Caracas Gringo

'When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter'

Archive for September 2010

No Pasaran!

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President Hugo Chavez and his communist thugs have drawn the line. Their message to the opposition is “Ye shall not pass.”

From Chavez and Marxist hardliners like Elias Jaua, Aristobulo Isturiz, Cilia Flores, Freddy Bernal, Iris Varela, Rafael Ramirez, Diosdado Cabello, etc. the message is that the new National Assembly will not change any legislation that the current assembly already has approved and what it still plans to approve before 15 December 2010.

The hardliners also want to enact a law giving President Chavez special powers to legislate by presidential decree for the rest of his current term in Miraflores. The new National Assembly would not have sufficient votes to suspend those powers.

Nelson Bocaranda says that Fidel Castro is urging Chavez to accelerate the Bolivarian revolution; in effect, to use Venezuela’s democratic institutions to finish killing democracy before the new assembly starts.

Fidel warned this week that the United States wants to steal Venezuela’s oil resources – the same resources that Cuba currently receives from Chavez essentially for free, and which Chavez also has pledged to fuel China’s economic development for the coming century instead of gringo SUV’s.

The regime’s hardliners also have dismissed any possibility of dialogue, compromise or consensus-building in the new National Assembly that starts its sessions the first week of January 2011.

In fact, based on the flood of invective and threats coming from some of the Chavez’s worst thugs, the start of the new assembly’s sessions next January could be a real Bolivarian spectacle followed by permanent procedural abuses aimed at the opposition, and possibly even clashes between opposing deputies.

The regime’s hardliners are not well-disposed by temperament or culture to democratic niceties like negotiation and dialogue. Chavez’s idea of negotiation is “my way or the highway.”

“I am the state,” Chavez said on the record some months back to visiting Marxist scholars from Mexico. “There is no separation of powers in the Bolivarian state,” he added.

There is no constitutional or legal statute that can stop the current National Assembly from granting Chavez broad powers to continue doing whatever tickles his fancy until the end of his current term in the presidency.

Giving such special powers to Chavez might be morally unfair, politically unwise, and a slap to the “pueblo’s” face. But since when has Chavez cared about the democratic will of the majority?

Written by Caracas Gringo

30/09/2010 at 11:21

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Special Powers for Chavez?

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Iris Varela says that the current National Assembly could approve a law granting President Hugo Chavez special powers (Ley Habilitante) if he requests them. A special powers law would allow Chavez to legislate by decree.

Chavez has been granted special powers to legislate by decree three times previously, in 1999, 2001 and 2007.

Constitutional lawyer Tulio Álvarez cautions that the current assembly could grant Chavez indefinite special powers – indefinite, meaning for the remainder of his current term.

The Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 does not set any limits on the scope and duration of any special powers granted by law to the president, he adds, explaining that Art. 203 says that legislators will define the scope and duration of any special powers.

The new National Assembly that sessions as of 5 January 2011 could remove/suspend any special powers granted to Chavez by the current assembly, but would require at least 99 votes to do so. However, the opposition does not have 99 votes in the new assembly.

Written by Caracas Gringo

29/09/2010 at 09:21

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Chavez and Mono Jojoy

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Mono Jojoy’s overdue but timely demise surely gives President Hugo Chavez much to think about.

The association between Chavez and the FARC goes back at least 17 years.

Chavez was very circumspect about his personal contacts with the FARC until he became president in 1999. One of the first orders that Chavez issued upon assuming the presidency was to the army’s forces on the border.

Chavez changed the rules of engagement on the border, ordering the army to stand down whenever armed irregulars (FARC or ELN) were encountered in Venezuelan territory.

Army General Nestor Gonzalez Gonzalez had a lot to say about that in writing in 2000-2001, and in public testimony to the National Assembly after the violence of April 2002.

Chavez let the FARC deploy into Venezuelan territory after Colombia’s then-President Andres Pastrana admitted that his peace initiative had failed and shut down the FARC-controlled DMZ in February 2002. But by then the FARC had grown in size to almost 20,000 fighters.

The FARC’s largest operational presence in Venezuela today is concentrated in the states of Apure and Zulia. But the FARC’s presence extends all the way to Caracas – even Miraflores where President Chavez hosted Ivan Marquez back in 2007.

Chavez – aka “Angel” in documents extracted from a computer captured alongside the corpse of FARC’s No. 2 leader Raul Reyes in March 2008 – is on record in those documents as offering the FARC up to $300 million to aid the narco-terrorist group’s revolutionary cause.

Chavez also offered the FARC the possibility of a Venezuelan crude oil production concession. The mechanics of the proposal apparently were never worked out. But imagine a Pdvsa-FARC oil production joint venture. Petroleum and cocaine.

When a Colombian air strike killed the FARC’s Raul Reyes in northern Ecuador in March 2008, Chavez went into a hysterical rage.

Chavez threatened a war against Colombia, ordered Bolivarian Army troops and tanks to the border, decried Colombia’s “invasion” of Ecuador, and observed a “minute of silence” for Reyes, a homicidal criminal scumbag, drug trafficker and terrorist.

But the killing of Mono Jojoy last week, a hugely more significant event than Reyes’ killing in 2008, elicited barely a peep from Fidel’s anointed heir in Miraflores cave.

It’s not good to celebrate anyone’s death and let’s all hope that Colombia follows the road of peace, said the president who less than two weeks ago was making dark threats about leading a “peaceful revolution, but one that is armed.”

One obvious reason for Chavez’s lowkey response after Mono Jojoy’s killing is that it happened in Colombia, while Reyes was killed in Ecuador, as a reader noted. Reyes’ killing was a cross-border incursion for which Alvaro Uribe Velez later apologized.

Yet Chavez must be weighing the political implications of Mono Jojoy’s killing. President Juan Manuel Santos was defense minister for former President Alvaro Uribe Velez when Raul Reyes was killed in northern Ecuador. Now President Santos has scored a much bigger victory against the FARC.

Mono Jojoy, a member of the FARC’s seven-person directorate since 1993 and the child of a peasant who cooked decades ago for FARC co-founder and chief ideologist Jacobo Arenas, was the FARC’s supreme warlord for 17 years. Mono Jojoy also was a kween supporter of the FARC’s association with the Chavez regime.

This could imply very bad news for President Chavez, particularly since the Colombian troops and police that attacked Mono Jojoy’s camp reportedly captured up to 15 computers, several dozen pendrives and some computer hard drives. Who knows what intelligence gems the Colombian forensic IT experts will find on all this hardware?

But after Reyes’ death in March 2008 Mono Jojoy assumed the FARC’s No. 2 spot, with supreme command going to Alfonso Cano after Manuel “Tirojijo” Marulanda died of natural causes. Colombian intelligence officials say that Mono Jojoy micro-managed the FARC’s business and other affairs obsessively, looking after even the smallest details.

Over the past year the Chavez regime’s associations with the FARC, ELN, ETA’s Basque separatists, various Islamist militant groups and other unsavory types has received a great deal of attention. Just before he left the presidency in August, former President Alvaro Uribe Velez accused Chavez at the OAS of harboring FARC terrorists in Venezuelan territory. Chavez immediately broke diplomatic relations and did his usual wounded victim’s dance.

Santos assumed the presidency and calmed the ruffled waters at Simon Bolivar’s last home in Santa Marta, Colombia. Relations were restored. All seemed to be calming, and then Santos gave the order to kill Mono Jojoy just as the United Nations General Assembly was starting its annual schtick in Manhattan. Perhaps the sequence of events was coincidental, but Santos scored a clean kill in all respects.

Santos made Uribe’s nationals ecurity doctrine his own. It can’t be said that Santos is an Uribe clone or that he jilted the former president. Santos continued/intensified Uribe’s security policies, whacked the monkey, and hugely elevated his standing in Washington, D.C. The FARC’s Alfonso Cano is now at the top of the Colombian army’s kill list.

Senior FARC chieftains Timochenko (Soviet/East German trained, reportedly) and Ivan Marquez are believed to be hiding in Apure and Zulia, respectively. Over 1,500 FARC fighters also are believed to be in Venezuela, or at elast they were in Venezuela of last August when Uribe Velez essentially accused the Chavez regime of harboring FARC terrorists.

As Chavez thinks about Mono Jojoy’s dying of crushing asphyxiation (reportedly the official cause of death) after seven tons of bombs collapsed the FARC leader’s underground bunker, he might be wondering if Santos someday might order similar precision strikes against El Comandante’s FARC associates in Apure and Zulia.

Or perhaps Chavez is wondering how his Russian-equipped Bolivarian army, which is fine at marching in parades, would fare in a firefight vs the demonstrated combat effectiveness of Colombia’s armed forces. More about the tactics of the attack that kileld Mono Jojoy in my next post.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/09/2010 at 17:32

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Chavez and China

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President Hugo Chavez visited Beijing in December 2004 to consolidate his strategic alliance with communist China. On Christmas Eve – 24 December – Chavez pledged in Beijing that Venezuela’s oil reserves would be available to fuel China’s economic development.

Venezuela would break the bonds of US imperialism, he added.

Merry Christmas, China. The interventionist, imperialist, exploitative gringos were out, and communist China ever since has been Bolivarian Venezuela’s new best friend, together with Cuba and Iran, of course.

China’s government took Chavez at his word.

China and Venezuela have signed over 300 bilateral agreements since 2005. Energy agreements predominate. Beijing is determined to secure a large, and growing, share of Venezuela’s crude oil and gas resources.

But it doesn’t stop there. China also is keen to acquire stakes in Venezuela’s non-oil resources (ferrous and non-ferrous) and agriculture.

China has already committed substantially to its strategic alliance with the Chavez regime, which is not saying that Venezuela – the country – is committed to Chavez’s relationship with Beijing.

China has loaned $28 billion to the Chavez regime in cash-for-oil deals in which China appears to be profiting overmuch at Venezuela’s expense.

CNPC has committed in writing, at least, to invest $16 billion to develop an extra-heavy crude production joint venture with Pdvsa in the Orinoco oil belt’s Junin 4 block.

The bilateral agreements signed since 2005 also are worth over $100 billion on paper anyway, and include 3-4 proposed joint refineries in China and 3-4 proposed crude oil production joint ventures in Venezuela.

Chinese loan money currently is funding five thermal power generation plants built by Chinese contractors with Chinese components, all near Pdvsa assets (El Palito/Planta Centro) or in areas of interest to Chinese oil companies.

Chavez’s strategic alliance with China was developed by Chavez. It’s an important point, since there is a substantial body of legal opinion in Venezuela that argues that Chavez’s agreements with China including the $28 billion of cash-for-oil loan deals are illegal and unconstitutional even under the Bolivarian constitution.

It’s something for Beijing to think about, particularly now that Chavez’s PSUV/PCV doesn’t control almost 100% of the National Assembly as of 5 January, 2011. Perhaps foreign policy mandarins in Beijing also are weighing the future significance – if any – of the fact that Chavez lost the popular vote by 52-48% in the past Sunday’s legislation elections.

But what has Venezuela gained from Chavez’s strategic alliance with Beijing?

Here is a recent Al-Jazeera report about China in Africa. Perhaps it offers some insight about what Venezuela might expect as Chavez continues to leverage (indebt) his alliance with Beijing.

China wants Venezuela’s exportable raw commodities, starting with crude oil but also including ferrous and non-ferrous metals. China also may be interested in farming Venezuelan land with Chinese farmers to feed its people in China. Over 1 million Chinese currently work farms in Africa, growing food that is exported to China.

Chavez says his regime’s alliance with China is vital for the sustenance of the emerging Bolivarian Socialist model.

But the model apparently consists of China taking Venezuela’s raw commodities to China with minimal-to-zero downstream transformation in Venezuela.

Chinese companies developing resource-extraction projects in Venezuela using Chinese-issued loans paid for in crude oil by Venezuela to finance the development of these Chinese projects in Venezuela by Chinese contractors using Chinese-made components wherever possible. I’m confused.

Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like the bad old days of US-centric corporate exploitation of Latin America denounced decades ago by perfect idiots like Eduardo Galeano?

Venezuela is a prime hub for the expansion of China’s regional interests, which focus mostly on energy in South America, ending all support for Taiwan in Central America, and challenging the US wherever possible. CNPC reportedly has been in talks with Cupet and Pdvsa about refinery joint ventures in Cuba. Chinese oil companies also are developing refinery and pipeline projects in Costa Rica and Honduras, and operate in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and other countries.

Some in China’s military – the PLA – are thought to be eyeing Bolivarian Venezuela as a strategic outpost of China’s expanding global reach. Some Chinese military leaders even may think that the alliance between Chavez and Cuba – Cubazuela – could benefit China’s strategic interests. Not good for Venezuela, since increasingly among young PLA officers and even some generals there appears to be some longing for an armed confrontation with the US.

China’s business culture certainly would prosper in Venezuela’s hugely corrupt Bolivarian culture, like dirt under a fingernail. But I don’t see any real Chinese FDI flooding into Venezuela yet. Cash loans for crude oil, yes; but no gross fixed investment that creates good, sustainable jobs here. In fact, I don’t see much FDI at all in Venezuela any more.

Chavez announced a few days before last Sunday’s elections that he would visit Beijing for the second time this year, immediately after the elections, to sign yet another batch of new agreements with China. It’s unclear at this time if he’s still planning to travel to Beijing soon.

But now that Hugo lost the popular vote nationally, and lost all of Gran Caracas except the Libertador district – aka Chavezland – where the PSUV/PCV reportedly won by only a few hundred votes, might some Chinese Latin Americanists be having second thoughts about El Comandante’s future?

The success of China’s efforts to capture a huge share of Venezuela’s natural resources for itself ultimately depends on the longevity of the Chavez regime.

If Chavez doesn’t win re-election again in December 2012, it could be curtains for China in Venezuela as of 2013. The bilateral agreements that Chavez signed with Beijing easily could be repudiated by his successor in Miraflores.

What would Beijing do if that happens? Deploy gunboats to La Guaira like the Brits did over 100 years ago?

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/09/2010 at 14:30

Posted in Uncategorized

Communal Laws

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The current National Assembly will approve several new laws before 15 December 2010, several PSUV legislators already have announced.

President Hugo Chavez wants his new communal governance and communal economic institutions in place legally before the new National Assembly is installed on 5 January 2011.

Once the communal laws still awaiting approval are enacted by the current assembly, there isn’t much that the new assembly can do about it.

Chavez may not have his 2/3 + 1 “qualified majority” that allows him to do anything he wishes. But the opposition doesn’t have sufficient votes in the new assembly that sessions as of 5 January 2011 to roll back any laws approved by the current assembly during the coming 100 days.

The Organic Laws of Popular Power, Planning and Communes already were approved in the first reading, and will be submitted for a seconf/final reading and vote before 15 December.

The assembly already has approved new financial laws tailored for the new “socialist” model that Chavez is imposing unconstitutionally – because his proposed constitutional reforms already were rejected by over 50% of voters in 2007. But Chavez doesn’t give a hoot what the “pueblo” thinks.

Chavez already has destroyed the national currency, stripped the Central Bank of all autonomy to make it the revolution’s ultimate piggy bank, and illegally expropriated the assets of most of the private financial brokerage sector before shutting it down completely.

This year the assembly also approved the Organic Law of the National Financial System, an Insurance Activities Law, and a new Capital Markets Law (that killed the Stock Exchange). A new Banking Activities Law will be approved before 15 December.

Last March the assembly approved the Organic Law of the Federal Council of Government (presided by Chavez), which creates a new territorial structure/administration in which communes will basically run things locally, including “economic activity.”

The Communes Law also will be strengthened by a planned Communal Economic System Law which the current assembly expects to approve by 15 December.

Social property communal enterprises will directly manage the production, transformation, distribution, exchange and even the consumption of the goods and services provided by communal organizations.

Something called “productive management units” will set the guidelines to be followed by the social property communal enterprises.

The objective of all this idiocy is to promote “socially just consumption.”

The current assembly has a big incentive to complete the legal underpinnings of Chavez’s communist utopia where he’s forever the only rooster in the coop.

The days when Chavez and gang could do whatever they wished in the legislature will soon begin a new phase in which obstruction, conflict and gridlock could prevail.

But if 100% of the regime’s new federal/communal structure is firmly in place legally before end-2010, Chavez may decide to ignore the new assembly, or perhaps fiscally strangle the opposition’s districts, or order his AG and his Sebin (formerly Disip) political cops to persecute select opposition figures.

Although he lost the popular vote in last Sunday’s elections, Chavez is unlikely to tilt towards conciliation. He made that clear during yesterday’s televised presser with the foreign/local news media.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/09/2010 at 12:04

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The day after the elections

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My friend’s prediction last week of what might constitute a successful outcome was on target.

“The Chavez regime will claim victory if it retains two-thirds plus one of the seats in the new assembly,” he said, explaining that this “qualified majority” would give Chavez the majority he needs to approve organic laws, give the president special powers, appoint the attorney general and Supreme Court justices, etc. As a result, he added, the political opposition can rightfully claim victory in Sunday’s elections if it manages to win one-third plus one of the seats up for grabs, thus denying Chavez the “qualified majority” that he needs to continue trampling on the country’s democratic institutions and freedoms.”

The PSUV/PCV coalition won about 94 seats and the political opposition gained the other 61 seats in the 165-seat National Assembly, according to the CNE’s results, which we’re told are not 100% complete as this post is penned.

President Hugo Chavez lost his “qualified majority” (two-thirds plus 1), and the opposition won over the one-third plus 1 seats that it needed at a minimum to wrest total control of the legislature from Chavez.

But the popular vote reportedly was 52% for the opposition vs 48% for the PSUV/PCV.

The results highlight the success of the regime’s gerrymandering of electoral districts and the general rules of the election game over the past 5-7 years to ensure that it can lose the popular vote and still win just under two-thirds of the majority in the new assembly.

The regime is crowing victory – of a sort. “We’re still the majority,” PSUV/PCV campaign chief Aristobulo Isturiz said this morning. Indeed.

But Chavez made these elections a referendum about himself, boosting the PSUV/PCV turnout in the final two or three weeks before 26 September, yet Chavez still lost the popular vote yesterday.

Without a qualified majority, Chavez no longer can demand/obtain legislation tailored to his Cuba-influenced communist agenda. He can’t get special presidential powers. He can’t appoint the Attorney General or Supreme Court Justice at whim. The systematic legislative abuses committed during the past five years are over, at least hypothetically.

But this new day only starts as of 5 January, 2011.

The current National Assembly continues to legislate until 5 January 2011, for another 100 days or so from today. Plenty of time left for Chavez to continue building the legal bric-a-brac of his new 21st Century Socialist Bolivarian State in Venezuela.

Chavez threatened before the elections that the revolution would accelerate as of 27 September. Will he now put the pedal to the metal in the current National Assembly over the coming weeks/months?

Might Chavez even request special presidential powers to speedily finish enacting by one-man decree his dream of an all-red Hacienda Chavez that formerly was called Venezuela?

Chavez has been driving the National Assembly for months to finish erecting his new communal/communist governance institutions that are designed to emasculate/neutralize the existing constitutional institutions of municipal, state/regional and even national governance. The president’s urgency to complete this task must be much greater this morning than it was last Friday.

If the new National Assembly can’t or won’t give Chavez whatever he wishes, the president and his PSUV/PCV gangsters could easily use the new communal/federal governance entities to circumvent any political obstacles. What will the opposition do then? Complain to the Supreme Court and attorney general?

Looking ahead, will Chavez and his PSUV/PCV thugs allow the new opposition lawmakers to even enter the National Assembly?

I am assuming that the democratic opposition’s new lawmakers probably will desire to walk en masse accompanied by many of their supporters to the National Assembly that starts its five-year term on 5 January 2011.

But this revolution, which is led by a congenital coward-bully and crewed by individuals who view democracy as a means to advance their criminal interests, has a dangerous history of sending its street thugs to physically assault its critics. Remember “No Pasaran”?

Chavez and gang always look for ways to rig the dame in their favor. Yesterday’s elections didn’t change this modus operandi. The momentum is always in one direction, with pauses, changes in velocity and even the occasional apparent retreat when circumstances dictate.

But Chavez and gang are still kings of the mountain, and no pushovers. (Estos carajos no van a soltar ni aflojar las riendas solo porque no hayan logrado todo lo que aspiraban en estas elecciones.)

Written by Caracas Gringo

27/09/2010 at 11:15

Posted in Uncategorized

Operation Sodom

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Operation Sodom was an aptly named beauty.

Colombian army and national police forces killed feared FARC leaders Mono Jojoy and Romana in a combined air/ground assault that also killed at least 20 other militants.

Colombia’s Brazilian-made Super Tucano aircraft rained at least 50 smart bombs on the clandestine camp where Mono Jojoy and the other FARC thugs were sleeping.

Why doesn’t President Hugo Chavez do the same thing to the FARC forces entrenched in Venezuelan territory?

Chavez has over $ 6 bn of mostly Russian-made weapons.

Chavez considers himself a great military commander and leader of soldiers.

Chavez is always threatening to unleash lethal military violence on his enemies, who are always unarmed.

Chavez knows precisely where the FARC’s forces are hiding in Venezuela. Over 1,500 FARC fighters, one-quarter of the FARC’s remaining operational forces, are hiding in Venezuela mainly in Zulia and Apure. Several FARC chieftains are in Venezuela too.

But Chavez takes no action because (a) the FARC are his longtime strategic allies, (b) his Bolivarian army is all parade-ground show and no tactical bite, (c) El Comandante no tiene cojones, or (d) all of the above.

Chavez threatened to start a war with Colombia in March 2008 when FARC’s No.2 chieftain Raul Reyes received his just desserts while sleeping at a militant base in northern Ecuador.

Chavez donned his custom-made Generalissimo’s uniform back then, and ordered “ten army battalions” and tanks to the border with Colombia.

But in the hours since Mono Jojoy was blown to bits, not a peep has been heard from Chavez, Telesur, VTV or any of the regime’s mouthpieces like Andres “Hyena” Izarra and Elias “Fidelito” Jaua.

Hugo’s silence is a bit surprising, but then again perhaps not.

Chavez might be waiting until after the 26 September National Assembly elections. Lots of Venezuelans already are convinced that their president is a communist despot who leads a gang of corrupt and incompetent thugs.

It wouldn’t be helpful to the PSUV’s cause if Chavez starts to spout idiocies about Mono Jojoy’s happy fate only hours before the polls open in Venezuela.

It’s also possible that Chavez may feel a bit of relief. If the Colombian army continues to kill more FARC chieftains, it could help Chavez distance himself from the militant group.

But if this is so – if Chavez indeed is looking for ways to run away from his longtime alliance with the FARC – it means that the FARC’s Ivan Marquez and other militant leaders in Venezuela are no longer welcome and more vulnerable.

But it’s unlikely that Chavez can extricate himself completely from his relationship with the FARC, and the potential liabilities that relationship implies for Chavez.

The Colombian troops and police that assaulted the FARC camp seized at least 20 computers and several dozen flash drives, according to news reports from Bogota.

If these reports are accurate, it could spell trouble for Chavez if the laptops yield more documentary evidence of the Chavez regime’s relations with the FARC.

Written by Caracas Gringo

24/09/2010 at 18:46

Posted in Uncategorized

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