Caracas Gringo

'When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter'

Archive for December 2010

Special Powers for 18 months

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President Hugo Chavez today was granted special powers to rule by presidential decree until June 2012, for a period of 18 months instead of the 12 months that the president requested initially.

National Assembly president Cilia Flores proposed that the special powers given to Chavez should be for 18 months instead of one year. Just two days ago, Flores rejected a proposal from a PSUV deputy to make it 18 months instead of 12.

What changed? Nothing.

Chavez likely planned all along to get special powers for 18 months, but staged a bit of Bolivarian political theater by formally asking for 12 months so that it would appear that the extra 6 months was a spontaneous initiative by the “pueblo” – i.e. Flores and his other thug cronies in the lame duck assembly.

The lame duck National Assembly’s vote probably was unconstitutional, but the new Supreme Court sworn in several days ago will dependably rule for Chavez and the Bolivarian regime.

Several new laws approved in the past week or so create the foundations of a communal model of economic activity and social organization plugged institutionally/bureaucratically into a centralized administration (the federal council of government).

The assembly also has approved legislation that will allow the regime to impose tighter controls over the entire spectrum of information flow, from print media to the Internet and social networks.

Banking is now a “public service,” which makes it much easier for Chavez to nationalize any bank he wishes. The general public’s deposits are now a cat’s whisker away from being devoured by the revolution.

The coming urban and rural land reforms that Chavez reportedly plans to decree will finish uprooting and eradicating capitalist notions of private property rights.

The special powers enabling Chavez to rule by decree have, de facto, suspended the Constitution, habeas corpus and the rule of law. Everything is in his grasp, literally.

Chavez will use the special powers to consolidate his totalitarian rule, imposing by force a retrograde communist economic/political model on a country already broken by 12 years of Bolivarian misrule.

Written by Caracas Gringo

17/12/2010 at 20:41

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Aqui no pasa nada

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President Hugo Chavez is the brand, face, voice and supreme leader of the Bolivarian revolution, in effect he is the bulls-eye.

Chavez has claimed for 12 years that the CIA, Colombian paramilitaries, “escualidos” and various other unnamed villains are actively plotting to assassinate him.

Chavez has made this claim at least two dozen times that we know of over the past 12 years, and possibly more. But he has never offered any proof to substantiate his allegations.

His most recent charge: that unnamed Venezuelan “escualidos” have pooled $100 million to kill him.

Chavez’s charge is pure fiction, like Frederick Forsythe’s political thriller novel “Day of the Jackal.”

I asked a good friend in Venezuela’s army who knows about these matters.

There are people in Venezuela, active and former military professionals, who would happily neutralize Chavez permanently as a public service, my friend says.

I ask my friend why it hasn’t happened yet. Cut off the serpent’s head and the body dies, right?

It’s not that simple, he replies.

If Chavez gets struck between the eyes by a wayward meteorite speeding through the galaxy, Venezuela would erupt in political and social chaos that could persist for weeks or even months.

My friend in the Venezuelan army asks me, “Who would take charge after Chavez?”

I can’t answer that, I reply.

It’s not just Chavez, my friend says, explaining that there are “about 50” senior civilian figures in the regime, and perhaps “another 50 more or less” in the armed forces that would “need to be neutralized” at the same time that the president is neutralized.

Neutralized? “Dados de baja,” he says.

Many Cubans deployed inside the armed forces and key government entities also would be targets in a regime-change scenario, my friend adds. “Not all Cubans, only the ones in charge,” he says.

Chavez counts on the Cuban military and security component in Venezuela to back up his regime.

However, the Cubans would be “too occupied defending themselves to help any senior Venezuelan government officials,” my friend says.

Containing the regime’s civilian militia and its gangs of street thugs on motorcycles could be problematic because they are dispersed. But the effectiveness of these groups will be reduced significantly if their leaders inside the regime are neutralized, my friend says.

But my amigo won’t speculate on the timing or circumstances that could trigger a regime-change scenario. There are too many external and internal unknowns and variables, he says.

A majority of Venezuelans are fed up with Chavez. But for a forced regime change scenario to materialize there would have to be a tremendous surge in public support for a radical solution to the problem of Chavez, he says. And that won’t happen anytime soon. “Aqui no paso, ni pasara, nada,” he says.

Written by Caracas Gringo

17/12/2010 at 17:12

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Hugo’s Coup

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President Hugo Chavez announced that he has 20 decree-laws in hand and ready to enact as soon as the National Assembly holds the second vote required to approve the special powers law granting him the authority to rule by decree for one year.

No one has seen the decree-laws, and no one knows who drafted the text of the decree-laws that Chavez will issue with the goal of completely transforming Venezuela’s social, economic and political model.

The assembly expects to hold the second vote today on Chavez’s special powers. But last night, legislators approved new banking legislation that declares banks to be a “public service” – which enhances Chavez’s authority to steal any bank at whim.

Today’s El Nacional (subscription only) has a chart that describes what Chavez and his Havana henchmen have in mind as an evil Christmas gift for the Venezuelan people:

*Tougher telecommunications and information technology regulations;

*Financial reforms creating new taxes and tax regulations, modifying monetary and credit policies, and restructuring banking and insurance;

*Operational and institutional reorganization of Venezuela’s security and defense sector, including new disciplinary and military career standards, weapons and related items;

*Eradication of speculation, usury, capital accumulation, monopolies, oligopolies and large rural estates (latifundios);

*Design a new geographic regionalization to reduce high democratic concentrations in some regions, including the creation of new socialist communities and communes;

*Reorder the social use of all urban and rural lands;

*Modify public entities to guarantee the right of access to housing with public and private contributions;

*Establish secure procedures for citizen identification and migration control.

The 20 decree-laws that Chavez already has in hand could be issued as soon as 15 days after the approved law is published in the Official Gazette.

Today is the 17th of December; if the law is approved today and posted in an Extraordinary Gazette with today’s date, Chavez could start issuing his totalitarian decree-laws on 2 January 2011.

The United Democratic Table (MUD in Spanish) announced that it has created a National Coordination Junta to take positions against Chavez’s decree-laws, and keep the people informed. Wow!

It’s very possible that most, if not all, of the decree-laws will be issued by the time MUD’s legislators join the new National Assembly on 5 January.

Chavez and the PSUV thugs that control the lame duck National Assembly are executing a constitutional coup, abusing the institutions of democratic governance to garrote Venezuela’s democracy.

This is the logical climax of a process that has been under way since Chavez first took the oath of presidential office in 1999 on a constitution that he called “moribund.”

Is there anyone in the MUD at this point who still naively believes that good will triumph over evil, that voters will democratically oust Chavez from the presidency at end-2012 so that the Venezuelan nation can be restored?

Chavez and his PSUV gangsters are determined to seize total control over everyone and everything, and are threatening lethal violence against anyone who dares to resist their will.

The democratic spaces that still exist in Venezuela are being snuffed systematically.

Where is the “bravo pueblo” celebrated in Venezuela’s national hymn? Perhaps that “pueblo” was always a myth.

Written by Caracas Gringo

17/12/2010 at 13:15

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A day late, a dollar short

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The United States government said on 15 December that President Hugo Chavez is “subverting the will of the Venezuelan people” by demanding special powers to rule by decree for one year.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington, DC that Chavez “seems to be finding new and creative ways to justify autocratic powers.”

New and creative?

This is the fourth time since 1999 that Chavez has been granted special powers to enact laws by presidential decree.

Chavez is repeating a tried and true scam that he has used successfully three times previously since 1999 to do whatever he pleases without incurring any serious or sustained protests from the US or anyone else.

What’s different now?

These new special powers have been granted to Chavez by a lame duck National Assembly that has only days left in its five-year session.

A new National Assembly was elected on 26 September 2010, but does not begin its session until January 2011.

Critics argue that the lame duck National assembly doesn’t have the constitutional authority to give Chavez special powers beyond the end of the current legislature’s session.

But constitutional technicalities don’t bother Chavez at all.

Chavez has most of the OAS in his pocket, with the notable exception of the CIDH. The Unasur countries – headed by Brazil – are complete hypocrites when it comes to taking a real stand for democracy.

In strategic and tactical terms, the outcome of the 26 September National Assembly elections is of no consequence whatsoever to Chavez.

The lame duck assembly is rushing to approve a slew of new laws that legally consolidate Venezuela’s transformation into a repressive Cuban-style dictatorship backed by corrupt generals, drug traffickers and other rogue states.

What can the democratic opposition do to counter this coup by Chavez?

Diego Arria, among others, has urged the opposition legislators elected to the new National Assembly to invoke an Article 350; i.e. everything that Chavez and the lame duck assembly are doing now is unconstitutional and illegal.

However, the oppo is powerless and cannot do anything to stop Chavez.

The oppo is the minority in the new assembly, and any attempts by oppo legislators to block Chavez from consolidating his gangster regime will be stopped cold by the numerically superior PSUV block.

Forget about legal challenges.

Chavez ensured that a new Supreme Court was handpicked and sworn in before the lame duck National Assembly granted him the special powers.

The new “supremos” certainly will rule against anyone who tries to challenge the legality and constitutionality of the special powers.

The lame duck National Assembly also has approved legislation that expands State controls over all forms of communications media, including the Internet.

The regime’s aim is to silence and repress anyone who dissents or has opinions critical of the regime, including independent news organizations, bloggers and users of social media like Twitter.

Chavez will use these special powers to complete his horrific Bolivarian masterpiece.

Who or what will stop Chavez from enacting by decree the constitutional reforms that were rejected by a majority of voters three years ago?

By the time Chavez is done and his special powers expire at the end of 2011, it may not matter anymore that presidential elections are officially scheduled for December 2012.

Mr. Crowley’s statement that Chavez is “subverting” the will of a majority of the Venezuelan people doesn’t even come close to addressing the monstrous tragedy that is escalating in Venezuela.

Chances of a conciliatory, peaceful democratic outcome are nil, I think.

Chavez and his gangsters already have driven Venezuela beyond the point where peaceful and democratic outcomes are still remotely possible.

Arria and other foes of the Bolivarian regime recently have been declaring that Chavez someday will face justice for his crimes and will spend the rest of his days in a prison cell. But I disagree.

Chavez will remain in power for years to come, or else Chavez will be killed.

However, if (or when) Chavez is killed, Venezuela likely will suffer bloodshed and civil strike on a scale not seen in Latin America since Gaitan was murdered in Bogota in 1948.

Written by Caracas Gringo

16/12/2010 at 12:32

Posted in Uncategorized

Bolivarian Estocada

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Alea iacta est.

Venezuelan democracy will be road kill before Christmas, if President Hugo Chavez has his way.

Chavez has formally asked the National Assembly for a law granting him special powers to legislate by decree for one year. National Assembly president Cilia Flores announced today that legislators will deliver what the president wants by Thursday of this week.

Chavez claims that he needs the special powers to speed the recovery of thousands of poor Venezuelans left homeless by recent rains and flooding. Maintaining the charade, Flores said today that the proposed special powers law will be “consulted” with the refugees (“damnificados”) affected by the recent natural disaster.

Of course, Chavez wants the special powers so that he can completely ignore the incoming National Assembly, where he no longer has total control. The new assembly sessions in January 2011.

But por ahora, the all-Chavez lame duck National Assembly is rushing to approve a slew of new laws aimed at consolidating the Bolivarian Socialist Communal state.

The traditional constitutional elective institutions of governance have not been erased officially. Their continued existence serves the Chavez regime’s interests by maintaining a façade of democracy for the world at large.

But the new Bolivarian powers, with Chavez as “El Supremo,” will have the Federal Council of Government presiding over the new communal social, economic and political governance structures that were enacted with the assembly’s approval of the new communal laws.

The lame duck legislators also hastened to appoint new Supreme Court Justices who were chosen by Chavez to assure that everything he does henceforth is upheld constitutionally.

No offense meant to anyone, but I told you so before the 26 September elections. I said then that the outcome of those elections made no difference because Chavez was already building his new governance structures that exclude existing democratic institutions.

Those elections were rigged by gerrymander and law anyway. The oppo won over 50% of the popular vote but obtained barely a third of the 165 seats up for grabs. But not a peep of protest from pro-democracy NGO’s like the Carter Center for Democracy or multilateral entities like the Organization of American States (OAS) or Unasur.

Forget all of the insincere prattle about democracy that we still hear from places like Washington, DC, or the OAS, or Unasur or whatever. The Venezuelan people are completely alone as the still-unknown date of a reckoning nears.

Venezuela’s economy lies in ruins. Pdvsa is destroyed; Chavez has mortgaged the country’s future oil and gas development to foreign powers headed by governments that don’t like or trust Chavez (Wikileaks has confirmed this), but want access to Venezuela’s crude oil, gas and other commodities.

The CVG’s basic industries are road kill, the power sector has collapsed, and the expropriation of millions of hectares of productive farms and livestock ranches has made Venezuela dependent on imports for over 85% of its food requirements.

More people have died violently in Venezuela during the 12 years that Chavez has been in power than in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars combined. But Mexico’s drug wars get more press coverage than the carnage in Venezuela.

But despite all the destruction Chavez has wrought, he’s still got game, whereas MUD – the oppo – has no game at all. If new presidential elections were held today, Chavez easily would defeat anyone that MUD fields. Chavez can’t lose anyway; he controls all the electoral machinery.

The oppo legislators in the new National Assembly that sessions in January will show up for work (assuming that frothing chavista street thugs allow them entry to the legislature), and will learn very quickly that in practical terms there isn’t any real work for them.

Chavez won’t allow anyone to dislodge him from power por las buenas, meaning democratically.

His chief thug, General-in-Chief Henry Rangel Silva, known as a narco-trafficking associate of the FARC, declared already that the Bolivarian armed forces will never allow anyone from the oppo to assume the presidency of Venezuela – even if they win free and fair democratic elections.

That leaves Venezuelans with only three options, which I listed many months ago on this blog: submission, flight or fight.

Over one million Venezuelans have fled into self-imposed exile during the 12 years that Chavez has been in power. The human flight will continue in 2011 and 2012 and thereafter.

But the majority of Venezuelans have nowhere to escape from Chavez and his gangsters. Their options are submission or confrontation. Most will choose submission.

But a minority will attempt to make a stand against Chavez. Some folks like former UN Ambassador Diego Arria and Globovision’s Guillermo Zuloaga recently have warned Chavez that they await him at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Good luck with that.

This blogger believes that Chavez’s perpetual rule only can be halted violently. The odds of an insider take-down, a palace coup from within engineered by quien sabe who, are much greater than an outsider take-down.

But the final outcome will be Chavez’s abrupt demise, and then all hell will break loose in Venezuela.

Written by Caracas Gringo

14/12/2010 at 18:00

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Wikileaks and Pdvsa

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Wikileaks so far has released only 1,446 of the 251,287 classified US State Department cables in its possession, or .005% of the total trove. El Pais of Spain, UK’s Guardian, NYTimes, Germany’s Spiegel and Le Monde of France continue to publish daily analyses of new cables. However, only 15 days after Wikileaks started to post the cable traffic, the slooooow drip… drip… drip already is tiresome.

It’s still a big story, but the world is wired, today’s scoops and breaking stories are tomorrow’s old news. Also, while the oldest cables date from 1966 (45 years ago), Wikileaks doesn’t have any cables after 28 February 2010, so the reality is that the cables are very “old” news anyway to anyone who follows global affairs regularly. If Wikileaks continues to post new material at its current glacial pace, many current readers probably will grow bored quickly.

A friend with direct ties to one of the above newspapers says that there are some still-unpublished cables from Venezuela that contain intelligence about Pdvsa, the financial hub of the Bolivarian revolution’s corruption. Let’s hope he is right.

Since over 2,000 of the cables originated from the US embassy in Caracas, there certainly should be more intelligence tidbits like the cable describing how senior Pdvsa and Energy Ministry officials confirmed, in exchange for US B1/B2 tourism visas, confirmed that Pdvsa routinely inflates its crude oil production and price data while its key operational assets are collapsing from over seven years of practically zero maintenance. And if Pdvsa’s production, price and – of course – revenue numbers are inflated, it’s certainly possible that the Central Bank’s foreign exchange reserves numbers are inflated too.

Written by Caracas Gringo

14/12/2010 at 14:05

Posted in Uncategorized

Counterfeit Franklins

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Orlando is being flooded with counterfeit US currency, mostly $100 notes, a friend in US federal law enforcement says.

The problem has become so serious that the Orlando office of the US Secret Service has a growing backlog of cases it has not started to investigate officially yet.

A very large percentage of the counterfeit $100 notes originate in Venezuela, a local branch manager in Orlando with one of the three top US banks says.

Over the past year, as Hugo Chavez shut down the parallel (permuta) market and asserted state control over all financial transfers, Florida’s tourism capitals of Miami and Orlando have been hit with a fast-growing flood of counterfeit US currency arriving from Venezuela.

“The other day three Venezuelans came into my branch with $10,000 between them in $100 notes and $5,000 were counterfeit,” the branch manager says.

“They had a very difficult time understanding that the bank was legally obligated to seize the counterfeit currency and give them nothing in return, not even copies of the reports that the bank files with the Secret Service,” the branch manager adds.

I found out personally about the counterfeit currency problem in Orlando very recently when we did the family theme park tour (a.k.a. blisters, backaches and busted budgets).

We arrived in Orlando with $4,000 in $100 notes purchased in Caracas, visited our local US bank branch to grow our savings a bit, and $1,200 were counterfeit bills that were confiscated immediately by the bank.

A report on each bogus bill was forward the same day to the US Secret Service, and two days later I chatted by telephone with the “duty officer” at the Orlando office of the Secret Service.

The agent confirmed that the 12 bills taken from me by the bank were counterfeit, but said that an investigation would not be opened for “a couple of months or longer… we’re backlogged.”

The bank branch manager said that the recent increase in counterfeit US currency taken from Venezuelan nationals in the Orlando area is unlike anything he has experienced in 17 years of retail banking.

I asked the branch manager, “But what about the special marker pens that detect counterfeit notes?”

These pens are used in Venezuela by lots of folks buying US currency on the black market to confirm that the bills they are purchasing are the real deal.

“Useless,” he replied. “They don’t work.”

Written by Caracas Gringo

07/12/2010 at 20:39

Posted in Uncategorized


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