Archive for February 2010
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 42, a plumber and bricklayer declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, died on 23 February 2010 in Havana’s Hermanos Ameijeras hospital after an 82-day hunger strike to protest frequent beatings by Cuban guards at the Kilo 7 prison in the eastern province of Camagüey.
Zapato Tamayo stopped eating solid food voluntarily. But, de facto, his death is a premeditated homicide whose chief intellectual authors are Fidel and Raul Castro.
How did the Cuban regime respond? Cuban tyrant Raúl Castro issued a statement saying that he “laments the death of Cuban prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after conducting a hunger strike.”
Meanwhile, the Cuban regime’s security forces arrested at least 30 pro-democracy activists to prevent them from attending Zapata Tamayo’s funeral service.
How did the allegedly democratic leaders of Latin America and the Caribbean respond?
Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who co-founded the Sao Paulo Forum in 1990 with Fidel Castro, expressed pro-forma “lament” for Zapata Tamayo’s murder during an official visit to Havana this week.
But da Silva was just mouthing meaningless platitudes which demonstrate, once again, that at heart he remains a radical communist without an iota of respect for human rights and democracy.
Da Silva then gave the Castro regime more money, and spent the rest of his visit enjoying the hospitality, friendship and, yes, hearty meals served up by the Castros.
But that’s it. Not a single democratically elected leader of Latin America and the Caribbean said anything.
None of the region’s “leaders” who feted Raul Castro last weekend at the Latin American and Caribbean Unity Summit in Cancun, Mexico voiced any outrage.
No one protested or condemned the Cuban regime’s murder by starvation of a poor black plumber and bricklayer whose “crime” was his legitimate desire to live in freedom and respect for his human and democratic rights.
Caracas Gringo, like all Venezuelans, is long accustomed to the fact that President Hugo Chavez is a foul-mouthed tyrant and criminal who hobnobs with narco-terrorists, professional gangsters and the planet’s worst regimes.
It’s also to be expected that no protests would be heard from gangsters like Bolivia’s coca junkie Evo Morales, Nicaragua’s alcoholic child rapist Daniel Ortega, Argentina’s corrupt Cristina “Botox Queen” Kirchner, and Ecuador’s FARC collaborator Rafael Correa.
Sad to say, but it’s clear the current crop of Latin American and Caribbean “democratic leaders” are a cowardly self-serving herd of pigs. No offense is intended to the four-legged species.
Teodoro Petkoff editorializes in today’s Tal Cual that President Hugo Chavez has “copied and considerably worsened” the economic model that caused the Caracazo 21 years ago on 27 February 1989. However, this claim is demonstrably false.
There are absolutely no similarities between the Chavez’s regime’s policies and the policies that former President Carlos Andrez Perez (CAP) tried unsuccessfully to implement with a group of academic economists who had good ideas but zero political experience.
Chavez has been shutting down, centralizing and dismantling the Venezuelan economy for over 11 years and transforming the Republic of Venezuela into an outpost of Cuba – call it Cubazuela – while CAP tried to open up Venezuela’s economy
But CAP screwed the pooch in two critical respects. First, CAP foolishly believed in his own legend. He sincerely believed that the Venezuelan people would follow wherever he led them. And, second, CAP tried to open up Venezuela’s economy, but left the financial system intact at the urging of his longtime corrupt cronies Pedro Tinoco hijo and Gustavo Cisneros. New economic rules + old financial rules = financial collapse in 1994-1996.
A good source of historical perspective on these matters is Moises Naim, who as CAP’s first Development Minister in 1989-1990 had a ringside view of some of the financial shenanigans perpetrated by Tinoco, Cisneros & gang. But Naim wisely left Venezuela to pursue a stellar career in Washington, D.C. Naim is one of the most talented and intelligent Venezuelans this blogger has met during almost four decades in-country. But we digress…
Jose Vicente Rangel (JVR), editorializing under his pseudonym “Marciano” in today’s edition of the communist rag Vea, writes that “something of dark origin…is floating in the environment…the sensation that factors are accumulating which could affect the public piece.”
JVR is a cunning old wolf who has spent his life in dark places. JVR accurately senses the coppery scent of blood in the breeze. JVR knows that a reckoning is coming, but he doesn’t know yet from which direction, so he blames the opposition.
Petkoff and JVR today published two provocative editorials. Both editorials hint at the approach of a lethal popular tsunami. Is this a coincidence? Perhaps yes, but possibly no.
Publicly, Petkoff and JVR pretend not to be longtime friends and radical communist allies. But the reality is that Petkoff and JVR have been joined at the hip for decades.
Teo and JVR are the evil old twins of Venezuela’s failed radical communist revolution of the 1960s. In their dotage – Petkoff is 78 and JVR is 81 – these evil twins have consolidated political careers as professional apologists and disinformation specialists for the Chavez regime’s worst excesses.
Petkoff and JVR launched their political careers as communist radicals inside the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV). Their first undying love always was radical communism.
At least Petkoff had the “cojones” in the 1960s to join Douglas Bravo in the hills as an armed revolutionary guerrilla supported by the Castro regime in Havana. But JVR, who always possessed a strong sense of self-preservation, decided that the life of an armed “Fidelista” guerrilla wasn’t for him.
Petkoff finally came in from the cold as a result of the pacification policies implemented during the first government of the late President Rafael Caldera. After rejoining the democratic fold, Petkoff became one of the founding fathers of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), which was created as a pro-Soviet organization slightly to the right of the PCV.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Petkoff and JVR ran for president of Venezuela five times altogether – Petkoff twice and JVR three times – but Venezuelan voters thrashed them soundly every time.
Petkoff reinvented his political persona in the 1990’s as a European-style “liberal”, served as Planning Minister in the second government of President Rafael Caldera. Subsequently, he resurfaced as editor-in-chief of Tal Cual, a tabloid which always has been mostly bare of advertisements but somehow survives.
Petkoff remains popular among some younger left-of-center Venezuelan intelligentsia, which only proves that you can fool some of the people all of the time.
But Caracas Gringo recalls that it was Petkoff, back in August 2004, who imposed his status as a leader of the democratic opposition to torpedo any possibility of challenging the miraculous outcome of the presidential recall referendum in which exit polls showing that Chavez had lost by a margin of 60-40 were transformed at the 11th hour into a 60-40 victory.
When then-Miranda Governor Enrique Mendoza and AD’s Henry Ramos Allup voiced the word “fraud,” Petkoff’s public put-downs quickly silenced everyone.
Almost six years later, in 2010, Petkoff routinely hammers Chacumbele in his editorials, yet the regime never persecutes him politically like it persecutes every other news media, reporter and columnist who dares to criticize Chavez.
After striking out three times as a presidential candidate for MAS, JVR developed a career as an investigative journalist in the 1990s with a newspaper column and television show in which his alter ego – “Ciceron” – constantly “exposed” alleged corruption inside the armed forces. JVR destroyed many military careers, though none of the officers he accused of corruption ever were found guilty of the accusations he aired on national television.
Of course, muckraking was just a cover for JVR’s other lucrative activities. For example, one of JVR’s real “negocios” was as a silent partner of the late Vinicio “El Principe” De Sola in the sale of military equipment to the armed forces (FAN) of Venezuela.
The pair’s “business model” worked like this: De Sola would offer the product to FAN procurement officers; if the offer was rebuffed, JVR soon would be making corruption allegations against the offending officer. The Defense Ministry immediately would open an administrative investigation, and even if the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing, the fact the officer was investigated at all would effectively end his career by torpedoing chances of promotion.
However, JVR always lusted for power. As a result, in the 1990s JVR hitched his wagon to the Bolivarian movement of Hugo Chavez, and went on to serve the “revolution” variously as Foreign Minister, Defense Minister and, finally, Vice President. But Chavez put out JVR to pasture a couple of years ago, and now he serves as the regime’s foremost “independent” disseminator of propaganda and disinformation.
Back to the present: Teo today publishes factually inaccurate claims about the Chavez regime’s policies resembling the CAP government’s policies which triggered the “Caracazo” in 1989, while JVR editorializes about sensing dark, violent moods floating in the background. Caracas Gringo doesn’t believe in coincidences when it comes to these evil old twins. Teo and JVR are up to no good.
This report, issued in December 2009 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) of the Organization of American States (download the English and Spanish versions), is a harsh indictment of the systematic, willful and deliberate abuses of human and democratic rights committed daily against the people of Venezuela by the criminal regime of President Hugo Chavez.
However, in our view this report understates the abuses being committed by the Chavez regime at all hours every day, and at all levels of Venezuelan economic, political and societal activity in Venezuela.
Understandably, because the report is about Venezuela, the CIDH fails to focus attention on external factors that have allowed the Chavez regime to abuse the human and democratic rights of the Venezuelan people for over years. So, here’s our own list of the external factors which have succored Chavez for over a decade:
*The federal government of the United States and the State Department. Successive US administrations, starting with former President Bill Clinton, former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama, and their respective Secretaries of State including current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, have never made any substantive efforts to develop policies to put a stop to the Chavez regime’s criminal, abusive treatment of the Venezuelan people. US foreign policy since 1998 has been a pusillanimous continuously “move the goalposts” strategy that allows the US to constantly avoid its responsibilities as the self-proclaimed leader of hemispheric democracy. Successive US administrations also have done nothing to prevent the Chavez regime from supporting radical communist forces in other Latin American countries, and from seeking to destabilize moderate pro-US governments in countries like Colombia, Peru and others. Even to this day, the current US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela, prefers to blather about democracy in Honduras than confront the threat to US and hemispheric security that Chavez represents.
*The Congress of the United States. Among the many US legislators who have betrayed Venezuela, and betrayed fundamental democratic values and principles in the process, are individuals with last names like Dodd, Delahunt and Kennedy – to name only three corrupt personalities who populate what US satirist P.J. O’Rourke aptly christened “Parliament of Whores.”
*The past and present Secretary Generals of the Organization of American States – Cesar Gaviria, whose moral failings allowed him to be honey trapped ahead of the presidential recall referendum in August 2004, and Chilean Socialist Jose Miguel Insulza, a truly despicable scumbag who has done nothing else except serve as Chavez’s chief pimp and apologist in the area of Inter-American diplomacy.
*The General Assembly of the OAS. The majority of the countries currently represented in the OAS have demonstrated repeatedly that their governments are unworthy to call themselves “democratic.” The OAS has failed so miserably that it deserves to be dissolved.
*The government of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil. Da Silva and his Foreign Minister Celso Amorim have been Chavez’s principal enablers in the Latin American community of nations. Brazil’s foreign policy establishment at Itamaraty pitches bullshit about Brazil being a rising regional power and global player. But, in practice, Brazil under Da Silva/Amorim has demonstrated that it’s strictly a clay-footed bush-league player.
*The government of former President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Bachelet is a national/hemispheric embarrassment. It’s no surprise that Chilean voters tilted to the right after successive socialist administrations in that country demonstrated they were spineless marshmallows.
*The government of Mexico, including its previous and current presidents. Mexico has long aspired to be a leader in hemispheric diplomacy and integration, but in reality Mexico’s last two governments haven’t shown the stuff it takes to even play in T-ball leagues designed for small children.
*The governments of the Caribbean and Central America, particularly the ones who opened their legs for Chavez in exchange for the illusion of cheap oil through PetroCaribe.
*The government of Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who think that “chuleando” Chavez they can win billions in business for Spanish companies.
*The UN Security Council. What can we say? Cowards, knaves and rogues, but Russian and Chinese oil companies that think they won the lottery in Venezuela should think again. When Chavez gets shipped to history’s dung heap of failed despots, the oil companies of China and Russia will be invited to leave Venezuela.
*The European Union. Gutless, hollow, and pompous. The irrelevance of the EU in Venezuela (and Latin America) is best seen in the fact that the EU and Brazil/Mercosur have been trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement since 1994, but have yet even to reach first base.
*Mercosur. Simply, the institutionalized manifestation of Brazil’s self-delusions of grandeur.
*The Group of Rio and the Union of South American nations (Unasur). Useless venues where third-rate heads of state have group photos taken to demonstrate their commitment to “integration.”
*Alleged NGO’s like the Carter Center for Democracy and its leader, former US President Jimmy Carter, who insofar as Venezuelan democracy is concerned has been a malignant influence, but ‘nuff said.
When Chavez and his gangsters finally face their day of reckoning, undoubtedly the factors listed above will engage in loud collective wailing and protests about “democracy.” But Venezuelans should always keep in mind that Venezuela belongs only and exclusively to the Venezuelan people. Whatever the scoundrels in this list may say threateningly is irrelevant. The people of Honduras took matters into their own hands, and damn the rest of the world. Venezuelans should remember that as they weigh what’s to be done with Chavez and his gangsters.
Very cool, and timely Venezuelan hip hop. NK Profeta’s Sr. Presidente. A message to Hugo Chavez. Listen to it, and forward it to your friends.
Insanity, Albert Einstein is said to have written in Letters to Solovine, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Teodoro Petkoff writes in today’s Tal Cual that the Mesa Democrática Unitaria (the latest incarnation of the Coordinadora Democrática) is “clarifying the electoral panorama” ahead of the National Assembly elections scheduled for 26 September 2010.
Petkoff says that opposition candidates will be chosen by primaries in 30 of 87 electoral circuits nationally. But two other sources with a deeper knowledge of how Venezuela’s electoral system is structured tell Caracas Gringo that primaries will be held in 22 or 23 electoral circuits, from which 30 opposition candidates will be chosen.
In effect, opposition candidates will be chosen by primaries in about 25% of the country’s electoral circuits. Opposition candidates in the other 75% of electoral circuits will be chosen by consensus; i.e. in backroom, closed-door horse-trading where sharp elbows will abound.
Petkoff says the color of the cat’s fur doesn’t matter as long as the cat is able to catch mice. If nomination by unity consensus doesn’t work, then primaries will be used, he adds.
Separately, Omar Barboza, the Zulia-based president of the opposition Un Nuevo Tiempo party, tells Universal that the opposition is going to win big in the upcoming National Assembly elections.
It is worthwhile recalling that Barboza is the jam between the toes of Manuel Rosales, who now lives in Peruvian exile after President Hugo Chavez ordered the attorney general to lynch him politically on fabricated corruption charges. If the color white denotes purity and integrity, Barboza is dark grey at best.
It is also worthwhile recalling that in the last presidential elections, the triumvirate of Petkoff, Rosales and Julio Borges (the political offspring of Rafael Caldera’s disarticulated Copei party) decided among themselves and behind closed doors that Rosales would be the opposition presidential candidate – and the people’s will be damned.
The history behind that process, as recounted to Caracas Gringo by a half-dozen sources who worked at very senior levels with this pathetic trio, is that Rosales was “nominated” by three-way “consensus” after polls commissioned separately by Rosales, Borges and Petkoff confirmed that Borges and particularly Petkoff had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning more than single-digit support at the polls.
Rosales ran a lousy election campaign characterized by permanent infighting between his Zulia-based inner circle of advisers and other advisers that were not from Zulia. Professional political strategists who worked with the Rosales campaign say its inner-workings on a day-to-day basis resembled a drunken brawl inside a bawdy house. Backstabbing abounded.
Not surprisingly, Rosales got his butt kicked in the last presidential elections, and subsequently was hounded into exile by the regime. Petkoff returned to his full-time occupation of pretending to be a European-style moderate socialist while simultaneously carrying water for the regime. Borges became as irrelevant politically as Eduardo “Pussycat” Fernandez.
Now Venezuela is preparing again for legislative elections. Chavez already has defined the benchmark for his PSUV party: The revolution must win at least three-quarters of the seats in competition, or all is lost. But, typically, Chavez is playing his tried and true game of electoral rope-a-dope.
Chavez isn’t afraid of losing the National Assembly elections. After all, he holds all the institutional aces under both sleeves. Chavez de facto controls the Supreme Court, the National Electoral Council, and the Attorney General of the Republic.
Chavez also owns the National Assembly, even if Ismael Garcia of Podemos and the intelligent communists in the regime (Patria Para Todos) are pretending, respectively, to be in the opposition or independent of whatever Chavez wants for his PSUV slate of candidates. What this means is that, even if Chavez “loses” the legislative elections, his lame duck legislature still can change the rules of the game to favor the regime.
The reality of this electoral chess game is that the opposition has no real options or moves capable of checkmating Chavez. But Chavez has numerous options and moves he can put into play whenever it becomes convenient or necessary. For example:
*The Council of Ministers (i.e. Chavez and his top gangsters) can approve a decree to hold a new Constitutional Assembly. This would allow Chavez to finish writing his Socialist (i.e. Chavez forever) Constitution. The “oppo” would be allowed to gain some token presence in the new Constitutional assembly, but a chavista majority would ramrod a new Red Magna Carta tailored to the president’s whims down the people’s throats.
*A presidential recall referendum is also a possibility, if Chavez can persuade some in the opposition to buy into this scheme. Alternatively, Chavez could mobilize his PSUV to seek a recall referendum. Since the start of 2010, Chavez has urged his foes to seek a new recall referendum at least seven times. If he succeeds, and then “wins” (which is likely considering he controls the CNE and Supreme Court), Chavez could claim again that his six-year term as president starts after he wins the referendum, extending his “constitutional” mandate to end-2016 or end-2017.
*Rig the results of September’s legislative elections. Chavez owns the CNE and Supreme Court. The CNE could “cook” the data to ensure a Chavez/PSUV victory. It wouldn’t be the first, second or even third time that the CNE engages in Bolivarian arithmetic where 2 – 1 = 5.
*Suspend the legislative elections indefinitely due to the current national security crisis created by the power crisis. The power emergency decree issued by Chavez on 8 February already is based on articles of the Constitution which can be invoked to suspend all constitutional guarantees and implement a “state of exception” until the economic crisis is over. Since Venezuela faces at least three years, and possibly over five years, of continuing power deficits that will impact on everyone and everything, Chavez could perpetuate his presidency until 2013 to 2015. Who will protest? Certainly not the OAS, the United States, Unasur or anyone else. With 52% of US voters already telling liberal-slanted pollsters that President Barack Obama should not be re-elected to a second term in 2012, the White House has bigger fish to fry.
*Hold the legislative elections on schedule, but change the rules of the game if the outcome doesn’t favor Chavez and his gangsters. This happened in the last gubernatorial and municipal elections. Ask Antonio Ledezma, who won the elections as Mayor of Greater Caracas and then was defunded by the central government. Every opposition figure who won in those elections has been sabotaged and undermined by the regime.
*Alternatively, call a 350, invoking the Constitution to disavow every law, regulation and anything else which inconveniences the Chavez regime. The Supreme Court, which is all Chavez all the time, will back the president’s play in a heartbeat. And any judges with the cojones to demur on legal/constitutional grounds will be arrested and jailed on presidential orders. Ask the judge who freed Eligio Cedeno on legitimate legal/constitutional grounds and now sits in a women’s prison surrounded by violent female criminals.
Of course, there’s always the strikeout scenario: one strike, two strikes, three strikes and ponchao!
Strike One: The national power grid collapses sometime in April or May.
Strike Two: No electricity = no potable water. The government has already announced that anyone who consumes too much water will be levied stiff surcharges on their monthly bills. Water rationing is, de facto, under way.
Strike Three: A serious food supply shortage grows to critical proportions nationally. No power = no refrigeration capacity = putrid perishables.
The strikeout scenario brings Venezuela full circle back to a national crisis option that justifies the indefinite suspension of constitutional guarantees, and Chavez checkmates the opposition.
Some Cubans on official missions in Venezuela are spooked – especially the Cubans deployed here on military, intelligence and other security-related activities. Moreover, the Cubans in Venezuela have good reasons to be worried because they are potentially very deep inside the hurt locker.
Much speculation has surrounded the recent visit to Venezuela of Havana’s hatchet man, Ramiro Valdes. But hardly anyone noticed that Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly since 1993 and one of the toughest hard men of the Cuban regime, visited Caracas in December 2009 to assess the situation in Venezuela.
Caracas Gringo is told that Alarcon was very alarmed by what he found. Reportedly, when Alarcon returned to Havana he told the Castro brothers and their top military/security cadres that President Chavez has lost control of the situation and Venezuela has become ungovernable.
Chavez is determined to remain in power forever at any cost.
Havana is determined to deepen/expand its power in Venezuela at any cost – including the elimination of Chavez.
Without the economic/energy lifeline from Caracas, the weakened Cuban regime might finally implode. The Castro brothers know that time will soon transform them into moldering compost. But there are many senior Cuban regime figures who think they have a chance of keeping their hold on power in a post-Castro scenario. But without the Bolivarian economic lifeline from Caracas, their chances of survival in power in Havana are very slight.
The question that some people in Havana and Caracas are pondering now is whether Chavez is more useful as a dead martyr, or as a failed revolutionary leader sidelined by a “new” generation of Bolivarian capos. Will Chavez be the sacrificial scapegoat of Cubazuela, or will he be “retired” for health-related reasons?
The problem is that Chavez is the Bolivarian revolution’s brand. What is left if the “brand” is erased? Imagine Apple or Toyota without the brand name makes them instantly recognizable and enhances the perceived value of their respective products anywhere in the world.
Chavez always warns that there is no chavismo, and no Bolivarian revolution, without Chavez. However, after 11-plus years in power the Chavez brand is badly damaged – perhaps beyond any possibility of rebranding. Can the Bolivarian revolution survive without Chavez in the presidency?
Many people close to Chavez physically are weighing that question right now, including among others Ali Rodriguez Araque and Jose Vicente Rangel, both of whom are longtime Havana henchmen in Venezuela.
Currently there are between 60,000 and 70,000 Cubans in Venezuela on various “missions,” according to recent reports from courageous Venezuelan reporters like Marianela Salazar and Rafael Poleo.
It’s impossible to determine with any accuracy how many of these Cubans are engaged in military, intelligence and other security-related functions including deep penetration of vital institutions of political and civil governance.
But how many Cubans are truly hardcore, committed Communists willing to sacrifice their lives to keep Chavez, the Castros and their small circle of elite thugs in power? How many are true radical Marxist believers?
Not as many as one might think, Venezuelan and Cuban sources tell Caracas Gringo.
For example, it’s a fact that Cuban military personnel have been embedded in Venezuelan military units in Fort Tiuna in Caracas. And it’s a fact that Cuban intelligence officials are actively supporting General Hugo Carvajal’s drug smuggling crime crews within the newly created Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.
But, at best, these reputedly hardcore Cuban military/intelligence officials number only a few hundred persons. And their locations inside Venezuela have already been pinpointed very precisely by professional Venezuelan warriors who will never let the Cubans steal Venezuela.
However, let’s be clear on this point: Venezuelans do not have anything against the Cuban people. Indeed, the majority of the Cubans in-country on nonmilitary missions – doctors, sports trainers, etc. – is not rejected by the Venezuelan people. Even Caracas Gringo and members of his extended Venezuelan family have been aided several times in recent years by Cuban physicians; after all, the Barrio Adentro medical missions are for everyone in Venezuela who needs immediate assistance.
But Chavez is so desperate to stay in power that he’s surrendering Venezuela’s sovereignty wholesale to the Cuban regime. Cubazuela is not just a buzzword, but a description of a process which President Chavez and others in his regime are advancing as rapidly as they can. To remain in power, Chavez and his gang are actively engaged in acts of high treason against the Constitution and Republic of Venezuela.
But Caracas Gringo believes the Cubans are a paper tiger. Their numbers may be substantial, but over 9 out of every 10 Cubans in Venezuela today will never point weapons at Venezuelan nationals. They aren’t going to immolate themselves to perpetuate the Cubazuelan revolution.
There aren’t any significant numbers of Cuban military or security/intelligence personnel at any Venezuelan military garrisons outside Caracas. Cubans do visit these garrisons but they rarely spend even one night inside these bases. Why not?
“Because the Cubans do not feel safe outside Caracas,” a Venezuelan military source tells Caracas Gringo. “The Cubans know that they are not welcome, and never will be welcome, inside Venezuelan military garrisons. Venezuela’s roads and highways are in serious disrepair, and violent crime is out of control. Accidents can and do happen all the time.”
President Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian Bozos are determinedly moving the deck chairs on the Titanic to create the illusion that the regime can reverse the collapse of the national power grid and keep the foundering revolution afloat.
Chavez issued a decree on 8 February 2010 declaring a national power emergency, less than a month after he sacked former electrical Energy Minister Angel Rodriguez amid furious presidential assurances that Venezuela’s power crisis was caused by El Nino, by the political opposition and by US-driven Imperialist global warming. But “it’s not my fault,” Chavez whined plaintively.
The “national power emergency” will last 60 days, during which new Electric energy Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque (aka Comandante Fausto during his youthful adventures in the early 1960’s as a failed Communist guerrilla backed by Havana) will have “special powers” to do whatever is necessary to end the power crisis.
Chavez immediately followed up that decree by chaining the nation’s television stations at 11 p.m. Caracas time to the first emergency session of the Electricity Joint Chiefs of Staff (“Estado Mayor Conjunto Eléctrico”) in Miraflores Palace, presumably so that all Venezuelans could see their feckless leader leading the committee in charge of moving the Titanic’s deck chairs.
Chavez assured the nation’s television viewers that his regime will commission 60 MW of generation capacity in February, another 540 MW in March and a further 665 MW in April. He also said that some of the new generation equipment is being imported from Houston, Texas. It appears, based on Chavez’s remarks, that he is counting desperately on “gringo” manufacturers and suppliers of power generation equipment to bail his butt out of the pit he dug himself into after 11 years of sustained Bolivarian corruption and incompetence.
As always, Chavez lashed out at private companies, accusing them of being the “large consumers of electricity” in Caracas, which “demonstrates the damage caused by the capitalist model.” He also announced a new power rationing plan for Caracas that will explicitly target “high residential…and commercial…industrial consumers.”
High residential consumers, which according to Chavez constitute 24% of the capital city’s residential power users, must reduce consumption immediately by 10% or else they will be required to pay a 75% surcharge. Any residential consumers that increase power consumption by 10% over the average consumption during the previous year will pay a surcharge of 100% of their power bill, and if they increase consumption by 20% the surcharge will rise to 200%. However, any residential consumers who reduce power use between 10% and 20% will be rewarded with a 25% discount, and if the power savings exceed 20% the discount will be 50%.
All commercial activities, industries and offices that consume 25 KVA will be levied a 20% surcharge on their power bills. And anyone who exceeds their power consumption quotas or is found to be using too much electricity will have power supplies cut off for periods of 24-48 hours. If initial sanctions do not work, then power supplies will be suspended “permanently.” Minister Rodriguez Araque said that his ministry will deploy “inspectors” to every residence and business establishment in Caracas to ensure the new power consumption quotas are obeyed.
Chavez also said there are over 8,000 high power consumption clients in Caracas, and that a list of these wasteful electricity consumers will be published soon. But it wasn’t immediately clear if Chavez was referring to business consumers or residential consumers.
The “special powers” that Chavez granted to “Comandante Fausto” include designing and executing the “necessary and urgent strategies” to ensure that private and public consumers of electricity pay their outstanding debts to the state-owned power utilities.
However, since the only deadbeats are government entities, it remains to be seen how Rodriguez Araque intends to collect the billions of dollars owed to Corpoelec and its affiliates by the basic industries, the state and municipal governments, and the various ministries that are controlled by the Chavez regime. By one estimate, chavista-controlled local/state governments and other revolutionary public entities owe Corpoelec over $2 billion.
Of course, it’s to be expected that opposition-controlled municipal and state governments will have power supplies cut off even if they pay their power bills on time. It’s also to be expected that middle class Venezuelans who do not live in the “barrios” will see power supplies suspended too. Presumably, this will confirm Chavez’s whiney lamentations that the power crisis is not his fault.
Essential public services including schools, hospitals, security companies, etc. will be exempted. The government also plans to reduce the work-day at all government offices to five hours, or 25 hours per week. Not that it will matter all that much, since government employees usually do not work a full eight hours and should not be expected to do more work in a five-hour day than in eight hours.
This presidential decree supposedly will accelerate the process of importing electricity generation equipment from countries like Russia, China, Belarus, Japan and Germany, among others including the much-hated Gringos.
Chavez says that his presidential decree also will allow the “immediate development” of maintenance plans to salvage Venezuela’s deteriorated electricity grid, which collapsed as a direct result of the Chavez regime’s failure to maintain the existing grid or complete even 25% of planned generation and transmission projects that were launched in 2002-2003. It’s not clear how a piece of paper will accelerate anything after 11-plus years of less progress than a constipated snail.
But all the presidential noise, smoke, mirrors and circus entertainment is all about moving the deck chairs on a sinking revolution which cannot be refloated.
And here’s where the revolutionary arithmetic becomes perhaps deliberately – mindboggling and confusing.
The electrical emergency decree is supposed to speed up the expenditure of $14 billion through 2015 to add 14,000 MW of new generation capacity to a national grid which has a rated capacity of over 23,000 MW, although over 7,000 MW of that existing capacity is inoperative. These $14 billion, presumably, would be in addition to the more than $16 billion which Rodriguez Araque claims were spent in the electricity sector since Chavez came to power, although the results are not readily visible anywhere in Venezuela.
Presumably, this presidential decree also will accelerate the arrival of “technical advisers” from Cuba, Russia, China, Brazil, Belarus, Argentina and other strategic “friends” of the Bolivarian regime. Chavez already declared that Cuba will receive $2.5 billion in payment for the advisory services of Ramiro Valdes, a Havana hatchet man best-known for killing unarmed innocent people and Internet censorship in Cuba.
Ali Rodriguez Araque also says that the regime plans to add 4,000 MW of new generation capacity in 2010 at a cost of $ 4 billion. In addition, he says the regime will build new solar and aeolic (wind) generation plants, and install 2,000 MW of generation capacity at a cost of $1-2 billion, consisting of small generation plants with an average capacity of 5-10 MW each. Finally, the new electrical Energy Minister, who knows next to nothing about electricity, says the regime may purchase (or lease) floating power generation plants that would be anchored on the coast of states like Miranda and Vargas (i.e. Caracas). The reported cost of these floating generation plants is about $4 billion, according to published reports.
However, this presidential decree – like everything else the Chavez regime has said or done in relation to the national electricity crisis – is bullshit.
The Chavez regime cannot end the power crisis before the end of 2010 as pledged only a week ago by Rodriguez Araque. In fact, Chavez admitted two Sundays ago that the power crisis will be worse in 2011 than in 2010, although Edelca has forecast “national collapse” by end-May 2010. It is a fact that Venezuela will suffer a power crisis that will continue well after the next presidential elections at end-2012.
While the Chavez regime wildly tosses out investment numbers that do not add up, a few serious economists are trying to figure out just how much the power crisis will cost Venezuela. VenEconomy’s Robert Bottome, one of Venezuela’s most respected economists and forecasters, estimates very conservatively that the power crisis will cause a cumulative GDP contraction of at least 18% spread over 2010, 2011 and 2012, including an 8% loss in 2010, 6% in 2011 and 4% in 2012. But when Caracas Gringo remarked in a telephone chat with Mr. Bottome that Chavez is already saying 2011 will be worse than 2010, VenEconomy’s CEO conceded that he is being deliberately very conservative.