My purpose in
posting these articles here is to enable us to have a better
understanding of what's happening in Venezuela today. While
I've had no particular desire to politicize these pages, I
believe that we also need to recognize the fact that many
of our fathers worked hard in the oilfields and corporate
oil company offices of Venezuela - they worked hard not only
to provide for their families, but they also worked hard to
help improve the Venezuelan petroleum infrastructure for the
Venezuelan people. Much of that infrastructure, along with
the legacy of so many of our fathers, is now being systematically
destroyed. So I strongly believe that we have an obligation
and responsibility to educate ourselves and to keep ourselves
informed about the tragedy that's unfolding in Venezuela today.
Some of these
articles are somewhat lengthy, but they're also extremely
sobering. READ THEM! Remember that KNOWLEDGE
IS POWER. Refer others who lived and worked in
Venezuela to this page, or to other pages that inform the
reader about the tragedy that's unfolding there today. Inform
and educate yourself first, then inform and educate others.
The people of Venezuela deserve far better than what they're
now getting under the oppressive Chávez regime. If
they choose to walk away from Venezuela as so many Cubans
had to do when they were forced to leave Cuba under Castro,
then Chávez will not only be even more of a disaster
for Venezuela than he already has been, but he will also prove
to be a cancer for all democratic countries throughout the
region and the world for many years to come.
It's my sincerest
hope that Venezuela and her people will be able to rise to
the historic challenge that's now facing them and that they
may triumphantly overcome this profound tragedy.
As new items become
available, I'll post them here.
Shutdown of a deteriorating
bridge (Viaducto N° 1) has closed the main road
from the capital Caracas to the coast and the city’s
airport, spurring criticism of President Hugo Chávez
for failing to maintain the country’s infrastructure.
“This is a disaster for me,” said Juan
José Hidalgo, whose 25-minute commute to work
at a cleaning company has become a three-hour ordeal
over a potholed mountain road.
among tens of thousands who relied on the bridge,
part of a four-lane highway linking Caracas to the
Caribbean coast, to get to work in the city.
With no exits in between, the bridge closure in effect
shut the entire 17-kilometer (11-mile) highway. Signs
of imminent collapse forced the government Thursday
to shut the 50-year-old span.
may also be a public relations disaster for Chávez
as he kicks off his re-election campaign. Political
opponents criticize Chávez for neglecting infrastructure
spending as he uses the country’s oil riches
to provide aid to Cuba, Bolivia and even low-income
residents in some U.S. cities.
countries are getting Venezuelan money while we’re
having to shut this bridge,” Julio Borges, the
presidential candidate of the First Justice party,
said in a statement.
are paying the consequences of the government’s
year reported that the bridge was buckling. This week,
one end of the span moved sideways about 25 centimeters,
cracking the road surface.
“Rains have been eroding the earth at the base,”
Infrastructure Minister Ramón Carrizales said
in an interview on Jan. 3. “We are trying to
save the bridge until we can build another one.”
was inaugurated in 1954, reducing the trip between
the coast and capital to about 30 minutes from more
than an hour. The four-lane highway, used by 50,000
vehicles a day, includes two tunnels and three bridges.
bridge, designed by French engineer Eugene Freyssinet,
was an engineering marvel when it was completed.
Built of pre-stressed
concrete in an arc, it was called the most challenging
engineering feat in Latin America since the Panama
said a new bridge would take at least a year to be
has spent about Bs.30 billion ($14 million) trying
to save the existing structure.
Engineers tried to build new support pillars, while
cutting free the old damaged ones, hoping to push
the bridge back into place. The week’s rains
weakened the new support pillars.
The bridge has a history of neglect. Venezuela a decade
ago granted a 30-year concession to a Mexican-Spanish-Venezuelan
group, Autopistas Concesionadas de Venezuela, to operate
and maintain the highway, which was then a toll road.
tried to raise tolls 10-fold in 1996 to finance highway
repairs and build a new bridge in a $214 million investment
program. Protests led to the fare increase being revoked
by the government of then-President Rafael Caldera,
leading the company to stop investing.
subsequently canceled the concession in 2000, charging
that the operator had failed to fulfill the contract.
government didn’t live up to its side of the
agreement,” said Robert Bottome, an analyst
with research company Veneconomy in Caracas. “And
since 2000, the government has not done anything to
improve the bridge or highway.”
The shutdown threatens to disrupt the national economy,
in addition to inconveniencing the 5 million residents
of the Caracas region and every visitor who passes
through the international airport.
closure will add to transportation costs on goods,”
Bottome said. “Goods will have to be sent to
other seaports. Airlines will likely have to direct
their flights to other airports.”
The La Guaira
port in Vargas state handles about 40 percent of Venezuela’s
ocean-going freight, Bottome said. The country’s
largest port, Puerto Cabello, is about two hours by
road from Caracas and is already close to capacity
after a surge in imports.“They
don’t want to understand that Vargas depends
on transportation, on the airport and on the seaport,”
Emilio Polumbo, president of the transportation association
in Vargas state, said in an interview on Unión
The old two-lane
highway adds hours to the commute and passes through
some of the capital’s worst slums where robberies
than tripled their fares to Bs.150,000 ($70) from
Bs.40,000 to take passengers to the airport from the
old highway is just too dangerous,” said Angel
Acosta, a taxi driver. “Thieves are smart, and
we’re like sitting ducks there if we’re
behind a truck and forced to stop.”
Government “Give-Away” Expenditures
Under Hugo Chávez
US$1,200 Million anually
to Fidel Castro;
US$1,000 Million in
bonds at preferential market rates to
Kirchner's Argentine government;
US$700 Million promise
of subsidized oil to the Caribbean countries;
US$700 Million promise
for an oil refinery to Paraguay;
US$30 Million “gift”
to new leftist government of Evo Morales
of Bolivia with no controls as to how
it should be spent;
US$40 Million petroleum
subsidy to the "poor" of Boston,
New York, & Chicago;
US$70 Million for
the purchase of a new plane;
US$6,000 Million in
new arms purchases;
US$300 Million promise
to Jamaica for (ironically)
the construction of a new road.
Sunday, November 6, 2005
Is Not Fooled By The Demagoguery of Chávez
These are 3
interesting videos from channel TV2 of Norway, which
is the most-watched station in Norway. Click on
each image to see the video:
1: Where is the petroleum
money going? This video shows
the corruption that exists under Chávez today and
the fact that the money certainly isn't improving
medical services for the poor as Chávez so righteously
claims & despite the massive influx of Castro's
doctors (23 OCT 2005) - 6.8 Mb;
2: Despite Venezuela's oil wealth,
unemployment, chaos, & misery have increased under
Chávez (28 OCT 2005) - 8.6 Mb:
3: This video shows Chávez's
extreme paranoia and how he uses his imagined "threat
of assasination" to his advantage as a political
tool with the uninformed masses (FEB 20,
2005) - 8.5 Mb:
Thursday, November 3, 2005
Jackson and Danny Glover Promote Racial Conflict In
As a happy adolescent in the small town of Los Teques
(20 miles west of Caracas) two of my best friends
were Federico Escobar and José Landaeta. Escobar
was known as El Negro Federico, because he was ebony
black. Landaeta was called El Chino Landaeta because
he had strong Chinese features. They are long dead
now but I still remember both with great love. All
my life in Venezuela I have freely interacted with
people of all shades of color without ever giving
too much thought to the racial issue. After all, Venezuelans
are almost all brown; very few are pitch black or
snow white. My first conscious encounter with race
came when I was traveling from New York to Tulsa in
a Greyhound bus to enter university, in 1951. My traveling
companion was a black soldier and we had been talking
non-stop when, at a point in time, he stood up and
moved to the back. I thought I had said something
to offend him but the reason was different: we had
crossed the border into Missouri and blacks could
no longer ride in the forward section. Many years
later, while living in Lafayette, Louisiana, I was
asked to fill out a form for the school of my children,
stating their racial composition. I wrote: "white
27%, black 18%, Indian 50%, other 5%." The day
after, I was asked to go and talk to the Principal.
She wanted to meet the person who had written such
an unorthodox description.
Back in Venezuela,
in the oil industry, I worked side by side with blacks,
browns, whites and considered most of them friends
and even family. Those I did not get along with had
ideas or attitudes I did not share but not a color
I did not accept. As a typical member of the Venezuelan
middle-class and living in a country that for many
decades, from the 1940's to the 1990's, was a wonderful
example of social mobility and fluidity, race played
no role in my life. Negrito, mi negra, were and are
words of endearment in our Venezuelan social dictionary.
We are used to attach descriptive nicknames to people
without a pejorative meaning. El flaco means the thin
one. El gordo means the fat one. El camello, the camel,
refers to someone slightly stooped. El gato, the cat,
is usually someone light on his feet or with yellow
eyes. We never mean to say that those so called are
brutes or animals.
this, I just wanted to illustrate the atmosphere that
prevailed in Venezuela for many decades . . . until
Hugo Chávez took over in 1999. Then, things
In a very long
and sugary article by Nicolas Kozloff for CounterPunch
("Hugo Chávez and the Politics of Race")
Chávez is described as a "pardo . . .
someone of mixed racial roots." The article adds:
"Chávez's features are a dark-copper color
and as thick as clay; he has protruding, sensuous
lips. . . . His hair is black and kinky. . . . With
a long, hatchet-shaped nose and a massive chin and
jaw." When he arrived at the military academy
Chávez had an Afro. He was poor and he married
a poor woman. His education was not good, his economic
situation not so bright. Chávez had limited
possibilities to move up in the Venezuelan social
scale, not because he looked the way he looked but
because he did not have the required skills. People
like him, of modest origins, but who attended the
university and graduated as medical doctors, lawyers
or geologists made it up the social end economic ladder
in a much more fluid manner. As he could not do this,
Chávez became resentful. He blamed the social
system or his looks for his lack of success. This
started him on the way to become a traitor to his
oath as a soldier, on the way to use the guns given
to him to defend the constitution and democracy to
try to overthrow the democratic government of Carlos
Andrés Pérez. He failed in his attempt,
although he caused hundreds of innocent deaths, due
to his military ineptness and his personal lack of
courage. However, the desire of Venezuelans for political
change brought him to power, through elections, six
Once in power
Chávez decided to get even. He started to promote
social and racial hate, attacking the "Oligarchs"
(the white and rich minorities) and incorporating
racial components into his arsenal of hate words.
In doing this Chávez has become the top racist
in Venezuela. His presidency has become a war against
the rich, the educated, and the ones who are high
in the social ladder. To claim, as he does, that racism
and social exclusion are only exercised against blacks
and Indians is stupid. In fact, they are being exercised
in Venezuela, today, against the light skinned and
the upper and middle-classes.
this strategy of racial hate Chávez has found
several willing partners in the U.S., people who are
either looking for money from him or share the social
resentment and psychological deformations that Chávez
has brought to the Venezuelan political and social
scene. Two of the most prominent Chávez allies,
according to the article by Kozloff, are Jesse Jackson
and Danny Glover?. What Kozloff fails to add are the
motivations behind this alliance. I think that what
mostly moves Jackson is money and what mostly moves
Glover is resentment. Jackson has a long record of
using racial conflict as a means to extort money from
large U.S. corporations and now figures that the Venezuelan
scene could be a new gold mine for him and his Rainbow/PUSH
coalition. Glover is a bitter man who wears his blackness
as a cross, in spite of his success as a Hollywood
actor and his buoyant economic status.
of Chávez, Jackson, and Glover should not be
underestimated. They seem to have agreed on a rather
perverse and hypocritical plan, already in motion
at this moment in time and promising to bring great
confusion to U.S. society and more poverty to Venezuelan
society. The plan has two main components: one, handing
out to U.S. poor citizens and racial minorities, cheap
oil, as a means to "prove" that Venezuela
is generous and Chávez is good and, of course,
that the U.S. is mean and Bush is a monster ("Venezuela
promises cheap oil to poor Chicagoans," The Chicago
Tribune, October 13, 2005 and "Rainbow/PUSH event
draws actor Glover, Venezuelan ambassador," Chicago
Defender, October 14, 2005). The other, to intensify
the racial hate in Venezuela, to convert the revolution
into an all-out fight between the colored and the
whites. Let us consider these two components:
giving cheap oil and free medical attention to poor
U.S. citizens, members of the black and Indian communities,
might sound like a wonderful idea to those who might
benefit from this plan and to those who hate the U.S.
and love any initiative that promises to antagonize
their favorite enemy. But the actions by Chávez
are not only self serving, a strategy to gain sympathy
among the U.S. poor but also criminal since, whatever
help is given by Venezuela to foreign citizens, has
to be done at the expense of the tragedy of the 85%
of poor Venezuelans who are worse off today under
Chávez than before he arrived in power. You
see, Venezuelans today are dying for lack of proper
medical attention and medicines in State hospitals,
they are not being educated to become self starting
citizens, they are being subjected to a policy of
handouts which has already converted them into a parasitic
society. Venezuelan streets are full of garbage, crime
is rampant, and corruption is at an all time high.
Venezuelan society is in ruins. Is it logical to believe
that Chávez would be bringing relief to the
U.S. poor as an altruistic initiative? No one should
be fooled into believing that this is an altruistic
initiative. This is fraudulent political propaganda,
one that will only benefit Chávez and whoever
assumes the role of "distributing" the oil
among the poor. We suspect that Jesse Jackson would
play a big role in this "distribution,"
due to his strength in the Chicago area, although
TransAfrica Forum, the organization where Glover is
Chairman, also wants to participate.
racial strife and hate into Venezuela. Bill Fletcher,
the president of TransAfrica Forum, said to Kozloff:
"I feel that black issues need to be injected
into [Venezuelan] politics." Fletcher has been
in Venezuela only once, for a few days, invited by
Chávez all expenses paid. During his brief
visit to my country, Harvard educated Fletcher, hardly
a New Orleans evacuee, did not lose anytime to compare
Chávez with Martin Luther King (when, in fact,
he is closer to the dark side of Malcolm X). I have
to ask Bill Fletcher, who is a very civilized person:
Why do you feel that racial issues have to be injected
in a society that never had the type of racial tensions
that you might have experienced in the U.S.? Why do
you have to export to my country your bitterness,
your hates, your frustrations, and your inferiority
complexes? I have to warn Bill Fletcher and his colleagues
that, by intervening in Venezuela with their imported
racial hang ups, they might be doing the equivalent
of what European travelers did, bringing small pox
into the New World. With one difference: Fletcher
and his friends will be doing it consciously.
I am seriously
worried about the degree of criminal intervention
that foreigners are practicing in my country: Cuban
mercenaries, Nicaraguan rapists, Bolivian cocaleros,
U.S. social and racial profiteers, European and Latin
American ideologues and fanatics, fascist relics,
communist fossils, Muslim extremists and radical Islamics,
Colombian narco-terrorists. All the intellectual refuse
of the globe seems to be descending on my country,
invited by a grotesque, semi-illiterate dictator,
with their travel expenses paid with the money that
is not Chávez's but ours.
I say to Jackson,
Glover and all the rest: hands-off my country. Have
the decency to leave us Venezuelans sort out our own
problems. Do not try to make a buck at the expense
of our tragedies. Concentrate on the problems that
you think you have at home.
Sunday, October 9, 2005
We keep hearing
the word “bubble” to describe industries
with rapid and unsustainable rising prices. Hence,
the Internet bubble, the telecom bubble, stock market
bubble, and now, some analysts believe, a housing
bubble. Yet for some mysterious reason no one speaks
of the oil bubble -- though prices have tripled in
two years to as high as $70 a barrel.
history of oil-market boom and bust confirms that
we are in the midst of a classic oil bubble and that
prices will eventually fall, perhaps dramatically.
Despite apocalyptic warnings, the world is not running
out of oil and the pumps are not going to run dry
in our lifetimes -- or ever. What's more, the mechanism
that will surely prevent any long-term catastrophic
shortages in energy is precisely the free-market incentive
to make profits that many politicians in Washington
seem to regard as an evil pursuit and wish to short
The best evidence
for an oil bubble comes from the lessons of America's
last six energy crises dating back to the late 19th
century, when there was a great scare about the industrial
age grinding to a halt because of impending shortages
of coal. (Today coal is superabundant, with about
500 years of supply.) Each one of these crises has
run almost an identical course.
crisis begins with a spike in energy prices as a result
of a short-term supply shock. Next, higher prices
bring doomsday claims of energy shortages, which in
turn prompts government to intervene ineffectually
into the marketplace. In the end, the advent of new
technologies and new energy discoveries -- all inspired
by the profit motive -- brings the crisis to an abrupt
end, enabling oil and electricity markets to resume
their virtuous longterm downward price trend.
crowd has predicted the end of oil since the days
when this black gold was first discovered as an energy
source in the mid-19th century. In the 1860s the U.S.
Geological Survey forecast that there was "little
or no chance" that oil would be found in Texas
or California. In 1914 the Interior Department forecast
that there was only a 10-year supply of oil left;
in 1939 it calculated there was only a 13-year supply
left, and in 1951 Interior warned that by the mid-1960s
the oil wells would certainly run dry. In the 1970s,
Jimmy Carter somberly told the nation that "we
could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in
the entire world by the end of the next decade."
We can ridicule
these doom and gloom predictions today, but at the
time they were taken seriously by scholars and politicians,
just as the energy alarmists are gaining intellectual
traction today. But as the late economist Julian Simon
taught, by any meaningful measure oil (and all natural
resources) has gotten steadily cheaper and far more
bountiful in supply over time, despite periodic and
even wild fluctuations in the market.
* * *
If gasoline cost today what it cost a family in 1900
(relative to income), we would be paying not $3 but
$10 a gallon at the pump. Or consider that in 1860
oil sold for $4 a barrel, or the equivalent of about
$400 a barrel in today's wage-adjusted prices. The
first of a continuous series of innovations, in this
case the invention of modern drilling techniques in
1869, cut the price by more than 90% -- to 35 cents
ago people would have laughed out loud at the idea
of drilling for oil at the bottom of the ocean or
getting fuel from sand, both of which were technologically
infeasible. The first deep-sea oil rig went on line
in 1965 and drilled 500 feet down. Now these rigs
drill two miles into the ground -- and miraculously,
the price of extracting oil from 10,000 feet deep
in the sea bed today is approaching the cost of drilling
100 feet down from the richest fields in Texas or
Saudi Arabia 40 years ago.
pace of technological progress explains why over time
the amount of recoverable reserves of oil has increased,
not fallen. Between 1980 and 2002 the amount of known
global oil reserves increased by 300 billion barrels,
according to a survey by British Petroleum. Rather
than the oil fields running dry, just the opposite
has been happening. In 1970 Saudi Arabia had 88 billion
barrels of known oil. Thirty-five years later, nearly
100 billion barrels have been extracted and yet the
latest forecast is that there are still 264 billion
barrels left -- although the Saudis have never allowed
independent auditors to verify these numbers.
In this industry,
alas, bad news tends to crowd out the good. When Shell
announced earlier this year that its oil and gas reserves
were down by 30%, there was a global outcry. But when
Canada announced in 2004 that it has more recoverable
oil from tar sands than there is oil in Saudi Arabia,
the world yawned. There is estimated to be about as
much oil recoverable from the shale rocks in Colorado
and other western states as in all the oil fields
of OPEC nations. Yes, the cost of getting that oil
is still prohibitively expensive, but the combination
of today's high fuel prices and improved extraction
techniques means that the break-even point for exploiting
it is getting ever closer.
Malthusians counter that China, India and other nations
will satisfy their growing appetite for oil by driving
demand and prices ever higher. In the short term,
yes. But over the longer term, as the Chinese become
more prosperous through free markets, China will become
vastly more fuel efficient and also help discover
new sources of energy.
twice as much output per unit of energy consumed as
it did 50 years ago. Liberals who say we need government
to intervene in the energy markets, to patch the alleged
failings of the free market, fail to comprehend that
the command-and-control economies of the last 50 years
have been far and away the biggest wasters of energy
(and the biggest polluters). South Korea produces
about three times as much output per kilowatt of electricity
as North Korea does.
This is no
call for complacency or inaction in the face of very
high energy prices; it's a call for realism. Higher
prices for gas and fuel for home heating have cost
the average U.S. family about $1,500 to $2,000 a year.
(Thankfully the Bush tax cuts have given back about
precisely that amount in lower tax payments to the
IRS.) The tax on the American economy from higher
oil prices has reached $300 million a day and has
chopped nearly a percentage point off GDP growth.
* * *
Our point is that the constraints on our ability to
find and extract new oil are not geologic or scientific.
The real constraints on oil production are barriers
created by government. Myron Ebell, an environmental
analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, notes
that roughly 90% of the oil on the planet rests under
government-owned land and these resources are abysmally
In the U.S.,
environmentalists have erected myriad barriers to
drilling for new sources of oil. The American Petroleum
Institute estimates that there are at least 100 billion
barrels that are fairly easily recoverable in Alaska
and offshore that oil companies are not permitted
to exploit. Once, we could afford the luxury of not
drilling there. Now, thanks to a witch's brew of unforeseen
circumstances -- political turmoil in the oil producing
countries, China's surge in demand, and hurricanes
that have knocked out Gulf refineries -- it's an economic
and national security imperative that we do.
simple idea to increase the domestic supply of oil:
Have Uncle Sam share its oil-drilling royalties with
the California government. If Californians realized
they could go a long way to solving their deficit
and overtaxation problems by raising billions of these
petro-dollars, the aversion on the left coast toward
offshore drilling might well begin to subside.
We will assess
at another time the many dreadful ideas -- price controls
and "windfall profit" taxes -- that Congress
is considering to deal with the energy crisis. But
for today it is sufficient to note that the free market
will deliver oil, electricity and other forms of energy
at declining prices in the future, if only the government
will let the market's benign and productive forces
work their magic.
The most lasting
impact of Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez's
self-proclaimed revolution may not be his incendiary
speeches against U.S. “'imperialism” nor
his daily praise for the Cuban dictatorship, but something
that has drawn much less attention -- the politicization
of Venezuela's armed forces.
at the swearing-in ceremony of his new defense minister,
Orlando Maniglia, Chávez proclaimed that Venezuela's
armed forces are “anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist”,
and thus opposed to U.S. policies in the region. “The
Venezuelan armed forces are at the heart of the revolution
-- alongside the people”, he added.
ceremony days earlier, in which he decorated 96 Cuban
“internationalist” teachers, Chávez
stated that “The Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions
are already one and only”, and will defend one
another against a potential U.S. invasion, the daily
El Universal and the Reuters news agency reported
deny any plans to attack Venezuela, and say the idea
exists only in Chávez's mind.
While Chávez's increasingly belligerent rhetoric
is nothing new -- in fact, his revolutionary fervor
seems to be directly proportional to the price of
oil, which has risen from $9 per barrel when he took
office in 1999 to $61 today -- he is taking dramatic
steps to restructure the Venezuelan armed forces,
which may haunt what is left of Venezuela's democracy
for decades to come.
don't take him seriously, but he has been doing everything
he said he would do”, says Alberto Garrido,
a Venezuelan writer specializing in military affairs.
“Chávez has tried to give this process
a folkloric connotation, but it isn't folkloric at
most recent developments:
July 5, on Venezuela's Independence Day, Chávez
announced creation of a “Territorial Guard”,
a force that will be made up of armed civilians fighting
clandestinely who will report directly to the president.
Pro-Chávez legislator Néstor Leon Heredia
was quoted by the Venezuelan press as saying that
the new force is modeled after the Iraqi resistance.
month, Chávez announced expansion of the military
reserve, currently up to 100,000 civilians, to 500,000
civilians in the short run and eventually to 2 million
people. The military reserve reports directly to Chávez.
Armed forces commander Armando Laguna has said the
Navy conducted its first military exercise with civilians
has resumed wearing a military uniform after nearly
three years. He had ended the practice at the request
of his former high command, who had asked him to don
civilian clothes after a 2002 aborted coup. Those
generals have since been retired.
has recently changed the armed forces' traditional
camouflaged uniform to adopt a Chinese-style one-color
garment. He has incorporated the red beret -- the
trademark of a 1992 coup attempt he led -- in elite
Chávez has purchased 15 Russian Mi-17 attack
helicopters, more than 100,000 Russian AK-103 rifles,
10 troop transport aircraft and eight navy patrol
boats from Spain, and 24 Super Tucano light attack
planes from Brazil. Venezuela is also reportedly negotiating
the purchase of up to 50 Russian-made MiG-29 planes.
Venezuela is embarked on a continental revolutionary
project, shared with Cuba. “Under this new military
doctrine, the traditional armed forces no longer have
the monopoly of the right to wear weapons. Instead,
that monopoly is shared by three different levels:
the traditional armed forces, the civilian reserve
and the armed citizens' Territorial Guard”,
thinks Chávez may have reasons to believe that
a U.S. attack may be coming, most Venezuelan and U.S.
critics of Chávez say his motives are totally different:
creating a police state.
Territorial Guard is being created as a death squad,
a terrorist and killing apparatus, covered up by the
impunity it would get from its direct dependence from
the head of state”, said Oswaldo Alvarez Paz,
one of the few remaining opposition state governors.
If Chávez means to do half of what he says,
his transformation of Venezuela's armed forces --
and distribution of weapons to civilians -- will haunt
Venezuela for decades to come, no matter how long
he stays in power or who succeeds him.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Refuse to Obey Chávez Commands
May 20, 2005
a little problem,” Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez reportedly told Venezuelans on May 3, “and
we are fixing it.”
is the drop in output by the Venezuelan state-owned
oil company known as PdVSA. The Chávez fixes, thus
far, have entailed sending military troops to the
oil-rich west of Venezuela to investigate "management
errors" and allegations of sabotage, while in
Caracas the government is threatening foreign oil
companies with contract cancellations and tax hikes.
For most chavistas
this may suggest that the whole stink about Venezuela's
oil industry's underperformance is about to be resolved.
Yet it is likely that the magnitude of the drop in
petroleum output is a lot bigger than what Chávez
has described. It is equally probable that a military
invasion of PdVSA and property confiscations in the
private sector won't fix it. Statist economic policies
have a sorry productivity record and in this case
that record is highly unlikely to be improved.
The big trouble
is that Chávez has put Venezuela on a centrally planned
economic path not much different from the failed experiments
of the 20th century. Indeed, last year he declared
that Venezuela was preparing for "the great leap,"
a seeming reference to Maoist China's 1950s agricultural
policies that spread famine. Maybe his books about
Chairman Mao never mentioned that disaster.
Closer to home,
Chávez emulates Fidel Castro, who once commanded that
a 10-million-ton sugar harvest spring from the soil.
Fidel also promised to clone a prolific wonder-cow
called "Ubre Blanca," so that Cuba would
promptly rival Switzerland in cheese yields. Almost
50 years into the revolution, Cuba still isn't Switzerland
and milk is a luxury. Venezuela is on the same trajectory.
at least one thing right: Tight control of the country's
political agenda requires tight control of the country's
economy. In Venezuela , that means controlling PdVSA.
PdVSA was born
in 1976. Until the Chávez government came to power
in 1999, the company made some effort to be politically
nonpartisan. Getting a job at PdVSA required business,
engineering or technical know-how, not political connections.
That has changed.
Not content with just the golden eggs, Chávez wanted
the goose. As he began to consolidate his power, he
began politicizing both the management and labor arms
of the company. That prompted a 66-day strike by employees
on Dec. 2, 2002, which brought production levels as
low as 150,000 barrels per day (b/d). When the strike
ended on Feb. 4, 2003, 18,000 workers were let go,
taking the skills and knowledge necessary to run the
company with them. PdVSA has never fully recovered.
claims that production is down by a mere 200,000 b/d
for a daily output of 3.1 million barrels. Industry
experts dispute this and this month critics grew more
On May 4, Alberto
Ramos, an analyst for Goldman Sachs' Emerging Markets
Economic Research, noted that since the strike local
and international oil analysts have consistently put
PdVSA production some 500,000 to 600,000 b/d below
government claims. “Such level of production
is also corroborated by production statistics published
by OPEC and other international energy agencies.”
El Nacional (a daily newspaper) Web
site issued a similar report on May 15 -- according
to a translation by BBC Monitoring Americas: “An
extensive survey of oil industry engineers, geologists,
geophysicists and experts indicates that corrective
measures have not been taken and the decline in Venezuelan
oil production is nearing 1,000,000 b/d. This drop,
coupled with a shortfall of associated natural gas,
creates an alarming situation with the foreseeable
consequence of diminishing crude oil extraction.”
In his report,
Mr. Ramos also noted that “several oil analysts”
attribute the company's inability to return to pre-strike
levels of production to “corruption, mismanagement,
inadequate investment levels, sloppy maintenance,
and lack of qualified technical personnel.”
management and qualified personnel can be traced to
the strike and the layoffs. It is also possible that
disgruntled employees are not toiling as they did
when they felt they were measured by their work, not
their politics. Yet human capital is but one factor
of production. Investment is also scarce and likely
to grow scarcer as Chávez puts the squeeze on foreign
named president of PdVSA, Chávez ally Rafael Ramirez
has been working to expand the company's control of
the entire industry. On May 6, the research firm Oxford
Analytica reported the government is arm-twisting
to force the conversion of 32 foreign company contracts
into joint ventures that will give the government
51% ownership. The newsletter also said that the government
wants -- as prescribed by Chávez -- to raise income
taxes on foreign oil companies to 50% from 34%. On
Tuesday, Reuters reported that Venezuelan tax authorities
"held a second round of talks with seven foreign
oil companies, including units of Chevron and Shell"
on the matter. The government has also said it will
no longer pay foreign oil firms in dollars.
Added to the
drain on human and financial capital, are serious
internal problems that this power grab is producing
at PdVSA. Oxford Analytica writes that Mr. Ramirez
fired 30 “Chavista managers” on corruption
grounds soon after he took over his post -- although
he did not present proof.
said that the move was “interpreted inside the
Chavista movement as Ramirez settling old scores with
high-ranking executives of the previous PDVSA administration.”
This has provoked an increase in job insecurity among
chavistas who thought their politics gave them security.
Analytica says that, “crossed accusations of
corruption based on leaked internal documents have
increased among different Chavista factions.”
Mr. Ramos notes
that “aggressive” policies toward the
private sector and weak investment in PdVSA “raise
serious risks of a further gradual decline in oil
production,” making Venezuela all the more vulnerable
to a drop in world oil prices. It's quite possible
that Chávez will have no more luck commanding oil
out of the ground than Fidel had getting cows to give
more milk. The “great leap” is looking
more and more like a great flop.
President Hugo Chávez announced the planned expansion
of his Bolivarian military reserve force from its
current level of 80,000 members to nearly 2.3 million
armed volunteers. Reportedly, he also hosted a quiet
visit by a delegation from North Korea the week of
March 27 to April 2. As Chávez weighs the costs of
arming and equipping his military reserves, he could
be thinking about buying fewer MiGs in favor of adding
a North Korean missile deterrent to Venezuela's national
President Hugo Chávez said April 3 on his nationally
televised weekly program, "Hello President,"
that he plans to expand the military reserve he created
less than a year ago from its current total of 80,000
members to as many as 2.3 million volunteers, or 10
percent of the Venezuelan population. Chávez said
this reserve would be trained and equipped militarily.
Separately, sources close to the Venezuelan Foreign
Ministry said April 1 that a North Korean delegation
visited Caracas quietly last week for meetings with
senior Chávez government and military officials.
is committed to buying more than $2 billion worth
of infantry, naval and air force weapons, radar systems
and transports from Brazil, China, Russia and Spain.
Arming a military reserve force of 2.3 million members
with assault rifles at a price of approximately $500
per rifle would cost the Chávez government approximately
$1.15 billion -- about 20 percent of the reported
$5 billion cost of purchasing 50 Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum
fighters. As a result, Stratfor believes that Venezuela's
government is rethinking plans to buy the 50 MiG-29s
and is instead considering the possibility of purchasing
missiles from North Korea to create a strategic deterrent
against external aggression from Colombia and the
United States. The Chávez government could use the
savings achieved by purchasing cheaper North Korean
missiles instead of MiG-29s to arm and equip its Bolivarian
theoretically would give the Chávez government air
superiority over neighboring countries such as Colombia.
However, in an armed confrontation with the United
States -- which Venezuela's new national security
doctrine portrays as the Chávez government's greatest
enemy -- most of Venezuela's MiGs likely would be
destroyed on the ground by U.S. cruise missiles, which
would strike without warning. The handful of MiGs
that might get into the sky likely would be shot down
by U.S. fighters before the Venezuelan pilots could
locate and engage U.S. targets.
government knows this because it has studied U.S.
strategies and tactics in the Iraq war with the help
of its expanding military links with China, Cuba and
Russia. Venezuelan military strategists know their
radar, communications and air force assets would be
the first targets of a U.S. military strike. In fact,
Eliecer Otaiza, president of the National Land Institute
and a key figure in the Chávez government's militia
defense networks, said April 1 that the government
knows the national armed forces (FAN) would be obliterated
"in two days" if the U.S. military ever
purchase of a few dozen North Korean missiles with
the capability to strike targets hundreds of miles
away would give the Chávez government a strong strategic
deterrent against attack by the U.S. or Colombian
armies. Moreover, North Korean missiles would be easier
to conceal and more difficult to destroy.
not sell nuclear weapons to the Chávez government.
However, Stratfor believes North Korea would happily
sell Scud missiles to Caracas for profit, or to gain
political leverage in its confrontation with the United
States. Pyongyang might even consider selling a few
Nodong-1s to the Chávez government, which would give
the FAN the ability to launch missiles armed with
large conventional explosives warheads at targets
deep in Colombian territory, including Bogotá.
The North Korean
government has both practical and strategic reasons
for negotiating the sale of missiles and other weapons
systems, such as minisubmarines and armored vehicles,
to Venezuela. Besides the hard-currency earnings from
selling arms to Caracas, Pyongyang could be seeking
some political leverage in the stalled six-nation
talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons program.
If North Korea is just looking for a fast profit,
it likely will try to keep the deals quiet for as
long as it possibly can. However, if Pyongyang wants
to pressure the Bush administration, it will intentionally
leak any deal it reaches with Caracas.
government decides to go for missiles instead of MiG-29s,
Pyongyang has a menu of options that likely would
meet Chávez's political and strategic requirements.
The likeliest options include the Scud-B, which has
a range of about 200 miles; and the Hwasong-6/Scud-C,
with a range of about 300 miles. However, Pyongyang
also produces the Nodong-1, with a range of about
800 miles, and the Nodong-B missile, with a range
between about 1,700 miles and about 2,500 miles.
price list for these systems is highly classified.
However, in July 2000 during missile talks between
the United States and North Korea, Pyongyang offered
to suspend its export of missile technology in exchange
for $1 billion a year to compensate for the loss of
export revenues; the United States reportedly counter
offered with indirect food and humanitarian aid.
of North Korean missiles would significantly increase
Venezuela's political leverage regionally. During
his March trip to France, India, Qatar and Uruguay,
Chávez said -- in one of many speeches accusing the
U.S. government of aggression -- that his enemies
would soon be claiming that Chávez is expanding ties
with North Korea. In fact, political ties between
Caracas and Pyongyang are already being strengthened,
and the impetus for closer relations is coming mainly
from the Chávez government, a source in the Venezuelan
Foreign Ministry reports.
For a force
of 2.3 million volunteer reservists, meanwhile, the
small-arms and other infantry equipment requirements
would be immense. Russian arms suppliers would be
first in line to sell more weapons to Venezuela since
they already have sold 100,000 AK-103 and AK-104 assault
rifles and 40 helicopters to the government. However,
the Chávez government also probably will purchase
small-arms and infantry equipment from South Africa
in coming months.
is an important strategic ally among the multipolar
relationships that Chávez seeks to build. South Africa
also has a large and diversified arms export industry
that is hungry for new markets abroad, and a government
that is desperate to grow the country's economy more
robustly. With arms suppliers in Russia, Spain, Brazil
and China rushing to close deals with Caracas, South
Africa's arms exporters will jump into the action
as soon as they get a chance.
government's actions belie its claims that it is not
entangled in a regional arms race. As originally envisioned,
the military reserve under the president's direct
command was to have totaled 100,000 volunteers deployed
mainly in poor neighborhoods, or barrios. A force
of that size clearly had two objectives. One was to
serve as an instrument of internal repression if the
government's oil wealth vanished and popular support
turned to angry rejection. The other purpose was to
defend the government if the FAN ever revolted against
greatly expanded military reserve of 2.3 million members
is not a force for internal repression. Strategically,
it could be conceived by the Chávez government as
the foundation of a people's guerrilla war against
invading conventional U.S. forces, but a force of
even 600,000 armed reservists could be utilized for
offensive purposes. This would seriously destabilize
the balance of military power in South America, where
the largest army until now has been Brazil's with
a total force of 189,000 personnel. Moreover, it would
flood Venezuela with hundreds of thousands of new
infantry weapons, some of which likely would leak
to militant groups in neighboring countries given
the high level of corruption in the FAN.
The only things
potentially standing in Chávez's way are money constraints
and possible internal resistance to major arms buys
within the Chávez government. Military and civilian
leaders are locked in a power struggle over who will
have the greatest political influence -- and thus
the greatest access to the fiscal resources flooding
into the Bolivarian revolution's treasury. External
pressures, on the other hand -- like U.S. disapproval
-- will not deter Chávez.
the Chávez government's small-arms and conventional-weapons
purchases probably will advance more rapidly in coming
years than its acquisitions of more sophisticated
weapons like Russian MiGs and North Korean missiles.
Transactions involving small arms, armored vehicles,
helicopters and similar items involve many contracts
with many foreign suppliers. These contracts are subject
to little public scrutiny. However, the purchase of
larger and costlier weapons systems like advanced
fighter aircraft and missiles invite more public scrutiny,
bring greater international pressure, and take longer
to negotiate because of the complex technological
issues and large sums of money involved.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Selling off Venezuela´s Jewels
March 17, 2005
on Hugo Chávez’s proposed sale of Citgo ignore
the growth in its value since PDVSA acquired Louisiana’s
second largest refinery. The Citgo of the 21st Century
is a creation of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). When
PDVSA bought half of Citgo Petroleum Corp. in September
1985, from the Thompson brothers of Southland Corp.,
they paid $290 million for half of the Lake Charles
300,000 b/d refinery. PDVSA agreed to provide 130,000
to 200,000 barrels per day (b/d) of crude and feedstock
for the Lake Charles refinery for 20 years. Included
in the sale were a percentage of two important pipelines,
Colonial and Explorer; a lube plant; and over 30 terminals;
and an established gasoline market of branded outlets
(then 6,900, now 13,800 franchised).
By the time
PDVSA announced in November 1989, that it would buy
the other half of Citgo for $675 million, crude runs
in the refinery were averaging 284,000 b/d, and because
of many mothballed refineries after the U.S. decontrol
of oil, it was now a buyer’s market for refineries.
The Citgo refinery had been upgraded between 1982
and 1984 (by Cities Service and then Southland) at
a cost of $500 million, making it one of the most
advanced in the industry. And PDVSA continued to upgrade
Citgo to process Venezuela’s heavy crudes into
cleaner burning gasoline. Citgo announced in 1992,
that it would spend $1.7 billion over the next five
years to comply with the Clean Air Amendments for
the new reformulated gasoline requirements passed
by Congress in 1991.
to grow in size. Champlin Petroleum Company with its
160,000 b/d Corpus Christi refinery, including a petrochemical
facility, and distribution system was added to Citgo,
in September 1990. Citgo also acquired Seaview Petroleum
Co., an asphalt refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey,
refining 84,000 b/d of Venezuela’s heavy crude;
and a fourth refinery was added in Savannah, Georgia.
PDVSA sold its oil to Citgo at an arms length price,
and for tax reasons, Citgo did not pay dividends to
PDVSA. Thus, PDVSA reinvested most of Citgo’s
profits in U.S.-based operations and acquired other
U.S. refineries. Under a treaty in 1999, Citgo’s
U.S. tax burden dropped from 30% to 5%, and in 2001
PDVSA received $213.75 million in dividends from Citgo,
from its 2000 earnings. Chávez continues to receive
annual Citgo dividends.
not only became President of Venezuela in February
1999, but also took over PDVSA, changing its president
and board at a whim, and finally in January 2005 naming
the Minister of Energy also President of “Petroleos
de Chávez” The former PDVSA is effectively Chávez’s
own company, and he can sell any part of it! Well,
PDVSA, in December 2003, announced that they would
sell its 50% stake in Ruhr Oel (four refineries in
Germany) to Russia’s Alfa Group. In 1983, the
Ruhr Oil joint venture with Veba Oel was the beginning
of PDVSA’s “internationalization.”
Twenty years later, Ruhr Oel was also the beginning
of Chávez’s efforts to sell PDVSA’s overseas
refineries. However, in June 2004, the sale to the
Alfa Group was suddenly dropped. Why? There was no
explanation. Chávez had planned to buy 50 Russian
MiGs (with the sale of Ruhr Oel?); and Russia through
the Ruhr purchase would have gained a 2,000 distribution
system in Europe. Perhaps it was BP (British Petroleum)
that had purchased Veba Oel, and therefore now owned
the other half of Ruhr Oel, that quashed the PDVSA
a problem trying to sell Venezuela’s foreign
refineries because most of them are run as joint ventures
-- and their partners in these ventures, who initially
sold half of their refinery to PDVSA, have a say in
what company they will accept as a new partner. Since
PDVSA owns all of the four Citgo refineries, and Citgo
is their largest overseas affiliate, and is in the
largest market, Citgo would be expected to fetch the
largest amount of cash and procure a buyer.
there is a sale of Citgo, only with the U.S. Government’s
permission, it could be a fire sale. Chávez does not
seek to realize Citgo’s $5 billion plus worth
in today’s market. He wants to stop sending
Venezuelan oil to the U.S. (to Citgo), and he wants
to prevent the possibility of the U.S. freezing Citgo’s
assets (after some foolhardy action on his part.)
It appears that Hugo Chávez is considering the sale
of Citgo to foreign buyers, i.e., the Russians (Lukoil),
Brazilians (Petrobras), or Arabs, with the Chinese
now excluded by the U.S. Homeland Security Department.
Presently, there appear to be two U.S. independent
refiners, Valero Energy (CEO Bill Greehey), and Premcor
Inc. (formerly Clark USA) that are interested in one
or two of Citgo’s refineries.
hatred of the United States and President Bush, and
his need for funds for his corrupt regime, is the
driving force behind his wish to sell Venezuela’s
foreign crown jewel. Citgo is a corporation that was
carefully constructed by Venezuelan oilmen under the
Brigido Natera presidency, to conquer the United States
downstream market where Venezuela has traditionally
sold half of its oil production.
The real value
of all the nine PDVSA refineries in the United States
is represented by the opportunity of marketing Venezuela’s
medium/heavy crude oils through PDV America (which
includes refinery ownership of Citgo; Citgo-Lyondell
(41%); Hovensa, St. Croix joint venture; Chalmette,
Louisiana, 50% participation; Sweeney, Texas joint
venture; and Lemont, Illinois now 100%). PDVSA also
markets Venezuelan refined oil products through PDV
America. In 1999, Hugo Chávez’s first year in
power, PDV America amounted to nearly half of all
PDVSA’s market, selling over 1.5 million b/d
of product. However, with the decline of 500,000 b/d
in Venezuelan crude production (now 2.5 million b/d
or less); and around 100,000 b/d of oil exports to
Cuba, and other exports to new markets, like China
and Argentina, PDVSA has to purchase increasing amounts
of oil on the open market, in order to supply their
foreign refineries. The Chávez solution: sell the
Brossard grew up and worked in the oil industry in
Venezuela. Her first book, Petroleum Politics and
Power was published in 1983; followed in 1993
by Petroleum Research and Venezuela's INTEVEP.
For 18 years, Prof Brossard taught political philosophy,
Latin American politics, and energy politics, in several
Midwestern and Southern univerisities. She has a BA
from the Univ. of Wisconsin, MA and Ph.D. from Claremont
Graduate University. An energy consultant for many
years. Petroleumworld not necessarily share these
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Venezuela -- President Hugo Chávez has recently
accused President Bush of plotting to assassinate
him, made suggestive comments about Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, visited Fidel Castro in Cuba, bashed
the United States on the al-Jazeera television network
and traveled to Libya to receive an award from Moammar
and anti-American showmanship are nothing new from
the fiery former paratrooper. But concern in Washington
has been rising as Chávez has worked feverishly in
recent months to match his words with deeds.
to cut off oil shipments to the United States, which
buys 1.5 million barrels a day from Venezuela, Chávez
has been traveling the globe looking for new markets
and allies to unite against "the imperialist
power." He recently signed energy deals with
France, India and China, which is searching for new
sources of oil to power its industrial expansion.
Chávez also has made a series of arms purchases, including
one for military helicopters from Russia.
And on Friday,
Chávez hosted President Mohammad Khatami of Iran,
a nation that has a secretive nuclear program and
has been labeled by Bush as part of an "axis
has every right . . . to develop atomic energy and
to continue its research in that area," Chávez
said at a joint appearance with Khatami. "All
over the world, there is a clamor for equality . .
. and profound rejection of the imperialist desires
of the U.S. government. Faced with the threat of the
U.S. government against our brother people in Iran,
count on us for all our support."
a former Venezuelan government minister who now runs
a private development agency, said such statements
illustrate one of Chávez's key goals. "His main
motivation now is to do everything he possibly can
to negatively affect the United States, Bush in particular,"
Torres said. "He is trying to bring together
all the enemies of the United States. He believes
the United States is the devil."
analysts said they doubt Chávez could afford to severely
cut shipments to the United States, which buys 60
percent of Venezuela's oil exports, they are still
paying careful attention to his statements. Sen. Richard
G. Lugar (R-Ind.) has asked the Government Accountability
Office to study how a sharp decrease in Venezuelan
oil imports might affect the U.S. economy.
has suggested he would "use oil" to fight
American power, other Venezuelan officials have expressed
a far more businesslike view of the relationship.
In an interview, Andres Izarra, Chávez's information
minister, said Venezuela had no plans to stop selling
oil to the United States, which he called "our
natural energy market."
says it produces 3.1 million barrels a day of oil,
but independent analysts put the figure closer to
2.6 million. Izarra said the country aimed to boost
its oil production to about 5 million barrels a day
in the next five years, so there would be plenty of
oil to serve both the United States and new customers,
such as China and India.
comments and actions, including the purchase of a
substantial amount of foreign arms, have drawn sharp
criticism from U.S. officials. In her Senate confirmation
hearings in January, Rice called Chávez a "negative
force in the region."
purchases from Russia, including 100,000 Kalashnikov
rifles, have also drawn protests from the State Department.
He has bought military aircraft from Brazil and announced
plans to buy radar equipment from China.
In a recent
televised speech, Chávez described the arms purchases
and a plan to increase army reserve troops as "an
honorable answer to President Bush's intention of
being the master of the world."
the most vocal and visible symbol of a rising tide
of anti-American sentiment in Latin America. Leaders
in the region are increasingly disillusioned because
a decade or more of the Washington prescription --
democracy and free-market economics -- has failed
to alleviate poverty and economic inequality.
American nations, most recently Uruguay, now have
presidents whose views clash, in varying degrees,
with Washington's. Another politician with sharp anti-Washington
views, Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,
is the early favorite in next year's presidential
election, which could bring the trend to the banks
of the Rio Grande.
defeating his domestic opposition in a recall referendum
last August, and flush with soaring profits from record-high
global oil prices, Chávez has increasingly been making
deals with countries in Latin America, Europe, the
Middle East and Asia, positioning himself as something
of an anti-Bush.
In a recent
interview on al-Jazeera, Chávez called for developing
nations to unite against U.S. political and economic
policies. "What can we do regarding the imperialist
power of the United States? We have no choice but
to unite," he said. Venezuela's energy alliances
with nations such as Cuba, which receives cheap oil,
are an example of how "we use oil in our war
against neoliberalism," he said.
Or, as he
put it on another occasion, "We have invaded
the United States, but with our oil."
the interview, accused the United States of "systematic
attacks and aggressions" against Chávez, repeating
allegations that the United States was involved in
a failed 2002 coup against Chávez and a crippling
2002-03 oil strike. Rice and other U.S. officials
have repeatedly denied those allegations.
saved some of his most biting sarcasm for Rice, whom
he refers to as "Condolencia," which means
"condolence." In speeches, he has called
her "pathetic" and illiterate and made oblique
sexual references to her. "I cannot marry Condolencia,
because I am much too busy," he said in a recent
speech. "I have been told that she dreams about
me," he said on another occasion.
on television last month that Castro had warned him
that Bush was planning an assassination attempt. U.S.
officials called this ridiculous. But Chávez said
that if he were killed, the United States "can
forget Venezuelan oil," threatening to cut off
the fourth-largest source of U.S. oil imports. Chávez's
government has begun exploring the sale of parts of
Citgo, the Venezuela-owned retailer in the United
say they believe Chávez dreams of the day he can cut
off the United States and sell to countries he considers
more friendly. Chávez visited Beijing in December
and signed trade deals for oil and gas exploration,
farm support and construction. He even reached agreement
with Chinese leaders to launch a telecommunications
visited India last week, the two countries signed
an energy cooperation agreement and Chávez said Venezuela
wanted to become a "secure, long-term" petroleum
supplier to India. On his way home, Chávez stopped
in Paris and reached agreement with President Jacques
Chirac for more French investment in the Venezuelan
Some of the
gasoline that Venezuela ships to the United States
comes from El Palito, a refinery about 200 miles west
of Caracas. People who live next to the refinery in
a little cluster of brightly colored beachfront homes
said they did not believe Chávez would ever cut off
exports to the United States. But in a country bitterly
divided over Chávez's rule, they agreed on little
destroying the country," said Carlos Rodriguez,
a shopkeeper. "Oil prices are higher than ever,
but there's more poverty and more crime. Then he flies
off to other countries and offers them things he doesn't
offer to us."
But a few
yards away on the beach, Jaime Mendez, a fisherman,
said: "We are all with Chávez because he helps
the humble people. He doesn't want problems with the
United States. He is just trying to do things, but
they won't let him work."
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
AID CANADIAN OIL SECTOR
By ANGEL GONZALEZ Dow Jones Newswires
When Pedro Pereira-Almao flew to Calgary, Alberta,
to visit his daughter in December 2002, he didn't
realize he had already begun his transition
to a new life.
A manager with Venezuelan National
Petroleum Company Petroleos de Venezuela SA,
or PdVSA, Mr. Pereira-Almao timed the holiday
to coincide with an oilfield strike that was
intended to force the resignation of President
Hugo Chávez. But when the 50-year-old petrochemist
returned to Venezuela that January, Mr. Chávez
was still president - and Mr. Pereira-Almao
was out of a job.
One of 18,000 workers ousted
in a PdVSA purge of Chávez critics, Mr. Pereira-Almao
quickly landed in Calgary, where he has become
part of a growing contingent of former colleagues
who are adapting their expertise to Canada's
The miniexodus is helping to
lift Canada's oil-field hopes, as the industry
pumps in $32 billion to double heavy crude production
by the end of the decade to two million barrels
of oil per day.
Leading Canadian oil producers
have been actively recruiting from Venezuela's
idle pool of talent. Calgary-based Suncor Energy
Inc. recently hired 24 Venezuelans for its oil-sands
upgrading facility near Fort McMurray, a Suncor
spokeswoman said. Canadian Natural Resources
Ltd.'s new vice president of upgrading also
was sacked by PdVSA after the strike. And the
Academy of Learning, an Edmonton, Alberta, vocational
college, is getting up a recruitment and training
program in Caracas, Venezuela, over the next
couple of months to instruct prospects in English
In, Canada, "there's a
great need for the upgrading expertise we developed
in Venezuela in the 1990s, " said Mr. Pereira-Almao,
who helped manage PdVSA's research division.
Made to Order
The Venezuelans are a good
fit because of the similarity between the heavy-oil
projects of the Orinoco Belt in southeastern
Venezuela and the Canadian oil sands, which
contain a comparable low-grade brand of crude.
Unlike conventional crude, which is sent directly
to refineries,heavy oil must first go to an
upgrading plant, where the tar-like goop is
processed into a lighter synthetic that is then
refined into gasoline at a conventional petroleum
Canadian oil-industry officials see the need
for more than 8,600 new oil-sands jobs over
the next decade, with as many as 2,000 needed
this summer. The Venezuelans' experience makes
them exceptional candidates, said Chris Culshaw,
the Academy of Learning's director of international
programs, who figures Canada's labor crunch
would be much worse if Venezuela's political
environment was less turbulent.
"Venezuela has similar
characteristics to Alberta in all respects except
for the weather," Mr. Culshaw said. "So
if the workers might tolerate working at minus
30 degrees, there's a fit."
A chemist who trained in France
and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
in Berkeley, Calif., where he did postdoctoral
work, Mr. Pereira-Almao joined PdVSA in 1990
as a researcher, rising to lead the company's
petroleum upgrading research in 2001.
Mr. Pereira-Almao's banishment
from PdVSA is surprising in that he considers
himself a child of Venezuelan democracy. His
father was a night watchman and his mother a
school-cafeteria supervisor. For a while the
family lived in a shack in a western Caracas
working class neighborhood, but later moved
into an apartment when the last Venezuelan dictator,
Marcos Perez Jimenez, was overthrown in 1958.
"I was always critical
of some what I thought were elitist attitudes
in the company," Mr. Pereira-Almao said.
But he never agreed with Chávez
supporters within PdVSA, considering them professionally
mediocre and intolerant. "I sympathized
with some of those people's ideas, but I'd never
be able to work with them," he said.
When the strike came, Mr. Pereira-Almao
was too busy presenting upgrading projects to
PdVSA's foreign partners to join. But he was
spotted on TV while at one of the opposition's
public meetings. "The 'chavistas' told
me that was the reason I was sacked," he
Mr. Pereira-Almao wasn't entirely
surprised. Expecting a confrontation, he had
already expatriated his savings and contacted
friends abroad. He left Caracas in March 2003;
six months later, he got the grant to start
the upgrading-research center at the University
of Calgary, which received $1.2 million in grants
from the Alberta Ingenuity Fund.
Mr. Pereira-Almao has since
brought in eight former PdVSA colleagues who
are working to boost efficiency in the processing
of oil sands, a capital-intensive process that
now consumes huge amounts of natural gas. The
group is working on developing catalysts to
help separate bitumen from solid minerals while
it sits in the subsoil.
The Second Wave
As more Venezuelans join Mr.
Pereira-Almao in Calgary, there are increasing
signs of a critical mass, said Venezuelans active
in Canada's oil industry.
Carlos Sosa, spokesman for
the Venezuelan-Canadian Association of Calgary,
reports a consistent flow of inquiries from
Venezuelans about jobs there and at Fort McMurray,
an isolated town 800 kilometers north of Calgary,
where most of the oil sands production takes
them to come first without their families, as
the winter is very harsh here," Mr. Sosa
said. "And I tell everybody to improve
their English at whatever the cost. That's key
to landing a good job."
The association has begun posting
information about jobs, in addition to serving
as a liaison for Canadian companies interested
in recruiting abroad and for Venezuelan companies
seeking contracts in Calgary. The group's membership
has swelled to 400 from 60 at the start of 2003.
Postgraduate students, who
in previous eras would have gone back to a cushy
job back home, are now considering staying in
"Alberta is a paradise
for engineers of all kinds," said Eli Viloria,
one of eight Venezuelan Ph.D. students at the
chemical engineering department of the University
of Alberta in Edmonton. "Ideally, I'd like
to help in the transfer of technology between
Alberta and Venezuela. Use the fact that I'm
Venezuelan and I know the language and the culture
there, to look for some sort of synergy."
While the long-term impact
of Venezuela's outflow of skilled workers on
that country's production can't be quantified,
most independent experts consider the brain
drain to be an impediment, at least in the short
Venezuela produces about 2.6
million barrels a day, down from 3.4 million
barrels a day just six years ago. Although PdVSA's
leadership has outlined plans to double production
by 2010, many energy insiders are skeptical
that will happen.
PdVSA workers "were the
real asset of the Venezuelan oil industry,"
said former PdVSA chief Luis Giusti, who left
the company in February 1999 when Mr. Chávez
The growing community of Venezuelan
professionals in Calgary eases the transition
for newcomers, said Mr. Viloria. They socialize,
help each other and form political organizations
to state their opposition to Mr. Chávez from
From his northern refuge, Mr.
Pereira-Almao hopes that the brain exodus will
somehow make its way back to Venezuela. But
it will be difficult for him to return, especially
since his three adult children also live abroad.
He still logs on to Venezuelan newspapers on
the Internet, but less and less.
"It's what happens when
a regime tries to, impose its point of view
by force," said Mr. Pereira-Almao.
Thursday, February 2, 2005
Exposé on the Chávez Administration
It was refreshing to finally
see American media pay some attention to the threat
the Chávez administration poses to the Americas. FOX
NEWS presented three news shorts on
the Chávez administration, and they were by no means
flattering. If you missed them, these videos can be
February 1, 1995
February 2, 1995
February 3, 1995
Friday, October 1, 2004
By A. M. Mora y Leon, The American Thinker
30th, 2004 - Jimmy Carter has been acting
like a grumpy old man this week, casting somewhat
shocking aspersions on the fairness and legitimacy
of the forthcoming Presidential election in Florida.
Maybe his nasty streak has something to do with a
quiet but very significant affront dealt him by the
United States Department of State, an insult which
has completely escaped the notice of the legacy media,
but which is loudly reverberating in the clubby universe
of high level diplomacy and elite NGOs.
The Man from
Plains, who has so assiduously cultivated a good-guy
image, has taken to disparaging the possibility of
a fair democratic process in his own country, in a
fit of pique.
making a nice little side business out of observing
foreign elections for years, through the vehicle of
his nonprofit Carter Center. In the same op-ed article
that he used to disparage in advance Florida's election,
he touted his role in the Aug. 15 Venezuelan recall
referendum as proof of his success. The only problem
is that evidence is mounting of massive electoral
fraud in Venezuela in the counting of votes, in the
machines themselves, in the post-referendum statistical
studies showing improbable results, in the voter rolls,
and in the auditing. And that s just for starters.
Thus, the United
States Department of State has suspended its plan
to endorse former President James Earl Carter's final
report on the Venezuelan election. Carter's report
was to have been the basis for further diplomacy with
a certifiably legitimate government there. Instead,
State has only acknowledged the preliminary findings,
leaving Carter's status as a recognized authoritative
certifier of elections hanging out to dry.
This may not
sound like much to you, but it effectively disconnects
Jimmy Carter's claim to be a momentous election-certifier
from its power source: the ability to get the United
States Government to accept the word of its 39th President
as dispositive. Carter has been quietly but publicly
dissed, and he is dissing back. As they might put
it in Carter's rural South, we ve got us a dissing
Carter posted a 14-page executive summary of his election
certification of Venezuela on the Carter Center website.
It is a piece of work.
In the short
summary, Carter bureaucratically repeats his claim
that he matched paper ballots from 150 or 200 voting
stations to a few sheets of transmission data, as
if that were the only way to commit fraud in a place
like Venezuela. Carter continues to muddle the issue
of whether there was a problem with the choice of
audit boxes picked by the five-member election commission,
that even he admitted was stacked for Chávez.
In an earlier
report on his Aug. 26 second audit, he admitted disregarding
auditing any boxes that had been obviously tampered
with. That s certainly one way to simplify the process
and get right to the business of approving the results.
ignores the problem of server communications with
the electronic voting machines before transmitting
final tallies, and dismisses post-referendum statistical
studies by scientists from MIT and elsewhere, showing
highly improbable coincidences. On that, Carter's
simple rebuttal reads: these patterns were not found
a basis to assert fraud.
Carter skips over discrepancies in areas showing that
the number of votes cast exceeded the number of registered
voters. And his statement on the auditing process
in particular is a beauty: Carter said everything
was observed free and clear, except for what went
on in the central totalization room, and concluded
that, except for that minor matter, all was free and
fair. It would be like an Olympic judge declaring
a last-place finisher a winner - with the exception
of what went on at the finish line. For good measure,
Carter's executive summary blames Venezuela s free
press for voter disillusion and recommends more government
oversight on it, as well as more public funding for
campaigns of this kind. No wonder the Bush Administration
has decided to not touch it. The State Department
had trusted Carter to give an honest, or let's say
competent, assessment of that mess that has real potential
to blow into a crisis for the U.S. Make no mistake
about the depth of anger of the Venezuelan people
and what they are likely to do. Venezuela s crucial
role as a major oil-supplier role for the U.S. makes
anything happening there to destabilize the country
and its economy and matter of major immediate concern.
It s not really
an election, so we haven't said anything more than
that and we re not going to say any more, a State
Department official admitted. Since then, the Bush
Administration s position has hardened. Carter's claims
of free and fair elections in Venezuela are being
shunted aside as a failure. That has denied Chávez
the recognition he had been expecting from Carter,
which he had hoped would extend into the White House.
Bush is much too savvy for that and Chávez's plan
failed. U.S. officials have pointedly refused to congratulate
Chávez on his victory, and haven t bothered to invite
him to the White House or a key United Nations reception
as Chávez had hoped, prompting him to cancel his U.S.
trip earlier this month. And the result for Carter?
No kudos are coming his way after his rush to declare
the recall referendum free and fair. That s why he
must toot his own horn now, if he wants credit, in
attack editorials denigrating Bush s brother running
Florida. His vindictive streak is by now well-known.
He can only try to tear down others, now that no one
is listening to his observations after the Venezuela
fiasco. And Chávez has been denied the imprimatur
of international legitimacy he desperately craves
since the reality is, he isn t going to get it at
home. Score another point for President Bush's good
judgment on affairs abroad.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
The Worst Ex-President in
Commentary on the News
Saturday, August 28, 2004
Jack Kinsella - Omega Letter
four years in the White House, he presided over the
worst economic downturn since World War II, allowed
a bunch of thugs to seize our embassy and our citizens,
and supported Philippine dictator Fernando Marcos,
Pakistani General Zia al Huq, Saudi King Faud and
many other dictators. But Jimmy Carter was a much
better president than he is an ex-president.
In fact, Jimmy
Carter holds the hands-down record for being the worst
ex-president the United States has ever known. His
post-presidential meddling in foreign affairs has
cost America dearly, both in terms of international
credibility and international prestige.
He defied US
law by visiting Cuba, even addressing the Cuban public
and handing Castro a huge propaganda victory. He oversaw
the elections in Haiti, against the expressed wishes
of the Clinton administration. A coup followed.
described Yugoslav strongman Marshal Josef Tito as
"a man who believes in human rights." Regarding
North Korea's dearly departed Kim Il-Sung, Carter
found him "vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly
well-informed about the technical issues, and in charge
of the decisions about this country," adding
"I don't see that [North Koreans] are an outlaw
He was similarly
generous regarding Manuel Noriega, Romanian dictator
Nicolai Ceaucescu and, of course, Yasser Arafat. He
said of Ceausescu and himself, "Our goals are
the same: to have a just system of economics and politics
. . . We believe in enhancing human rights."
of the humanitarian activities of the Carter Foundation
abroad have been in direct opposition to US foreign
policy. Carter called Bush's description of Iran,
Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil"
was "overly simplistic and counterproductive."
Added the man
who was once attacked by a rabbit, "I think it
will take years before we can repair the damage done
by that statement."
His most recent
adventure may be partly behind the predicted $3.00
per gallon analysts say we'll be paying for gas by
year's end. Jimmy Carter went to Venezuela to 'monitor'
that country's effort to recall President Hugo Chávez.
In 1992, a
band of army officers led by Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez
Frías attempted to overthrow President Carlos
Andrés Pérez. Although court-martialed
and jailed, Chávez emerged a hero.
In 1998, he
was elected president on promises to clean out corruption
and reduce poverty. Once in office, Chávez
promoted a new consitution to consolidate his powers
and began to constrain the business community, civil
society, and rival politicians.
As a presidential
candidate, Hugo Chávez campaigned against the
"savage capitalism" of the United States.
On August 10, 2000, he became the first foreign leader
to visit Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War, and he
allegedly aided Afghanistan's Taliban government following
the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States.
At the same
time, Chávez said that Cuba and Venezuela were
"called upon to be a spearhead and summon other
nations and governments" to fight free market
also one of the countries upon which the United States
is dependent for oil, and has been since the US first
began relying on imported oil supplies back in 1948.
the United States with 1.5 million barrels of oil
a day, Venezuela provides most of the petroleum consumed
by U.S. allies in the Caribbean and Central America.
know that opposing Chávez in any significant
fashion could result in less favorable sales terms
or cuts in deliveries.
2003, President Chávez accused the Dominican
Republic of harboring Venezuelans--like former President
Carlos Andrés Pérez--who allegedly might
conspire against his government. Chávez then stopped
oil deliveries, prompting a temporary energy crisis
while Dominican officials scrambled for new suppliers.
perspective of American economic interests, not to
mention homeland security issues, Hugo Chávez is a
very bad man to have in the neighborhood. And, thanks
to Jimmy Carter, Chávez isn't going away anytime soon.
opposition party finally forced a recall election,
with opinion polls showing that voters favored his
recall by a margin of more than 2 to 1.
were questions about possible vote tampering by the
Chávez side, the opposition called for election monitors.
Chávez agreed to let Jimmy Carter oversee the election,
and the Carter Center headed for Caracas.
Carter's watchful eye, Hugo Chávez defeated the recall
attempt by a wide margin -- reflecting almost a mirror-image
of the opinion polls.
While two out
of three Venzuelans polled before the election wanted
Chávez out, when the ballots were counted, Chávez
was declared the winner by an almost exact opposite
margin. "About 58 percent said 'no' to a recall,
while 42 percent said 'yes,'" wrote the Washington
a press release from the polling firm Penn, Schoen
& Berland Assoc. that reported, "Exit Poll
Results Show Major Defeat for Chávez." The release,
dated 7:30 p.m. on election day, said, "With
Venezuela's voting set to end at 8 p.m. EST according
to election officials, final exit poll results from
Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, an independent
New York-based polling firm, show a major victory
for the 'Yes' movement, defeating Chávez in the Venezuela
presidential recall referendum."
One of the
most effective ways to monitor the fairness of an
election is to employ the use of exit polls. In a
nutshell, here's how exit polls work. After somebody
has finished voting, a pollster will ask them how
they voted. In emerging democracies, about 90% of
in America, where exit polls are widely used to call
elections before the votes are all counted, less than
40% of voters participate.
exit polls should mirror the actual vote, within a
relatively thin margin of error.
of error between Carter's certified fair-and-square
ballots and the independent exit poll results constituted
a swing of almost forty points -- a statistical impossibility.
Chávez counted on Carter leaning his way -- Carter's
history of promoting anti-American dictators is no
Hayward noted in a column at Front Page, "among
his complex motivations is his determination to override
American foreign policy when it suits him."
penchant for interfering in US foreign policy is so
well known it won him a Nobel Prize. Jimmy Carter
will go down in history as the first US ex-president
ever to be awarded a Nobel Prize for the sole purpose
of conveying an insult to his country from the Nobel
chairman of the five-member committee, told reporters
that giving the Peace Prize to Carter "must also
be seen as criticism of the line the current U.S.
administration has taken on Iraq ... It's a kick in
the leg to all that follow the same line as the United
can we REALLY show how much we hate the Americans?
I know! Let's give a Nobel Prize to Jimmy Carter!")
had stolen the election and Jimmy Carter certified
the results, certain American critics (pretty much
anybody with a brain) started questioning whether
or not Jimmy Carter had just sold American interests
down the river -- again.
back in a Wall Street Journal Opinion piece, writing;
familiar with potential fraudulent techniques and
how to obtain a close approximation to the actual
results to assure accuracy."
that Jimmy Carter is far too savvy to be conned by
a mere thug like Chávez, Carter then dismissed the
results of the exit polls, writing;
the voting day, opposition leaders claimed to have
exit-poll data showing the government losing by 20
percentage points, and this erroneous information
was distributed widely."
that! The New York pollsters 'widely distributed erroneous
information' -- Hugo Chávez won fair and square. Jimmy
Carter says so.
evidently must have cheated, although it is a reputable
New York polling firm with a 20 year track record,
including working for Bill Clinton in 1996, Hillary
Rodham Clinton in 2001, Michael Bloomberg in 2001
and many other national political campaigns.
Why would it
risk its hard-won professional reputation over an
election in Venezuela? Carter doesn't explain.
is bad news from the perspective of US national security.
He is bad news from the perspective of homeland security.
He is bad news from the perspective of US dependence
of foreign oil. And he is bad news for America's economic
Hugo Chávez good news from the perspective of the
worst ex-president in US history.
from the Omega Letter Daily Intelligence Digest,
Volume:35: Issue 26
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Venezuela Eyes Russian MiGs UPI International
Venezuela plans to acquire 50 of Russia's most advanced
warplanes, according to U.S., European and Latin American
military intelligence officials who are concerned about
regional ambitions harbored by President Hugo Chávez.
Chávez's plans to use oil revenues to upgrade his military
were reported last May by CNN, which quoted Pentagon sources
as saying that Venezuela would spend an estimated $5 billion
to obtain sophisticated hardware.
United Press International has details of agreements
being negotiated with Russian defense contractors for
a large number of super jet fighters fitted with state-of-the-art
weaponry. In letters addressed last year to the director
general of Russian Aeronautic Corp., Nicolai F. Nikitin,
the Venezuelan air force requested the "latest version"
of the MiG 29 SMT equipped with high-tech weaponry, including
radar-guided missiles and 2,000-pound bombs.
"The plane must have the capacity to carry no less
than 4 tons of bombs," says the document signed by
the Venezuelan air force commander, Maj. Gen. Regulo Anselini
Espin, a copy of which has been obtained by UPI. Venezuelan
generals have told European diplomatic officials that
they need the MiGs to protect the Panama Canal. When asked
against whom, the air chiefs wouldn't specify.
Venezuelan defense officials tell UPI that they are
turning to new defense partners because of deteriorating
military relations with the United States. More than half
of Venezuela's 22 F-16s are currently grounded due lack
of maintenance and spare parts. But Colombia and other
neighboring countries fear that the new arms would enable
Chávez to impose his geopolitical and ideological agenda.
The MiG purchase order asks for various types of offensive
air-to-surface missiles, including anti- radar Kh-31A,
Kh-31P and Kh-29T "for use against ships." Radar-guided
KAB-500 KR bombs as well as RVV-AE, R-27 T1, R27 R1, R27
ER1 and R-73E air-to- air systems are also specified in
the inventory, as are multifunctional Zhuk-M cockpit radars
for "over the horizon" combat operations.
"The total quantity of airplanes provided is of
40 single-seat planes and 10 twin-seat planes," Venezuelan
air force documents state. Defense analysts point out
that two-seat MiGs are normaly used for deep, surgical
Ten aircraft are due to be delivered within 18 months
of signing the contract, which also involves setting up
a MiG 29 maintenance center in Venezuela, according to
air force officials who outline plans for long-term supply
and maintenance. "Future deliveries will be made
with the participation of the specialists of the Venezuelan
air force in the joint assembly of the planes and their
test flights following their assembly on Venezuelan territory,"
say letters of intent with Russia.
Several MiGs already are in Venezuela, according to
Colombian defense officials who have shown UPI photographs
of the planes being prepared for flight testing at the
Libertador air base in Maracaibo. A U.S. intelligence
source also claims that MiGs have been spotted flying
near the Caribbean island of Curaçao.
Members of Venezuela's military say handpicked pilots
are undergoing flight training in Cuba, which has six
MiG 29s. Cuba is the only country in Latin America, except
Peru, to be equipped with the advanced Russian model.
Fidel Castro offers various types of security assistance
to Venezuela in exchange for oil.
Russian and Cuban military officials enjoy warm relations
with the Venezuelan Defense ministry, according to American
and EU diplomatic sources who believe that Russia is prepared
to sell the full MiG package. The sources say that Russia's
defense attache, air force Col. Oleg Krajotin, holds regular
meetings with Venezuelan Defense Minister Garcia Carneiro.
Venezuelan contracts are also being drawn up for Russian
Mi-17 heavy-lift helicopters as well as radar systems
from China, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
The arms give Chávez the military muscle to project
regional leadership following his presidency's reaffirmation
through a national referendum held last Aug. 15. He also
is strengthening ties with Iran.
"This is battle not only for Venezuela but for
all of Latin America and the Third World," Chávez
told a cheering crowd of followers when he kicked off
his referendum campaign last July. He warned about worldwide
retaliation against American interests if the United States
intervened against Venezuela's " irreversible revolutionary
process" and called on all Latin Americans to unite
against the "empire from the north."
Domestic political opponents accuse Chávez of using
fraud to win last month's referendum. The Organization
of American States is investigating the allegations.
Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
last month, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage
conditioned improved American relations with Venezuela
on a "toning down of anti-American rhetoric"
and a "modification of policies prejudicial to U.S.
Chávez has granted American oil companies important
offshore oil drilling concessions. But his foreign minister
was in Tehran just two weeks ago to arrange a state visit,
which would be Chávez's second official trip to Iran since
2001. He also enjoyed close relations with Saddam Hussein
before the Iraqi regime was toppled by a U.S. invasion.
Colombian officials fear that a Venezuelan military
buildup might embolden Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces
(FARC) guerrillas who hailed Chávez's referendum victory
as "a stimulus for liberation movements in all of
"FARC forms part of our Bolivarian
Revolutionary Army," says Ileana Ibarra, a local
leader of the Circulos Bolivarianos in Caracas. "We
are forming the Great Colombia" she says, referring
to a project for integrating both countries that was
proposed in the 19th century by Venezuela's independence
hero, Simon Bolivar.
Colombia has received billions of dollars
in U.S. military assistance for counterinsurgency operations,
including a fleet a of Blackhawk helicopters. But Colombia
has nothing to match the MiG 29s, which would give Venezuela
"the largest and most potent air force in Latin
America," according former Colombian air force
chief, Gen. Nestor Ramirez.
The Colombian government alleges that Venezuelan aircraft
have flown incursions to support leftist FARC guerrilla
units along border areas. Chávez, in turn, accuses Colombian
right-wing paramilitary groups of conspiring with domestic
opponents to destabilize his government.
Other longstanding territorial disputes have caused
Bogota to raise a protest against Caracas this week. According
to the news agency EFE, the Colombian government has complained
that Venezuelan offshore concessions just granted to international
oil companies infringe on Colombian territorial waters.
"We are heading toward a war with Colombia,"
said a Venezuelan military intelligence officer who claims
that contingency plans are being drawn up for a potential
conflict with the neighboring country.
Venezuela also is backing Bolivia's historical claims
on Chilean Pacific ocean ports. At a meeting of Latin
American presidents held last year, Chávez called for
the return of a stretch of coastline annexed by Chile
during a war in 1879. He just gave 11 armed T-34 jet trainers
to the Bolivian air force and has offered to train its
Bolivia's main leftist opposition leader, Evo Morales,
who is a close friend of Chávez, has been heading a campaign
to block gas exports to Chile. U.S. intelligence sources
maintain that Venezuela's ruling Revolutionary Movement
channeled $15 million to Bolivian leftist organizations
that toppled a pro-U.S. government last year.
U.S. Vacuum in Latin America Phil Brennan
There's a powerful new player in Latin America and its
aggressive presence south of our borders spells trouble
for the U.S. in this politically sensitive region
Writing about "The Middle Kingdom in Latin America"
in the September 3 Wall Street Journal,
Mary Anastasia O'Grady explained that China is "inching
into the void" created by U.S. failure to pay attention
to what's happening among our neighbors in the Caribbean
and Latin America.
"U.S.-Latin America policy is now defined by a
costly drug war of doubtful effectiveness, persistent
and damaging International Monetary Fund meddling, harassment
of Latin militaries at the behest of left-wing NGOs, an
intelligence network that counts coca plants for a living
and a naïve attitude toward bullies like Venezuela's
Hugo Chávez," O'Grady wrote.
"This has left Latins scratching their heads about
Dubya. Of course, these are not Bush values. But they
are the priorities of his State Department and other agencies
and by default have become the U.S. agenda in the region."
Into this delicate situation steps China, with money
and markets to offer to an area in need of both, making
the Asian powerhouse a political and economic rival of
the U.S. in its own backyard.
And it's not just Latin Americans who are feeling China's
presence in their midst - the islands of the Caribbean
are also targeted by Beijing's growing presence and influence
, O'Grady reveals, citing the deployment to Haiti of a
130-man Chinese riot-control police unit, scheduled to
arrive in mid-September to join the United Nations stabilization
mission as "A relatively minor but interesting example."
Noting that it is true that while the "U.N. needs
peacekeepers for this thankless job in Haiti, it is at
least mildly ironic that China's police, notorious for
their high-handed and sometimes brutal treatment of Chinese
citizens, are now charged with protecting human life in
As NewsMax.com reported in
"Chinese Company Completes World's Largest Port in
Bahamas", Hutchison Whampoa,
a Hong Kong-based conglomerate with close ties to China's
People's Liberation Army that has taken operational control
of the Panama Canal was then in the process of completing
construction of the largest container port in the world
in Freeport, Bahamas – just 60 miles from Florida.
Turning to Cuba, she notes China's military relationship
with Castro's Communist regime. She quotes a chilling
staff report from the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American
Studies at the University of Miami
as reporting that: "In February 1999, [China's defense
minister] Chi [Haotian] visited Havana to finalize an
agreement with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro to operate
joint Sino-Cuban signals intelligence and electronic warfare
facilities on the island, equipped (at China's expense)
with the latest telecommunications hardware and fully
integrated into Beijing's global satellite network. By
March 1999, [Chinese Army] officers and technicians began
monitoring U.S. telephone conversations and Internet data
from a new cyber-warfare complex in the vicinity of Bejucal,
some 20 miles south of Havana."
The report adds: "A second installation, capable
of eavesdropping on classified U.S. military communications
by intercepting satellite signals was also constructed
on the eastern end of the island, near the city of Santiago
Rounding out the Chinese Caribbean trifecta, O'Grady notes
"is Venezuela, where an anti-American demagogue,
Hugo Chávez, delights in the kind of Yankee-baiting
his hero, Fidel Castro, has long practiced."
O'Grady quotes Cynthia Watson, a professor of strategy
at the National War College
in Washington who has just spent a year studying China's
influence in the region as writing that. while Latin America
is still below Africa in terms of Chinese strategic interest
it is getting more attention.
"China has a targeted need to find energy resources,"
says Watson, who emphasized that her comments are her
own. "They are interested in oil contracts in Venezuela,
Ecuador and Colombia. That's why Jiang Zemin went to Caracas
in 2001. They want to cultivate a relationship that would
put them in a more favorable situation and they want to
show Latin American nations that they will treat them
as sovereigns, that they won't preach to them and they
will act as partners."
The idea that China offers an alternative to dealing
with the U.S. in both economic and political terms O'Grady
suggests is likely to appeal to the likes of Hugo Chávez,
Brazil's President Luis Inácio "Lula"
da Silva and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner.
"The growing relationship between Brazil and China
is viewed as two emerging powers that can benefit each
other vis-à-vis the U.S," Watson adds noting
that for China, "there is the possibility of utilizing
Brazil's space program which is on an equatorial path.
And Beijing would like to be the major market where Brazil
goes when it wants to sell its agricultural products.
Lula has not embraced the FTAA
[Free Trade Area of the Americas]
and may go to Beijing instead."
China's fixation with conquering Taiwan and the fact
that six Central American nations have diplomatic relations
with Taipei, O'Grady suggests may be why "China reportedly
has made a generous offer (some say $10 billion or more)
to Panama to fund an enlargement of the Panama Canal.
"The effort to shut out Taiwan
also explains why China is dropping big bucks into the
Caribbean, where the 14 independent English-speaking
nations are always hungry for handouts. The latest Chinese
victory in what policy wonks call "yuan diplomacy"
came in March when Dominica dropped its recognition
of Taiwan in favor of Beijing."
Summing up, O'Grady warns that China's rising influence
in the region "could complicate U.S. efforts to
control illegal immigration, weapons shipments, the
drug trade and money laundering because China is cooperating
with Latin countries that are not especially friendly
toward those efforts. Some of these nations may try
to use the Chinese alternative to challenge U.S. hegemony.
"Given China's view of liberty,
this cannot be a positive development for the Americas.
To counter it, the White House would do well to take
a hard look at the crippled diplomacy the State Department
has been practicing. It needs an agenda defined by American
values that will foster growth, sound money and open
markets. As importantly, it needs to re-examine whether
the war on drugs, as currently waged, is doing more
harm than good."
image would make for an interesting "Under
Construction" graphic for a website:
Monday, June 14, 2004
By Gustavo Coronel
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
Chávez 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 Chávez, Venezuela's increasingly dictatorial
Today, Chávez 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. Chávez in power. That includes
quashing the present attempt to get rid of Mr. Chávez
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 Chávez’s
own ministers; and none other than Chávez ‘
brother is Venezuela’s ambassador to Cuba, while
Chávez consults Mr. Castro daily. Thanks to Chávez
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 –Chávez 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, Chávez has opened wide Venezuela’s doors
to every type of subversion coming from Cuba or terrorist
controlled areas of Colombia. With Chávez, 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
Chávez 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 Chávez
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. Chávez 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 Chávez favor. The result:
the authoritarian Chávez enjoys enormous latitude
regardless of his well-known hostility towards the
U.S. and his alliance with Castro. Indeed, the U.S.
has allowed Chávez 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 Chávez.' The strikes and protests, the violence
and death, and the recall, were aimed at getting rid
of Chávez. Of these, the only tactic that is truly
democratic is the recall, and Chávez, after winning
a handful of elections, is not likely to let that
happen. Meanwhile, Chávez 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 Chávez. 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 Chávez will try it have not read Chávez. 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 Chávez 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.