9.8.06

BBC in the footsteps of Reuters...

The BBC, aka Bolivarian Broadcasting Corporation, like no other global news provider is responsible to have established firmly the benign image that many outside Venezuela have about the caudillo Hugo Chavez. Let us not forget that the Beeb co-produced the fiction docu-drama The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Their website is just another mouth of Bolivarian political propaganda. Recently the Caracas correspondant Greg Morsbach 'reported' about the legal trial of Henrique Capriles Radonski, Mayor of Baruta district in Caracas and one of the most notorious victims of the political prosecution campaign unleashed by Hugo. I took issue with it and sent a complaint letter to the BBC. What follows is the exchange with Stewart McCullough, Divisional Advisor of BBC Information.

The BBC published an article from its Caracas correspondant Greg Morsbach, in which he fails to address, in customary fashion, the most relevant issues of this case. Namely:

- Morsbach fails to mention that the most important bit of evidence a video submitted by Capriles' defence, 'went missing' from the court;

- Morsbach contends "Cuba's ambassador has told local media Mr Capriles should have used his authority as mayor but did nothing to protect his embassy" (sic). However video evidence shows that indeed Capriles did everything in his power to protect Castro's representatives. As seen in the video Capriles, and others, met with Sanchez Otero, who accepted the help offered;

- Morsbach cites that "the ambassador says the opposition mayor entered the premises to demand that the building be searched for any fugitive pro-Chavez officials" (sic), which again is a falacy. Capriles entered the building to safeguard and guarantee the safety of all diplomatic personnel, as shown in the video, that, most curiously, went missing;

- Morsbach fails to address the statements given by Sanchez Otero during Ernesto Villegas' interview whereby he argues that Capriles is lying about the alleged involvement in the siege. I would like to draw reader's attention to the video below, and compare the tone and demeanour of Sanchez Otero to the one linked above;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWmL4RcL-ms

- Morsbach fails to mention that Sanchez Otero spoke to Dog Mork Ulnes Norwegian Ambassador to Venezuela, who offered to mediate, and is on the record saying "there's no conflict, absolutely no conflict, we are conversing and dialoguing as two sister nations, it's a misunderstanding that it's been resolved in this instance..." (sic);

- Morsbach fails to mention that Sanchez Otero is on the record recognising the authority of Pedro Carmona Estanga, declaring that he had sent a message to president Carmona Estanga and further stressing that the responsility of any act that could take place against them would lay on the shoulders of the President of Venezuela, its Foreign Secretary and ultimately its government, i.e. Venezuela's Executive;

- Morsbach fails to mention that Capriles has already been imprisoned for 120 days in relation to this very same case. Some particulars of his case can be read here;

In sum the BBC's correspondant does another botched job by presenting a fifth of the story, conveniently failing to report issues of great relevance, which by the way, are in clear violation to Venezuela's sovereignty and legislation.

Initially I got a courtesy reply from Stewart McCullough stating that they were looking into my concern and will reply shortly. Then his department sent the following unsigned reply:

Dear Mr Boyd

The article to which you refer gives an impartial and basic outline of the legal case, reflecting the positions of the different parties involved.

The BBC News website caters for a world audience and not an audience of pure Venezuela specialists - we therefore need to keep the story simple and concentrate on the key elements, which is what our correspondent has done.

Thank you again for your interest in our coverage.

Regards
BBC News website

To which I replied thusly:

Dear Mr. McCullough,

many thanks for your message. It seems to me that there's no end in sight in the dispute for objectivity, accuracy and impartiality betweenbloggers and main stream media. I don't think it's of use to remind you about the contents of the Royal Charter and BBC's own guidelines, but perhaps you can point out to me where is it established that the BBC need to keep stories basic in order to accommodate to the intellectual level of its audience.

As described Mr. Morsbach did an appalling job, conveniently simplifying a story to cast a negative light upon opposition politicians so that BBC's "world audience" continues to be misled and misinformed about the politics of Venezuela, so that the propaganda in favour of Hugo Chavez keeps unabated.

Keep up the good work, bearing in mind what has just happened to Reuters. Sooner than you think it'll be the turn of the BBC.

Cordially, Aleksander Boyd

5.8.06

Fidel Castro has died

Valldemossa 03.08.06 | Understandably there is much ado about the health condition of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Even in this lovely village, whose mayorship would be the envy of Red Ken, people are talking about it. The MSM is already spreading avalanches of crap about Cuba's future under the rule of yet-to-come-out-of-the-closet Raul Castro. I have checked the news: the only sources of (dis)information proclaiming that the tyrant is just undergoing surgery are, of course, Venezuelan and Cuban ones, which, needs be stressed, have not got one shred of credibility left. Therefore I can announce that Fidel Castro has died.

If tomorrow, or the day/week/month after, he appears in public and proves me wrong I can always retract. However, based on the information available and my own sources, I have no reason to believe that the criminal that ruined Cuba and oppressed its people for half a century is alive.

As Carlo Gambino, Fidel Castro perished in a relatively peaceful sort of way, contrary with what had been his trademark. What a shame; Cuban victims and honourable people the world over lost for good the opportunity for revenge or, at the very least, will not be able to find solace upon the fact that Castro, as the heir of the Gambino family John Gotti, would rot incommunicado in an ADMAX type of facility.

What will his putative son do now?

2.7.06

Las razones de mi retiro...

Londres 02 de Julio 2006 | [Va sin acentos] Hace unos dias anuncie publicamente que me retiraria del activismo politico. A raiz de tal anuncio he recibido una gran cantidad de correos que expresan, en la mayoria de los casos, apoyo y solidaridad, lo cual agradezco enormemente. Algunos criticaron el que haya calificado a Sumate de irresponsable, mientras otros reprocharon mi decision, por cuanto la perciben como la mas facil para alguien considerado como "apoltronao" en Europa. Los especuladores tambien se han pronunciado al respecto y mis criticos estan, como es logico, gozando un bolon. Es menester sin embargo que me extienda un tanto en las razones que me llevaron a retirarme.

Ante todo debo decir que esa decision he logrado postergarla por mucho tiempo, mas llegue al sabado. Contrariamente a lo que algunos estiman representa mi condicion economica creanme cuando les digo que de "apoltronao" no tengo nada. Desde luego que si ese hubiese sido el caso mi lucha, las mas de las veces individual, habria sido muchisimo mas certera y efectiva, pues como imaginaran oponerse a un tipo que tiene 30.000 millones de dolares en la chequera y petroleo para regalar no es tarea facil, ni barata. Como decia Napoleon, para llevar a cabo una guerra exitosamente se necesitan tres cosas: dinero, dinero y dinero. Lamentablemente no tengo ninguno de los tres elementos requeridos y como soy galan, no tengo vida contra el billetuo. Con las uñas, arrojo, cantidad industrial de irreverencia y mucha creatividad he logrado algunas cosas. Pero no solo de activismo politico vive el hombre, las cuentas, esas hay que seguir pagandolas, y cuando todo se descuida por un ideal que no aporta mas que enemistades por doquier, pronto llega el momento de batirse en retirada, es decir a este chancho le llego su sabado...

La progresion natural para un individuo que se ha dedicado en cuerpo y alma al activismo politico por una causa no es otra, en paises democraticos, que lanzarse al ruedo a tratar de ganar el apoyo de los muchos en el terreno de las ideas. No obstante, cuales son los chances reales de que eso suceda en mi caso, en Venezuela? Ninguno, y saben porque? Porque yo no tengo adeptos en ninguno de los bandos que hacen vida en la politica de mi pais. Es decir no tengo representacion y es por ello que tengo que representarme yo mismo. Como no tengo rabo de paja, y lo mismo expongo las marramucias de opositores como de chavistas, pues soy detestado por ambos. No puedo unirme a ningun partido pues no creo en ninguno y tampoco puedo apoyar candidatura alguna pues los que en esas andan son unos irresponsables de mierda que no representan sino sus propios intereses, y que de paso pretenden ahora ser mas chavistas que el mero mesmo. La nueva generacion de politicos esta por emerger y cuando alcance proporciones considerables sin duda lo hara. Pero si no existe una unidad de criterio y proposito, consenso en cuanto a la necesidad de proveer bienestar para todos, y no para unos pocos, y acuerdo de no agresion entre ellos hasta tanto retorne la democracia, el apatrida y sus leguleyos seguiran campantes en el poder. Olvidense de izquierdas benignas, populistas unicejos y demas paja, el pueblo de Venezuela lo que necesita es trabajo, estabilidad, paz y armonia. La tan mentada izquierda tuvo su chance, es mas tiene casi 50 años enquistada en el poder y lo que vivimos hoy no es sino consecuencia de ella.

Lo de la demanda contra el alcalde de esta ciudad ha sido otro de los detonantes, por cuanto las acusaciones proferidas no son de barriga verde o de escualido, no. Ken Livingstone, en cumplimiento de sus funciones y en foro publico, me acuso dizque de apoyar al terrorismo contra la democracia venezolana, esa que existe tan solo en los predios mentales del chavismo y en botiquines concurridos por candidatos de oposicion. No es pendejada la observacion hecha, ya que aqui mismo en Londres han matado, no hace mucho, gente sospechosa de estar de alguna forma relacionada con el terrorismo. Con la ligereza tipica de un chavista el Livingstone lanzo esa perla. Pruebas para demostrar en una corte de verdad verdad lo que dijo no tiene. Pero de igual forma el reto de enfrentarlo es formidable, habida cuenta de mi situacion y que contrato los servicios de una de las firmas de abogados mas poderosas de este pais. Un buen simil de todo este rollo es aquel del soldado tratando de matar un mosquito con una bazuca.

Mi lucha, en solitario, continuara atenuandose hasta que desaparezca de un todo, no porque no quiera sino porque bajo estas circunstancias no pueda. Venezuela pasa a un segundo plano pues ahora es primordial que me defienda de quienes, abusando el poder, me atacan directamente. Sin embargo me gustaria concluir de forma positiva afirmando que si todos hicieramos un poquito, si todos considerasemos a nuestra patria como nuestro hogar, que debe ser defendido a toda hora y en todo lugar de malhechores y hampones que buscan destruirlo, las cosas mejorarian sustancialmente. Una golondrina no hace verano y un puñadito de gente honesta, por muy idealista que sea, no tumba una dictadura. Preguntenle a los cubanos si dudan de mis palabras.

Asi pues, estimadas y estimados, es con mucho pesar que he decidido retirarme. Si los venezolanos, de tanto intentar, logran que cambien los aires en Venezuela, sere el primero en devolverme p'a mi vaina, a luchar por lo que creo justo y beneficioso para todos.

7.4.06

Smartmatic

London 14.08.05 | The Florida register of companies contains details of the board of directors of Smartmatic Corporation, which is formed by Antonio Mugica, Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica Rivero, Roger Piñate, Antonio Mugica Sesma and Luis Feliu [1]. Its principal place of business is 1001 Broken Sound Parkway, NW, STE D, Boca Raton, FL 33487. The company's history in Venezuela dates back to seven years ago when the venture was "the Research and Development Unit of Panagroup in Venezuela" (sic) and in "2000 we realized the true impact of our technology in the growing device-networking market, and we emerged as an independent company" (sic) [2]. The Miami Herald reported on Friday May 28, 2004 [ F2 EDITION]:

"A large and powerful investor in the software company that will design electronic ballots and record votes for Venezuela's new and much criticized election system is the Venezuelan government itself... Venezuela's investment in Bizta Corp., the ballot software firm, gives the government 28 percent ownership of the company it will use to help deliver voting results in future elections, including the possible recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez, according to records obtained by The Herald... Until a year ago, the Bizta Corp. was a struggling Venezuelan software company with barely a sales deal to its name, records show. Then, the Venezuelan government -- through a venture capital fund -- invested about $200,000 and bought 28 percent of it" (sic).

Further the Herald also shed light upon shareholders and registered addresses of both Smartmatic and Bizta thusly:

Three companies will build and execute Venezuela's new touch-screen voting system. Two are incorporated in Florida, though neither does most of its business here.

* Smartmatic Corp., which will build the machines, incorporated in Florida in 2000 and lists its world headquarters at 6400 Congress Ave. in Boca Raton. Its president is Antonio Mugica Rivero, 30, and its vice president is Alfredo Anzola, 30.

* Bizta Corp.,which will provide software for the new machines, incorporated in Florida in 2001, and lists its address as 19591 Dinner Key Dr., Boca Raton, a residential property owned by Mugica's father. Mugica is listed as president, and Anzola is vice president, according to Florida records. Venezuelan records, however, indicate Anzola is president. In Caracas, Bizta shares its office with Smartmatic.

* CANTV, Venezuela's publicly held phone company, will provide phone lines to connect the system and election day technical support. It would have been part of any voting system selected for the elections contract.

Venezuelan journalist Orlando Ochoa Teran investigated the claims published by the Miami Herald and discovered that Venezuelan officials were behind the incorporation of Smartmatic. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel and Venezuelan Ambassador to the USA Bernardo Alvarez Herrera are intimately related, either through long time friendship or consanguinity relationship, to the directors of Smartmatic. According to registry documents, that went missing after the Herald blew the whistle, the names associated to the company are Alfredo Anzola, Antonio Mugica and families Gabaldon-Anzola and Herrera-Oropeza [3]. The incorporation of Smartmatic took place in the Fifth Mercantile Registry, located in the ground floor of tower B in “Cubo Negro” building in Chuao Caracas. Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel's daughter -lawyer Gisela Rangel Avalos de D'Armas was, at the time, the head of the said registry.

Since March 2004 the CNE has disbursed at least $131 million to Smartmatic [4].

Who controls Smartmatic?

The findings of Orlando Ochoa did not end in a Caracas registry though. Recently he wrote for Quinto Dia another article, carrying the title of this paragraph, in which he commented upon the recent acquisition of Sequoia Voting Systems for an undisclosed amount. "With the combination of Sequoia and Smartmatic, both proven innovators with accomplished track records in either the U.S. or abroad, we are creating the first truly global leader in providing voter-verified electronic voting solutions," said Jack Blaine, President, Smartmatic [5]. Furthermore, after analyzing the minutes of a meeting held in Chicago between Cook County and Chicago's city officials with the board of Sequoia, that remained in charge after the take over, and that of Smartmatic [6], Ochoa noted that unknown Venezuelan investors, operating via proxy European ventures, could indeed be the controlling power behind Smartmatic.

Sequoia Voting Systems was the e-voting branch of De La Rue PLC, the "world 's largest commercial security printer and papermaker" (sic) [7]. De La Rue's 2005 preliminary statement reports the sale to Smartmatic thusly:

"following the strategic review in December 2004, we announced our intention to exit the business (added: of voting systems) by the year end and this was done through the sale of the business to Smartmatic Corporation, a US based device networking and election systems company. The business had revenues of £23.1m (2003/2004 : £44.2m) and made an operating loss of £0.2m in the year (2003/2004 : £(1.9)m)" [8, page 8].

Interestingly page 5 cites "During the second half, we also successfully completed the sale of the Sequoia Voting Systems business for a consideration of £8.7m (US$16m) resulting in an exceptional gain of £6.0m" (sic).

Following Ochoa's lead I searched the registry of the Amsterdam Chamber of Commerce, which contains details of a venture trading under the name Smartmatic International Holding B.V., incorporated, under a different name, on March 18th 1.985. Its registered address is Naritaweg 165 Telestone 8, 1043BW Amsterdam. The company activities are described as "to purchase, develop and manage property and goods" [9]. The sole shareholder of the holding is Amola Investments N.V., which in turn was incorporated in the registry of the Chamber of Commerce of Curaçao, under number 91615. A search for Amola Investments N.V. in the register of Curaçao's Chamber of Commerce returns no results. However the incorporation number does exist in the register, containing not information related to Amola Investments N.V. but to another company by the name of Smartmatic International Group N.V. [10]. Curaçao Corporation Company N.V. [11], Netherlands Antilles Corporation Company N.V. [12] and Roger Alejandro Piñate Martinez -Vice President, Special Operations of Smartmatic Corporation [13]- are the three listed statutory and managing directors of the group.

Ochoa indicated that an entry in the minutes of the meeting aforementioned describes Cook County's Commissioner Peter Silvestri [14] asking to representatives of Sequoia/Smartmatic "who owns Sequoia?" (sic). The answer came from Honorable David Orr [15]: "Smartmatic International, which is owned by a Dutch company, owns Sequoia Voting Systems. Some key investors of the said Dutch company are Venezuelans" (sic). On May 26th 2005 Cook County's Election Department informed that Sequoia was the winner of the bidding process for electronic voting equipment [16].

The Amsterdam registry shows that Smartmatic International Holding B.V.'s managing director is Trust International Management (T.I.M.) B.V.. Both companies operate from the same address. According to the register the website of T.I.M. B.V is http://citco.com [17]. Citco Group is quoted in Hedge Funds World as "the world's largest hedge fund administrator" (sic) [18], that until very recently was controlled by Switzerland's Sandoz Foundation [19]. However Citco has informed that "an investor group including the Smeets Family Trust, Citco managers, and friends of the firm has acquired a controlling interest in Citco from the Sandoz Family Foundation" (sic) [20].

The USAID, IFES, Carter Center, CNE and Smartmatic connection

In June 1998, the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela contracted the International Foundation for Election Systems IFES to renew and make recommendations regarding proposals for an automated voting system in Venezuela [21, page 29 ]. IFES has been awarded (award number AEP-I-00-00-00007-00) an "indefinite quantity contract" (IQC) by USAID with the following purpose: "To support the transition to, and consolidation of, democratic governments through which citizens choose their leaders and participate in all levels of political decision-making, particularly in transition and sustainable development countries" [22, page 30 ]. According to Carter Center's America's Programme director Jennifer McCoy "President Carter had traveled several times to Venezuela, including monitoring the 1998 and 2000 elections, and he and President Chavez built a very good personal relationship" [23]. Such warm relationship may have come about due to the fact that the Carter Center is the sole subcontractor of IFES for the aforementioned purpose.

CNE's director Jorge Rodriguez traveled to Smartmatic's 'factory' in Italy, early in 2004, to check the progress of the production of the electronic voting machines. These were purchased to Tecnost Sistemi Olivetti for $57.968.040. However Italian news agency ANSA posted on the economy section on April 15, 2004 that the total amount of the contract was over $24 million:

"Olivetti Tecnost, la Business Unit "Office & System Solutions" del Gruppo Telecom Italia, si e aggiudicata una commessa del valore di oltre 24 milioni di dollari, per la fornitura complessiva di 20.000 terminali di voto elettronico in Venezuela, che saranno utilizzati per la prima volta nelle elezioni del prossimo agosto". (bold added)

20.000 AES300 machines were bought to Olivetti, however the Italian firm does not have such a model in its catalog of products but one called MAEL 205, which was designed to play lottery. Ochoa noted that the said machines produced by Olivetti were sold to Peru, India and Tunisia not for electoral purposes [24]. Smartmatic did not fulfill the CNE's criteria in terms of experience in organization and conduction of electoral processes of companies that participated in the bidding process. The obstacle was circumvented by hiring Jorge Tirado, former contractor of IFES and director of Caribbean Government Consultants (CGC):

Jorge Tirado, president of CGC, has been consultant for the State Electoral Commission of Puerto Rico since1975. He has participated in more than 63 electoral processes as consultant or as head of CGC, leading technological initiatives and process lines to ensure transparent elections. [25].

However El Universal reported that Tirado had indeed participated in 63 electoral processes not in the condition of organizer but as an observer contracted by IFES [26], organization with which he has an old relationship [27].

Implications

It is extremely worrying indeed that a company with connections to the Hugo Chavez regime has been selected to run elections in a county of Chicago and given carte blanche to operate in the USA and other countries. Equally preoccupying is the fact that leading players of the global financial market are related to Smartmatic and to some extent to Fidel Castro's heir.

24.3.06

Sequoia / Smartmatic e-voting fiasco in Chicago

London 24.03.06 | Somewhat I feel vindicated. In August last year I posted an extremely thorough piece of investigative blogging regarding Smartmatic; the e-voting machines vendor, which owns Sequoia, that has proven so useful to Venezuela's wannabe dictator Hugo Chavez. The recent e-voting fiasco in Chicago comes to prove the hypothesis that one thing is to observe how rigged electoral processes in far away lands, which do not affect Americans, are overlooked, or simply ignored, by the mainstream media and an entirely different matter when similar problems corrode the transparency and outcome of elections in US soil.

As readers of this site know, Sequoia was acquired by Smartmatic in 2005:

Sequoia Voting Systems was the e-voting branch of De La Rue PLC, the "world 's largest commercial security printer and papermaker" (sic) [7]. De La Rue's 2005 preliminary statement reports the sale to Smartmatic thusly:

"following the strategic review in December 2004, we announced our intention to exit the business (added: of voting systems) by the year end and this was done through the sale of the business to Smartmatic Corporation, a US based device networking and election systems company. The business had revenues of £23.1m (2003/2004 : £44.2m) and made an operating loss of £0.2m in the year (2003/2004 : £(1.9)m)" [8, page 8].

It now seems that Chicago officials will withheld payments to Sequoia due to its appalling performance, saying that the company "did not perform adequately." What a wonderful development, isn't it? Of course it did not perform adequately, what were these people in Chicago expecting, transparency, performance, from a company linked to Hugo Chavez? Just like Venezuelan elections conducted with Smartmatic machines, it never had "performed adequately" it never will. That is precisely the point. Furthermore, European and OAS electoral observers witnessed how utterly unreliable those machines are, as demonstrated in Venezuela on November 23 2005 by Leopoldo Gonzalez.

The difference in Chicago though, is that there are still some officials exercising due diligence in the conduction of public affairs, and so the whole thing blew up in Smartmatic's face, as it would have been the case in Venezuela, had its officials any resemblance of integrity left and respect for democratic processes. Hopefully some party will sue Sequoia / Smartmatic for breach of contract and negligence, so that never again will that joint be allowed to provide 'e-voting solutions' in the USA.

17.2.06

North American Opinion Research: Hugo Chavez's favourite pollster

London 15.02.06 | With the backing of figures provided by pollster North American Opinion Research (NAOR), Venezuela's national electoral council's (CNE) boss Jorge Rodriguez claimed in state media recently that, the organization he chairs, enjoys a healthy 78% of support amongst Venezuelans. According to Rodriguez the increment is due to the effort made by the CNE to guarantee electoral transparency. He ventured into predicting that the level of support could well reach 85% in the run up to the presidential race in December this year. What Rodriguez did not mention is that the last tax filling by NAOR was made in 2000, neither did he care to inform Venezuelans that the Delaware-based pollster dissolved in 2002. Great effort by Jorge Rodriguez to regain credibility...

But this isn't the first instance whereby Chavez's yesmen or his media use NAOR to back their claims. As Francisco Toro aptly noted a while ago, Hugo Chavez and leeching sycophants love "Shredding their own credibility for fun."

In the run up to the recall referendum of August 15 2004, pearls of wisdom, such as the following, could be read in anglophone media outlets:

The North American Opinion Research firm, based in the U.S. state of Delaware, which surveyed people in all of Venezuela's 24 states, found that 60 percent said they would vote in favour of Chávez, while 35 percent said they would vote to revoke his mandate and five percent remained undecided or did not answer.

That is to say, two years after having been dissolved this, most trustworthy pollster, predicted with great accuracy, the results that Chavez obtained, according to Jorge Rodriguez, in the referendum.

Addendum

Spanish news agency EFE has released an article echoing, yet again, the figures allegedly provided by the North American Opinion Research Inc. Interestingly the firm is now quoted as being based in Pennsylvania. A search in the Pennsylvania register of companies returned no results. It goes to show that sloppy journalism seems to be the norm nowadays.

4.2.06

WTF is the problem with the Muslims?

London 03.02.06 | Richard Dawkins cited a quote by Stephen Weinberg that goes like this "Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things -- that takes religion." Frankly I couldn't agree more with that predicament. Being an atheist myself I totally empathise with the stance of Dawkins and Weinberg. Furthermore I am absolutely convinced that religion is nothing but the manipulation of the few for the detriment and exploitation of the many by means of instilling fear about the unknown. Banking on widespread ignorance religious leaders abuse the feeble minds of parishioners to advance and impose their particular interpretation of creed. I find it particularly worrying, given the sheer number of people that believe in such nonsense.

The latest Muslim 'outrage,' owing to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (you read correctly caricatures) comes to reinforce my view of the utter stupidity and irrational behaviour of religious people, in this case those Muslims that have taken to the streets of Europe and other places to 'protest and demand blood' for what they consider a disrespectful depiction of their godly figure. What a crock of shit! If the publication of a dozen cartoons is what it takes to send the Nation of Islam into a frenzy, how can they even begin to argue that their religion is a peace-loving and respectful-towards-infidels one? Is that their idea of increasing their numbers by winning Christian, and other faiths, hearts and minds? Moreover, if they are so incensed by this alleged, most despicable act, of publishing caricatures of THEIR PROPHET in Europe, why don't they take their wares, rage, customs and freedoms and move permanently to their countries of origin, where such profanity is not to be expected by the Muslim-run 'informative and free' media? The fucking chutzpah of some...

28.1.06

Is the Right emerging in the Americas?

London 28.01.06 | Recently Canadians booted out the liberal, and corrupt, government of Paul Martin and elected Conservative Stephen Harper. After bearing witness of a marked decrease of Canada's international preponderance and 12 years of rather dull internal politics, the electorate chose a new option. Bush-bashing has proved to have limited mileage amongst intelligent people, especially if not accompanied with sound policies. For some, like myself, is reason to joy. However this victory does not mean that Harper will have an easy ride. Parti Quebecois managed a record 54 seats in the House, and their attempts to have yet another referendum to decide on Quebec's sovereignty can be counted on, in spite of the unexpected turnout of federalists in that province. It remains to be seen whether they will succeed on getting the much needed 50%. Nonetheless if Harper plays his cards right, i.e. a meaningful compromise with Jean Charest, it could well be the end, for now, of the separatists Quebecois' dream.

Down South, parties aligned with the Chavez pseudo revolution in the Netherlands Antilles, have suffered a tremendous defeat in yesterday's elections. The FOL (Workers’ Liberation Front) went from 5 seats to 2 and the PLKP (Labour Party People’s Crusade) from 3 seats to none. It is to be noted that Errol Cova, leader of the PLKP made overtures in the past to re-enact chavista mischief in the Antilles, which got him into trouble. Emily Jongh-Elhage's rather conservative PAR (Party for the Reconstructed Antilles) of Curaçao won majority.

In Peru, Conservative Lourdes Flores has a sound 10 point lead over Chavez's man, Ollanta Humala, of the racist Etnocacerista movement, whose brother Antauro is doing time for leading an uprise. Elections are scheduled for April 9.

Undoubtedly hope and patience of Venezuelans are running at an all time low, after 7 years of rampant corruption, unabated crime, abuse of power and human rights violations by chavismo. If transparent elections were to be had today, probably the Venezuelan electorate would castigate Hugo Chavez the same way Canadians did to the Liberal party. The tragedy, for our country, is that it hasn't a credible right-of-center political platform. Brazilians will not favour Lula but Colombians seem sure to re-elect Uribe. Bolivians will soon learn the meaning of having an apátrida at the helm. In sum, sooner or later, the backlash will come.

The US on the other hand appears firmly set in the hands of the Republican party. It seems unlikely that Hillary Clinton, or the Democrats, are going to make it, although Soros' power, as the separatism of the Party Quebecois further North, is a force that needs to be reckoned with. For as the saying goes "money talks..."

However if the intentions of the US administration to recoup the lost leverage in Latin America are sincere, it should be throwing its weight behind those with whom they share ideological and political stances. This does not mean in any manner to doctor or fabricate candidates, but rather to support what's already in the ground, whilst revising carefully policies vis-a-vis the OAS and their own 'pro-democracy' outlets, read USAID, NED, etc.

The time is due for Latin Americans to get a true sense of what capitalism means, in their own countries. Immigration data shows that it is indeed the USA, and its capitalist system, the prefered destination when the time to emigrate, either legal or illegally, comes. As good old Hernando De Soto argues "no one moves to Cuba" or to Venezuela, I may add, lest of course terrorists, drug cartels and the world's pariahs.

Neoliberalism as culprit of Latin America's failure

London 28.01.06 | In doing research for a paper I have to present in a conference later on this year, I have come across, too often, with the notion that neoliberalism is the main culprit for the democratic deficit and economic failure in much of Latin America. Such premise denotes, firstly, a profound ignorance of what neoliberalism is meant to be; secondly, it proves Goebbels' principle that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth; and thirdly, demonstrates that placing blame on other factors, instead of admitting own responsibilities, continues to characterize the class of "the perfect Latin American idiots."

I set out in my little quest for information. After a bit of internet browsing my first stop was Foyles, in Charing Cross Road. I was amazed by the dominant presence of leftist 'thinkers' in the shelves, that form the legion of detractors of the discipline. And just to gain a glimpse into their thinking, as if I didn't know already what to expect from that lot, I purchased "A Brief History of Neoliberalism" by David Harvey, which includes 'reviews' from elements such as Leo Panitch. Readers may imagine the content of Harvey's 'history.'

Definition of Neoliberalism

It is rather hard to pin down a single definition of the term. Supporters describe it, generally, as a method by which goods, capital, services and individuals should be able to move freely across the board, whilst intervention and the role of the state ought to be diminished to a bare minimum and state-owned enterprises should be privatised. The respect for private property is at the core of the doctrine. Market forces are, in this view, the best mechanism to allocate resources. Critics, on the other hand, see it as the result of nefarious economic policies put in place by elites or upper clases to maintain and expand their parcels, in detriment of the welfare state, the people, society and labour actors, read unions.

There seems to be agreement upon the correlation between neoliberalism and the "Washington Consensus." This term in turn was coined by John Williamson around 1990 and it's resumed in ten points:

* Fiscal discipline
* A redirection of public expenditure priorities toward fields offering both high economic returns and the potential to improve income distribution, such as primary health care, primary education, and infrastructure
* Tax reform (to lower marginal rates and broaden the tax base)
* Interest rate liberalization
* A competitive exchange rate
* Trade liberalization
* Liberalization of inflows of foreign direct investment
* Privatization
* Deregulation (to abolish barriers to entry and exit)
* Secure property rights

Latin America's utter failure

Probably with the exception of Chile, that under Pinochet implemented, for real, policies associated to the neoliberal doctrine -the results are there for everyone caring to pay attention and for all Chileans to enjoy, almost all Latin American countries have failed to comply with the much maligned "Washington Consensus" or neoliberalism. First world leftists and irresponsible LatAm politicians continue to put the blame of their utter failure on neoliberalism, without even realising how weak their argument truly is. It is like a doctor prescribing ten different pills to a cancer patient, but the latter, out of his own volition, deciding to take only three or four of them; not everyday as instructed, but with the six-pack of beers that his compadre manages to bring surreptitiously twice a week. How can then the relatives even claim that the doctor is responsible for the death, when in fact, the dying patient never bothered to follow the set of instructions and medicine given? Very simple, for neither the dead patient, nor his compadre, informed them that the doctor's advice had never been properly followed.

Ergo have property rights been secured in LatAm? Which Latin American country can boast about its fiscal discipline? LOL!! How about redirecting expenditure to infrastructure, health care and education? Tax reform anyone? Deregulation? Sigh...

What none of the books on the topic will ever include is an analysis of the consequences of corruption, nepotism and the sheer irresponsibility of those in positions of power to bring about necessary change. Nor will they conclude that wealth creation must be the foremost premise of any country willing to abandon subdevelopment and pauper status.

The medicine exists; it's called neoliberalism, or the "Washington Consensus," or in fact, any system that promotes individual freedoms, upholds the supremacy of the principle of private property over collectivism and bases itself upon democratic premises. Further the patients that have taken it have indeed survived, their health has improved dramatically. Regardless of the amount of literature to the contrary, the fact of the matter is that, given the choice, most individuals will rather live in a system where they can fully enjoy the product of their work, without arbitrary state restrictions. The intellectual dishonesty that underpins leftist critique and thought shines through with respect to neoliberalism.

21.1.06

On Marcela Sanchez's "The Petty Politics of Venezuela's Arms Purchases"

London 21.01.06 | It continues to amaze me the sheer disregard that purportedly respected journalists have for facts. Even more worrying is their continuous repetition of old cliches, politically charged articles, in which they pretend to know more about topics where their ignorance is the most salient of characteristics. Such is the case of Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post. In her latest "The Petty Politics of Venezuela's Arms Purchases" she lashes out, as usual, the hypocritical stance of the US administration. Considering that Sanchez is of Hispanic background, she seems to be appallingly misinformed about Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. Furthermore her knowledge of international law and regulations stands in the way of proper reporting.

The USA has every right to forbid business partners to pass technology to third parties, especially considering the bellicose nature of the such third parties. Spain is in clear and explicit violation to European legislation with the arms sale to Venezuela, yet Sanchez fails to mention that detail in her piece. She goes on to state that the contract between Venezuela and Spain represent jobs for about a thousand workers in Spain's shipyards, which, in any case are bankrupt and near dysfunctional. Sanchez also quotes from Brazilian Minister Celso Amorim, which prompts a question: what do you think Ms. Sanchez, that Amorim will go on the public record saying how reprehensible can be to sell loads of weapons to Chavez and jeopardize a contract worth millions?

A pearl comes about at the beginning of the piece: "Spain and Brazil insist that the equipment they want to sell Venezuela would not destabilize the region." Oh no, comrade Chavez has promised Zapatero and Lula not to use the weapons with his neighbours, these are only to keep Venezuelan opposition and citizenry at bay.

But the icing on the cake is this remark "Last September, Chavez signed a new law, the Ley Organica de la Fuerza Armada Nacional, which makes preservation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela the military's mission." This is a half true, in the best of cases, not to say plain inaccurate. The LOFAN established as the primary and foremost mission of Venezuela's Armed Forces the protection of the wellbeing and integrity of Hugo Chavez and that of his family, even before the stated mission of preserving the sovereignty. In fact the LOFAN is but a copy of Cuba's FAR, but of course Sanchez omitted such important information. But then, the following just throws any intelligent person into disbelief "These militias are clearly not the kind of forces that could lead a military attack against a neighboring nation." Says who, Marcela Sanchez?

Sanchez closes the article thusly:

"...what's really at stake here is the triumph of one country's political goals over the financial calculations of its allies."

So please do tell Ms. Sanchez: is it in your view unquestionably correct to sell all sorts of war weapons to an individual that once upon a time used his country's tanks and army to lead a coup d'etat to kill his president and countrymen?