30 June 2011

[Updated] Corruption of the XXI century: F1 contract between PDVSA and Williams F1 team

Venezuelan website La Patilla has published the contract between PDVSA and Williams F1 team (see below), so that chavista Pastor Maldonado could compete in F1. I declare that I am not an expert in these kinds of contracts, but it seems to me that the contract is incredibly slanted in Williams team favour. It goes without saying that Williams must have another contract with Maldonado, with all kinds of performance clauses, and it would be foolish to think that Frank Williams is committed to keep a third-rate racing driver like Maldonado for five years, which is the length of the PDVSA-Williams contract. In fact, as far as PDVSA-Williams contract is concerned, Maldonado is the designated driver only for the 2011 season.

The contract contains three different sponsorship options (page 17), according to placement of PDVSA logos and images on Williams F1 team cars and drivers' overalls. Starting 2010, Option 1 is worth £110.5 millions over the period. Option 2 is worth £138.14 millions, while Option 3 is worth £154.7 millions. The questions that as Venezuelan I am asking are: what tangible benefit accrual does all this represent to the citizens of my country? What do we get in return? How does this contract's clauses compare with other contracts, for instance the one between AT & T and Williams?

Williams can end the contract at any time, without fear of loosing full payments for the entire  period of the contract. Williams can also sack Maldonado and has to "consider" other Venezuelan drivers (Cecotto Jr?) proposed by PDVSA, though it has no obligation to accept such drivers, in which case PDVSA can terminate the contract.

Reiterating that I am no expert in F1 contracts, this one looks to me incredibly feeble, and damaging for Venezuelan taxpayers. For Williams F1 team will end up with the cash, regardless of whether Maldonado remains at the team, or whether other Venezuelan drivers take his seat in future seasons.

That Frank Williams deems proper to take millions of pounds from a State-owned company of an utterly underdeveloped country, where most people live under the poverty line, is indicative of the terribly sad and amoral state of affairs in the world. Alas that's what Europe excels at: to plunder without scruples whatever can be plundered from the third world.

Update: I sent an email to Williams F1 team, to Claire Williams, Head of Communications & Investor Relations, asking for comment. This is what Ms Williams replied:
Dear Alek, 
This is not our contract with PDVSA. We have no further comment to make on this subject. 
Claire Williams 
Honestly, while I appreciate Ms Williams reply, I do not think her reply is appropriate. Her team is dealing, and entered into a contract, with a State owned company. A company that belongs to all of us Venezuelans. A company whose contract with Williams was never approved in the Venezuelan Congress, but was rather a unilateral decision of Hugo Chavez, who has no power to enter into such contracts, or spend public money, without Congress' approval. Were  Hugo Chavez to lose the elections in 2012, the new administration would be entirely capable of unilaterally shredding this contract, and not pay a dime more to Williams F1, for this was done illegally in the first place. Furthermore, it would be entirely possible for a new administration to issue legal proceedings against Williams F1 team, for misappropriation of Venezuelan public funds. It is unreasonable to expect expertise of Venezuelan internal legislation from Williams F1 team. However that does not change the fact that a minimum of due diligence should have been done, while PDVSA should have provided enough guarantees of its ability to enter into this contract according to Venezuelan law. I would like to publicly ask Ms Williams, was that done? What evidence did PDVSA provided to that effect? Who signed the contract? Who drafted it? How much money has already been paid? These and other questions should be asked by the opposition in Venezuela's Congress [see Venezuela: Congressman Carlos Ramos questions Williams F1]. PDVSA owes a lot in the way of explanations to the Venezuelan people, and so does Williams F1, as a publicly traded company.
Pastor Maldonado PDVSA 2010

28 June 2011

CNE: la trampa electoral está servida

Fíjense, estimados lectores, en el artículo publicado hoy en la Agencia Venezolana de Noticias "Registro Electoral asciende a 17 millones 765 mil 888 votantes":
Caracas, 27 Jun. AVN .- Un total de 17 millones 765 mil 888 votantes se ha inscrito en el Registro Electoral, de acuerdo con el último corte aprobado por el Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) al 31 de mayo de 2011.
De la cifra totalizada, unos 17 millones 567 mil 926 son venezolanos, incluyendo los 58 mil 672 votantes inscritos en consulados y embajadas, y 197 mil 962 extranjeros.
De acuerdo con el balance de la Comisión de Registro Civil y Electoral, en lo que va del año el CNE ha inscrito 1.615 nuevos votantes, actualizado los datos a 1.995 electores y excluido a 8.170 fallecidos, entre otros movimientos.
En el corte al cierre del mes de mayo se depuraron, entre fallecidos y objetados, 8.356 votantes, reseñó un boletín de prensa.
No sé ustedes, pero a mi esos números no me cuadran, y viniendo del antro electoral chavista lo menos que podemos hacer es ponerlos en perspectiva.

Según proyecciones del INE -ojo proyecciones ya que el último censo fue hecho en el 2001, Venezuela tendría en el 2011 una población total de 29.277.736. De esa proyección podemos estimar el porcentaje de electores de la población con una simple regla de tres:
29.277.736 ------------ 100%
17.765.888 ------------ X
X= 17.765.888 x 100 / 29.277.735
X= 60,7%
Es decir, en Venezuela, de acuerdo al CNE y a proyecciones del INE, el 60.7% de la población está registrada en el registro electoral (REP) y puede ejercer su derecho al voto. Como no sabemos cuál es la población real, hasta tanto no se publiquen cifras de censos recientes, tomaremos la proyección del INE como base.

En el 2001, año del ultimo censo, la población total de Venezuela era 23.054.210. De las divisiones por grupos de edad, repito del censo del 2001, obtenemos el numero aproximado de personas con derecho al voto (mayores de 19): 13.118.927. Apliquemos ahora la misma regla de tres:
23.054.210 ------------ 100%
13.118.927 ------------ X
X= 13.118.927 x 100 / 23.054.210
X= 56.9%
Esas cifras no aplican en la vida real, pues gracias a la lista de Maisanta sabemos que, para marzo del 2004, habían 12.394.109 electores registrados en el REP. Es más, el 1 de diciembre del 2000, el "CNE se dirigió al pais en cadena nacional", e informó que 11.784.849 electores "están inscritos en el registro electoral." Es decir, en 2001, el 51,1% de los venezolanos estaban registrados para votar (hoy día es el 60,7% aprox.). Así, si tomamos las cifras del CNE anunciadas hoy y la anunciada en diciembre del 2000, en lugar de porcentajes, el numero de mayores de edad, léase venezolanos con derecho al voto registrados en el REP, se ha incrementado de 11.784.849 a 17.765.888, o dicho de otro modo un aumento del 50,75%.

Demás está decir que ningún padrón electoral del mundo, salvo los controlados por Hugo Chavez y Smartmatic, crece de esa manera. Tal explosión demográfica es inverosímil e indefendible. ¿Con ese REP, y esas autoridades electorales, es que va la oposición a sacar al caudillo del poder?

27 June 2011

[Updated] Chavez absence, dictatorship evidence

Hugo Chavez has prostate cancer... The Venezuelan President suffered a pelvic abscess... Former army lieutenant had knee operation... Chavez is getting cancer treatment at CIMEQ in Havana... Prostate cancer has metastasised... Chavez is off anti depressants, hence his silence... Chavez has died of a heart attack... Chavez is suicidal... Chavez will make triumphant return... Chavez is choreographing decisive poll landslide for 2012...

All of the above, and then some, is making the rounds these days. All of it, as of writing this article, is mere conjecture, unsubstantiated gossip. Though that has not impeded rumours to flight. Even the Wall Street Journal has published that Chavez has prostate cancer (evidence?). Hugo Chavez's absence demonstrates a number of things:

  1. Venezuela is a dictatorship. When the leader of a democratic nation is taken ill, senior members of its administration provide timely information and updates about the situation. Similarly, in the case of prolonged absence as is the case with Chavez, constitutional mandates are followed and interim figures appointed. In Venezuela not one official has provided credible information about Hugo Chavez, the Vice President and Congress are yet to fulfil their constitutional roles. 
  2. The Venezuelan caudillo is at the mercy, and under the absolute control of, the Cuban dictators. Hugo Chavez is in Cuba, accompanied, perhaps, by a few family members, (Cuban) security detail, and some confidants. Hugo Chavez did not arrive in Cuba commanding troops, or armies. His is a voluntary visit. Consequently, Chavez is under the absolute control of the Castros, who can effectively decide all matters of the Venezuelan State while Chavez convalesces in hospital. The Castros are managing the situation and flow of information as they see fit.
  3. The world's media does not have the slightest clue about Chavez's real condition. Despite all the talk of its powers, the MSM and the blogging community are on a equal footing when it comes to breaking any news out of Cuba about Chavez's illness.
  4. Free flow of information is non existent in Cuba.
  5. Hugo Chavez does not trust his own henchmen. Fearing leaks and lack of discipline, Chavez decided to move operations to Cuba, where the Castros exert a strict control on information and communications. 
  6. Venezuela is at the mercy of a cadre of radical chavistas willing to push the country into civil war.
  7. Venezuela's army has become Hugo Chavez pretorian guard.
  8. Chavez's Twitter updates are made with a Blackberry. There's no Blackberry network in Cuba. Unless connected to a Wifi Chavez couldn't possibly have tweeted from Cuba. The way recent tweets are written suggests that someone else has gained access to his account.
  9. All bets are off as per subsequent scenarios. In my opinion, a Reservoir Dog type of ending, considering that chavismo is formed by different criminal groups vying for power, is entirely possible. The opposition, and the rest of Venezuelans, are mere spectators.
UPDATE: Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda @nelsonbocaranda claims that Dr Ariel Kaufman is one of the urologists that have treated Hugo Chavez, and is perfectly aware of the medical condition of the Venezuelan caudillo.

22 June 2011

Venezuela is governed from Cuba

For years, we in the opposition to Hugo Chavez have decried the inexplicable way in which the Venezuelan caudillo has ceded sovereignty to Fidel Castro. Chavez has made a career out of accusing his opponents of being "lap dogs of the Empire... puppets of Washington... enemies of the people... etc." However, a cursory glance  to our past will reveal that never in our history has a foreign leader, in this case the Cuban dictator, exerted so much influence over matters of State, as Fidel Castro has. Castro, whose invading forces -in the literal sense- were trounced in the early 60ies by the truly nationalistic Betancourt administration, has been able to take over control of the Executive in Venezuela, this time round, without firing a single shot or risking troops in beach landings. For Chavez has voluntarily surrendered many aspects of official affairs to Cuba: from security to health and education. However much we pointed at this absurd cession of sovereignty, we kept being dismissed as extremists.

6 June 2011

Iranian missiles in Venezuela?

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Have been doing some digging on the recent claim that suggests that Iran and Venezuela are building a missile base in Paraguana. This piece of news is problematic. The claim was first made in November last year, by a German journalist who works for Die Welt, called Clemens Wergin. On 13 May, the piece was reprinted again by Die Welt, by the same author. Upon publication, some news outlets around the world quickly launched into the let's-bash-Chavez-regardless-of-whether-or-not-what's-being-reported-can-be-independently-verified mode. Thing is, unlike nearly all of those commenting on the issue, I have been to desert-like Paraguana, many times, and I have also been chronicling the Chavez revolution for almost 9 years now. So, I do have a problem with this claim.

Trouble, for Mr. Wergin's credibility that is, is that I am not alone in my incredulity towards his breaking news. The U.S. State Department basically called Mr. Wergin's report incredible. It must be borne in mind, that the U.S. has a military base in neighbouring Curaçao, and the area is heavily monitored not only from there, but from satellites and other bases in Colombia, and Puerto Rico, through joint military intelligence and cooperation. The DEA and the U.S. Navy are also very active in the area. Perhaps Mr. Wergin would like the world to take his word at face value. Problem is, without presenting a single piece of verifiable evidence, only conspiracy theorists, and lazy journalists and analysts will risk reputation by echoing his claim. It appears that CNN challenged Mr. Wergin, who stated:
"I can't say anything more than that they are sources from Western security circles with whom I have worked for 10 years, for which I believe they are credible... My guess is that this is information that is interchanged in Western security circles."
However, the U.S. DoS is cited by CNN as stating "...that it reviews all information pertaining to Iranian military involvement in the hemisphere, but that it could not vouch for the report...", which was deemed as not "credible."

I thought I would do the sensible thing, which is of course to contact Mr. Wergin to ask him for further explanations. Alas Mr. Wergin has not replied to any of the messages I have sent for his attention to Die Welt, his blog, or his Facebook page. So which is it? How can anyone give credence to unverifiable and unsubstantiated claims made by a German journalist who is not even an expert in Latin America? How come his editors at Die Welt, after the hugely embarrassing and equally incredible claim of Colin Powell on the existence of "mobile factories of WMD" in Iraq, are allowing publication of such claims?