Archive for March 2009
In a YouTube video, actor Bob Basso portrays a modern day Thomas Paine who calls for the Second American Revolution. (YouTube)
The message: “Let’s take back our country from the elitist thugs who misrule” is applicable to Venezuela.
Japanese vehicle manufacturer Toyota has been operating in Venezuela for over 50 years.
But on 30 March, Toyota de Venezuela’s management issued a statement warning that the company’s continued presence in Venezuela is “threatened” by a labor conflict which shut down its local assembly plant at the beginning of March.
If Toyota decides to quit Venezuela, there’s no question it would gravely harm Venezuela’s already much-diminished appeal to the kinds of serious international investors the country needs.
Other automakers with similar labor troubles (like Mitsunishi) might decide to throw in the towel too. And it could even undermine Pdvsa’s efforts to persuade Japanese energy companies to invest in Venezuelan oil and gas projects.
Toyota officials say an agreement with striking workers was negotiated, approved and ready to sign this week.
But a small group of “sindicaleros” (union thugs) aligned ideologically with the Chavez regime introduced last-second demands for additional concessions, including full payment of all salaries and benefits during the month the workers have been on strike.
Reuters cites Sintratoyota union organization secretary Argenis Vásquez as saying no agreement was reached. But Toyota officials say Vásquez is lying.
Toyota executives say that payment of “salaries caidos” was not part of the agreement which had been reached.
As a result, a Labor Ministry Inspector suspended the “mesa del dialogo” (i.e. negotiations) indefinitely, and it’s unclear at this writing what happens next.
Besides Totota, other long established automakers in Venezuela (GM, Mitsubishi, etc.) have suffered increasing labor conflicts over the past six/nine months.
The Chavez government maintains these conflicts are labor/management disputes in which the State has no say, always favors the workers, and pressures management to give the “unions” the “justice” they deserve.
But, as we never tire of pointing out, the Chavez regime is lying.
The growing labor conflicts in the automotive industry are being encouraged/fostered deliberately by the Chavez regime.
The unions picking fights and calling strikes for any reason they can dream up describe themselves as followers/supporters of the Bolivarian revolution.
Their political objectives include:
*Neutralizing traditional union leaders and members who are not ideologically aligned with the revolution. The Chavez regime wants to destroy the traditional labor movement and replace it with submissive/servile “Bolivarian” unions that will heed the president’s orders and suppress worker salaries/rights.
*Creating conflictive situations which provide the regime an excuse to intervene in the company’s management/operation, up to and including expropriation if the “musius” don’t toe the line. The regime is stoking labor conflicts in the auto sector to the point that some workers have already been killed and/or injured by gunfire (Mitsubishi’s experience a couple of months ago).
*Wearing down management to the point that some automakers will simply shut down and leave Venezuela. This will create opportunities for Chinese, Russian and Iranian auto companies to set up their own operations in Venezuela without having to make substantial front-end investments in building the structures and installing the equipment required to assemble vehicles.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello says the residents of Chacao who protested the illegal armed seizure of the old Chacao market on 28 March are a “fascist mob.”
The old Chacao market no longer operates. Last week the market was forcibly occupied at gunpoint by a mob of red-shirter chavista thugs supported by Metropolitan Police and national Guard troops armed with shotguns, machine guns, assault rifles, etc.
These uniformed thugs and red-shirted Bolivarian hooligans physically assaulted unarmed Chacao residents who gathered spontaneously to protest the illegal armed invasion of their public market, a public asset which belongs to the municipality of Chacao, meaning it’s up to Chacao’s democratically elected mayor, municipal council and residents to decide the future of the old market.
But Diosdado Cabello has the chutzpah to accuse unarmed civilians of being fascists. What a thug!
Several historical facts about Cabello:
*Diosdado Cabello is a traitor. This is a historical, public fact. He betrayed his oath as an army officer, betrayed the Constitution and laws of Venezuela, and betrayed the people of Venezuela when he conspired/participated in one of the two failed coups in 1992 which sought to topple democratically elected President Carlos Andres Perez.
*Diosdado Cabello is certainly corrupt. He didn’t have any personal wealth when Hugo Chavez was first elected president in December 1998. But today Diosdado is reputedly one of the wealthiest senior members of the Bolivarian revolution. And with the Public Works portfolio he now holds, Diosdado undoubtedly is growing even wealthier.
*Diosdado Cabello is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. He conspired actively to commit mass murder in April 2002 against unarmed civilians. Together with President Chavez, Diosdado was one of the chief intellectual authors and executors of “Operation Knockout,” a plot hatched by Chavez and other senior regime officials to create a Bolivarian Tiananmen Square Massacre in downtown Caracas
As Vice President in those turbulent months of 2001 and 2002, Cabello also illegally abused the office of vice president of Venezuela to coordinate the violent actions of armed Bolivarian Circles against unarmed civilians and members of the opposition.
It’s said that “A todo cochino le llega su sabado.” It can be hoped that, eventually, Diosdado Cabello’s Saturday will dawn.
US Vice President Joe Biden made a three-day trip to Latin America, starting at Viña del Mar, Chile on 27 March at the “Progressive Governance Summit,” which the news media billed as a gathering of the world’s “Center-Left” leaders.
Some “progressive” (i.e. Socialist, i.e.Marxist Lite) leaders at the summit included UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
The summit was organized by Policy Network, an international think tank created ten years ago by former President Bill Clinton. PN has hosted previous “progressive” meetings in Washington, DC, Berlin, Stockholm, London, Budapest and Johannesburg.
But the presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela apparently were not invited.
VP Biden’s long weekend south of the border ended on 29 March in Costa Rica where he assured Central America’s leaders that the Obama administration really, truly does care about the region.
Did anyone notice Biden’s three-day official trip to Chile and Costa Rica?
The Gringo VP’s trip was covered by some Anglo dead tree news media, but it certainly doesn’t appear to have been a top editorial priority.
Google’s top news stories page at 9 p.m. on 28 March didn’t include any mention of Biden’s trip to the region. We googled “Biden” at the same time and generated only 76 original separate news articles which, replicated by other media, totaled 574 news stories in all.
Of course, the paucity of Anglo news coverage of Biden’s trip could have several explanations:
*The US dead tree news media has been collapsing very quickly over the past 6-12 months. so perhaps there’s no budget for coverage of vice presidential trips to Latin America.
*Biden’s official trip wasn’t more than a public relations effort to persuade Latin America’s leaders that President Obama does consider the region a top priority. But Obama hasn’t named his Latin America team yet.
*There were numerous and more important breaking news stories worldwide the weekend of 27-29 March, including the 2 April G-20 meeting in UK (which we predict will be a failure), North Korea’s plan to launch a new intercontinental-missile in a few days, the flooding in Fargo, terrorist bomb attacks in Pakistan, etc.
*Dead tree news media editors who determine news assignments don’t think Latin America is an important region worth covering.
So, what did VP Biden do during his trip?
“These meetings are an important first step toward a new day in relations and building partnerships with and among the countries and people of the Hemisphere,” says an op-ed with Biden’s byline, which was distributed in English and Spanish to 11 newspapers in the region on 26 March. “The President and I understand that only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face.”
Biden also said in the op-ed that the purpose of his trip was “…to consult with Latin American leaders … about the Summit and the challenges faced by the people of the Americas.”
Of course, Biden didn’t author the op-ed. It likely was written by one of the administration’s professional speechwriters or public affairs officials after consulting with “regional experts” at State, the NSC, etc.
A “new day” based on what? Has the Obama administration changed the Latin America policy of his Republican and Democratic predecessors?
Thomas Shannon, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said during a recent speech at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue that the Obama administration is crafting a new approach to Latin America of renewed interest and cooperation, where keeping at bay the worst of the economic crisis is a priority.
“This means, from our point of view, working with multilateral development banks to ensure that the most vulnerable countries in the region, especially the Central American and the Caribbean countries, have access to the credits and grants and institutional lending that they are going to need to mount their own stimulus packages and to protect their public sector budgets,” said Shannon.
Did Shannon imply the Obama administration is going to offer bailouts to the smallest Central American and Caribbean states?
It sounds like more of the same: Bail out the Central American and Caribbean states to stave off more social/political instability in these countries, and keep security problems along the US border with Mexico from worsening. (Give them more money and maybe fewer wetbacks will come into the US illegally via Mexico; yeah, right.)
Caracas Gringo sees very few new faces at the top of the Obama administration, many recycled faces at lower levels, and core message which is essentially unchanged from the Bush or Clinton administrations.
Meanwhile, remarks by President Obama, VP Biden in Chile/Costa Rica, and other senior US officials since the new administration was inaugurated less than two months ago confirm:
*Obama will attend the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago on 16-18 April to listen to what the region’s leaders have to say about improving US-Latin America relations. He’ll get an earful, especially if President Hugo “Dirtmouth” Chavez shows up. President Obama likely also will blame Bush (but not Clinton) for the fact that US-Latin America relations are at their lowest level since the end of the Cold War. “Listening mode” is a good way to deflect attention from the lack of new US proposals.
*No new trade agreements are planned for now with Latin American nations, and the fate of the US-Colombia FTA remains in doubt because the Democrats who control Congress would rather dismantle NAFTA than approve new trade deals with other countries in the region.
*The US embargo on Cuba will continue.
*The drug wars are a “shared problem” of the US and Latin America’s governments.
The “progressive” (i.e. socialist) Latin American leaders at the Chilean summit can be forgiven for not paying much heed to Biden’s assurances. After all, the region has been hearing the same diplomatic claptrap from successive US administrations since 1990.
But more importantly, most (all?) of the region’s leftist leaders think they have promising new opportunities to establish investment, trade and strategic alliances with other emerging powers like China or regions like the Middle East, for example.
If the US continues to lag further behind in Latin America, it’s the fault of the gringos for ignoring the region for the past 20 years.
So what did the world’s “progressive” leaders blab about in Chile?
*They tried to devise a consensus on how to deal with the 2 April G-20 meeting in London. The only Latin American members of the G-20 are Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
*They assured each other that “progressives” have the solutions for the world’s problems which conservatives, neoliberals, Washington, etc do not have. But no details were given.
British PM Brown took the lead in urging his fellow “progressives” to unite for radical global change.
“We cannot solve the problem of global financial instability without there being a global solution,” he said. “We must reshape the world, (and) make global action work… It is absolutely clear that the global institutions that we built in the 1940s are quite incapable of dealing with the problems that we have now.”
However, within hours of PM Brown’s remarks in Chile, Germany’s Spiegel International obtained a secret document confirming that on 2 April Brown plans to propose a coordinated worldwide fiscal stimulus bill totaling about $4 trillion.
Spiegel also senior German government officials as saying the Merkel government will not support expanded bailouts. (Good for her.)
Separately, Chilean President Bachelet (who mortifies even Chilean socialists) called for the creation of “…a popular, not populist ideology.” Huh?
National Housing Institute INAVI is building in Guarenas the Las Mandarinas apartment complex for poor Venezuelans without worthy homes.
Las Mandarinas consists of eight towers of five floors each and eight apartments per floor, totaling 320 apartments, some are 3 bed/2 bath and others are 2 bed/2 bath. One parking space per apartment.
INAVI pays private contractors about Bs 66 million (BsF 66,000) per apartment to develop housing solutions like Las Mandarinas.
Then INAVI adjudicates the finished apartments to buyers who file applications claiming they are poor and do not have decent homes.
This adjudication process includes prioritization of prospective candidates by confirmed ideological loyalty to the revolution.
But INAVI officials who control/influence the adjudication process also charge under-the-table “fees” – so INAVI gives the apartment for free but INAVI officials charge bribes to guarantee apartments will become available.
Caracas Gringo has spoken personally with over 100 of the “owners” of Las Mandarinas apartments, and in every single case, without exception, they received the apartments completely free. They were unwilling to talk about bribe-paying, but enough admissions were obtained (over 30) to assume INAVI officials collect bribes from everyone who builds or is adjudicated a dwelling.
What’s more, INAVI requires the contractors who built Las Mandarinas to customize individual apartments for free.
The contractors also tell Caracas Gringo that over one-third of the “workers” employed at Las Mandarinas (1) do not work a single day but show up faithfully every Friday to collect their week’s pay, (2) are employed as armed goons by different Bolivarian construction unions to extort money from the contractors, or (3) belong to local armed gangs which operate criminal enterprises (protection rackets, stolen goods, drug trafficking, etc.).
It’s easier for the contractors to hire these thugs than ignore or reject them, in order to ensure their construction machinery isn’t vandalized/stolen and legitimate workers and engineers/architects are not harassed, robbed, carjacked, etc.
By the way, this pattern repeats at every single government housing project in Venezuela, the contractors at Las Mandarinas tell Caracas Gringo.
Are the contractors losing money? Only if they stay with the projects from start to finish. If they get in and out quickly, collecting millions in “adelantos” (working capital) from INAVI, they turn a profit.
The project we’re talking about here already has experienced a turnover in contractors at least once, though several residents tell Caracas Gringo the current contractor is the third company to work on the project since it started.
But it doesn’t stop there. Many of the original beneficiaries of the apartments adjudicated by INAVI are now selling them for Bs. 150 million (BsF 150,000) and up.
They’re doing this for two reasons, basically:
First, they want to cash in on the opportunities to make a quick killing financially. It’s all about the “negocio,” making a buck, getting a lot for very little (or, in this case, nothing because the apartments were free). The Venezuelan mentality, the culture, is all about cashing in big with easy and profitable “negocios” – deals. INAVI gives them money for nothing.
Second, living in Las Mandarinas is hellish. Electricity is provided by a small mobile diesel generator owned by a contractor who quit the project because it wasn’t paid by INAVI. The lights flicker constantly and outages happen daily. Water has to be trucked in, which means standing in line to get water in small containers. Public lighting is unfinished and what was completed is breaking down. CANTV hasn’t installed land lines yet and there’s no cellular service in the area. No one takes care of the public and green areas. There’s also an unsavory armed element in the neighborhood, calling itself Bolivarian but basically consisting of criminal predators.
Given the extraordinary thievery and corruption which characterizes the Chavez regime, who can blame many residents of Las Mandarinas for cashing in and getting out of there ASAP?
Caracas Gringo has friends and professional colleagues, in the US and Latin America, who speak admiringly of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva as a “moderate…socialist & democrat.”
The majority of the crowd who believes Lula is a moderate – say, 99.9% – are, respectfully, naïve and perhaps willfullyignorant of Lula’s history.
“But Lula is not like Chavez,” Caracas Gringo hears frequently. “Gringo, you’re just too right-wing.”
A leopard can, indeed, change its spots. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Radicals do moderate and grow mellower with age and eventually, even, come in from the cold.
In a word, crap!
Lula is not like Chavez because Brazil’s institutions – private and public, political and military – would have found a way to topple Lula – democratically or not – had he indulged his natural, and most radical Marxist instincts.
However, Lula occasionally shows his true colors, as he did it again this week while UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in Brasilia as part of a five-day tour of Europe, the US and South America in preparation for the G20 summit to take place in London on 2 April (i.e. Brown was globetrotting to escape more public opprobrium at home for his witless stewardship of the UK economy).
Speaking in Brasília at a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, Lula told reporters:
“This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing. …I do not know any black or indigenous bankers so I can only say [it is wrong] that this part of mankind which is victimized more than any other should pay for the crisis.”
What a surprise! Lula blames the global crisis on “irrational…white people with blue eyes.” Was he speaking of white bankers only, or ALL white people? But forget the semantics: Lula’s remark was racist and racially offensive, and deliberately so – else why raise the point at all during a press conference?
Perhaps Lula was tipsy again; after all, Lula’s love affair with alcohol and his tendency to over-indulge his thirst is legendary. But the possibility that Brazil’s president was boozed up doesn’t excuse or explain the stupidity of his racially-charged accusation.
But when viewed from an ideological prism, Lula’s deliberate racism makes a lot of sense.
Lula first and foremost is, and always has been, a believer in radical Marxist revolution. The semantics don’t matter – socialist, progressive, populist, a man of the poor people, whatever. He’s a radical communist.
If Lula could have gotten away with leading a radical Marxist/populist revolution in Brazil, he would have done so without a second’s thought when first elected in October 2002.
Lula’s life and political career as a poor child of impoverished slum dwellers who has only a fifth-grade education and was a sheet-metal worker/radical Marxist labor activist is amply documented.
Lula is a co-founder, with his decades-old buddy Fidel Castro, of the Sao Paulo Forum, where Latin America’s communist parties and militant groups figured out how to gain power democratically in order to then advance their Marxist/revolutionary goals.
And the forum’s prescriptions proved to be very effective, way more so than the political correct idiocy of the Washington Consensus that wasted almost 20 years arguing that new open economic models could be imposed from abroad/above without any underlying transformation in the institutions and cultures of the Latin American societies in question.
There are differences of degree between Latin American countries now governed by so-called “socialists,” but ultimately the gang is all rowing together in the same direction: a vastly expanded state, more state control over all productive processes, creeping (or violent) restrictions on private property and individual rights.
Some of the region’s leftist regimes are marching further left more rapidly than others, but the process is ongoing in all these countries – overtly through the political process, and covertly through the efforts of Chavez-funded initiatives like the Caracas-based the Congreso Autoctono de los Pueblos Bolivarianos.
This entity, which hosts events attended by Cuban political strategists, FARC militants and other armed communist radicals, has essentially replaced the Sao Paulo Forum as the venue through which the region’s most radical communist groups plot revolution. (Also, China reportedly has “neutral observers” in this entity.) For example, the Casas del Alba political indoctrination initiative Caracas/La Paz have developed in Peru’s indigenous southwestern Andes region was initially proposed/discussed in this Bolivarian People’s Congress.
Racism, explicitly racism directed against white people, is part of the long-term Marxist revolutionary strategy to destabilize the United States and push the US out of Latin America completely. Of course, this would open even more widely the opportunities of dictatorial and/or communist thug regimes to take control of the region’s natural resources and forge political alliances with corrupt regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, etc.
Lula’s chief Latin American foreign policy adviser, Marco Aurelio Garcia, is a radical communist who in his youth was a guerrilla, and has longtime ties to Havana, communist Moscow and Beijing.
Lula also has been Latin America’s foremost presidential apologist for the worst excesses of President Hugo Chavez’s thug regime. No one can dispute that Venezuela is a democracy, Lula declared yesterday. Again, crap!
Venezuela is an increasingly dictatorial, militarized, intolerant one-man regime where 114,000 people have been murdered in the past decade and over 2 million more injured by violent criminals.
Chavez controls the presidency, National Assembly, Supreme Court (and the rest of the judiciary), the Office of the Attorney General, the National Electoral Council (CNE), and over three-quarters of the news media.
Bolivarian Venezuela is a country where the private property rights and contractual rights of local and foreign private investors are routinely violated on a daily basis.
The 15 February referendum was only about whether or not Chavez should be allowed to seek re-election indefinitely.
But less than two months after his referendum “win” (which we insist was rigged as all of Venezuela’s elections since the 2004 presidential recall referendum have been rigged), Chavez is illegally and unconstitutionally transforming Venezuela into a militarized Marxist state.
And what is Lula doing? Declaring to the world that the Chavez regime is democratic.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has not even started to name his Latin America team yet, while Washington’s mainly brain-deads think tanks are offering “new policy proposals” that continue to hew closely to 20-year-old paradigms which make no sense in today’s world. (We’ll have a post up shortly on the brain-deads think tanks.)
Welcome to Venezuela’s future…
In February President Hugo Chavez expropriated several privately-owned rice processors, and installed dozens of “supervisors” to ensure management and labor at these processing plants were not ripping off poor consumers by hoarding rice supplies or refusing to produce more regulated rice.
And now, the Military Reserve Combat Battalion of Calabozo, an arm of the Bolivarian National Militia, will “guard” the rice harvest in Calabozo from the rice fields to the processing silos to ensure producers don’t “lose” any part of the rice crop, says Colonel Carlos Osorio Zambrano, National Superintendent of Silos and Warehouses.
*Militia members are armed with the new Russian AK-103 and AK-104 assault rifles which, unsurprisingly, are not being deployed in the conventional army except to a few units whose commanders and troops reputedly are zealous Bolivarian revolutionaries.
*Private rice producers and silos will be supervised, basically, at gunpoint even if the militia members are not actually pointing their weapons at truck drivers and silo operators.
*Colonel Osorio Zambrano remains on active duty, and is drawing two salaries simultaneously and illegally as Colonel in the Bolivarian army and as National Silo Superintendent.
*Colonel Osorio Zambrano was appointed Superintendent of Silos because he is a Bolivarian loyalist (i.e. another uniformed Chavez bootlicker), and not because he has any experience/knowledge on relating to business in general, agriculture and rice production.