all involved. Chavez is not as generous. Some polic officers won't be included along with others who fled the country.

But, maybe his defeat will at least get him to come back to earth a bit and face the needs of his constituents, not the lofty ideals of 21st century socialism.

At least the author was honest and did mention that this softening could be temporary. Maybe with a few victories under his belt, Chavez will once again feel invincible. Let's hope not.

The Suspense Grows.

The Colombian government has been able to obtain DNA samples from the Rojas family who are in Caracas eagerly anticipating the reunion with the FARC hostages Clara Rojas and her son Emmanuel.

The DNA samples will be matched against samples taken from Juan David Gomez, a boy that matches the description of Emmanuel given by a former FARC rebel and has been living in a foster home in Bogota.

Here the article from the AP.

We'll see in about 48 hours who has egg on their face, Uribe or Chavez.

I'm hoping it's Chavez.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

One more nail in the coffin.

The first nail in Hugo Chavez' coffin was the defeat of his Constitutional referendum. The second nail will be his lack of success in securing the release of the FARC hostages.

As I stated in a previous post, he wanted to use the hostage release to one-up Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Chavez failed.

Here is an article from the New York Times which reiterates my supposition that Chavez was trying to trump Uribe.

Please pay special note to the second to last paragraph:

Now the failed mission has exposed Mr. Chávez to criticism of misplaced priorities. As he worked to mediate the release of hostages in Colombia, in Venezuela kidnappings are spiraling. Some estimates show that Venezuela has more abductions per capita than Colombia now, but the Venezuelan government has done little to tackle the problem.

This is the first article I've read that mentions the issue of kidnappings in Venezuela. I've hearcd from my friend in Venezuela that kidnappings are increasing, especially along the border with Colombia, but nothing in the mainstream media.

A rather 'unbiased' article from the New York Times I'd say.