Gustavo Coronel became President
of MENEVEN ((Mene
Grande/Gulf Oil Corporation) after the
nationalization of 1976.
I am back in
my country and I have to report that a portion of
it, in the hands of Chávez, is rapidly shrinking.
Not in physical size but in social and spiritual terms.
Venezuela today is a country ruled by a relatively
small group of very ignorant people possessing an
authoritarian and violent nature. Let me give some
examples: today 12 dissident political leaders in
the State of Tachira, bordering with Colombia, will
be one year in prison without trial, something specifically
forbidden in Venezuelan laws. 15 political dissidents,
including the mayor of Baruta, a residential suburb
of Caracas and several high ranking military officers
are in prison without being properly charged of any
crime and without being allowed legitimate legal defense.
The managers of Súmate, an NGO that has the
objective of improving transparency in electoral events,
which was given $53,000 by the National Endowment
for Democracy, based in Washington, DC, have been
indicted as conspirators against the Venezuelan government,
in spite of the fact that nothing they have done has
been hidden or illegal. Journalists like Ibeyise Pacheco
and Patricia Poleo are being harassed by the not so
secret police. The monies from the sale of oil in
the international markets is being diverted directly
to the government instead of being delivered to the
Venezuelan Central Bank, as the law dictates. Over
one billion dollars have already been given to the
Chávez government by the Venezuelan oil company,
without transparency or accountability, in open violation
of all legal and ethical rules. The money is being
handled by Nelson Merentes, the head of the Venezuelan
"Development Bank," who is also one of the
coordinators of the recently sworn in Chávez's
electoral campaign team. Can any civilized person
understand how the person in charge of managing the
funds of the nation is also in charge of managing
the funds of Chávez's political campaign? This
is a classic example of conflict of interests. In
addition, the monies from PDVSA, the national oil
company, are being diverted to finance directly the
costs of the 11,150 Cuban "patriots" present
in the country, as recently and publicly admitted
by Juana Contreras, a Director of the Ministry of
Health (Descifrado, June 7h, 2004). Oscar Bataglinni,
one of the Chávez followers in the Board of
the National Electoral Council has let it be known
that he will "oppose the presence of international
observers in the referendum and the independent audit
of the referendum process." This would be in
open violation of all internationally accepted norms.
To add insult to injury, the company providing the
machinery for this event is a company in which the
Chávez government has substantial share ownership
and one that has never, I repeat, never has done work
in any election since it was formed, rather mysteriously,
a few months ago. Does this sound transparent? Should
the Venezuelan opposition to the current government
make an act of faith and hope that the setup, as described
above, will transmit faithfully the will of the Venezuelan
people? This would be very naïve of the opposition,
in the light of the low moral qualities of the people
currently in government. There cannot be trust in
these adventurers. As I write this, Venevisión,
a TV station opposed to the government is being raided
by the secret and not so secret police, the 30th such
raid conducted systematically on private television
and newspaper organizations in an effort to plant
incriminating evidence. During the recent signature
collection event, Chávez shouted fraud, as
is his habit, and his claim this time was that many
Venezuelan citizens had used false, cloned identity
cards. This was so ridiculous a claim that not one
of his followers dared to pursue it.
government is characterized by improvisation and waste.
All factual data point to a dramatic deterioration
of the Venezuelan society: a drop of 25 places in
the United Nations Human Development Index (measures
quality of life) from 1998 to 2003; a record increase
of unemployment during the last five years, the highest
in Latin America; the highest rate of inflation in
Latin America; the highest drop in economic growth
during 2003; a horrible situation of more than 200,000
abandoned Venezuelan children in the streets.
I arrived back
in Venezuela three days ago. The airport is a national
scandal: few things work, the parking lots are in
ruins, no lights. The road up to Caracas is totally
destroyed, no lights, no
maintenance, potholes, tunnels in ruins, nothing left
from the proud highway that a more progressive dictator
inaugurated 60 years ago. Caracas looks like a dirty,
toothless, old beggar. For those old enough (like
me) to know how beautiful Caracas was, this horrendous
accumulation of filth, bad smells and misery that
Chavez now calls his Caracas is an unacceptable insult.
I have lived and have visited some horrible spots
in this earth and always felt relieved to know that
I could always go back to my beautiful Caracas. But
now Caracas is more horrible a sight and a smell than
the worst of those places I have ever visited. And
I say, political language does not mean a thing if
the people cannot live decently. The rhetoric about
revolution does not mean a thing if people grow hungry
and in squalor. Words are ineffectual against poverty
unless good and transparent management of national
wealth accompanies them.
What we have
today in Venezuela is ruins and empty, fanatical words.
People walk the streets with hunger and despair in
their eyes while in Canada, in England, in France
and in the US, in all existing Chávez government
centers for paid propaganda, mercenaries get paid
tangible amounts of money to disseminate their lies
about a "revolution." The names of these
mercenaries will be made public in time. They have
sold their souls for a few coins but will not alter
the course of events, which will result in the re-establishment
of true democracy in Venezuela.
As a Venezuelan
who loves all what Venezuela is lovable for, I say:
Chávez, get out from our country! Stop sowing
hate and resentment among our people!
I am back in
Venezuela, after some four months of being abroad.
In most ordinary circumstances, a four months absence
should not make so much of a difference in the perception
of the country by the returning traveler. However,
we are not living in a country undergoing ordinary
circumstances. Venezuela is experiencing a highly
accelerated process of national destruction, under
the reins of a group of fanatics, which promote values
and attitudes totally contrary to those the majority
of Venezuelans cherish. So rapid is this process of
national destruction going on in the country that
only four months are enough to perceive change.
In my previous
post card I mentioned the dramatic deterioration of
the Caracas International Airport and of the once
extraordinary highway leading from the airport to
downtown Caracas, now more properly belonging to a
lower category third world country. I also mentioned
the dismal statistics of International and Venezuelan
agencies related to the economic and social situation
of the country. They do not need to be repeated here.
I also mentioned the filth and neglect which characterizes
the once beautiful city of Caracas, now predominantly
under the pathetic mismanagement of the Chávez
municipal government. These horrors are for all to
see, so that there is no burden of the proof. Just
come here and take a look!
Now I want
to report on the situation inland, away from Caracas,
into the province. As my taxi drives out of the city
I see, in the clear light of day, the broken statue
of Maria Lionza. For fifty years this statue had been
one of the icons of the city. It had been there for
all of us to see. It was not a matter of Venezuelans
believing or not in witchcraft but just a matter of
us becoming used to see this beautiful, challenging
figure of a powerful and naked woman riding a mythical
cow and looking, defiantly, ahead. A few days ago
this statue came crumbling down and now Maria Lionza
is on her back, looking at the sky, offering us the
sad sight of a once proud, now defeated woman. The
tragedy of Maria Lionza is a typical problem of lack
of maintenance, one that prevails over much of Chávez's
country. In a spiritual sense, it represents the same
problem afflicting thousands of Venezuelans who used
to be proud and full of self-esteem and is now reduced
to hopelessness due to the accelerated deterioration
of the country. The collapse of the statue of Maria
Lionza has been taken, by thousands of Venezuelans,
as an omen, which signals the collapse of the current
We were forced
to take an alternate route to Valencia, since landslides
blocked the main road. Although the landslides should
be expected since we are already in the rainy season,
blockages can last many hours since there is no equipment
ready to work in the clearing process. As we climb
on the road to Los Teques, the town where I spent
my childhood and adolescence, I am appalled to see
the change the landscape has suffered. Certainly this
has not taken place in the last four months but it
has mainly been the product of the years under the
Chávez government. The hills surrounding Caracas
are full of thousands of squatters, full of houses
made of carton. What used to be a green forest, a
marvelous country, is now a denudated mountainside,
a collection of thousands of deplorable shacks. However,
thousands of TV antennas accompany the shacks and
cars by the hundreds are parked at the bottom of the
hills, a crazy conflict in priorities. The shacks
have no running water, no sewages. The people living
there were mostly living in the province before, but
they were lured by the populist promises of Chávez,
to come and live into the outskirts of the capital
city, where they now contribute to make up a huge
belt of misery and unemployment.
between the municipality controlled by mayor Bernal,
a Chávez follower and the mayor who belongs
to the opposition is almost like a geological fault
boundary. Whereas the Bernal territory is dominated
by neglect and degradation of the urban landscape,
the territory entrusted to the opposition mayor is
well kept and "middle class" looking, even
if the neighborhoods are not economically middle class.
This goes to show that progress is not so much a matter
of money as it is a matter of attitudes.
the central states, Aragua and Carabobo, the rainy
season has helped to give the landscape great beauty.
This is Venezuela at her best. For a while, driving
through these magical valleys make me forget the political
tragedy we are facing. This is the Venezuela I have
always known and cherished: it is the time of the
mango, of the flaming red acacia, of the avocado.
Nature overcomes political imperfections.
Once I get
to my house in Sabana del Medio, however, I find that
the underlying problems have worsened. Electricity
supply is increasingly unreliable and more expensive.
At this time I am paying the equivalent of $110 per
month for electricity in an empty house, since I do
not live there. The icebox and the freezer are connected
and I have lights on the outside of the house that
come on automatically at night. But this is about
the same amount I pay in Tyson's Corner, where I live
and use air conditioning or heating all the time.
And, of course, $110 in Venezuela represents about
five times more hard work to earn than in the US.
my home, I have nothing in the house, so I go to the
market. In four months, I perceive that the market
supply has dwindled significantly: there are few vegetables,
few grains, almost no meat, unless very expensive.
Milk is scarce. Even more worrying than quantity is
the problem of quality. A typical revolutionary lettuce
is darkish; the leaves look like half dead. While
much of the Venezuelan soil can produce, thousands
of Venezuelans are crowding in the cities, selling
condoms or vandalizing public telephones to force
people to use makeshift mobile telephone stations
in street corners, protected by the current political
I visit my
neighbors. They are very happy and bullish at the
turn of the recent political events. They now feel
strongly that the current regime is on its way out.
They know that the key action they have to take is
to participate fully in the coming referendum. Their
math is simple: there are some 12.4 million voters.
If 60% of voters vote and only 50% of those voters
are for the revoking of the president, he is out.
Abstaining this time around should not go over 35-40%
and all polls indicate that some 60% of voters will
be for the revoking of Chávez presidency. This
suggests that the Chávez will be out, unless
abstaining goes over 50% or unless there is a fraud.
fraud, my neighbors say, has any one ever heard of
a fraud by the opposition? Fraud is traditionally
attempted or executed by the government.
of major interest mentioned by my neighbors had to
do with the increasing corruption detected among Chávez
followers. They gave me some information, which I
will be glad to pass on to my readers in my third
I can advance
to my readers, however, that corruption under the
Chávez's regime far surpasses all corruption
previously known in modern Venezuelan history.
The Miami Herald
By Diego E. Arria
Visiting Scholar Institute of Latin American Studies
School of International and Public Affairs Columbia University
May 18, 2004, 08:30
(Diego Arria was Caracas'
(Distrito Federal) governor during the late sixties/early
The best way
to hasten democracy in Cuba is not by increasing ineffective
economic sanctions. It's by helping Venezuela to regain
its own democracy, which is being stolen bit by bit
by Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's increasingly dictatorial
Today, Chavez provides his ally and mentor Fidel Castro
with about 100,000 barrels per day of essentially
free oil. It's difficult to see how Mr. Castro could
deal with a sudden cut-off of that oil flow. The depth
of the relationship between the old dictator and his
Venezuelan admirer is the reason that both will go
to any length to keep Mr. Chavez in power. That includes
quashing the present attempt to get rid of Mr. Chavez
by holding a recall referendum. The Sandinista experience
in Nicaragua of holding - and losing -- elections
is a lesson that hasn't been lost on the Caribbean
duo. Both know that a free election in Venezuela could
kill two birds with one stone.
Who could have imagined that the Castro regime would
end up in control of Venezuela and its wealth without
firing a single shot almost fifty years after the
democratic government of Rómulo Betancourt
defeated a Cuban backed insurgency by Venezuelan Communists?
For sure not Castro. Not even in his wildest dreams
could he have expected such a turn of events. Now,
in the final years of his life, Venezuela’s
oil wealth is Castro’s for the taking. Twenty
thousand Cuban military and intelligence officers
are garrisoned in Venezuela, directing the so-called
Bolivarian Revolution. Meanwhile, thousands of young
Venezuelan are been indoctrinated in Cuba. Castro’s
ambassador in Caracas is more influential than Chavez’s
own ministers; and none other than Chavez ‘
brother is Venezuela’s ambassador to Cuba, while
Chavez consults Mr. Castro daily. Thanks to Chavez
Cuba, is no longer a solitary island in the Caribbean.
Its revolution is now anchored in the continent.
Should not the United States and democratic Latin
American countries be concerned with the emergence
of the Castro –Chavez alliance? The wily, and
time-tested Cuban political strategist, and his pupil
today with the huge resources of Venezuelan oil. This
new “special relationship” which replaces
the old Soviet-Cuba one, has been forged when there
is an enormous potential for unrest in Latin America.
Indeed, Chavez has opened wide Venezuela’s doors
to every type of subversion coming from Cuba or terrorist
controlled areas of Colombia. With Chavez, the Caribbean
has become a sinister Bermuda Triangle of
security where an unholy alliance of Cuba, Venezuela
and that part of Colombia controlled by terrorists
financed by oil and drugs, will represent a major
threat to international peace and security. Think
Afghanistan with oil, but in the Americas.
Maybe some day the Organization of American States
(OAS) will address Venezuela’s subversion of
peace and trampling of the principles of the Democratic
Charter of the Americas. The Charter approved in September
2001 reaffirms members' commitment to democracy and
charges the OAS with the obligation to assist, and
in some cases to intervene where democracy is threatened.
But I fear the OAS will take no action against the
Chavez regime. For a long time now, many of Venezuela’s
Latin American neighbors have been living in denial,
watching indifferently as Venezuela sheds its democracy
and turns into an authoritarian state. Meanwhile Chavez
has successfully used Venezuela’s oil to buy
the support of a large voting block within the organization.
More than ever, Venezuela’s oil has become its
curse. Chavez grants to a few U.S. oil companies exceptionally
advantageous terms to do business in Venezuela. They
in turn, have reciprocated his largesse by lobbying
strongly in Washington in Chavez favor. The result:
the authoritarian Chavez enjoys enormous latitude
regardless of his well-known hostility towards the
U.S. and his alliance with Castro. Indeed, the U.S.
has allowed Chavez to blissfully undermine the Colombian
government’s attempt to defeat the drug-financed
terrorists, which have held that country hostage for
more than four decades. Venezuela, says the State
Department, provides “safe heaven to narco terrorists
groups and weapons and ammunitions-some from official
Venezuelan stocks.” (Patterns of Global Terrorism-State
Department Annual Report 2003)
Forty-one years ago, Blas Roca, the Cuban Communist
party leader, eerily foretold the importance of Venezuela
for the Cuban regime. “When the people of Venezuela
are victorious, when they get their total
independence from imperialism, then all of America
will be aflame, all of America will push forward,
all of America will be liberated once and for all
from the ominous yoke of American imperialism,”
said Mr. Roca at a meeting of Latin American Communists
Parties in Havana in January 24th, 1963.’ Their
fight helps us today, and their victory will mean
a tremendous boost for us. We no longer will be a
solitary island of the
Caribbean facing the Yankee imperialists, for we will
have land support on the continent.”
Diego E. Arria
New York May 15th, 2004
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Rowan Column - Venezuela: Where is the Opposition?
May 18, 2004, 08:30
By Michael Rowan in El
starting to resemble Italy or Germany in the 1930s.
As an elected leader with charismatic force and a
radical worldview rose like a Phoenix to dominate
the country, thoughts about how to put Venezuela back
on a track of inclusion virtually disappeared.
appalled by the power and glory of the new leader's
insane hatreds, every conversation turned on questions
about him: Could he last, how can he be stopped, can
he be recalled, how can I get away from this madness?
This is exactly as the tyrant wants it.
a very simple political message that seems to appeal
to the opposition. His view is that Venezuelans are
good or bad, poor or rich, revolutionaries or oligarchs,
patriots or traitors, loyalists or conspirators, people
of God or people of Satan. The opposition basically
accepts the proposition but reverses him on every
count. Long lost in a trail of disappointing leaders
who were not able to cope with national failure, Venezuelans
have caved into this either/or paradigm, as did the
people of Italy and Germany 70 years ago, without
realizing the national consequences.
The only way
to stop a despot from doing whatever he has in mind
- if that's the right word - is to provide another
vision before the despot starts a war. Hitler could
not be stopped by an opponent who said, "I am
not Hitler, vote for me," and the same can be
said about Mussolini, Fujimori, Pinochet and the rest.
What is needed - what has always been needed - is
a vision of how to put Venezuela together on an inclusive
track toward liberty and democracy.
In the Democratic
Coordinator the overwhelming view is that 'We must
do first things first, and that means getting rid
of Chavez.' The strikes and protests, the violence
and death, and the recall, were aimed at getting rid
of Chavez. Of these, the only tactic that is truly
democratic is the recall, and Chavez, after winning
a handful of elections, is not likely to let that
happen. Meanwhile, Chavez has poured money into the
barrios to buy votes, very effectively, while the
opposition has been silent about a democratic, inclusive
vision for the nation, which has reduced its credibility
greatly. Venezuelans are not stupid. They are not
going to vote in the blind just to get rid of someone
they don't like - they did that with CAP and it didn't
work. They need to know what is going to happen next.
next with Chavez. After he suppresses the opposition,
he will work to influence or rule Bolivia, Ecuador,
Peru and Colombia - realizing Bolivar's dream. Panama
he will get by working with China to take over the
expansion of the canal, and by shipping oil thru it
to China. In Brazil, Mexico and Central America, he
will foment revolution by the poor and indigenous.
Worldwide, he will become the supreme leader against
one superpower, aided by China and the Group of 77.
The OAS he will attempt to suborn with oil deals.
The only obstacle left standing will be the U.S.,
which is indifferent to Latin America, and which won't
wake up in time before he conquers the world's minds
with his New Moral Economic Order, demolishing globalization
in a stroke of genius. Those who don't believe this
is possible have not read history. Those who don't
believe Chavez will try it have not read Chavez. Virtually
everything he has done in the last six years were
known in 1997, and everything he plans to do between
now and 2021, when he may leave office, are right
there to see.
next for the civil society. They need a declaration
of grievances and redress voted democratically in
meetings big and small all over the country - many
Chavistas will agree with them. They need democratic
primaries open to any voter or candidate, run by and
for civil society with international support, which
they can get if they go about it democratically. They
need a run-off election to select one candidate endorsed
by all or most of the others, centered around a government
program that is inclusive, and is not the same old
neo-liberal notion that is failing the poor everywhere
some opposition politicians say, "He'll never
let us do that." Exactly, is the response. He
will not. But this time, civil society could be sitting
side-by-side with the Organization of American States,
the European Union, the United Nations, institutions
that may just come of age to help while there's still
time. Better, polls show that half the Chavistas appear
ready to abandon Chavez for an inclusive, constructive,
and civil solution that is no longer about winners
and losers, but where everyone has a fair chance.
In the choice between civilization and militarization,
the poor of Venezuela today, like the victims of German
inflation or Italian inferiority in the 1930's, can
make the right choice, if they are given it.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Administers the Last Rites to the Rule of
Law The Economist
Viernes, 14 de mayo
opposition plot to use Colombian paramilitaries
to overthrow the president? Or a government
show, designed to discredit a shaky opposition
and distract attention from its own manoeuvring
to quash a recall referendum? Whatever the
truth behind the arrest this week of 90-odd
uniformed but unarmed men alleged to be right-wing
terrorists at a ranch on the outskirts of
Caracas, it spells more trouble for the opposition
to Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez.
Chávez, a populist former army officer,
stands on the brink of winning absolute power
in his country. The opposition's attempt to
invoke the constitution and subject the president
to a recall referendum looks doomed. Worse
still, a new law enables the president to
seize control of the supreme court. And the
“paramilitary” incident is the
perfect excuse for a crackdown.
is a country in which the last vestige of
the rule of law has vanished,” said
Rafael Marín, an opposition legislator,
after an attempted raid this week on his house,
ordered by a military judge. That is hyperbole—but
a long filibuster by the opposition was defeated,
the National Assembly on April 30th approved
a law that adds 12 new justices to the 20-member
supreme court. Hitherto, judicial appointments
and dismissals have needed approval by a two-thirds
majority in the Assembly, which Mr Chávez
lacks. Under the new law, likely to take effect
this month, only a simple majority is needed.
So the president can now both pack and purge
the court. Since the supreme court controls
the rest of the judiciary, every judge in
the land will have to apply the law the way
the government wants—or risk losing
his or her job.
is probably the final blow to the referendum.
Six months ago, the opposition gathered over
3m signatures for this, well above the 2.4m
required by the constitution. But the government-dominated
electoral authority disqualified 1.2m of them—requiring
those concerned individually to confirm their
signature in a laborious exercise due later
this month. Even if enough do, the matter
is likely to go to the supreme court. Time
is running out. If a referendum is held after
August 19th (the mid-point of his term) and
Mr Chávez loses, the upshot would not
be an election but his vice-president taking
opposition fears that the new law heralds
the curtailing of the political liberties
that have hitherto prevailed in Mr Chávez's
Venezuela. “Those who dare to dissent
from the regime will be punished,” says
Gerardo Blyde, a constitutional lawyer and
opposition congressman. This week, a mayor
from his party was jailed on what the opposition
says are trumped-up charges. Venezuelans who
signed the referendum petition are finding
that they may be denied everything from passports
to bank loans, government contracts or jobs,
and dollars at the cheap official rate.
Chávez retains the support of at least
a third of voters. He also controls the armed
forces and the all-important oil industry.
And with Venezuelan oil at over $30 a barrel,
his government is awash with cash. Since Mr
Chávez was first elected in 1998, income
per head in Venezuela has fallen by 27% (partly
because of a two-month general strike in 2002-03).
But this year, the economy has started to
the president looks as if he will easily survive
until the end of his term in January 2007,
and perhaps longer. The opposition, a mosaic
of parties and civic groups, faces an unappetising
future. It is held together only by a desire
to get rid of Mr Chávez. Absent a referendum,
its rickety coalition may fall apart. Moderates
may reach an accommodation with the government
that allows them to survive—and Mr Chávez
to present a façade of democracy. Radical
elements, including some former military officers,
may try rebellion, armed or otherwise. But
the “paramilitary” affair has
given the government a pretext to pre-empt
any such efforts with a wave of arrests.
his mentor, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Mr Chávez
thrives on enemies: he sees them not just
at home, but in Colombia and the United States.
His “microphone diplomacy” has
the potential to strain Venezuela's relations
with both countries.
years ago, the United States might have been
expected to make a much more vigorous attempt
to stop democracy from being extinguished
in a large South American country. But the
Bush administration has shown no sign of wanting
to do anything that might disrupt the flow
of Venezuelan oil ahead of November's election
in the United States. So it is likely to confine
itself to rhetorical tut-tutting.
relations with Colombia are more complicated.
Security along the disputed border is a constant
headache; both guerrillas and paramilitaries
operate on the Colombian side, and have spilled
over. President Álvaro Uribe's government
in Bogotá has complained of lack of
co-operation from Mr Chávez in dealing
with the guerrillas. Venezuela's vice-president
this week accused the head of Colombia's army,
General Martin Carreño, of involvement
with the Caracas “paramilitaries”.
General Carreño denied this.
Uribe has held peace talks with the paramilitaries,
but these are close to breaking down. It is
not wholly implausible that Colombia's paramilitary
leaders—and even its army—might
make an alliance of convenience with hardline
opponents of Mr Chávez. True or not,
the president is making it plain that the
only role for a democratic opposition in Venezuela
is impotence. One day, he may reap the whirlwind
he is now sowing.
Monday, March 12, 2004
March 6, 2004
Paul Crespo is a former Marine Corps Officer
and military attache at the US embassy in
Caracas. An adjunct faculty member in the
Political Science Department at the University
of Miami, he is also a Senior
Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense
of Democracies in Washington,
DC. This article first appeared in www.FrontPageMag.com.
is no doubt that Chávez - with Fidel Castro's
help -- is creating a Cuban-style socialist
state in Venezuela. Scholar Maxwell Cameron
calls it the world's first "slow-motion
constitutional coup." In the process,
Chávez also is breathing new life into Fidel
Castro's dying and decrepit dictatorship.
But what's even more worrisome is the fact
that the mercurial Chávez is turning the large,
oil rich country into a base for international
Sadly, not many people recognize this threat.
In my July 2003 American Legion Magazine article,
The Other "Axis of Evil",
I described the dangerous and growing alliance
between Latin America's two major anti-American
rogue states and international terror groups
operating throughout the hemisphere.
Focusing on the close and burgeoning partnership
between Castro and Chávez, I explored the
links both Castro and his new Caracas-based
clone have with Latin American communist guerillas,
drug dealers and Islamic terrorists. Referring
to Castro as an anti-American godfather, "increasingly
advising his new alter-ego in Venezuela..."
I wrote that Chávez, "with Castro's direction
and support - may be turning Venezuela into
a new anti-American terrorism hub."
Noting Castro's long history of subversion,
espionage and terrorism -- including the October
2001 arrest in Washington, DC of Cuban spy
Ana Belen Montes, the former senior Cuba analyst
at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) --
my article highlighted Castro's continuing
threat to the US. Cuba remains on the US State
Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Chávez and Castro are intimately linked, meeting
and talking regularly. Chávez has said Cuba
and Venezuela are, in effect, "one team."
The partnership is so close that Venezuela's
intelligence and security service, known as
DISIP, reportedly has come under control of
the Cuban intelligence service, the DGI. Because
of this, US intelligence agencies have ended
their longstanding liaison relationships with
their Venezuelan counterparts. Hundreds of
Cuban advisors, coordinated by Cuba's military
attaché in Caracas, are also in charge
of the elite presidential guard who defend
Chávez against potential coups or military
Meanwhile, Chávez has purged and is reorganizing
the Venezuelan military, making it personally
loyal to him. Thousands of Cuban "teachers,
doctors and sports trainers" also have
flooded Venezuela. Their real job is to indoctrinate
and train fanatically pro-Chávez paramilitary
groups known as "Bolivarian Circles"
that are part of a new 100,000-person People's
Reserve militia recruited from Venezuela's
poorest classes. These groups provide alternative
armed cadres outside regular military channels
loyal to Chávez.
While most of the mainstream media have ignored
this growing menace, one major news magazine,
US News and World Report, followed my piece
with an in-depth investigative report in October
2003, Terror Close to Home: In Venezuela,
a volatile leader befriends Mideast, Colombia
and Cuba, confirming my exposition and clearly
detailing the danger of Chávez's links to
Castro and terrorism.
The weekly newsmagazine said that its two-month
review, "including interviews with dozens
of US and Latin American sources, confirms
the terrorist activity," adding that
"the oil-rich but politically unstable
nation of Venezuela is emerging as a potential
hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere,
providing assistance to Islamic radicals from
the Middle East and other terrorists."
Most prominent in Venezuela's list of friendly
terror groups are the communist FARC guerillas
(Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) who
have terrorized Colombia for over 30 years
and have killed thousands of people. Gen.
Gary Speer, former acting chief of America's
Southern Command, said during a Senate Armed
Services committee hearing in March 2002 that
"we are very concerned about President
Chávez .. the FARC operates at will across
the border into Venezuela."
"There are arms shipments originating
in Venezuela that get to the FARC and the
ELN [National Liberation Army]," he added.
"We have been unable to firmly establish
a link to the Chávez government, but it certainly
causes us suspicions. The company that Chávez
keeps around the world, although under the
guise of OPEC, certainly causes additional
concerns as well" The US News piece details
the exact location of FARC camps inside Venezuela
where Venezuelan military advisors reportedly
train FARC guerillas.
Sadly, Democratic presidential hopeful John
Kerry stated in a February speech in Boston
that the murderous FARC guerillas had "legitimate
complaints" despite the fact that they
have the support of less than three percent
of Colombia's citizenry.
Chávez's links to Middle East terrorists may
be more indirect but US officials note that
Venezuela is providing support--including
identity documents--that could prove useful
to radical Islamic groups. U.S. News noted
that Chávez's government has issued thousands
of "cedulas," the equivalent of
national ID cards, to people from Cuba, Colombia,
and Middle Eastern `countries of interest'
like Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Lebanon that
host foreign terrorist organizations.
According to US News, some of these cedulas
were subsequently used to obtain Venezuelan
passports and even American visas, "which
could allow the holder to elude immigration
checks and enter the United States."
Chávez also was the only western leader to
travel to Iraq to visit Saddam Hussein prior
to his ouster by the US.
This article provoked an outcry from Chávez
and his henchmen. The Venezuelan ambassador
to the US, Alvarez Herrera, wrote an angry
letter to the editor of US News deriding the
article's accusations as "false"
The ambassador then tried to counter the magazine's
first-hand evidence by stating unconvincingly
that "the government of Venezuela has
ratified the Inter-American Convention Against
Terrorism...and has signed multiple UN conventions
on terrorism." Yet, the signature of
this anti-democratic leftist demagogue on
any international treaty hadly confirms his
peaceful and lawful intent.
An indignant Chávez also told foreign reporters
"I challenge the staff of US News and
World Report or its owners to come here and
look for one single shred of evidence, to
show the world one single shred of proof."
Chávez added that, "It is a strategy,
to launch an offensive by concocting anything
-- an assassination, a coup, an invasion."
As a diversion from his terror links, Chávez
has begun claiming loudly, and without any
substantiation, that the CIA is trying kill
Much of the problem with our reaction to Chávez
began with former US Ambassador to Venezuela,
John Maisto who I briefly served as a military
attaché at the US embassy in Caracas.
His soft approach to the leftist demagogue
was clearly flawed. Early on in Chávez's administration,
the U.S. ambassador downplayed the Chávez
threat, stating that it was Chávez's actions,
not words that really mattered.
Other Clinton administration officials echoed
that sentiment and said that we should ignore
Chávez's rhetoric. That approach became informally
known as the "Maisto doctrine."
Yet, Chávez's actions inexorably have matched
Despite his failure to appreciate the menace
of a Chávez-Castro alliance, Maisto was inexplicably
picked by the Bush administration to head
- until recently -- the Western Hemisphere
Affairs section at the National Security Council.
He is still influencing Latin America policy
as US Ambassador to the Organization of American
Fortunately, other members of Bush's National
Security team such as Presidential Envoy to
Latin America, Otto Reich and Assistant Secretary
of State for the Western Hemisphere Roger
Noriega do seem to understand the threat posed
by the Chávez-Castro terror nexus.
Given the mischief Castro and Chávez are pursuing,
Uncle Sam has his hands full dealing with
the two dangers on either end of the Caribbean.
Monday, March 8, 2004
To continue with this
non-biased and thought-provoking, well-written article
that gives an excellent explanation of how Venezuela
got into the predicament it now finds itself in, click
Venezuela - The "Useless
Saturday, March 6, 2004
An excellent, interesting
video message from Orlando Urdaneta
which describes, with some detail, the disaster and
futility of the Chávez presidency. It's an important
message that shouldn't be missed.
The above link is
in English, but you can also view it in Spanish, French,
or Italian by clicking on the appropriate link below:
If you're looking for
insight into Venezuela’s seemingly neverending political
crisis, section 301.81 of the American Psychiatric Association's
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would be an excellent place
to start. The entry reads eerily like a brief character
sketch of Venezuela's embattled president, Hugo Chávez:
"Has a grandiose sense of self-importance;
is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power,
brilliance; requires excessive admiration; has unreasonable
expectations of automatic compliance with his expectations;
shows arrogant behaviors or attitudes, etc."
Actually, it's the DSM-IV's diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic
Personality Disorder (NPD.)
long ago pegged Chávez as a textbook example of NPD. According
to the DSM-IV, a patient has NPD if he meets five of the nine
diagnostic criteria. But Dr. Alvaro Requena, a respected Venezuelan
psychiatrist, says Chávez "meets all nine of the diagnostic
criteria." Dr. Arturo Rodriguez Milliet, a colleague,
finds "a striking consensus on that diagnosis" among
Caracas psychiatrists. Not that it really takes an expert:
you only need to watch Chávez's constant cadena broadcasts,
where the president blusters, badgers, sings, reports, lectures,
recalls and issues orders live on every TV channel and every
radio station in the country, carrying presidential speeches
that can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 4 hours – one
never knows ahead of time.
Of course, lots of
politicians have some narcissistic traits - Washington, D.C.
is notorious for the size of its egos. NPD, however, is what
happens when those traits run amok, impairing sufferer’s
ability to interact with the world in a normal way. People
with NPD are so intimately convinced of the crushing weight
of their historical significance that they lose the ability
to interact with the world in anything like a way that most
people would recognize as normal.
Narcissism and political
power make an explosive combination. As Dr. Sam Vaknin, author
of Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited,
puts it, "the narcissist's grandiose self-delusions and
fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience are exacerbated by
real life authority." President Chávez has amassed more
real life authority than anyone in Venezuela's contemporary
history. When his considerable charisma and oratory ability
are added to this mix, the already volatile cocktail described
above becomes positively explosive.
Because in the mind
of a pathological narcissist, grandiose self-delusion often
masking deep insecurities and a fragile sense of ultimate
self-worth. The two tendencies co-exist in a sort of uneasy
truce. As Dr. Vaknin writes, "the narcissist's personality
is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a
hint of criticism and disagreement."
In Venezuela, over
the last five years, Chávez’s narcissism has led to
a systematic winnowing of the his pool of truly trusted advisors
and confidants (other than Fidel Castro, the one voice Chávez
does seem to listen to.) People with views that differ even
slightly from the comandante’s fall out of favor quickly,
At worst, those who
come to disagree openly with the president are openly demonized,
humiliated and threatened in cadenas in full view of the whole
country. Coming from a man with several paramilitary groups
at his command, these must be taken as serious threats.
Total loyalty to the
cult of personality is demanded, and total loyalty to the
cult of personality is obtained. More than evidently, only
rank sycophants and yes-men can survive in an inner circle
where such dynamics are at work. Also, clearly, no real policy
debate can take place: politicies will not be the result of
a process of genuine give and take. Instead, they will consist
in a series of military style orders that are mutually incoherent,
and very often wildly impracticable.
Thus, at different
times, we’ve been promised at least three mutually inconsistent
futures for the "camastron" (the 70s era Boeing
737 Chávez inherited and promptly, man of the people that
he is, replaced with a much larger $86 million dollar airbus.)
According to which side of the bed the president woke up on
this morning, the plane will either ferry poor Venezuelans
so they can visit the natural wonders of the Canaima flat-top
mountains, or it will be the first in a fleet of planes for
a future Vene-Caribean airline that will eventually penetrate
foreign markets, or it will be used to ferry Venezuelan patients
to Cuba for various operations, or none of these, or all of
these at the same time. None of these plans appears financially
viable for a state that is broke, but in combination, they
present a kind of burlesque of presidential narcissism at
What’s most perverse
about Chávez’s narcissism is that some people close
to him have clearly learned to manipulate it for their personal
purposes. Once you’ve caught on that feeding the president’s
narcissism is the way to get ahead in palace politics, what’s
the reasonable response? Feeding the president’s narcissism,
Over a period of years,
this dynamic has left Chávez worryingly isolated. It’s
probably been months or years now since the president has
been brought face to face with ideas different than his own,
with versions of reality that don’t conform to his own
sense of grandeur, (except for when he is conversing with
foreign leaders, of course.)
Under those circumstances,
anyone’s sense of reality would suffer. But if you’ve
started out with narcissistic tendencies, that level of isolation
is liable to push you over the edge altogether. With no critical
thinkers around anymore, no one willing to sit him down and
tell him the awful truth, there are no checks left on his
pathological relationship with reality.
To a pathological narcissist,
reality is little more than a hindrance. This is the heart
of the chavista mania for calling what is real virtual and
what is virtual real. As Dr. Rodriguez Milliet points out,
"Chávez’s discourse might be dissonant with reality,
but internally it’s scrupulously coherent." Chávez's
only concern is to preserve his romantic vision of himself
as a fearless leader of the downtrodden in their fight against
an evil oligarchy. If the facts don't happen to fit that narrative
structure, then that's too bad for the facts.
So it’s not that
Chávez lies, per se. It’s that he’s locked up
within a small, tight circle of confidants that feed an aberrant
relationship with reality. To lie is to knowingly deceive.
Chávez doesn’t lie.
He invents the
Obviously, there are
more than a few inconveniences to having a pathological narcissist
as president. For instance, it’s almost impossible for
narcissists to admit to past mistakes and make amends. The
narcissist’s chief, overriding psychological goal is
to preserve his grandiose self-image, his sense of being a
larger-than-life world historical force for good and justice.
Honestly admitting any mistake, no matter how banal, requires
a level of self-awareness and a sense for one’s own
limitations that runs directly counter to the forces that
drive a narcissist’s personality. Chávez cannot, never
has, and never will sincerely accept his own fallibility.
It’s just beyond him. And it's impossible for the movement
he's created to question him.
Once you have a basic
understanding of how their pathological personality structures
drive the behavior of people with NPD, Hugo Chávez is an open
book. Lots of little puzzles about the way the president behaves
are suddenly cleared up.
For instance, you start
to understand why Chávez sees no adversaries around him, only
enemies. It makes sense: the more he becomes preoccupied with“fantasies
of unlimited success, power and brilliance” the harder
it is for him to accept that anyone might have an honest disagreement
with him. Chávez is a man in rebellion against his own fallibility.
"As far as he can see," explains Dr. Requena, "if
anyone disagrees with him, that can only be because they are
wrong, and maliciously wrong."
People with NPD are
strongly sensitive to what psychiatrists call “narcissist
injury” – the psychic discombobulation that comes
from any input that undermines or negates the fantasies that
dominate their mindscape. Chávez clearly experiences disagreement
and dissent as narcissist injury, and as any psychiatrist
can tell you, an injured narcissist is liable to lash out
with virulent rage.
This pattern fits Chávez
to a frightening "T", if only on the rhetorical
level. 95% of his political reasoning is made up of ad hominem
attacks on those who dare question, along with the paranoid
preocupation with plots all around him, a kind of conspiracy
mentality the fringier parts of the first world left eat up
So I wonder. If only.
If only those first world sympathizers could sit own and hear
him talk, and hear him, and hear him like we Venezuelans have
heard him, and heard him, and heard him for hundreds of hours
of cadenas spanning back 5 years. If they could know the character
like we know the character, after hundreds of hours of forced
intimacy through the cadena system. Often, his slurs and insults
are almost comically overstated. He insists on describing
Venezuela's huge, diverse, and mostly democratic opposition
movement as a "conspiracy" led by a tiny cabal of
"coup-plotters, saboteurs and terrorists." These
attacks not only demonstrate the tragic extent of his disconnect
with reality, they have also thoroughly poisoned the political
atmosphere in Caracas, creating what's been described as a
"cold civil war."
If only they could
hear him the way we've heard him...how many of them would
earnestly consider someone like Chávez fit to rule their own
countries? 3%? More? How many pro-autocracy lefties are there
left in Europe?
But we, we have heard
him. We've been forced to hear him, we've been obligated to
participate in the cult of personality through our state funded
TV station and those hundreds of hours of Cadenas. So yes,
in Venezuela we know the character well by now.
This is precisely his
problem: too many of us know too much about him, about the
way he thinks and the way he leads to accept his brand of
Chávez's brand of intellectual
intolerance has turned the Venezuelan state into the most
autocratic in the Americas short of the one led by his hero,
Fidel Castro. It's no coincidence. In Dr. Milliet's view,
"narcissism leads directly to an autocratic approach
to power." Access to state jobs - a key source of livelihood
for millions of Venezuelans - is now openly dependent on civil
servant's acceptance of political blackmail. The regime no
longer even hides it. Anything is fair when it comes to protecting
the narcissist-in-chief's self-image.
The other facts are
well known, but they are worth re-hashing one-more time for
readers who don't follow all the ins and outs of the democratic
process here like we do.
President Chávez has
systematically placed diehard loyalists in key posts throughout
the state apparatus. When you come to understand his behavior
in terms of NPD, that’s not at all surprising: someone
who understands the world as a struggle between people who
agree with everything he says and does vs. evil will obviously
do everything in his power to place unconditional allies in
every position of power.
The case of the Attorney
General is especially worrying. With nothing like a special
counsel statute and no state criminal jurisdiction, the A.G.
must approve every single criminal investigation and prosecution
in Venezuela. Control this post, and you have total veto power
over the entire penal system. For this reason, the A.G. is
not a cabinet position in Venezuela like it is in the US.
Because of its key role in fighting corruption and keeping
watch over the legality of the government’s actions,
the A.G. is set up as a fully independent, apolitical office
in the Venezuelan constitution. But that clearly wouldn’t
do for Chávez. For this most sensitive of offices, Chávez
tapped perhaps his most unconditional ally, a doggedly loyal
chavista fresh from a stint as vicepresident of the republic.
It's like having Karl Rove as attorney general, and no independent
Not surprisingly, not
a single pro-Chávez official has been convicted of anything,
ever, despite numerous and well-documented allegations of
serious corruption, and a mountain of evidence to suggest
the government has organized its civilian supporters into
armed militias. The bargain is simple: in return for unrestricted
political support, the government remunerates the corrupt
and the criminal with total immunity from criminal prosecution.
It's quite that simple. The only real requisite for admission
into the protection afforded by their control of the state
is total submission to the leader's cult of personality. Not
surprisingly, many take the bargain.
This dynamic can rise
to almost incredible heights. Recently, a former student activist
with a murky criminal history and credibly linked with no
other than Iraq's Ba'ath Party, for God's sake, was recently
named to head an important office at the National Identification
Directorate! Can you imagine that? If this is the "model
of democracy" Chávez has in mind, he will doubtlessly
win the referendum with 100% of the vote and 100% turnout!
And indeed, today,
every nominally independent watchdog institution in the state,
from the Supreme Court to the Auditor General's office, is
run by a presidential crony. With the National Assembly operating
like a branch office of the presidential palace, the formal
checks-and-balances written into the constitution have become
Only CNE retains a
measure of independent credibility from both sides. Nothing
will be possible unless both sides solemnly pledge to accept
CNEs eventual decision. They should do this right now.
The reality is that
CNE has become a beacon of hope in Venezuelan society. On
the verge of the presidential recall, CNE stands as the sole
exception, the sole entity of the state that Hugo Chávez cannot
control at his pleasure, and my feeling is that, despite,
must we recall, it's roughly 3-2 nominal chavista majority,
a genuinely independent CNE is the biggest problem in Hugo
Chávez's immediate future. All five members of CNE must be
uniformly lauded for putting legality ahead of party loyalty
so far - a precedent that could serve as the seed for a true
democratic awakening in the post-Chávez period.
Some may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one...
The goal of a new,
more dynamic, more participative and much, much more inclusive
Venezuela is now within striking distance. The country need
not be dominated by a pathological narcissist much longer.
Sunday, February 29, 2004
Robert Mugabe and Hugo
Chávez: God Creates Them And They Get Together
By Gustavo Coronel
2004 - Arriving in Venezuela after a long plane trip
from Harare, Zimbabwe's despot Robert Mugabe rapidly proceeded
to fall asleep while Chávez was giving a speech and went
on to drop the replica of Bolívar's sword presented to
him by Chávez. Robert Mugabe, said the beaming Chávez,
"is a true warrior of freedom."
Mugabe has been in power
for 24 years. A few days ago, during the celebrations of his
80th birthday, he announced to the silent population of Zimbabwe
that he would rule for five more years, putting him in a league
with Fidel Castro, although a very distant second. During these
24 years Mugabe has managed to convert Zimbabwe into one of
the most backward countries in the world, ranked 145 among 174
nations according the United Nations, a drop of 15 places in
the last 5 years. His regime has been increasingly descending
into aggressive totalitarianism and racism. Only last year,
in June 2003, a coalition of African American organizations
denounced him as the leader of an "increasingly intolerant,
repressive and violent" government. One of the persons
signing this letter to Mugabe was Bill Fletcher, the president
of TransAfrica Forum, the same person who just visited Venezuela
and compared Chávez with Martin Luther King. This goes
to show that Mr. Fletcher still has not seen the glaring similarities
between Mugabe and Chávez and, just in case, I am not
talking color or mannerisms but all important political ideology
They are not identical
twins, of course. Mugabe seems to have been well educated. He
has a Master's degree in Economics from the University of London.
He was a teacher for some years until he became a full time
politician. Chávez has had a very spotty education and
his theatrical attempts at teaching have usually ended in embarrassment,
as he has misspelled words in front of the children. But their
political evolution is becoming more and more similar as time
goes by. Of course, the world already knows that Mugabe is a
despot but it is only starting to suspect that Chávez
is also one. Similarities include:
"Both surround themselves
with a cabinet stacked up with cronies. Chávez with Giordani,
Isturiz and Rangel. Mugabe with Moyo, Made and Chinamasa. These
men are supposed to solve the problems that they, themselves,
* Both have presided
over the economic and social collapse of their countries, Venezuela
dropping 24 places in the Human Development Index, Zimbabwe
15 places, both during the last five years.
* Both rely in the military
brass, which they control through the giving of special privileges
and absurd non-meritocratic promotions.
* Both are presidents
of the country and presidents of their own political parties,
and do not think much of such a dual role representing one of
the many varieties of political corruption.
* Both have started "land
reforms" which are leading their countries into agricultural
collapse, as the few existing efficient production units are
arbitrarily taken over and given to those who do not have the
knowledge and the technical assistance to make them productive.
* Both have created paramilitary
bands of armed thugs. In the case of Mugabe, his thugs are accused
of systematic raping of women. In the case of Chávez
the thugs are paid to harass political dissidents, up to the
extreme of stoning the coffin of our last Cardinal and spitting
on religious images.
* Both exhibit the same
menacing attitude against private business. Being in power longer,
being more advanced than Chávez in the path of totalitarianism,
Mugabe has actually confiscated numerous private companies:
sugar corporations, lands, and South African interests. Chávez,
so far, has only threatened with doing so, since he does not
yet feel strong enough to really do it.
* Both have blood on
their hands. Mugabe has been accused of murdering and torturing
many of his opponents. Chávez has not done so yet but
his failed military coup of 1992 and the massacre his followers
engineered in Caracas, in April 2002, left well over a hundred
* Both exhibit total
disdain for international civilized co-existence. Mugabe has
broken Zimbabwe's ties with the Commonwealth and forced the
European community into sanctioning his government. Chávez
is doing all he can to create a political crisis with the US
and is leading Venezuela into a tragic situation of international
isolation. His government is fast becoming a rogue and pariah
government while Zimbabwe's already is.
* Both think of themselves
as being above the Law. When Mugabe says: "I will be in
power five more years" he is not being modest. After all,
he has already been there for 24 years. Chávez says:
"I will be in power until 2021" because he has to
catch up with Mugabe. Chávez, in saying this, reveals
his totalitarian nature, as he cannot possibly rule until 2021
within constitutional means. He clearly pretends to become a
* Both have big mouths,
not in the physical sense, but in the sense of talking too much.
They are boastful and love the sound of their own voices.
* Both are insensitive
to social and economic issues and totally oriented to political
survival. They would not care less if their countries went bankrupt,
as long as they survive in power.
* Both are signing an
agreement for "economic" cooperation, a pathetic case
of the blind leading the blind.
Chávez has already
given ample signs of his preferences for allies: the Colombian
guerrillas, the Cuban dictator, the coca grower, the flamboyant
Libyan Colonel, the former dictator Hussein and, now, Robert
Mugabe. In Venezuela we say: "Por la maleta se saca al
pasajero." Roughly translated: You can know all about a
traveler by looking at his suitcase.
Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Why the Left Fears
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004
Monday, February 16, 2004
Condoleezza Rice is
a "true illiterate," said a patronizing Venezuelan
President Hugo Chávez.
This Marxist thug added that he had asked his comrade Cuban
dictator Fidel Castro to mail America’s National Security
Advisor samples of Cuban books now being used to teach Venezuelan
children literacy to “see if she learns to respect the
dignity of the people and learns a bit about us."
Chávez is both a racist and a puny macho sexist to make such
stupid remarks. His stunted manhood is threatened by criticism
from this powerful woman.
Condoleezza Rice, who
recently called on Chávez to accept the democratic vote of Venezuelans
in a legitimate election to recall him, is, as many have noted,
"the most powerful woman in the world."
Dr. Rice understands
collectivist terrorist murderers like Chávez better than do
most Americans, and not only because she is a highly regarded
expert on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Most of us awakened to
the threat of terrorism only on September 11, 2001. Rice as
a 9-year-old African-American girl in Birmingham, Alabama, in
September 1963 felt the ground shake from a racist’s dynamite
bomb going off in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church only blocks
away from the church where her father, John, was pastor.
Among the four black
girls murdered in that hate crime that shocked our nation’s
conscience was Rice’s 11-year-old friend and schoolmate
Denise McNair. She remembers their funeral and how small their
been through homegrown terrorism,” said Dr. Rice, “you
recognize there isn’t any cause that can be served by
it. ... Because what it’s meant to do is end the conversation.”
Racism is a collectivist
idea that denies human dignity by defining individuals as members
of mythical collective racial groups. Socialism and Marxism
are collectivist ideas that deny human dignity by judging individuals
only as members of mythical class groups and by declaring all
human beings to be slaves whose lives and labors belong to the
collectivist state, as in Castro’s Cuba and increasingly
in Chávez’s Venezuela. The indoctrination of this dehumanizing
idea, as we shall see, is what Chávez means by Marxist education.
But first, let’s
look more closely at the “illiterate” Dr. Condoleezza
Rice. Leftists such as Hugo Chávez have tried to silence or
discredit this “uppity” powerful black woman with
insults. The Leftist media inside the U.S. have tried either
to ignore her or to diminish her with the most vicious, loathsome
and toxic kinds of racist satire, mockery, denigration, insults
Harry Belafonte, an outspoken supporter of Fidel Castro and
the Democratic Party, called Rice a “Jew” and a
“slave who lived in the house” and “served
Leftists engage in such
verbal terrorism against Bush administration National Security
Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell
out of fear, wrote distinguished African-American journalist
and liberal Clarence Page.
The Democratic Party
depends on blacks for 18 percent of its votes. Its survival
depends on keeping those voters as a solid, owned bloc of slaves,
chained by dependency and fear, down on the plantation of the
A powerful, successful
Republican role model such as Condoleezza Rice could show young
blacks an alternative to dependency on Democrats.
What if African-Americans
notice that Democrats (the party of the slave owners, the Klan,
Jim Crow and Bull Connor) talk about helping them but hold them
down? And at the same time, the Republicans (party of the Great
Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, who freed their ancestors from
Democrat slave owners) have advanced blacks to the highest echelon
of actual power in the Bush administration.
To prevent African-Americans
from opening their hypnotized eyes to this self-evident truth
and reconsidering why they vote for a party that chains and
exploits them, Dr. Rice has been targeted for every kind of
insult and attack possible. She must be politically assassinated.
This is why Leftists
have been using character assassination against Dr. Rice to
“end the conversation” about how little the Democratic
Party has done for blacks ... and about how much the Republican
Party is now doing.
(And the same Marxist
tactics are being used against Latino Republican candidates,
one of whom days ago was smeared by a desperate, racist Democratic
National Committee official and Howard Dean operative as a “house
Mexican for the Republicans.” This is yet more evidence
of Dean’s implicit racism.)
So, who is Condoleezza
Rice, this bright black woman whose mere presence strikes terror
into the hearts of Leftists?
Condi, as friends call
her, was born November 14, 1954, in what his 1963 Letter from
a Birmingham Jail Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would call “probably
the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.”
During the Civil Rights struggle it came also to be called “Bombingham,”
with racist explosives killing not only Rice’s friend
and three other girls but also shattering the home of black
civil rights lawyer Arthur Shores and terrifying the African-American
went to police headquarters to demand an investigation,”
wrote Dale Russakoff in the Washington Post Magazine. “They
didn’t investigate,” Condoleezza Rice has said.
“They never investigated.”
The police commissioner
in Birmingham who would not investigate was Bull Connor, a Democrat
who perfectly embodies everything that political party has always
stood for. When civil rights protesters arrived, Connor unleashed
his dogs and fire hoses on them.
writes Russakoff, “then did what black fathers all over
Birmingham were doing – what Alma Powell remembers her
own father doing then, when she happened to be home with her
babies during her husband’s [Colin Powell’s] tour
in Vietnam: They got out their shotguns and formed nightly patrols,
guarding the streets themselves.”
One of the many dirty
secrets of the Democratic Party is that its passion for gun
control began, and continues to be, from a desire to disarm
African-Americans and thereby make them powerless and dependent.
Russian expert Michael McFaul, writes Russakoff, “remembers
[Condoleezza] Rice telling him she opposed gun control and even
gun registration because Bull Connor could have used it to disarm
her father and others” in 1963.
Condi Rice remembers
many lessons of how her mother and father stood up to segregationists,
refusing again and again to accept the inferior place into which
the white Democratic bosses of Birmingham tried to push blacks.
She remembers learning from her grandfather that “You
have control, you’re proud, you have integrity, nobody
can take those things away from you.”
aunts were among the first nursing graduates of Tuskegee Institute,
founded by Booker T. Washington. By hard work he would put his
children through college, and they would marry into other African-American
families with passionate faith in the power of education.
“My family is third-generation
college-educated,” says Dr. Condoleezza Rice, winner of
the NAACP Image Award. “I should’ve gotten to where
Both her father, the
Rev. John W. Rice Jr., then pastor of Westminster Presbyterian
Church and dean of historically black Stillman College, and
mother Angelena, a science and music teacher at a local black
high school, were committed to providing the best education
possible for their daughter. Her name, Condoleezza, comes from
the Italian musical notation “con dulce” or “con
dolcezza,” meaning to play “with sweetness.”
Condi began piano lessons
at age 3 and by age 4 was accompanying the choir at her father’s
church. She learned to read music before she, by age 5, could
fluently read English. When the local superintendent of Negro
schools decided that Condi was too young to attend first grade,
Angelena took a year off from work to teach her daughter at
home. Condi was soon mastering figure skating, French, ballet,
Latin and a host of other advanced skills.
Playing Bach and Beethoven
even before her feet could reach the piano’s pedals, Condoleezza
pursued becoming a concert pianist. At age 13 her family moved
to Colorado, where her father became a University of Denver
assistant dean. She enrolled there at age 15, graduating Phi
Beta Kappa, magna cum laude, at age 19 when most other youngsters
are just beginning college.
But by then she recognized
that she lacked the skill to become one of a handful of pianists
able to reach the top of that profession and would probably
end up “teaching 13-year-olds to murder Beethoven for
One day she found herself
in a classroom fascinated by Josef Korbel, former Marxist Czech
diplomat, as he expounded on the Byzantine nature of Soviet
politics and Stalin. “There was so much intrigue,”
Rice says. “I decided I wanted to study the Soviet Union.”
“It was like falling
in love,” she told Essence Magazine. “I just suddenly
knew that’s what I wanted to do. ... Soviet politics,
Korbel, who became Rice’s
mentor and career booster, is the father of Clinton administration
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Condoleezza went on to
earn a master's degree in international relations at Notre Dame,
then a Ph.D. at the University of Denver. The year she completed
her doctorate, 1981, she was offered a teaching job at Stanford
University. She is author or co-author of several scholarly
books, including "Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union
and the Czechoslovak Army: 1948-1983," "The Gorbachev
Era" and "Germany Unified and Europe Transformed:
A Study in Statecraft."
Her expertise on the
Soviet Union soon earned Rice an advisory position with the
Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1986 and, with the recommendation of
Brent Scowcroft, a place on President George H.W. Bush’s
National Security Council in 1989.
She returned to Stanford
in 1991, becoming provost of that great university in 1993,
with oversight of its $1.5 billion budget. She has also served
on the boards of Notre Dame University, the San Francisco Symphony,
the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, San Francisco PBS affiliate
KQED, and other institutions. She co-founded the Center for
a New Generation to help educate gifted minority students, as
she was and is.
When they first talked,
she and George W. Bush, both big sports fans and devout Christians,
hit it off immediately. “America will find that she is
a wise person,” the president-elect said when announcing
her as his pick to become National Security Advisor in December
2000. “I trust her judgment.”
Rice is part of a tiny
Bush inner circle of brilliant advisers – including Vice
President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State George Schultz
and Pentagon analyst Paul Wolfowitz – nicknamed for their
superior intellects as “The Vulcans,” in the spirit
of Mr. Spock and other Vulcans in “Star Trek.”
Now, at age 49, Condi
Rice has already become what Business Week magazine called probably
the most influential National Security Advisor since Henry Kissinger
in the 1970s. When she, as one of two top foreign policy advisers
to the president of the United States, criticizes or challenges
Hugo Chávez, it is no wonder that this nasty little Marxist
tyrant shakes with fear and rage.
Chávez knows perfectly
well that Dr. Rice is not illiterate. In fact, she is an expert
on Marxism, the Soviet Union and the kind of tactics Chávez
and his ally Fidel Castro are now using to subvert Venezuela
as well as several other Latin American nations. Her expertise
is helping shape the hard line that President Bush has taken
against Fidel Castro at this week’s summit of Western
Hemispheric democracies in Monterrey, Mexico.
The difference between
the Marxist indoctrination of Chávez and Castro and the kind
of education that lifted Condoleezza Rice and her family is
clear. An enlightenment Western education of the kind that informed
America’s Founders is one that respects and empowers individuals.
One of the only three
things Thomas Jefferson wanted inscribed on his tombstone and
wished to be remembered for was the founding of the University
of Virginia – and what it represented: universal education
to empower every American with the basic tools of literacy.
Jefferson wanted all
to be educated, not to teach conformity but so that every citizen
could read the revolutionary pamphlets of future Tom Paines.
Jefferson understood that revolution is a never-ending process,
that each new generation must rise up and rein in the tendency
of government to take more and more power from the people.
“If a nation expects
to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization,”
wrote Jefferson, “it expects what never was and never
Dr. Condoleezza Rice
is a living symbol of the liberating power of education, determination
Hugo Chávez is also to
some degree educated. He reportedly in 1975 earned master's
degrees in military sciences and engineering from the Venezuelan
Academy of Military Sciences. He also studied for a master's
degree in political sciences at the Simon Bolivar University
in Caracas but reportedly never graduated.
Like so many on the political
Left, Chávez has the education of a technocrat and the soul
of a machine. His is a mind without beauty, without love, without
any depth of human compassion or comprehension, without respect
for the unique talent of each individual. No wonder one wife
divorced him and a second left. No wonder he has imported more
than 10,000 Cuban operatives and tons of Cuban textbooks to
indoctrinate the children of Venezuela with Marxist racist-like
ideas of class hatred and class war.
To understand the Left,
here and in Cuba, ponder the documentary “90 Miles”
by Juan Carlos Zaldivar, aired on the PBS show “POV”
on July 29, 2003.
“In 1980, I was
a thirteen-year-old communist living in Cuba,” Zaldivar’s
personal story begins. “The Revolution was the biggest
thing in my life. Bigger than religion, or anything else.”
This documentary follows
his reluctant move with his family to the United States via
the Mariel boatlift and his comparison of Cuba and the U.S.
As you would expect from
the Public Broadcasters of Socialism, this documentary is not
entirely positive toward America. It shows Juan’s father
“bitter,” disappointed with his inability to become
rich in the U.S. and “defeated by the American dream for
which he sacrificed everything in 1980.” It takes viewers
back to Cuba and depicts people there as relatively happy.
And Zaldivar identifies
himself as part of a politically correct minority, gays –
while never mentioning Fidel Castro’s monstrous history
of imprisoning, torturing and killing people simply because
they are homosexuals.
But in this documentary
we find that in Communist Cuba “instead of going to school,
my class would join demonstrations that publicly humiliated
the people who were deserting [leaving]. They were called ‘acts
of hate.’ We’d build bond fires [sic]. ... And we’d
make dummies out of uniforms that people left behind. We would
stuff them with their pillows and then we would burn them. ...
One afternoon, I saw a mob of my school friends chasing a student
and her mother. The mother was caught sneaking her daughter
out of school to take her out of the country.”
In addition to such lynch-mob
“acts of hate,” Zaldivar says: In Cuba we had to
wear uniforms to school. In Miami, we could wear whatever we
wanted. I didn’t like that. It created this atmosphere
that there was nobody to answer to. ...”
“I remembered how
safe one feels in a crowd,” he says of the Orwellian groupthink
“During the first
two years [in Miami], I was very outspoken,” says Zaldivar.
“I was still spouting out communist slogans.”
His father explains to
him how Fidel and the Marxists too control over who got what
in Cuba. “You had to apply and they gave you a house,”
the father says. “When they came to check me out, they
saw pictures of saints on the walls. So they never gave me a
His father had supported
Castro’s revolution, and continued to be a block leader
for it prior to deciding to leave for the United States. He
was a man insufficiently loyal to either system, viewers are
left to conclude, and fell between the two stools.
This columnist has also
seen Castro’s educational system firsthand, albeit briefly.
As a journalist in Cuba to do a piece for the Los Angeles Times,
I visited a Potemkin Village school shown off to foreign visitors.
Oddly, the pride of this school was its adjoining factory, into
which young students were marched to work half of each day,
burning their hands with acid as they manufactured batteries.
If such a thing happened
in the U.S., it would be denounced as brutal exploitation of
child labor. Visiting Leftists to Fidel’s factory-school,
of course, make no such criticisms of Cuba whatsoever.
And, needless to say,
we were not shown how those who fail to conform and succeed
as Communists in Cuba’s schools are required to live out
their short lives in the hot sun cutting sugarcane for 10 Cuban
pesos a month – much the way slaves lived in Cuba centuries
This school had a black
principal – the only instance in Cuba where I saw a black
person in a position of power. As Cuban-American author Humberto
Fontova (whose current best-seller is "The Hellpig Hunt")
explained to me, Leftist Hollywood movies about Cuba typically
depict Castro’s revolutionaries overthrowing a blond,
blue-eyed dictator Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar. Batista, however,
in real life was a dark-skinned mulatto of black ancestry from
a poor farming family.
It is Castro who embodies
the white Spaniard colonial ruling class and whose father was
a crime boss in Cuba ... just as Fidel is a crime boss today.
And under Batista, Cuba had the third-highest standard of living
in the Western Hemisphere, while today this Marxist prison colony
is near or at the bottom. This, notes Fontova, is typical of
the lies America’s Leftist media use to brainwash Americans.
This is also typical
of the lies in Cuban textbooks now being used by Hugo Chávez
to enslave the children of Venezuela – and of the Left-slanted
faculties that former Marxist intellectual David Horowitz has
been fighting to diversify at the University of Denver and other
institutions of higher learning.
Call it Red-ucation in
the enslaving spirit of Karl Marx, not education in the empowering
spirit of Thomas Jefferson and Condoleezza Rice.
Here’s one lesson
to remember: A major 1986 textbook dealing with Marxist education
lists 15 significant nations that were then Communist. Today,
18 years later, more than half of those nations are no longer
Communist. Guess who is winning the global battle for hearts
A second lesson: As Condoleezza
Rice so admirably teaches by example, we must never permit the
collectivist thugs, here or abroad, to stifle or end the conversation.
Mr. Ponte hosts a national radio talk
show Saturdays 6-9 p.m. Eastern Time (3-6 p.m. Pacific Time) and
Sundays 9 p.m.-midnight Eastern Time (6-9 p.m. Pacific Time) on
the Liberty Broadcasting network (formerly TalkAmerica). Internet
Audio worldwide is at LibertyBroadcasting.com.
The show’s live call-in number is (888) 822-8255. A professional
speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader’s
Is Protecting Hugo Chávez?
By Christopher Whalen Insight Magazine | November
Last year a popular but disorganized opposition
movement in Venezuela threatened the government of Hugo Chávez,
the self-styled populist who has taken that nation's battered
political economy on a strange journey into social chaos after
gaining power in 1999. In March of last year, Insight
predicted the ouster of Chávez and he was forced out
of office. But a bizarre combination of factors returned this
protégé of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro to power.
More than a year later, experts on Latin America
tell this magazine that Washington's soft line on Chávez
in Venezuela adversely is affecting U.S. security and the stability
of the entire region. This hands-off policy toward Chávez
seems to originate from the highest levels of the Bush administration,
these foreign-policy specialists say, and has evolved to the
point of negligence of a crisis that already constitutes the
greatest threat to regional stability since Castro took power
in Cuba in 1959. Indeed, even as Congress has been intent upon
removing travel restrictions to Castro's island prison, say
these regional specialists, the Cuban leader is working with
Chávez to destabilize governments in the region.
A senior U.S. official who worked in Venezuela
during the rise of Chávez speaks with grudging admiration
of the Venezuelan leader's classic Marxist-Leninist approach
to expanding power: two steps forward, one step back. "Chávez
is constantly underestimated by people who do not understand
his patient, methodical approach to recruiting and strategy,"
says this retired Army officer. "Chávez never provokes
the U.S. or other nations, but instead works obliquely to erode
the position of his enemies."
As an example of Chávez's successful
approach, the official cites U.S. Ambassador to the Organization
of American States (OAS)
John Maisto, a former ambassador to Venezuela and Nicaragua.
He reports that Maisto was the chief exponent of what the source
calls the absurd argument that Chávez is a democrat at
heart and that the United States should not "push"
Chávez into the arms of Castro. "Maisto did the
same thing in Nicaragua," says the official, "until
Washington lit a fire under him." In fact, this observer
says, Chávez has been a radical all his life, influenced
by Marxist and authoritarian political theorists, and has been
expanding his influence in the region using his links to Cuba
and terrorist groups in the Middle East [see "Fidel May
Be Part of Terror Campaign," Dec. 3, 2001, and "Fidel's
Successor in Latin America," April 30, 2001].
On Oct. 6, U.S. News & World
Report published a scathing exposé by Linda
Robinson on Venezuela's links to terrorism, including the fact
that the Chávez regime "is giving out thousands
of Venezuelan identity documents that are being distributed
to foreigners from Middle Eastern nations, including Syria,
Pakistan, Egypt and Lebanon." And Robinson confirms earlier
Insight reports that Chávez has provided training facilities
for known terrorist groups such as Hamas,
Hezbollah and Islamiyya
al Gammat, which operate from Margarita Island
off the coast of Venezuela. She cites Gen. James Hill of
the U.S. Southern Command, who said in a speech last month:
"These groups generate funds through money laundering,
drug trafficking or arms deals and make millions of dollars
every year via their multiple illicit activities. These logistic
cells reach back to the Middle East."
Robinson also quotes Roger Noriega, the new
U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs,
as saying: "Any actions that undermine democratic order
or threaten the security and well-being of the region are of
legitimate concern to all of Venezuela's neighbors." Noriega
told the House International Relations Committee on
Oct. 21 that "the government of Venezuela has a special
responsibility to ensure that all Venezuelans are able to exercise
their constitutional rights to freedom of association and expression."
But readers of Insight
should not take his comments as any indication of a coherent
U.S. policy toward Venezuela, real or imagined. No amount of
effort by Noriega and his like-minded peers can make up for
the fact that the Bush administration has failed to confront
the growing threat in Venezuela. Indeed, when it suits his tactical
situation, Chávez attacks Washington with impunity to
energize his political supporters. Most recently, Chávez
claimed that the CIA is plotting to
overthrow the Venezuelan government and assassinate him. Secretary
of State Colin Powell called such accusations "absurd,"
but insists that "it's up to the Venezuelan people to determine
who their president will be, not up to the United States of
Though it went unnoticed in the major media,
Robinson's article landed like a bomb in the hear-no-evil atmosphere
from which Washington has ignored Chávez. According to
well-placed sources in Caracas, shortly after the article appeared
on newsstands, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Charles Shapiro
met with Chávez and assured him that the State Department
is not in the least hostile to him. But an outraged administration
source tells Insight that the Robinson
article "just scratched the surface" and there is
a great deal of activity in Venezuela that requires U.S. attention.
Irate military sources say Shapiro, a career Foreign Service
officer with extensive experience in Cuba and other Latin America
posts, effectively has shut down intelligence gathering by the
U.S. Embassy in Caracas.
In September, Martin Arostégui of UPI
reported Chávez had dismantled U.S.-trained intelligence
units that tracked terrorist connections among the half-million
members of the Venezuelan Arab community and instead had brought
in Cuban and Libyan advisers to run his security services, according
to U.S., British and other European diplomatic officials in
Caracas. He also reported that Caracas refuses to cooperate
with the FBI and other U.S. agencies
trying to track the whereabouts of Venezuelan nationals of Arab
descent with links to the 9/11 terrorists who flew an American
Airlines jet into the Pentagon.
The lack of concern shown by Washington toward
mounting evidence of a national-security threat emanating from
Venezuela can be explained on a number of levels, say Washington
insiders. First and foremost, says one, is the legacy of James
Baker III, the former secretary of state and of the Treasury
under Ronald Reagan and today a key member of George W. Bush's
inner circle. This well-placed source charges that Team Bush
is so focused on Europe and Asia that it has tended to ignore
Latin America. He says this appears to have resulted in the
United States having no policy on the region generally, or even
toward problematic venues such as Cuba and Venezuela.
For example, while members of the U.S. military
and policy communities talk freely about the growing terrorist
threat in Venezuela, some Bush officials deny any problem exists.
After the appearance of the Robinson article, Brig. Gen. Benjamin
R. Mixon, director of operations at the Pentagon's Miami-based
U.S. Southern Command, was following the official line
when he told the Miami Herald that
Southern Command has no information about Venezuela
supporting terrorists. Yet the daily El Mundo
in Caracas says that the article in U.S. New &
World Report "tells us nothing that we have
not known for a long time."
Is it possible senior U.S. officials responsible
for regional security don't know what is known even to Venezuela's
tabloids? No, sources say, the information is widely known,
but the White House has not had a sufficient sense of urgency
to forge a consistent policy on what to do about Chávez.
Another reason suggested for the hands-off policy is that Chávez
has welcomed U.S. oil-services companies even as he has built
a forward-operations base for terrorists that potentially could
be used to strike the U.S. mainland. Companies such as Halliburton,
ConocoPhillips and other U.S. giants
have taken the lion's share of Venezuela's oil-contract business,
say senior officials in Washington, leaving little reason for
these corporations to complain about Venezuela's left-wing government.
Indeed, Washington insiders say part of the
reason the White House has not taken a strong position in dealing
with Chávez is that the Marxist leader has several very
effective advocates. First and foremost is U.S. Ambassador to
the OAS Maisto. The inside account
goes that Maisto was diverted from retirement, first to take
the Western Hemisphere post on the National Security
Council (NSC) and now
the OAS post because Vice President
Dick Cheney valued his expertise in the region and also because
he wanted to thank Maisto for sorting out a difficult legal
problem in Venezuela for Halliburton
when Cheney was the company's chief executive officer and Maisto
was serving under Clinton during his tenure as ambassador.
Maisto served as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela
and to Nicaragua and as special assistant to President Bush
and senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the NSC.
Several Latin specialists in Washington say Maisto has been
among the chief proponents of ignoring the deteriorating situation
in Venezuela, arguing that Chávez's bark is worse than
his bite. With an inside track to Cheney because of his former
tenure in Venezuela and his work on "Plan Colombia"
when he was assigned to Southern Command in Miami,
Maisto reportedly has been one of Chávez's most effective
protectors. Gonzalo Gallegos, public-affairs adviser at the
State Department, refused to comment about Maisto's views on
Chávez, but confirmed that U.S. officials recently have
had discussions with the Chávez government "at the
highest levels" about the need to be vigilant against terrorism.
Maisto is described as a pragmatist within
the Bush inner circle, but there also are prominent Republicans
reportedly working for Chávez behind the scenes, among
them former New York congressman and GOP vice-presidential nominee
Jack Kemp. The Wall Street Journal
reported in June that Kemp developed a friendship with the Venezuelan
ambassador in Washington, former oil executive Bernardo Álvarez,
and accompanied him on public-relations missions, including
an editorial-board meeting at the Journal.
Kemp's office at Empower America did
not return repeated calls by Insight
seeking to ask if the former congressman has been acting as
an unregistered agent of Venezuela.
Kemp reportedly is trying to sell crude oil
to the U.S. Strategic Reserve on behalf
of a company formed by the Venezuelan government to sell royalty
oil. The newsletter Petroleum World
reports that the company, Free Market Petroleum
LLC, has links to international fugitive Marc
Rich, who received a last-minute pardon from outgoing president
Bill Clinton. According to Petroleum World:
"Jack Kemp ... is using his unquestionable influence in
the U.S. political scene to try to swing a deal of over $1.2
billion in Venezuelan oil, serving on the side as a public-relations
adviser to Bernardo Álvarez and the Chávez government.
The 'normal' commissions on such a deal would be of the order
of $50 million. Not bad."
Neither Kemp nor his firm are registered with
the U.S. Justice Department as foreign agents for Venezuela.
Also helping to keep Chávez in power
has been the attention of Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), at
the time of the brief coup the chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs,
and his chief foreign-policy aide, Janice O'Connell. Columnist
Robert Novak wrote in April that Dodd and particularly O'Connell
hold a grudge against Assistant Secretary of State Otto Reich,
a conservative and anticommunist. This antagonism to Reich in
particular, and conservatives generally, fuels Dodd's aggressive
stance on U.S. policy in Latin America.
Novak reported and Insight
sources confirm that, with the Democrats in control of the Senate,
O'Connell made it clear to career officials in the State Department
that it was she who was calling the shots on U.S. policy in
Latin America. As a result, career State Department officials
were unwilling to take risks by supporting the democratic opposition
in Venezuela for fear of retribution by O'Connell. Foreign policy
insiders say that during the 48-hour period when Chávez
was removed from the presidency, Dodd's office was very active
- and successful - at guaranteeing that Washington did nothing
to assure Chávez's permanent ouster. "Dodd clearly
called the shots on Latin America policy," said one State
Department official. "There is no conservative counterbalance
to Janice O'Connell in the Senate now that Jesse Helms is gone."
O'Connell did not return telephone calls seeking comment for
A year ago this magazine reported that House
International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde,
R-IL, sent Bush a powerfully phrased letter warning that the
triumvirate of political extremists leading economic powerhouse
Brazil, oil giant Venezuela and the terrorist-sponsoring regime
of Cuba had become an emerging Axis of Evil that the United
States must stop. Nonetheless, the Bush administration studiously
has ignored the deteriorating political situation in Caracas
and, indeed, has gone out of its way to comfort and reassure
the Chávez government even as he uses thuggish tactics
to obliterate what remains of Venezuela's political opposition.
One of the more egregious examples of Washington's
conflicting signals regarding Venezuela came when the State
Department stripped the U.S. visa of Venezuelan Gen. Enrique
Medina after he participated in a public protest against the
Chávez government. In a May 21 letter from the U.S. Embassy
obtained by Insight, general counsel
Sandra J. Salmon informed Medina that his tourist and consular
visas had been revoked because of "involvement in terrorism."
The real crime committed by the former military attaché
for Venezuela in Washington and division commander was that
he was seeking political redress from Venezuela's anti-American
One military officer who has known Medina for
decades says that he is a true friend of the United States and
that the withdrawal of his visa by the State Department for
resisting Chávez illustrates the policy muddle that now
prevails in Washington. Medina wrote in the Caracas daily El
Universal on Oct. 8 that while Chávez may
believe he has "neutralized the armed forces in Venezuela
with acts of open repression and less obvious attacks on political
liberties," the day is approaching when the military will
not tolerate further political outrages.
senior policy analyst for Latin America Stephen Johnson argues
that ignoring Chávez no longer is the best way to deal
with him, if it ever was, and that the White House needs to
articulate a clear policy toward this Castroite demagogue. Indeed,
some U.S. officials believe that because of the growing presence
of Middle East terrorists operating freely in the country, the
Bush administration soon may be faced with a Caracas-based threat
- or an actual attack on the U.S. homeland from radical Islamists
operating from a training base in that country.
A senior U.S. military
officer intimately familiar with the situation confirms that
the all-important Venezuelan army has been "cleansed"
of independent elements and now is under the control of pro-Chávez
activists and the growing ranks of Cuban advisers. "A lot
of former officers in the Venezuelan army rue the day that Chávez
was allowed to return to power," the U.S. expert on Venezuela
laments. "They believe that last year's abortive coup may
have been the last chance to save their country."
October 17, 2003
Venezuela's Reign of Terror
- By Mary Anastasia O'Grady
4:45 on the morning of September 25, 90 well-armed
military men burst into Los Semerucos, a PdVSA
workers' camp in the [Venezuelan] state of Falcón
attacking some 300 residents with tear-gas bombs
and rubber bullets, with the objective of evicting
them from their homes."
Gente del Petróleo,
a nongovernmental organization that represents
former workers of the state-owned oil company
(PdVSA), who Venezuelan President
Hugo Chávez fired earlier this year because
they went on strike. The workers were protesting
what they say is the politicization by Mr. Chávez
of a company long known for its merit-based
promotions and management.
claims that since the strike, the unemployed
oil workers have become targets of a government-sponsored
campaign of violence and harassment designed
to teach other would-be critics a lesson.
brutal action," Gente del Petróleo
writes in an open letter of testimony, "in
which men, women and children were savagely
beaten and humiliated and in which 26 locals
were arrested, marked the beginning of a more
repressive phase of the political persecution
that 20,000 Venezuelan families have been subjected
to during all of this year, for their dissent
from the government regime."
is classic Chávez politics. In the Bolivarian
Revolution, opponents are fair game in every
sense. Indeed, enemies must be terrorized and
destroyed, not only to remove a particular resistance
but also to signal society that dissent is a
dead end. The oil workers, who were middle-class
and heavily dependent on the company, are just
the right group to make an example of. For five
years Mr. Chávez has preached hate, fomented
odious class conflict and instructed his civilian
supporters in the ways of Cuba's 11 acts of
counterrevolutionaries. The assaults on the
oil workers were entirely predictable
What is more surprising
is the response from Washington, or more accurately,
the lack thereof. In recent years, certain
members of Congress have been seemingly overcome
with preoccupation and sympathy for Latin
American workers. Just this spring Michigan
Democrat Sandy Levin traveled to Guatemala
to insist that International Labor Organization
standards be incorporated in trade agreements.
Yet according to the labor syndicate that
the fired Venezuelan workers have formed,
Unapetrol, the U.S. Congress
has not provided a lick of support for their
cause. Mr. Levin explained to me yesterday
that "no one in Congress or the administration
has viewed this as a separate issue of labor
rights but rather as part of a political struggle.
To the extent that Chávez has violated
core ILO standards it should be as much of
a concern as it would be anywhere else."
cynical view might conclude that notwithstanding
the rhetoric from the likes of Mr. Levin, Washington's
real concern when it comes to Latin labor is
ensuring that the cost of output from the developing
world is sufficiently high to protect its labor
constituency in the U.S.
Congress recognizes it or not, the treatment
of the fired PdVSA
employees is nothing short of criminal. The
crimes go well beyond the fact that the workers
have been fired in a manner thoroughly inconsistent
with Venezuelan law. One may argue that the
government had a right to remove them because
the strike paralyzed One may argue that the
government had a right to remove them because
the strike paralyzed PdVSA.
Yet no private sector company can remove striking
employees in this way, and certainly not without
paying a hefty severance.
A Venezuelan court has ruled against PdVSA
in the matter and the company has appealed to
the Supreme Court. In the meantime it has ignored
the lower court ruling.
There are also the housing evictions, nearly
impossible under Venezuelan law and never
with such terrifying force. Moreover, the
court order that supposedly allowed the action
was issued eight hours after troops moved
in. Still, for Mr. Chávez, taking
It also says that the
case has been hampered by the fact that the
government has not allowed the ILO
into the country. Still, Unapetrol is hoping
for an ILO ruling
in its favor in November.
Tuesday, a Venezuelan NGO - Force for Integration
- will use the case of the Los Semerucos evictions
as part of its proof in oral arguments to a
Spanish court that Mr. Chávez, Vice President
Jose Vicente Rangel, Attorney General Isaias
Medina and some 22 members of Mr. Chávez's
tactical committee for the national revolution
are committing crimes against humanity and acts
of Force for Integration told me that
the case includes evidence and testimony that
proves Venezuelan assistance to Colombian guerrillas
and Cuban ties to the Chávez regime.
But equally importantly the case will show the
regime's atrocities against its own people.
Indeed, the most alarming thing about this government
is the legitimacy it claims as a democratically
elected power on the one hand and the systematic
suppression and eradication of the opposition
on the other. Exhibit A to prove the government's
bad faith is the organized vengeance - military,
paramilitary and financial - unleashed against
Mr. Chávez's opponents in the oil company.
Chávez regime's brutal treatment of oil
workers is nothing short of criminal.
jobs and homes away was not enough. He has also
confiscated their savings and pensions. To finish
the job of destroying them he has decreed to
all contractors and suppliers of PdVSA
that, under penalty of contract termination,
they may not hire the former oil workers.
Sept. 26, the Interr-American Regional Association
of Workers, part of the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions,
condemned the government's "attacks perpetrated
against the workers and their defenseless families
including women and very young children. "
It demanded that Venezuela "cease the inhuman
harassment, persecution and repression against
the PdVSA workers and their families and permit
them access to their savings, which All have
been illegally confiscated by the company and
AFL/CIO is a member
of the Inter/American group but hasn't intervened
has also appealed to the International
Labor Organization for support.
Unapetrol says "that process
has been slow and bureaucratic, owing to the
ILO's methods of analysis,
which require a response from the government.
October 14, 2003
Batman vs. Chávez
What would happen
if the "Caped Crusader" and his trusty
sidekick Robin were available to get involved in Venezuela's political
dilemma? (Note that this clip is in Spanish - and it's
for an interesting, humourous, "underground" anti-Chávez
website dedicated to Venezuelan political reform. This site
is in Spanish, but it contains a fine anti-Chávez "Flash"
intro (click here
to get the "Flash" player),
some great graphics, witty posters and icons, plus some cleverly-designed
anti-Chávez games that require no translations!
enabling this link here qualify me as an official "esquálido"
September 16, 2003
Don't Believe Chávez's Lies
By Phil Parkerson - (Former counselor
for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela until his
government is engaged in a propaganda campaign to project a
positive image of a regime that has repressed the basic human
rights of the large majority of Venezuelans who oppose it.
One recent bit
of spin-doctoring was an article in these pages by Venezuela's
ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, who
extolled the ''progress'' brought about by Hugo Chávez's
Bolivarian revolution but left much unsaid.
land reform program, for example, he left the false impression
that acreage distributed to landless people belongs to the state.
In Venezuela, land redistribution generally results from invasions
of private property by squatters backed by the regime.
foreign exchange controls on the heels of the general strike
that took place earlier this year, Chávez blocked businesses
from obtaining dollars, forcing many to shut down. The government's
own statistics show the economy has shrunk by 18 percent this
year, and unemployment has climbed to more than 18 percent as
freedom of press, speech, assembly and association'' exist in
Venezuela? I doubt it. Six months after his inauguration, the
thin-skinned Chávez began picking a fight with the Venezuelan
media, which largely had supported him, over their criticism
of his decree closing down the Venezuelan Congress and the Supreme
Court prior to the adoption of his new constitution in December
censorship, Chávez instigated a campaign of intimidation.
Media installations have been bombed and vandalized; journalists
have been assaulted and shot, and at least one has been killed.
Chávez has never disavowed an act of violence carried
out by his followers against the media.
To their credit,
the Venezuelan media have fought back. Chávez, in turn,
has cried foul, complaining that they have abandoned journalistic
ethics and objectivity to assume the role of a political opposition.
many U.S. and foreign journalists and some U.S. officials have
echoed his complaints while forgetting the history of government
harassment of the media.
With the old
political system in disarray, Chávez systematically seeks
to impose an authoritarian order that resembles that of Fidel
Castro, whom he so admires. He does this while hiding behind
a facade of legitimacy, but he makes a mockery of separation
of powers and the rule of law.
At this point,
Venezuela is not really a democratic government facing challenge,
but a democratic majority resisting the imposition of an authoritarian,
The United States
should be more skeptical of a hostile regimes propaganda and
be more willing to listen to the majority of Venezuelans while
they are still our friends.
NO OLVIDAREMOS 2
This link is a particularly
good, inspiring Macromedia Flash movie
short showing how many, if not most, Venezuelans really
feel about Chávez. Sent to me as a link by Vicki Perez, it's
called "No Olvidaremos 2".
You'll need Macromedia's
Flash Player to view it. If you need
to download the Macromedia Flash player
first (which I recommend if you haven't already done so as it's
an excellent add-on to have), click
here first. Then click on the picture:
Venezuela's Fired Oilmen Fight Eviction Tuesday, July 22, 2004 1:42 AM ET
From left to
right, National Guadsmen Carlos Monzon, Jaeker Baldallo, and
Pramo Diaz, check passing vehicles for weapons at the entrance
to the Lagunillas oil loading docks, located roughly 450 kilometers
west of Caracas, Venezuela, July 9, 2003. In December 2002,
PDVSA workers joined a strike called to force President Hugo
Chávez from power. Chávez retaliated by firing half the company's
36,000-strong work force who is fighting eviction from their
homes. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER, Associated
TIA JUANA, Venezuela
- Outside the housing complex where they have long enjoyed
a pampered life, an angry crowd of oilmen was spoiling for
One of them brandished a baseball
bat, and, borrowing a metaphor from the U.S. baseball scene
that is passionately followed here, shouted: "Do you
want it with or without cork?"
The troubles that bedevil
President Hugo Chávez's grand scheme to remake Venezuela from
the ground up have reached the country's cash cow: the oil
industry and the people who keep it pumping.
As an oil rig mechanic employed
by the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., or PDVSA,
Rafael Montero, 41, earned $500, nearly four times the minimum
wage. Montero had a pension and savings fund and lived with
his wife and four children in a comfortable, company-owned
residential complex in Tia Juana, an oil-refining town on
Life was good.
But Montero and thousands
of co-workers at PDVSA were fired in December when they joined
a general strike that failed to oust Chávez.
Not only are they fighting
what seems to be a losing battle for their jobs. At Tia Juana
and other huge western refineries such as Cardon and Amuay,
they are fighting eviction from their homes at the hands of
the National Guard and Chávez activists. Their children could
be yanked out of company schools.
Romulo Carreno, a PDVSA drilling
engineer who didn't strike, wants people like Montero out.
"What right do they have
to live there? They have to face the consequences of their
actions," Carreno said at a recent rally at Tia Juana's
Hundreds of "Chavistas,"
as the president's supporters are called, shouted epithets
and waved rocks and steel rods at a group of fired workers
standing 400 yards away.
This time National Guardsmen
separated the mobs. But these nearly daily standoffs are getting
more violent, with dozens hurt in recent clashes among strikers,
non-strikers and replacement workers.
Former workers have a defense
plan for their Los Semerucos housing complex, which adjoins
the Amuay Refinery near Punto Fijo, 220 miles west of Caracas.
Whenever Chávez supporters
or National Guardsmen come to evict them, residents light
fireworks and use portable radios to alert their neighbors.
They set up barricades of burning tires.
"We are not the violent
ones. They are. But we are prepared to protect our families,"
said Victor Estrada, a 46-year-old computer technician fired
Chávez axed 18,000 PDVSA employees
during the strike, including 7,000, from executives to mechanics,
in western Venezuela's oil towns.
Most hang on in company housing.
But PDVSA has asked the courts to evict them, and non-strikers
are growing restless.
Unapetrol, a union formed
by strikers, has asked the courts to reinstate fired workers.
It claims they didn't get severance pay and that new PDVSA
managers have frozen their pension and savings accounts.
Unapetrol attorney Aquiles
Blanco says PDVSA owes the former workers $337 million.
"Union leaders try to
cheer us up. But, truthfully, I don't know what will happen,"
said Victor Estrada.
Montero says the oil company
has distributed a blacklist to its many contractors, making
his search for a new job impossible.
"My father was an oil
worker. I followed his example," Montero said.
"Grease, oil rigs and
drilling is all I know. And now I can't find a job anywhere."
The destruction of the 2nd
largest petroleum company in the world, Petroleos de Venezuela
S.A., has been a work in progress ever since Hugo Chávez became
President of Venezuela, in February 1999. This great company,
known as PDVSA (an acronym that became a proper noun), was
the result of the hard work of a first class group of Venezuelan
oilmen. After nationalization of the foreign oil companies,
by the Carlos Andres Perez government, in January 1976, these
well-trained Venezuelans (by their former foreign employers)
melded together 11 former foreign companies, developed an
allegiance ("mistica") and rebuilt the Venezuelan
The Great One
By 1995, according to Petroleum
Intelligence Weekly, PDVSA was the 2nd largest petroleum company,
based on a combination of sales, reserves and refining activities.
The three operating companies (Lagoven, Corpoven and Maraven)
of PDVSA had raised Venezuela's oil reserves of 18 billion
barrels in 1976, to 72.6 billion in 1996 (and up to 76.8 billion
barrels by 1999), the largest oil reserves in the Western
Hemisphere. And the monetary value of PDVSA was between $50
billion and $100 billion. Of particular interest to the U.S.,
Venezuela was the most reliable supplier of imported crude
oil and oil products to the United States.
Why would a President of Venezuela
want to destroy such a well-managed company that supplies
over 35 percent of the Venezuelan Government's Budget? Actually,
it is higher than 40 percent when income tax, royalties and
dividends are added (not to mention that oil employees were
among the few who paid their income taxes). And, there are
substantial higher contributions: $200 million/year for the
communities where PDVSA operated; and some $300 million/year
in gasoline subsidies, since the government forced PDVSA to
sell gasoline in the domestic market below production costs.
To protect its foreign market
for its crude production, PDVSA purchased overseas refineries,
including Citgo, in 1986. And in order to export higher quality
oil products and be able to satisfy a growing domestic population
with gasoline and other light products, PDVSA invested billions
of dollars in major upgrading of its four large Venezuelan
refineries. Amuay refinery's upgrading and deep conversion,
alone, cost $1.5 billion. Even with all its careful strategic
investments, PDVSA between 1976 and 1997, was able to supply
$240 billion in oil taxation to the Venezuelan government.
Furthermore, PDVSA in the
1990s under the "Apertura" (Opening of mature fields;
followed by profit sharing exploration contracts) attracted
the return of foreign oil companies (34 companies), companies
that agreed to invest over $16 billion in Venezuela, including
more than $2.4 billion in cash bonuses. The largest foreign
investments went to the four Strategic Associations in the
Orinoco Oil Belt, which contains 1.2 trillion barrels of oil-in-place,
with possible recovery of 270 billion barrels.
But PDVSA could never supply
enough revenue for a proliferate government, that kept demanding
new dividends, at the same time it demanded PDVSA adhere to
OPEC quotas. Taxes on PDVSA that amounted to 90% were never
enough for one corrupt government after another. PDVSA was
forced to go to the international market and borrow, and by
1999 was indebted by $7.6 billion. In August 2003, its PDV
America, Inc. has to pay off $500 million in maturing notes,
which means Petroleos de Chávez will have to borrow, and borrow
at higher rates, because PDVSA/Citgo's former investment grade
has been downgraded to a speculative grade, by Standard &
Poor's and by Moody's Investors Service.
Citgo - For Sale
PDVSA's collateral in the
U. S. is their wholly owned Citgo Petroleum Corp. with 730,000
barrels per day (b/d) of refining capacity in its four refineries;
plus two refinery joint ventures, which combined, these assets
represented $7.5 billion. In 1999, Citgo had 8% of the U.S.
gasoline market. Citgo in 1999 was PDVSA's largest subsidiary
abroad, and accounted for half of PDVSA's market. With overseas
refineries, Venezuela was able to increase it's crude exports
over its product exports, which were limited by Venezuela's
own upgraded refining capacity of only 1.2 million b/d (from
which it had to supply Venezuela's own needs of 450,000 b/d).
However, PDVSA does not have enough crude production to supply
Citgo's needs, or its other overseas refineries. Venezuela's
OPEC production quota forced PDVSA to buy large quantities
of crude on the open market for their foreign refineries.
Over 70% of Venezuela's oil
production is heavy and extra heavy crude, which is far more
expensive to refine than lighter crude. PDVSA invested billions
upgrading Citgo's refineries to refine these heavy Venezuelan
crudes, of which Venezuela has huge reserves.
Hugo Chávez is once more secretly
trying to sell Citgo. However, he has two problems. 1) Citgo
has great value to Venezuela, but not to another refiner,
because Citgo without Venezuela's heavy crude supply has limited
value. 2) There are no apparent foreign buyers with enough
capital to buy Citgo. Only a very large corporation would
have the financial ability. However, without available crude
supply for the Citgo refineries, a company would only be interested
if it was a fire sale deal. How desperate is Chávez for cash?
And would any buyer risk making a deal, when Chávez's days
in office may be numbered, and a new Venezuelan government
would want to recover this valuable foreign asset -- for its
heavy crude production?
If Chávez were able to sell
Citgo to a foreign competitor, he would not need to export
crude or products to the United States, and then he could
default on his foreign debt ($35 billion). Chávez would get
the revenues he so desperately needs to stay in power from
the Citgo sale, and Citgo would be out of reach when he defaults
on Venezuela's foreign debt. Furthermore, Citgo would no longer
be essential to the operations of the much smaller Petroleos
Venezuelan oil production
at this writing in mid-February 2003 is down from 3.1 million
b/d (2.7 million b/d, plus 400,000 b/d from the Oil Belt)
to a mere 1.3 million b/d. But an even more important problem
for the Venezuelan oil industry, and for the U.S. market that
has depended on Venezuelan oil imports for 74 years, is the
+ Of the current 1.3 million
b/d production, 500,000 b/d comes from the operating contracts
+ The four Strategic Association
projects in the Oil Belt are shut-in, for they need natural
gas, which is not available because of the oil production
+ Worse, Petroleos de Chávez
in trying to restore oil production, with production in the
newer free flowing fields, and they are over producing, i.e.,
wells that are supposed to produce 1,000 b/d are forced to
produce 2,000 b/d. This implies a higher rate of natural decline
in these fields. Venezuela has an oil field natural decline
rate of 25%/year, requiring large investments in maintenance,
which Chávez cut back when he came in to office, in order
to squeeze more revenues out of PDVSA.
+ What they are producing
is not coordinated with what they can export, therefore, millions
of barrels are going into storage.
+ Finally, there was a permanent
loss of 400,000 b/d in production capacity, resulting from
some of the shut-in wells.
Therefore, when you hear Chávez,
or Ali Rodriguez, or Rafael Ramirez, Minister of Energy, inform
the public how they have increased exports and oil production
to 2 million b/d, or more, it simply is not true.
All of this is of little concern
when you intend to create a Cuba style government. In 1998,
Chávez campaigned against PDVSA and its president, Luis Giusti,
as a "state within a state." He vowed to subordinate
PDVSA to the Venezuelan state. His first action after becoming
President in February 1999 was to further cut oil production
and comply with OPEC quotas. Some 6,000 oil workers lost their
jobs because of the production cuts, and many service companies
went out of business. PDVSA was also forced to cutback maintenance
on the shut-in wells, and they lost production capacity of
500,000 barrels/day. The one area Venezuela was increasing
production was in the Orinoco Oil Belt, under the four big
joint ventures with foreign oil companies.
Paro -- "Ni un
paso atras" (Not one step back)
With this slogan 80% of the
33,000 full time employees of PDVSA joined the Opposition
calling for early elections and an end to the Cuban style
government of Hugo Chávez. What Chávez did not anticipate
was the strength of the PDVSA people, whose principles would
not let them abandon the brave Venezuelans in the Opposition
who started the National Civic Stoppage (Paro) on December
2, 2002. PDVSA's enormous cash flow to the Chávez government
was the make or break of the Opposition. By going on strike,
PDVSA lost $40 million per day, or 70% of Venezuela's export
earnings. Furthermore, the Chávez government had to turn around
and spend millions importing foreign gasoline. But after nearly
three months of the Paro, Chávez still refused to resign,
or even agree to elections.
The Tanker Captains
The People of Petroleum (la
Gente de Petroleo), led by Juan Fernandez, have shown immense
courage in risking their careers and their lives to get Hugo
Chávez to resign. There are many heroes, but a few stand out.
The first is Captain Daniel Alfaro of the tanker Pilin Leon,
who took a courageous stand and in doing so united a slow
starting Paro. On Wednesday, December 4, 2002, he and his
crew dropped anchor in Lake Maracaibo, refusing to go into
port and unload their cargo of gasoline. Seeing Captain Alfaro's
courage, the other 12 PDV Marina captains and their crews
followed suit, and the captains and crews of the Venezuelan
Merchant Marine followed them. (By the way, PDV Marina tankers
are named after the "Miss Venezuela's.") Chávez
ordered the military to board the tankers, but they were unsuccessful
in getting them underway. Then the Chávez government imported
unqualified foreigners, Hindus from India, Arabs and Cubans.
The tankers did not move!
Captain Jose Luis Blandin,
president of the Merchant Marine union, stated on December
16, "even if they bring in Martians or people from Jupiter
those anchored tankers in Venezuelan waters cannot be moved."
Where will Petroleos de Chávez get qualified captains and
crews, now that 276 of the PDV Marina captains, crews, and
personnel have been fired (January 30), Under Venezuelan law,
to operate a Venezuelan flagship, the captain and at least
50% of his crew must be Venezuelan. It appears that Chávez
(through PDVSA Board member Aires Barreto) was trying to hire
crews from India, Libya and Iraq.
PDVSA was forced to declare
"force majeure." Foreign tankers were notified by
insurers that docking in Venezuelan waters was unsafe, and
their ships and cargoes would not be insured. This is still
the case. Most foreign tankers that moved PDVSA's oil before
the strike are staying away. Some crude is moving in smaller
Venezuelan tankers, e.g. for January: 50,000 b/d to Cuba;
270,000 b/d to Citgo in the United States; and 85,000 b/d
to Hovensa in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Before Venezuela can
boost its oil production, it must solve not only its shipping,
but its refinery problems as well. Both operations have been
militarized and are unsafe. And Venezuela will undoubtedly
be defending itself in foreign Courts, as a result of its
force majeure notices to its clients. When a company is forced
to do this by events beyond its control, it must prorate its
supply to its clients. Venezuela has been sending oil to Cuba
(without payment?), to Citgo, and to their joint refinery
with Hess in the Virgin Islands. Their other clients are not
in the mix. Therefore, Venezuela is open to future lawsuits
from former clients to whom they declared force majeure.
Venezuela, because of the
planning and investments by PDVSA since nationalization, has
the largest and one of the most complex refineries in the
world. The Paraguana Refining Center, comprised of Amuay and
Cardon refineries, has 940,000 b/d capacity and since December
2002 is shut down by the strike. The Puerto la Cruz refinery
has 200,000 b/d capacity and is the only Venezuelan refinery
now producing any gasoline (75,000 b/d). It is doing so at
great risk because it is overdue for its annual maintenance
turnaround. The El Palito refinery with 130,000 b/d capacity
is also shut down since December. The chavistas have caused
considerable damage to these refineries, by trying to restart
them with incompetent, often foreign, workers.
Prior to the strike, Venezuela
produced 250,000 b/d of gasoline for the domestic market,
now they are producing only 75,000 b/d. Venezuela has 1811
gasoline service stations (owned by PDV, Shell, Texaco, and
BP) but only around 370 are receiving any gasoline, which
is mainly being delivered by the National Guard, and sold
without receipts by the chavistas at highjack prices. Service
stations in Opposition areas receive few deliveries. The Chávez
government imported 11 cargoes of gasoline (2,820,000 barrels)
in January and paid around $110 million for these imports.
Venezuelans are forced to line up for hours, and days, to
get gasoline (in Maracaibo it takes up to 3 days in line to
get gasoline). These lines are in a country that invested
millions in their refineries so they could export unleaded
and later reformulated gasoline to the U.S. market. Before
the Paro, Venezuela was the largest source of U.S. gasoline
Petroleos de Chávez
Now the finale to the extinction
of PDVSA. Chávez has done two things to "clean out PDVSA":
1) He has fired over 12,400
(as of 2/15/03) top executives, middle management, secretaries,
accountants, engineers and technical people, along with 881
of the Ph.D.s, researchers, and technical people at Intevep.
And on Sunday, February 9, 2003, Chávez announced he would
send the 80% of striking oil workers to prison! There will
be no amnesty for the "petro-terrorists." Chávez's
hatred for the people of PDVSA is all consuming. And as the
incompetent chavistas now trying to operate the petroleum
industry have one serious accident after another, ruining
expensive equipment and despoiling the environment, Chávez
accuses the striking PDVSA employees of being "saboteurs."
Chávez did not forget the retired pensioners who had worked
all their lives for the Venezuelan oil industry--he terminated
2) Chávez through Ali Rodriguez,
his President of Petroleos de Chávez, has eliminated many
of the subsidiaries (Interven, Cied, Palmaven, Bariven, Proesca,
CVP, and PDVSA Trading), and downsized Pequiven, Intevep and
Deltaven; and split the remaining industry into two companies:
Operator of the East, and Operator of the West. PDVSA people
do not have a company to return to. Their jobs have been eliminated
and their offices in most buildings have been turned over
to government employees, the military, or chavistas. Since
1997, when Luis Giusti was PDVSA President, 11,500 employees
left, many taking early retirement because of Giusti's policies,
and many doing the same or forced out under 5 consecutive
presidents named by Chávez. These departures greatly reduced
the qualified personnel in the oil and gas industry. PDVSA
has now been decimated with the firing of the remaining qualified
personnel, along with the elimination of subsidiaries and
positions in those companies.
Incomprehensible has been
the firing of the 881 Ph.D.s and technical researchers at
the crown jewel of PDVSA -- the very prestigious Intevep research
center. To throw these highly qualified researchers out in
the street boggles the mind. PDVSA spent millions sending
these bright men and women to the best universities in the
U. S. and in Europe to get their advanced degrees. They have
successfully acquired hundreds of patents for their research
at Intevep. In 1993, I had my book on Intevep published by
PennWell, so I personally know these exceptional people. Furthermore,
I know how great a loss this center and its people will be
to Venezuela, when Petroleos de Chávez is forced to pay top
dollar to foreign companies for needed technology, technology
that Intevep could have provided. The new dictatorship indirectly
has promoted privatization of the only well run and efficient
state industry in Venezuela. The Chávez government has destroyed
PDVSA and now is forced to bring in foreigners to restart
its major resource. Another irony is that the Chávez Constitution
forbids the privatization of PDVSA, and requires it to hold
a majority stake in oil sector projects with foreign energy
firms. But never mind, Chávez writes constitutions and carries
his around in his pocket, but does not follow any constitution
Having fired over 700 of PDVSA's top executives and most of
its middle managers, PDVSA is a company without a brain. With
the upper level management removed, PDVSA headquarters in
Caracas, in La Campina, has been taken over by the Minister
of Energy and Mines, now in place to execute government orders.
The new Petroleos de Chávez will try to raise production using
foreign companies, whose workers do not strike! Which foreign
companies are willing to come into Venezuela, under the new
currency and price controls, unattractive royalties and tax
regime, and a country full of potholes and beggars? Will these
companies be from the United States, Europe, China, Nigeria
or Russia? The Chávez government is rumored to be preparing
an attractive offer to present to foreign companies to come
in and restart Venezuela's oil and gas production-using foreign
companies' financial strength and technology.
Gustavo Coronel, former PDVSA
Board member, wrote the following in a January 28, 2003 article:
"With the collapse of PDVSA, we are witnessing the collapse
of the country . . . when the time comes, if I am still around,
I hope to be a witness for the prosecution. Why? Because when
I was building pipelines for a better PDVSA, Ali Rodriguez,
the current President of the "revolutionary" PDVSA,
was blowing them up, as the main dynamite expert of the Cuban-supported
guerrillas which failed in Venezuela during the 1960s."
(VHeadline.com) It is Ali Rodriguez who now has complete control
of PDVSA: financially and contractually. Ali Rodriguez Araque
not only fires and hires, moves PDVSA funds around, but also
can sign contracts like the one with Pepex.com (Herb Goodman,
CEO) to take over PDVSA's oil trading. There is no longer
any transparency. Those who work for PDVSA now work for Petroleos
de Chávez, the fully credentialed People of Petroleum having
been replaced by the mediocre, and now led by an "Oil
Commander-in-Chief" (Chávez), with no auditing, or transparency.
Venezuelans are living in
a war economy -- in an internal war -- a civil war, which
could last a long time. Over 12,000 commercial establishments
have closed, and 5,000 businesses are bankrupted. The Chávez
government is now using currency controls and price controls
to attack the only remaining productive sector remaining.
The Opposition, led by Carlos Ortega, the brave President
of the CTV (Confederation of Venezuelan Workers), is going
to continue to march, by the hundreds of thousands of families,
demanding that Chávez resign. But he will not resign. These
millions of brave Venezuelans refuse to live under a corrupt,
Cuban dictatorship, and refuse to give up their country to
a man who intentionally is destroying Venezuela. Venezuela
had no national debt in the 1950s when Perez Jimenez was in
the government. It paid cash for what it purchased -- in 1957,
Venezuela's purchases of goods and services from the United
States alone exceeded $1 billion. There were more than 1,500
U.S. companies that sold products and services to Venezuelans
at that time. The U.S. relied on Venezuelan oil imports, not
imports from the Persian Gulf or Africa. Until the early 1970s,
Venezuela was the largest source of U.S. oil imports (and
became so again in 1986), of both crude oil and oil products.
In recent years, Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S. ranged
around 1.5 million b/d. No longer! Venezuela, the country
some of us have loved since childhood, no longer exists.
Therefore, citizens of the
United States, no longer will rely on Venezuelan crude oil
and oil products imports. This country that since 1928 was
a long time ally and reliable supplier of petroleum, helping
the Allies fuel and win World War II, now has a very unfriendly
government with greatly reduced oil production.
By Martin Arostegui
Media Credit: Juan Barreto/AFP
If plans for an oil embargo
fail, Chávez may look to repay Venezuela´s more-radical
"allies" by assisting terrorists.
As Washington prepares a high-stakes
military venture in the Persian Gulf, a growing physical threat
is being posed by Iraq, Libya and Iran to the soft underbelly
of the United States. Hundreds and possibly thousands of agents
from rogue Arab nations are working hard to help President
Hugo Chávez of Venezuela take control of South America's largest
oil industry and create al-Qaeda-friendly terrorist bases
just two hours' flying time from Miami.
Arab advisers now are reinforcing
a sizable contingent of Cubans in efforts to reorganize Venezuela's
security services, assimilate its industries based on totalitarian
models and repress a popular opposition movement. "What
happens in Venezuela may affect how you fight a war in Iraq,"
Gen. James Hill of U.S. Southern Command is reported recently
to have told his colleague at U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tommy
"Chávez is planning to
coordinate an anti-American strategy with terrorist states,"
says Venezuela's former ambassador to Libya, Julio Cesar Pineda,
who reveals correspondence between the Venezuelan president
and Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi about the need to "solidify"
ties between liberation movements in the Middle East and Latin
America and use oil as an economic weapon.
Exhorting his countrymen to
return to their "Arab roots," Chávez has paid state
visits to Libya, Iraq and Iran and signed a series of mutual-cooperation
treaties with the rogue governments whose operatives now are
flooding into Venezuela. There they can blend into an ethnic
Arab community estimated at half-a-million.
Last Jan. 10, 18 Libyan technicians
flying in from Tripoli via Frankfurt, Germany, were received
at the Caracas airport by Ali Ahmed, head of Libya's "Commission"
in Venezuela. He was accompanied by the parliamentary whip
of the ruling Venezuelan Revolutionary Movement (MVR), Cilia
Flores. Nicolas Maduro and Juan Baruto, two other bosses of
the MVR party militias (the Circulos Bolivarianos) who had
paid an extended visit to Tripoli in 2000, also were on hand
to smooth the way for the Libyans coming off Lufthansa Flight
The high level of security
provided for the Libyans' arrival was intended to avoid the
havoc of previous days when the entry of Iraqi and Iranian
groups touched off a riot. As word of the landing of 20 Iranians
had spread through Simón Bolívar International
Airport on Jan. 8, crowds of infuriated travelers banged counters
and cigarette urns and chanted "Get out! Get out!"
to protest what many Venezuelans perceive as foreign interference
in their country's affairs.
The uproar became such that
one delegation had to be ushered through the presidential
ramp to avoid immigration or customs checks, sources in Venezuela's
military-intelligence department, DIM, tell Insight. Some
of the Iranians, now holed up at a Caracas hotel, are reported
to be hesitant about conducting their mission of reactivating
installations of Venezuela's recently nationalized oil company,
Meanwhile, Iraqi VIPs, moving
under the protection of Chávez's secret police -- the Department
of Intelligence Security and Prevention (DISIP) -- came to
the attention of Venezuela's regular military when government
agents tried to use air-force planes to fly five of Saddam
Hussein's agents into the interior of the country. Military
pilots requested special clearances before allowing the Iraqis
onto the C-130s.
Military sources also report
that the recently arrived group of Libyans is billeted at
the Macuto Sheraton Hotel in La Guaira, which they share with
Cuban commandos who have been conducting strike-breaking operations
around the nation's oil ports. Local units of the National
Guard, the branch of the Venezuelan armed forces responsible
for internal security, were reported to be refusing government
orders to repress strikers.
According to Capt. Jose Ballabes
of the merchant-marine union, the Cubans improvised floating
concentration camps on board oil tankers, threatening officers
and crews to get them to move the paralyzed vessels. When
the Venezuelans still resisted, "such methods as sleep
deprivation, often used against political dissidents in Cuba,
are being systematically employed against our people,"
Sources in Venezuela's merchant
navy name two of the Cuban agents on the tankers as Arturo
Escobar and Carlos Valdez, who were presented as "presidential
advisers" operating with DISIP. Venezuela's internal-security
organization now is reported to be controlled by a command
cell of undercover officers from Fidel Castro's military-intelligence
service. Venezuelan sources say the Cuban operatives also
run a computerized war room inside Chávez's presidential palace,
Miraflores. It is in this war room that the repressive policies
now afflicting the country have been planned, according to
serving officers in the Venezuelan army, navy and national
guard consulted by Insight.
The Libyans, like the Cubans,
are specialists in military intelligence and security, but
are described as computer specialists brought in to operate
and reprogram crashed systems at the oil refineries, according
to industry sources.
"The West must expect
deepening relations between Venezuela and Islamic states,"
says professor Elie Habalian, a specialist in petroleum economics
and a consultant to PDVSA President Ali Rodriguez Araque,
who is identified by Venezuelan military sources as a one-time
communist guerrilla chief. Aided by Cuban intelligence and
Islamic workers, the government has managed to get oil production
back up to 34 percent, a level sufficient to supply basic
domestic needs. "It's a war between two models,"
continues Habalian, "one seeking total control over oil
policy and the liberal international policy represented by
PDVSA's previous management" effectively eliminated by
the government, which has ordered the mass dismissal of 7,000
Interfacing of Venezuela's
oil industry with the radical state systems also facilitates
plans for a possible oil embargo against the United States
in the event the military assault on Iraq is prolonged. While
international oil experts consider such a scenario unlikely
due to Venezuela's desperate need for export earnings, Venezuelan
opposition leaders fear that Chávez could take advantage of
a conflagration in the gulf to consolidate his dictatorship
with the support of Cuban and Arab agents already in place.
"Chávez has violated
the constitution on 34 counts and is moving to nationalize
banking," says a leading member of Venezuela's business
community. "He has packed the high courts with his judges,
neutralized the army and turned the national assembly into
a rubber-stamp parliament. All that's left to do is shut down
the independent media and decapitate the opposition."
According to this source, Chávez is most likely to move when
world attention is fixed on Iraq.
If the strike temporarily
has undercut Venezuela's capacity to use the oil weapon, Chávez
can pay back his radical Arab allies by supporting terrorist
attacks against the United States. In the wake of claims by
former presidential pilot Maj. Juan Diaz Castillo that Chávez
contributed $1 million to al-Qaeda, police sources in Caracas
tell Insight that a highly fanatical cell of Islamic activists
already is operating from a sports complex in the old downtown
section of the capital protected by armed units of the Circulos
Undercover police officers
report that the group has ties to a Hezbollah financial network
operating from the Caribbean island of Margarita under Mohammed
al Din, an important Chávez backer and a close friend of hard-line
MVR deputy Adel el Zabayar Samara, a key link between Islam
and Latin America's radical left.
The Caracas cell is involved
in recruiting Venezuelan Arabs for terrorist indoctrination
and military training at isolated camps in the country's interior
and on islands off the coast, according to intelligence officers
who claim that members of al-Qaeda are hiding out in Margarita.
They say these members include Diab Fattah, who was deported
from the United States for his possible connections with the
Sept. 11 hijackers. Four Venezuelan officers investigating
terrorist activities on the resort island were killed in 2001
when Chávez moved to dissolve DISIP Section 11, which had
targeted radical Arabs.
A 40-hectare estate on the
sparsely populated peninsula of La Guajira near the border
with Colombia is another suspected training base for Islamic
terrorists. Equipped with highly modern communications systems,
including satellite dishes and parabolic antennae, the complex
belongs to an Arab-owned company called Jihad, which is registered
as a home-appliance dealership.
Chávez's international plans
may have suffered a diplomatic setback recently when he failed
in an effort to include any of his rogue allies in a "Group
of Friends of Venezuela." He wanted Cuba, Algeria and
China to form part of the U.S.-backed watchdog committee of
governments designed to support efforts by the Organization
of American States to guarantee democratic liberties and future
elections. But as war in the gulf absorbs U.S. attention,
the group may come under the decisive influence of its other
senior partner, Brazil. While that country's elected president,
Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, appears to have put
himself in the center-left and to be aligning his policies
with the West, some of his key advisers object.
Chief among them is Marco
Aurelio Garcia, a hard-line Marxist with close ties to Cuba
and Colombian narco-guerrilla organizations, who is slotted
for a top job in the foreign ministry. He already has used
his influence to secure delivery of more than 500,000 barrels
of oil to Venezuela to help Chávez get through the most critical
moments of the strike. One of Aurelio Garcia's closest contacts
is Mohammed Latifi, a powerful figure in Tehran's ruling circles
who proposes an international oil boycott of the United States
and is connected with terrorist networks.
Martin Arostegui is a
free-lance writer for Insight® magazine.