30.1.07

Correa to impose Chavez's mobocracy in Ecuador

London 30.01.07 | The web is abuzz with the news that supporters of Rafael Correa stormed into Ecuador's Congress where a debate as to whether to approve the convening of a National Constituent Assembly was taking place. Sources report that the utterly democratic mob wanted to lynch congressmen, as some of them where heard shouting 'kill them, kill them all." For those of us that have observed the region for some time and seen how Chavez's mobocracy looms over democracy this is hardly news. However I would like to take issue with remarks of John Negroponte, who is quoted by Reuters as saying that Chavez is exporting his "radical populism" (sic).

Negroponte's assessment is wrong on a number of accounts, but crucially, it seems to me, on his understanding of the specific perils that dictator Hugo Chavez exports. Certainly radical populism isn't one of them. The single most dangerous export of Castro's mini me is the National Constituent Assembly. This little subterfuge is THE principal cause of Venezuela's current institutional void for it allowed Chavez to subvert democracy with a pseudo democratic mechanism that wasn't even part of the constitution. Shrouded in 'popular support' it effectively replaced in one fell swoop the powers that were with lackeys in charge of totally dysfunctional institutions: a truly 'democratic' coup. Today we learn that Venezuela's Congress, as predicted, granted Chavez the ultimate weapon: the ability to rule by decree.

Chavez has successfully convinced his claque of regional suckers that the National Constituent Assembly is the way forward. However none of them appears to have realised that the conditions under which the experiment was implemented in Venezuela in 1999 are non existent in Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador. For that reason, as already seen in Bolivia and soon to be realised by Correa, it will be impossible to replicate the model irrespective of how loud supporting mobs shout 'kill them all.'

Mr. Negroponte should be well advised in reading these pages more often.

24.1.07

Re Ask the expert: Chávez and Venezuela

London 24.01.07 | Dear Richard, Unfortunately I did not get your email address when we met at Quinta Esmeralda in Caracas on 3 December last year, so an open letter will have to do.

I see that you will be part of a debate about Chavez and Venezuela, which appears to be sponsored by the FT. Although I commend you for having such initiative, assuming that it was your idea, I fail to understand why you would include Mark Weisbrot in a debate called "Ask the expert..."

Let it be sufficiently clear that Mr. Weisbrot is far from being an expert or an authoritative source on anything to do with Venezuela. Rather Mr Weisbrot is but a known apologist of Hugo Chavez with suspect ties with the Venezuela Information Office in DC. Mr. Weisbrot has failed to register his lobbying efforts in favour of dictator Hugo Chavez with the US Foreign Agent Registration Unit and is yet to come clear on his relationship with that regime.

Should your intention be to create a forum where healthy and meaningful debate about Venezuela can be had I am pretty sure you could do better in choosing credible parties with opposing views.

Cordially,

Aleksander Boyd

19.1.07

Hugo Chavez: Venezuela's democratically elected dictator

London 19.01.07 | Well folks, it seems I have been proved wrong... Some of you may think "this guy's a joke" and you could be right. However what seemed normal a month ago it no longer is, for for all intents and purposes Venezuela has become, as of yesterday, a de facto dictatorship. No more pretenses, no more posturing, none of that. The all-chavista assembly approved yesterday in first 'discussion' -as if they discussed orders from the dictator- an all-encompasing enabling law, which in practical terms means that Hugo Chavez will govern by decree, ruling on nearly all aspects of the country for the next 18 months. The good thing about this is that from now on, in the literal sense, without hesitation or remorse, we can indulge in calling coupster Chavez as many times as we want a "democratically elected dictator"™, as he always wanted to be. It's official now. Also great to be able to describe Venezuela in its appropriate context as a non democratic country, ruled -by decree- by a militaristic dictator as some of us have maintained for years now.

No wonder why Chavez did not want to debate with Rosales his "proyecto-pais" during the campaign. This time round he was careful enough to conceal the true intentions behind his 'XXI Century Socialism'. Further Chavez's fast moves of late lead me to conclude that he knows something that most of us do not and is acting on it. His rapid actions may have to do with the purported number of votes cast in his favour. Someone high up in Rosales' campaign team said to me in confidence not long ago that an optimistic guess at the number of mesas having been supervised on election day by opposition witnesses pointed at 60%. If the total number of mesas was somewhere around 33,000 the percentage suggests that in 13,200 of them there was no one from the Rosales camp to ensure that the vote was carried out in transparent fashion. What if the race was much closer? What if the margin was not 3 million votes but a few thousands? We will never know, what I am positive about though is that not once during the campaign I heard Chavez saying that he was going to rule by decree come January. Not once. Just imagine this campaign promise:

"compatriots give me your vote and out of love I'll become a dictator, I'll dismiss those upon whom you put your trust in the legislative elections of December 2005 and rule by decree, without consulting you or any of your representatives for that matter, but fear not for this is only for 18 months, until 'XXI Century Socialism' is properly rooted in Venezuela."

Will that have gained him 7 million votes? Most definitely not. Further, why the sudden attack against RCTV? Could it be due to the fact that all official TV channels combined have less than a fifth of RCTV's audience? The dictator needs of communication outlets with reach; no use of having a myriad of grassroot radios, TV channels and Bolivarian 'CNNs' if no one watches, if the message does not reach its target audience, is there? Of greater preoccupation for the hegemon is the social status of RCTV's audience, for although satellite antennas are a common fixture in many ranchos in Caracas, people in that stratum do love their telenovelas, production of which RCTV excels at. The range of personalities depicted in programmes produced by RCTV are part of Venezuelans' idiosyncrasy. Is the dictator bent on changing the fabric and values of our society? You bet, his now public communist persona just proves the point. And I couldn't agree more with sycophant Eva Golinger who, from her ivory tower in Alta Florida, tells the world that this isn't about freedom of expression. It is not, rather it has to do with the dictator's needs of communicating effectively with his alleged constituency.

The radicalization of Chavez's dictatorship will only accelerate his political demise. Let him be, make sure of getting sufficient supplies of popcorn though, for as in Reservoir Dogs the show will end up being rojo, rojito...

18.1.07

Hugo Chavez gets unanimous vote to rule by decree for 18 months

In true revolutionary fashion, whereby all deputies present in the National Assembly stand up, raise their hands and unanimously pass laws, the all-chavista legislative body in Venezuela has just given Hugo Chavez carte blanche to rule by decree for the next 18 months. Chavez will have the power to pass laws, even organic ones which to become legislation normally would require a qualified majority or 2/3 of the votes. It is expected that he'll rule on the much dreaded education bill, territorial organization, businesses profit margins, nationalizations, 'participatory democracy', communal councils, etc.

9.1.07

XXI Century Socialism according to Hugo Chavez

Caracas 08.01.07 | Well folks it seems that I can't keep from reporting the insanities of the president elected by more than 7 million of my countrymen/women. As I was dozing today I heard bits of president Chavez's speech during the swearing ceremony of his new 27 ministers -let us not forget that he started of in 1998 with 12... In any case he was trying to put some meat behind that hard-to-define concept known as "XXI century socialism". Up until this point his minions have had a tough time trying to explain what does it mean so the president himself had to explain it, thus "XXI century socialism" -according to president Chavez- means:

1. Scrap central bank autonomy.

2. Nationalize CANTV (telecom company) and the electricity industry.

3. Change business code/laws;

4. Cancel the broadcasting license of Venezuela's largest TV network (RCTV).

5. Seek special powers from Congress to approve new “Revolutionary” laws -only Chavez knows what "revolutionary" means...

6. The state should have a majority stake in Orinoco Basin heavy oil upgrading joint-ventures.

The six points, part of a summary by Goldman Sachs, are indicative of the sort of 'socialism' that Chavez has in mind. However point number three needs further explaining. The new Finance Minister, Rodrigo Cabezas, announced that from now on private companies' earnings will be capped so that health and education budgets can be increased. In short, the Venezuelan government will presumably regulate profit margins -and obviously take a bigger tax cut- so that businesses operating in Venezuela can augment contributions in order to fund governmental projects. Then instead or guaranteeing a stable climate for investment the new inventors of socialism will, unilaterally, scrap contracts with private corporations and impose new stake terms on existing and allegedly perfectly legal agreements, as suggested in point six. Needless to say that CANTV shares -partly owned by Verizon- dropped in NYSE. "Todo lo que fue privatizado debe ser nacionalizado" said president Chavez, who included in the nationalization drive electricity companies that have been privately owned since incorporation.

All was 'socialism' in president Chavez's address. For instance he referred to OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza as "pendejo" -an endearing term used by the neo socialist that means "idiot." At last he made proper use of language to refer to a man who seems convinced that all is fine and dandy in this socialist country.

President Chavez also pledged to send literature on socialism -penned by the likes of Marx and Stalin- to Church hierarchs so that they can learn what his 'XXI Century Socialism' is all about.

To wit Venezuelans must feel grateful for president Chavez has bothered to clarify the goals of his project. Novel indeed these goals are, specially the building of a hegemonic construct that will quash competition, dissent, inalienable rights and freedoms.