Archive for June, 2009
Diosdado Cabello and Jose Vicente Rangel Avalos (aka Junior), the former governor of Miranda state and former mayor of Sucre District (Petare), respectively, are “untouchables,” says Tal Cual director Teodoro Petkoff.
Both former officials are confronted with numerous charges of corruption alleged to have occurred during their respective terms in power. They lost bids for re-election in November 2008, and their successors uncovered heaps of documented evidence showing that Cabello and Junior happily pillaged the public treasury for personal gain while in power.
That evidence rests in the hands of the Comptroller of the Republic and the Attorney General of the Republic, but absolutely no investigations to determine administrative and criminal responsibilities are under way.
Petkoff is a courageous person. Cabello and Junior are very dangerous men.
Cabello is minister of public works, minister of telecommunications, master of the country’s ports and newly-appointed presidential czar in charge of restructuring the financial system now that President Hugo Chavez has nationalized Banco de Venezuela, which was majority owned by Spain’s Santander group.
Cabello’s power is such that he has kept former Bolivar Banco owner Eligio Cedeno in a cell at Disip headquarters since 2007. The AG is prosecuting Cedeno for the Microstar import fraud over five years ago, officially. But the real reason Cedeno is in jail for the duration is that he crossed Cabello.
Junior is a bad dude, but not remotely as dangerous as Cabello. However, junior’s dad is Jose Vicente Rangel (aka Marciano aka Grima Wormtongue), and that makes Junior very dangerous because Grima is ruthless, unforgiving and lethal. The loose tongues say Junior and his dad aren’t very close, but blood is blood.
Former public prosecutor Danilo Anderson ran afoul of Grima Wormtongue back in 2004 when he was officially “investigating” opposition figures including businessmen, bankers and military officials who allegedly supported Pedro “El Breve” Carmona’s self-coronation on April 12, 2002.
In fact, Danilo and several of his AG buddies were running an extortion racket targeting many of the people who were being “investigated.” It worked like this: Pay up and the investigation will clear you, or don’t pay and we’ll nail you.
Unfortunately, Danilo messed with some of Grima Wormtongue’s longtime associates in the banking sector.
Danilo was killed instantly on 18 November, 2004 when a bomb placed under the driver’s seat of his SUV exploded while he was driving in Santa Monica. The bomb was sophisticated: C-4 rigged with a cell-phone trigger for remote detonation by speed dial.
In Venezuela, only the military and the state intelligence services like Disip have access to C-4. Sure, the stuff can be bought on the illegal arms market.
But Pablo Medina, the former chavista loyalist and ex-guerrilla who now bitterly opposes President Chavez, maintains that Grima Wormtongue was the intellectual author of Danilo’s car-bomb assassination.
And the people who built and detonated the bomb, then implicated the witless Guevara brothers, are Disip agents, adds Medina.
But Petkoff is a bit off when he places Cabello and Junior in the same company.
Cabello is truly untouchable, but Junior’s protection will evaporate the moment his dad breathes his last. Cabello will make it so.
Cabello and the other kingpins of the regime within a regime don’t like Junior, and only tolerate him because even Cabello is loath to start a fight with Grima Wormtongue.
As old timers in Virginia’s Shenandoah region would say: “Never get into a pissing contest with a skunk.”
The implications of Bagua for Peru’s democracy and South America’s stability are ominous. The Bolivarian revolution has begun in Peru. If President Alan Garcia mishandles the conflict with Peru’s indigenous tribes he could suffer the same fate as President Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada in Bolivia in 2003. However, Garcia faces powerful enemies instigating the violence in Peru: President Hugo Chavez and President Evo Morales.
The Bolivarian revolution spilled first blood in Peru on June 5-6, 2009 after years of careful preparation orchestrated by revolutionary strategists in Venezuela and Bolivia. President Alan Garcia and the Peruvian armed forces were completely surprised by the outbreak of violent rioting by radical indigenous groups in Bagua in which 33 persons were killed and over 150 injured.
The indigenous tribes which rioted in Bagua are members of the Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (Aidesep – Asociacion Interetnica de Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana). Aidesep’s president is Alberto Pizango Chota, 43, a member of the Shawi-Campu Piavi tribe of the Loreto region. Pizango taught school in Yurimaguas in the Loreto region until he was elected president of Aidesep on December 14, 2008 for a term which ends on December 31, 2011 – a presidential and congressional election year in Peru.
Pizango declared Aidesep in revolt against Garcia on April 9, 2009 when Peru’s president issued new rules “ordering” the management of forest and water resources in the Peruvian jungles. The changes are in line with the Garcia government’s successful free market policies since his election in 2006. Peru’s economy grew 9.8% in 2008 and 9% in 2007. Growth of 4% is anticipated in 2009.
Polls in Peru show that over 80% of the population including a substantial percentage of its indigenous people support sustained economic development of the country’s abundant energy and mineral resources. But Aidesep is a radical proponent of historical indigenous rights and a bitter foe of free market policies. Ideologically, Aidesep is aligned with the Peruvian Communist Party, and former army officer Ollanta Humala, who is Chavez’s handpicked candidate for the presidency of Peru.
The new rules issued by Garcia gave Pizango the opportunity for a confrontation in which Aidesep can sell itself internationally as the underdog and tap the energetic and well-funded support of huge global advocacy networks based in Europe and the United States. Under the old rules, energy and mining companies interested in prospecting in territories which belonged historically to indigenous peoples were required to consult first with the affected tribes. The new rules do not require prior consultation, and indigenous leaders are furious at what they perceive as the theft of their rights.
Aidesep’s revolt consisted mainly of blocking roads and rivers, and harassing oil and mining companies working in the area. However, it was clear from the start of the protests that Pizango was spoiling for a violent confrontation with the government. Garcia sought to avoid clashes by engaging Aidesep in dialogue over more than 50 days, seeking agreements to end the road and river blockades. But Pizango would not cooperate. Finally, police received orders on June 5-6 to break an indigenous blockade of the Belaunde Terry highway, one of the country’s principal land routes for the movement of passengers and goods, which passes through Bagua.
However, police commanders responsible for the operation under-estimated the threat posed by several thousand angry indigenous protesters. Only 300 police officials were deployed without adequate anti-riot gear. When the police tried to clear the highway on June 5, they were attacked by several thousand indigenous protesters. Many of the attackers were armed. In all, 33 persons died including 24 unarmed police officers whose throats were cut by their indigenous captors; only 9 indigenous protesters were killed.
Preliminary police investigations indicate that Pizango may have ordered armed indigenous gunmen to attack the police. There are unconfirmed reports that Pizango also may have approved the execution of the 24 captive police officials. The Garcia government has charged Pizango with homicide; in May he also had been charged with sedition. Nicaragua’s government has granted Pizango political asylum at its embassy in Lima.
It’s unclear if Garcia will allow Pizango safe passage out of Peru, but it probably would be politically and strategically unwise to let the indigenous leader leave. There’s no question that if Pizango is allowed to leave Peru he will quickly arrive in Venezuela, and likely Bolivia too. Pizango roaming the world freely with financial support from Caracas and propaganda support from Cuba could create more headaches for Garcia than if he remains secluded inside Nicaragua’s embassy in Lima.
A week after the violence, President Garcia said his government shared some of the responsibility for what had occurred. Garcia declared the government had dialogued with Pizango for too long and had offered too many concessions.
“Dialogue is a virtue but when there is too much dialogue what happens is that the person in front believes there is weakness or fear,” said Garcia.
Garcia said the government will continue seeking dialogue with the country’s indigenous groups. But he also gave Peru’s national police commanders orders to “dialogue faster and act immediately” when confronted with road blockades and other indigenous protests which disrupt the free flow of people and commerce.
Garcia also blamed the violence in Bagua on “external” forces which are competing with Peru’s oil and gas resources. Clearly, Garcia meant Venezuela and Bolivia.
However, Peru’s president apparently does not fully understand the international forces deployed against his government; or perhaps he is consciously understating the severity of the external threat to Peru’s democratic stability for prudent diplomatic reasons.
Presidents Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales are certainly stoking the Bolivarian revolution in Peru clandestinely from afar. The Chavez regime provides some financial support to Pizango and Aidesep, as it supports Ollanta Humala. Radical Bolivian indigenous militants supported by the Morales government are also working clandestinely with radical Peruvian indigenous groups including Pizango’s supporters.
However, Cuba also is involved clandestinely in the nascent Peruvian revolution, and so are Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Bolivarian Liberation Front (BFL).
The Chavez government’s explicit strategic and political alliance with the FARC facilitates the training of Peruvian militants in Peru, and also in Colombia and Venezuela. Some Colombian intelligence officials think the FARC/Chavez alliance is driving the regionalization of an armed Bolivarian revolution through the FBL, whose operational commander and chief strategist reputedly is a former interior and justice minister. Established revolutionary networks already exist between Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. Now the armed Bolivarian revolution has zeroed in on Peru.
Overtly, Pizango and Aidesep are associated with the Congreso Bolivariano de los Pueblos (CBP), which was created in 2003 by Chavez to openly promote the regional spread of his Bolivarian revolution. All of the region’s radical political, social and militant groups are associated with the CBP. When FARC leader Rodrigo Granda was abducted in Caracas in December 2004 he was on his way to a meeting of the CBP.
The Sao Paulo Forum co-founded in 1990 by Cuban leader Fidel Castro and then-radical Brazilian labor leader Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva has been supplanted in many respects by the CBP.
The Sao Paulo Forum gave the Latin American left a venue to develop the strategies and tactics which produced a lengthy string of municipal, bubernatorial and presidential victories across the region since the mid-1990s.
But the CBP embraces a more radical strategy – socialist victory at any cost. If the revolution cannot achieve power democratically it will seek power by triggering social, economic and political instability. The CBP embraces and defends fundamental indigenous, nationalist, popular rights. It positions itself always as the oppressed underdog in class warfare between the poor and the rapacious imperialist elites. The US is always the great Satan, of course. The CBP also believes its radical vision of revolution takes precedence over the moderate manifestations of socialism in Latin America – like Chile and Brazil.
The strategies and tactics learned in Bolivia in 2002-2003, when Evo Morales led an indigenous uprising which forced the resignation of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, are now being introduced in Peru. The massacre of Bagua was just the first skirmish in what could be a bloody revolt if the Garcia government fails to respond with balanced policies to maintain public order.
If the Bolivarian revolution destabilizes Peru over the coming two years, the chances would increase of fostering conditions favorable to the election of Ollanta Humala in 2011. If the Bolivarian revolution takes power in Peru, Colombia’s regional political isolation would increase, and Chile would be further cut off from the rest of South America. The potential risks to Brazil’s national security also could be substantial. A radical revolution rooted in the alleged defense of indigenous and environmental rights of the poor likely would spread quickly into western Brazil’s Amazonia, upsetting the national development plans of its ruling economic and political elites.
Peru’s indigenous peoples represent about 45% of the population, compared with about 60% of the population in Bolivia. Pizango cannot count on winning the presidency only on his indigenous blood. But Pizango has an ace which Morales did not have. Internationally, Pizango and Aidesep also enjoy the support of powerful organizations dedicated exclusively to protecting the environment at all costs and preserving intact the world’s remaining indigenous cultures and tribal societies.
Peru has the world’s third largest tropical rain forests, after Brazil and Democratic republic of Congo. Deforestation rates in Peru are significantly lower than in Brazil, Ecuador or Colombia. Peru has large reserves of oil, gas and minerals in its rain forests, which comprise up to half of the country, but these riches remain untapped, and the forces arrayed against Garcia want to make sure they remain unexploited – at least until the radicals take power in Peru.
Garcia cannot expect any support from the Organization of American States (OAS), which Chavez has transformed into his own simpering toadie with generous oil giveaways like PetroCaribe. And forget the Obama administration. President Barack Obama does not have a Latin America policy. The recent nomination of Arturo Valenzuela as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere confirms that President Obama is completely bereft of original ideas with respect to Latin America. Chile’s socialist government won’t back Garcia in a diplomatic standoff with Chavez and Morales.
Garcia must be prepared for increasing tensions with Morales and Chavez. The revolutionary governments of Venezuela and Bolivia have publicly embraced Pizango’s cause, effectively giving the indigenous leader international political recognition which makes him seem more influential in Peru and internationally than he actually is.
Bolivia initially denied any involvement with the violence in Bagua triggered by Pizango. But President Morales finally owned up that he supported Pizango’s indigenous movement. “It’s not possible that most reviled (people) in Latin American history should be humlitiated as we have just seen,” Morales declared, adding that the “Indigenous movement of Latin America is a great defender of the planet Earth, of the environment, and that is why the struggles to defend equality and social justice will continue.”
Separately, Bolivian Justice Minister Celima Torrico accused the Garcia government in Peru of unleashing a “bloody repression” against the country’s indigenous population.
Venezuela’s Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Nicia Maldonado, launched a furious public tirade against Garcia, accusing him of perpetrating “genocide…a terrorist act,” and “confirming (he) is a fascist.” Unlike the Chavez government, she added, Garcia has confirmed he “hates the people, hates the poor, hates the indigenous tribes” of Peru. “We absolutely and categorically condemn this genocide against our brothers of the Peruvian amazon jungle,” Maldonado continued. She also said, without offering any proof, that Peruvian police had burned some bodies and thrown others into rivers so it was unclear how many people had been killed.
Remarks like these confirm that Garcia faces more pressures in coming months from Caracas and La Paz. Clandestine Bolivarian operations in Peru aimed at creating instability and conflict likely will intensify. Until Bagua, Peru’s military and civilian intelligence services had been more focused on erasing the remnants of Shining Path than on following the evolution of the Bolivarian revolution in their country. That likely will change as more intelligence resources are focused on the clandestine operations being infiltrated into Peru by the networks based on the Chavez-Morales-FARC alliances.
It’s also likely that the Garcia government will quietly increase intelligence and security cooperation with Colombia and the US. Increased intelligence and security cooperation between the Garcia government and Brazil is also likely. But all this will be done very quietly. And little of this cooperation may prove useful.
The emerging Peruvian indigenous movement whose titular ahead for now is Pizango is a different and more difficult security challenge than Shining Path. But it’s not clear yet that Garcia and the country’s traditional democratic powers understand this. Shining Path’s war killed tens of thousands and never won the hearts and minds of the people. But the radical indigenous movement has deep ethnic, cultural and social pillars which are embraced by over 45% of the population, which is indigenous. Many indigenours Peruvians may not participate in radical political activities, but they identify with the underlying cultural and social values defended by leaders like Pizango. The indigenous movement cannot be contained or defeated.
In a confrontation, the state always will be perceived as the oppressor and the indigenous radicals as the underdogs standing up for their legitimate rights. That’s how the story will be driven by international NGO’s and how it will be reported in the mainstream news media. The other viewpoint – that sustained development of Peru’s natural resources will be good for all Peruvians – isn’t heard or else is reported as representing a rightist (i.e. fascist, racist) position. Indeed, the clash in Bagua inflicted international damage on Garcia’s democratic credentials although Pizango’s armed thugs did most of the shooting and killing.
The tougher approach Garcia says he will employ in future standoffs with indigenous groups may easily backfire. Pizango and the forces supporting him clandestinely want more violence and bloodshed in order to whip up class hatreds and divisions. Their goal is to achieve sustained instability through labor strikes, indigenous protests, road and river blockades, and other disruptive street tactics that disrupt the economy in general. Indigenous fatalities are necessary politically; more is better including women and children. More repressive government tactics create opportunities for radical indigenous militants to respond more violently.
The emergence of a radical indigenous movement willing to engage in lethal violence is a good reason for President Garcia to review how to balance sustained economic growth with social wellbeing and stability. The enemy’s political strategy is clear: Foster conditions which provoke violent conflict between the Garcia government (the traditional state) and the indigenous tribes (the poor “pueblo”). Cripple the economy, destroy Garcia’s popularity, and set up a radical like Ollanta Humala for election as president in 2011. This would almost complete an Andean arc of radical revolutionary regimes with Marxist/nationalist agendas and viscerally anti-US foreign and national defense policies. If Colombia’s Marxist forces gain power there too after Alvaro Uribe Velez, Brazil would be almost completely surrounded by radical regimes.
Venezuela is setting new hemispheric records this year in terms of personal insecurity.
In 2008 there were 537 kidnappings for ransom involving lengthy periods of captivity, and over 14,400 homicides nationally, according to official data compiled by the government and private NGO’s.
The Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia (OVV) NGO says Venezuela had 50 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008, compared with a world average of 8.8 violent deaths per 100,000 persons.
The kidnapping data for 2008 does not include over 8,500 “express abductions” in which victims are held only a few hours while the kidnappers negotiate ransoms ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.
But only mid-way through 2009, Venezuela is trending towards a new full-year record of some 900 kidnappings and almost 20,000 homicides, based on official crime data for the first five months of the year.
Some private crime experts think the number of express abductions nationally will easily top 10,000 in 2009.
Over 40% of the reported homicides this year will occur within the Greater Caracas Metropolitan Area. Over half of the express abductions will happen in Caracas too.
Many of the murders and express abductions will be committed by cops.
The police forces with the highest percentage of killers, kidnappers and armed robbers are Libertador Municipality’s PoliCaracas and the Metropolitan Police (PM).
This is because President Hugo Chavez, through acolytes like current Libertador Mayor Jorge Rodriguez and his predecessor, Freddy Bernal, are guilty of consciously facilitating and/or deliberately recruiting criminals into PoliCaracas.
When Chavez intervened the PM after the April 2002 political violence, he gave the PM’s top command to the Tupamaros, a Marxist militant group which has many members reputedly involved in drug trafficking, armed robberies and contract killings (sicariatos), though its chieftain Jose Pinto insists the Tupamaros are just a peaceful (albeit heavily armed) people’s movement.
Over a week ago, psychologist Ana Matilde Raymondi was shot and killed by four PoliCaracas officials in plainclothes. The rogue cops initially tried to report the killing as the result of a “confrontation” with armed criminals. But the truth was the cops apparently tried to hijack Raymondi’s vehicle, and possibly kidnap her too. Raymondi was killed while trying to flee from what she obviously perceived as a kidnapping or robbery attempt against her.
Since January 2008 the Attorney General of the Republic has processed 755 homicide cases nationally in which killer cops are the perpetrators, including 72 homicides in Caracas in which 37 PM officers have been charged with murder.
But Venezuela’s criminal cops get a pass. Between 1 January 2009 and 31 March 2009, a total of 10,858 separate criminal investigations have been opened nationally against cops, but as of 31 March 2009 only 22 convictions had been secured, or 0.20%.
In effect, over nine out of every ten cops in Venezuela charged with a crime including murder and kidnapping get away with it.
Dr. Hilda Molina was finally allowed to emigrate from Cuba to Argentina.
This morning in Buenos Aires, Hilda was finally reunited with her son and met her two young grandsons for the first time in their lives. The oldest is 13.
After 15 years of tireless efforts by Hilda, her son in Argentina, and the governments of Argentina and other countries in the region, the Castro regime finally gave her permission to leave Cuba.
Some news outlets are reporting that Raul Castro’s decision to let Hilda leave Cuba is a sign the regime is opening up.
But Caracas Gringo thinks that Raul Castro (and Fidel) finally blinked when confronted with Hilda’s relentless courage.
Hilda is as pure and hard as a blue-white diamond, a woman of extraordinary intelligence, class and dignity.
She never gave up trying, never lost hope that she would gain her freedom, and the Castro thugs finally ran out of excuses to continue denying Hilda her human rights.
Hilda literally had been under house arrest since 1994 in a tiny apartment she shared with her elderly mother.
Until 1994 Hilda had been the chief neurosurgeon of the Cuban revolution and also a deputy in the Cuban National Assembly. However, Hilda publicly repudiated Fidel Castro’s regime in 1994, and was particularly critical of its health and science policies.
Among her numerous charges, for example, was this:
The Cuban regime had created two separate health care systems, she said.
One served the Cuban people’s needs for free, but the state did not provide the funds required to ensure patients received the best possible care.
The second health care system charged well-heeled foreign patients very high fees for surgical and non-surgical treatment. This system was equipped with the best medical equipment and staffed with the best doctors and nurses, and it operated out of medical facilities which ordinary Cuban citizens were prohibited from entering.
Hilda related the above, and many other stories about the cruelty and inhumanity of the Castro regime, when Caracas Gringo met her in Havana in the mid-1990s.
Her courageous decision to publicly expose the lies of the Castro regime with respect to its false claims about universal free and equal care for everyone cost her dearly.
She was kicked out of the National Assembly, fired from her job, and was targeted immediately for systematic and permanent harassment by the plainclothes thugs of the Interior Ministry’s state security service.
By 1996 Hilda was basically confined with her mother 24/7 inside a shoebox apartment.
Hilda was not officially under arrest at the time, but whenever she ventured outside the apartment to buy food, take a stroll, etc., several male thugs always would follow her practically at arm’s length, menacing her verbally and, often, physically too.
The regime also kept plainclothes thugs from the Interior Ministry posted 24/7 at both ends of the street where Hilda lived so Fidel could track her movements and visitors at all times.
Everyone who visited Hilda was immediately placed under surveillance and investigated, especially if the visitors were foreign. Caracas Gringo had a first-hand experience with the regime’s state security services after visiting Hilda. It was unpleasant and frightening, but nothing even remotely like Hilda and her mother suffered every day.
Hilda and her mother were not safe even in their apartment. Regime thugs frequently would burst into the apartment by day or night, turning it upside down under the guise of conducting a “search” for contraband. The Castro regime’s thugs would threaten and rough up the women too.
The regime’s abuse of Hilda and her mother was psychological and physical torture, and a violation of their most fundamental human rights on a daily basis.
They lived in isolation, never knowing when a gang of Castro thugs might break down the apartment’s door and arrest the two women.
But when Caracas Gringo first met Hilda Molina and her mother in the mid-1990s, they radiated courage, composure and faith.
Hilda’s home was practically bare of food, yet she invited this blogger to share a late lunch and treated him like a member of her family.
Thank you, Hilda, for the wonderful afternoon we spent in Havana talking about the Cuban people.
The Bolivarian Revolution is obsessed with wild ideas about presidential assassination conspiracies and massively slaughtering all of its real and imaginary enemies.
President Hugo Chavez is the chief proponent and conductor of these ideas – and whatever Chavez says is faithfully parroted by his followers.
Recently, National Assembly Deputy Calixto Ortega, a radical chavista, warned that if President Chavez is assassinated Venezuela will experience a civil war similar to what Colombia suffered after leftist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was killed by a lone gunman on 9 April, 1948.
Gaitán’s assassination triggered the Bogotazo, rioting in which up to 5,000 persons were killed and thousands more injured, followed by decades of civil conflict which killed over 200,000 more, eventually sparking the birth of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – which today are strategic and political allies of the Chavez regime.
Then Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello made even a harsher threat on national television. Speaking at a meeting of the regional leadership of the PSUV held in San Carlos Army Barracks in downtown Caracas, Cabello accused the opposition (including the private news media) of “trying to convert the Venezuelan into someone capable of hating.”
“Oligarchs of the opposition, do not attempt anything because caracas will give the example again. Do not attempt anything outside the law, do not attempt any ‘arrebaton’ (rough translation, adventure), nor any strike (‘zarpazo’), nor any short cut (‘atajo’), because the ‘pueblo’ of Caracas with give you a decisive/conclusive (‘contundente’) response…you will receive a response that not even you expect and we are not ‘mamando gallo’ (kidding/bluffing) about this.”
Cabello stressed that the PSUV and other followers of the Chavez government are prepared to respond lethally. “Don’t complain later,” Cabello warned.
The threats of mass slaughter made by Chavez, Cabello, Ortega and other senior Chavez regime figures like Jose Vicente Rangel (aka Grima Wormtongue) are always directed against the political opposition
This opposition includes all of the political parties that recently created the Table of Unity (link), plus Accion Democratica, whose leader Henry Ramos Allup doesn’t think much of the idea of “uniting” the opposition.
The list of “enemies” deserving of mass slaughter also certainly includes the voters who signed petitions supporting Chavez’s recall in August 2004, and everyone else (i.e. democratic civil society) who doesn’t blindly follow his plans to be Venezuela’s emperor-for-life, and commander-in-chief of a radical Marxist hemispheric revolution.
The problem is that these opposition groups, collectively, are sort of like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
They do not represent any threat to Chavez’s life or the stability of his regime. They aren’t the people thundering around Caracas heavily armed on black, olive green and cop-blue motorcycles without license plates, or crewing armed groups like the Tupamaros, La Piedrita and Lina Ron’s gangster bikers. Nope.
The political opposition receiving public death threats from the likes of Public Works Minister Cabello is committed to winning elections democratically – which is a sysyphean task considering that Chavez controls the National Electoral Council, Supreme Court and National Assembly.
Chavez has the power to rig election outcomes in his favor, and he uses that power in a pinch, like in August 2004 and more recently.
If the opposition is as tough as marshmallows, then why is the regime making these foaming-mouth threats of mass slaughter?
One obvious objective is to inflict fear and anxiety within the ranks of the opposition, and among the populace in general.
But Caracas Gringo believes the real threat to Chavez is deeply entrenched in his own back yard.
The Bolivarian Revolution can be divided broadly into two factions: the true believers and the so-called Bolibourgeois or nouveau right which is making billionaire fortunes inside the regime, including some very senior regime ministers with longtime close ties to Chavez.
There are also competing/conflicting military and civilian factions inside the regime, but historically the military faction has been more powerful.
However, Chavez can never be completely certain that he controls the armed forces completely.
That is why he created the Bolivarian Civilian Militia, commanded by presidentially handpicked officers who report directly to President Chavez.
Many of the the 100,000 new AK-103/104 assault rifles reportedly were quietly distributed to elite groups inside this militia.
President Chavez also commands the loyalty and support of Military Intelligence (DGIM) chief, General Hugo Carvajal; Interior & Justice Ministry political police (Disip) chief Henry Rangel Silva; and former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (who also has been Chavez’s personal liaison with the FARC’s top leaders since the latter half of the 1990s).
Also, President Chavez’s political party, the PSUV, has armed factions throughout Caracas and other cities.
Many of these armed groups linked with PSUV’s command/control hierarchy (which Cabello heads in Caracas, reporting to President Chavez) were created originally as Bolivarian Circles, or within security entities like PoliCaracas, the Metropolitan Police, Pdvsa’s PCP (internal security), the Libertador municipal government, and central government entities like the Education, Labor and Environment Ministries.
The Chavez regime also has the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL), which is deployed mainly along the border with Colombia, ranging from Apure to Zulia. The FBL reportedly numbers some 3,000 armed fighters, and trains with the FARC, which has several hundred fighters hiding inside Venezuelan territory at any given moment.
The FBL and FARC rule the streets and surrounding region in Guasdualito in Apure state, just across the bridge from Arauca in Colombia. However, the FBL also has urban cells in Valencia, Maracay and Caracas.
There is no doubt that President Chavez has awesome firepower at his disposal to face any external, and presumably also any internal threats to his longevity in power.
But are all these armed groups 100% loyal to the Bolivarian Caesar?
At what point could there be a clash between the zealot true believers and the pragmatic, in-it-for-the-money Bolibourgeois? What might trigger a clash within the revolution?
What position would be staked out in any conflict between the Bolivarian zealots and Bolibourgois pragmatists by the powerful criminal state-within-the-revolution whose chairman recently sat at the president’s right-hand during a live televised appearance in which Chavez appeared to be barely lucid?
The Cuban regime has powerful vested economic, strategic and geopolitical interests in Bolivarian Venezuela. So do China, Iran and Russia. What position would these strategic allies of the Chavez regime take in a civil war within the revolution?
Finally, where does the “pueblo” fit in this uncertain but volatile puzzle?
The political opposition isn’t going to take up arms against the Chavez regime, and it won’t try to assassinate President Chavez. The opposition doesn’t have the stomach or training for black ops and coups.
The opposition believes that democracy eventually will prevail over tyranny more or less peacefully, as it has in other far more repressive countries since the late 1980s.
And this belief frightens the Chavez regime, which always responds with threats and state/physical intimidation.
But the armed forces and state security/intelligence services are always a big potential problem for any dictator. Loyalties tend to come with a high economic price.
Perhaps that’s why Chavez looks the other way while the heads of DGIM and Disip run their criminal rackets, which range from protecting drug traffickers and drug trans-shipments, to guarding FARC and ELN leaders, providing drug dealers and Marxist terrorists with legal Venezuelan documents, and doing contract killings.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer, Machiavelli counseled. How close to Chavez could his most dangerous enemies be today?
Could the Bolivarian Revolution survive without Chavez?
The power transfer from Fidel to younger brother Raul Castro appears to be going smoothly. The Cuban regime’s elite power cadres appear confident they can survive nicely after the brothers descend to hell.
If the Cuban revolution can survive without the Castros, why can’t the Bolivarian revolution survive nicely without Chavez?
As long as oil prices are very high – and some say $250/bl oil is just over the horizon – lots of loyalties can be secured, including perhaps even the pueblo – if a post-Chavez revolutionary regime delivers what the pueblo wants most: better security, more money (direct subsidies).
It’s a relatively safe bet that many senior figures in the regime who view the revolution in terms more pragmatic than ideological probably ask themselves this question with some frequency.
Former President Bill Clinton visited Buenos Aires a few days ago to promote his Clinton Global Initiative foundation, a charitable organization whose financial donors include Arab billionaires, among others.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and hubby Nestor Kirchner, who runs his political and business affairs out of the presidential residence, showed the former US president and spouse of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a really good time, including a night behind closed doors at the Cocodrilo Cabaret.
Nestor took Bill to the Cocodrilo for an all-boys night out on the town…and what a night it was!
But the mainstream US news media pretty much ignored the story, maybe because Bill’s passion for all women is old news over a decade after idiot Republicans tried to impeach him for lying about getting a Lewinski in the Oval Office.
Anyway, the Cocodrilo bills itself as the classiest “cabaret” in Argentina and all of South America. In Washington, D.C. or Miami the Cocodrilo would be called a “sports bar” or “adult club.” Basically, it’s a high class (i.e. very expensive) strip club and titty bar frequented mostly by men – a place a guy can get a grinding lap dance or hire a “private” booth or cubicle for personalized shows.
It’s unclear who paid the tab, but the Cocodrilo was exclusively contracted for part of the evening by Nestor Kirchner, Bill and gang, including Buenos Aires Governor Daniel scioli, Cabinet Chief Sergio Massa, Federal Planning Minister Julio De Vido, various unnamed “businessmen” and “officials” of the US Embassy in Buenos Aires.
The club was closed so no one would take unauthorized photographs of Bill getting a private show from a woman reputed to be one of Argentina’s hottest adult dance stars. (Were all cell phones confiscated at the door for the duration of Bill’s private show?)
However, if Nestor Kirchner picked up the tab, it would be gracious indeed if Bill were to send President Hugo Chavez a handwritten thank you note.
After all, President Chavez at a minimum has given the Kirchners personally well over $10 million in cash, according to various news reports since 2005 – and Bill’s private show at the Cabaret probably cost at least $25,000.
As Cocodrilo’s star dancer Andrea Rincón tells the story, Bill saw her in the VIP part of the Cocodrilo and personally chose her to give him a “private” striptease and erotic dance.
“They paid me very well for the show, in US dollars,” the happy babe told a Buenos Aires entertainment news outlet. You go, girl!
No more divisions among Venezuelans; the alternative for democratic Venezuelans is unity.
So sayeth Copei leader Luis Ignacio Planas.
Representatives of up to ten opposition political parties gathered today at Copei’s headquarters in Caracas to create what Planas calls the “Table of Unity.”
Representatives of Podemos, which is led by National Assembly Deputy Ismael Garcia, also attended.
A bit of history: Podemos is the formerly pro-Hugo Chavez faction of Movement to Socialism (MAS) which quit the MAS in 2001 when Garcia and other radical MAS members were battling the late Hector Mujica for control of MAS.
Garcia (and Podemos) was rabidly aligned with President Chavez right up to, during and long after the lethal political violence of 11 April, 2002.
In fact, though Garcia vigorously denies it nowadays, when President Chavez met in Miraflores on 7 April 2002 with the senior military command and top civilian chavistas who conformed (or controlled) the Bolivarian Circles, it was Garcia who made the “presentation” about the street actions which the president’s armed civilian supporters planned to launch against opposition protests.
But in the black years since 11 April, 2002 Garcia (and Podemos) were pushed to the furthest margins as Chavez created his Only Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), handpicked his gubernatorial and municipal candidates, placed only the most trusted (and pliable) chavistas in the Cabinet, etc.
What’s a betrayed turncoat to do? Join a political opposition which has a ten-year track record of chronic failure to find its collective derriere repeatedly, even when equipped with a flashlight, map, written directions and GPS coordinates.
The “Table of Unity” announced by Chavez consists of 11 working tables (mesas de trabajo) on areas like relations with civil society, strategy, program, organization and mobilization, youth, human rights and justice, social issues, international issues, electoral issues and anti-corruption.
Only ten categories here, but maybe the 11th “mesa de trabajo” is tasked with piecing together whatever the other ten mesas de trabajo come up with.
Planas said the participants of the “Table of Unity” will work together to develop a vision of the future for Venezuela (après Chavez).
What the hell have these bozos been doing for the past ten years?
“Trying to survive individually,” says a friend who is married to a longtime Copei activist.
Planas says the political parties represented at the “Table of Unity” will make a “great effort to achieve a consensus, dialogue and discussion to organize ourselves and construct a permanent instance of participation where all the political parties, civil organizatios and guilds can meet together.”
Big Tent bullshit.
The only shared interest the opposition has shown for the past decade is in getting rid of Chavez.
After that, unity is just another dirty word much abused by the oppo.
Besides not having a message, vision or program for the future of Venezuela, the political opposition for a decade has collectively been without even one leader with true national appeal capable of attracting sufficient popular support to challenge Chavez.
International admirers of Chavez – particularly the supremely stupid radical Marxists (oops, progressives) of the US and UK – think he’s some kind of grand global revolutionary leader marching the oppressed poor masses towards the creation of a “new man.”
Pause. Listen. Are Vladimir Lenin, Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler rolling in their graves unanimously?
But Chavez, to a significant degree, owes his longevity to the fact he’s a one-eyed man in the land of the blind.
Chavez reaches the pueblo, the poor masses, in a direct way that NO other political figures in Venezuela are capable of achieving.
It also helps Chavez that he controls the information flow (ie propaganda) almost completely. When he shuts down Globovision soon the national information blackout will be complete.
Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon boasted recently that 70% of Venezuelans have access to the Internet. However, seven out of ten Venezuelans don’t surf the Internet daily looking for news about Venezuela.
Mostly the “pueblo” users of the Internet are into IM chats, e-mails, personal ads looking for hookups, etc.
The “pueblo” still gets its daily dose of printed news from Ultimas Noticias, El Mundo, 2001…and these media are definitely batting for Chavez.
What does the political opposition have?
Planas declared the parties represented at the “Table of Unity” will unanimously support Globovision (and RCTV which still broadcasts by cable).
But Globovision already has one foot in its political grave.
And Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello, the kingpin of the corrupt narco-terrorist-political network that really runs the show inside the Chavez regime, has declared the Telecommunications Law will be reformed soon to tighten the state’s control over the cable providers.
This means two things: 1) Freedom of information is being garroted in Venezuela, and 2) Cabello likely plans to acquire a big stake in the local cable TV business.
Meanwhile, the “pueblo” has no time to waste listening to a passel of opposition politicos talking about finding a consensus and a new vision for Venezuela.
The “pueblo” is too busy simply trying to survive in the here and now, in a country where real jobs are disappearing as the oil- and non-oil economies implode thanks to Chavez, and where the homicide rate is projected at almost 20,000 for all of 2009 compared with over 14,400 in 2008.
The “political opposition” has wasted ten years, and most of any political capital it may have possessed among voters, engaged in activities analogous to shoving each other to see who wins the right to move the deck chairs around on the Titanic.
But some people survived the Titanic’s plunge into the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps there is also hope that Venezuela’s political opposition will finally find a way to refloat itself.
Duro Felguera, a Spanish company which specializes mainly in building turnkey combined cycle power generation plants worldwide, says it has been awarded a $2.1 billion turnkey contract to build a combined cycle gas-fueled thermal power generation plant in Miranda’s Tuy Valleys near Caracas.
Duro Felguera says the contract for the Termocentro power generation plant was awarded directly by Corpoelec subsidiary New Electricidad de Caracas (NEDC).
This is the largest turnkey power contract awarded in over ten years – certainly the biggest power generation project contract since Hugo Chavez was first elected president at the end of 1998
But there was NO competitive bidding, NO public disclosures or debate, and NO prior reviews of the proposed project by the appropriate authorities (i.e. National Assembly?)
Caracas Gringo called officials at NEDC, Corpoelec and the Energy Ministry, all of whom said “Sin comentarios.”
Who approved this turnkey contract, which is so large that the market price of Duro Felguera stock jumped over 10.5% to Euros 6.60 per share immediately after the management of the Oviedo-based company (in Asturias) notified Spain’s government of its extraordinary windfall?
Hint: Godgiven Hair.
And, a related question: Who gets most/all of the commissions in Venezuela for securing the contract for Duro Felguera?
A 1% commission – let’s call it a “finder’s fee” – would be $21 million.
But GH lost a fortune when Stanford International Bank collapsed. Not $276 million-plus as some have speculated, because that number was first floated on the Web back in 2004.
So, let’s assume a 5% commission or $105 million is going into GH’s account(s) worldwide (most likely, Switzerland, where it’s impossible to differentiate between bankers and international criminals).
Our guess: At least one of GH’s accounts is with Credit Suisse.
But a 5% commission is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are more millions of dollars to be made in the construction process.
As lead contractor, Duro Felguera will be hiring local companies to move earth, lay foundations, pour concrete, etc.
Expect huge cost overruns.
GH is currently the Minister of Public Works (aka Kickback Central), and without his approval/support there is no way that anyone at NEDC would have granted a contract of this extraordinary magnitude by themselves.
Even Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez doesn’t have the required political clout.
GH pushed quietly but very hard during his gig as Miranda state governor to get Termocentro approved, especially after EDC was nationalized (i.e. stolen) by President Chavez in first quarter 2008.
But as public works minister, it appears GH finally closed the deal.