Cuba/Venezuela: $10,000 “melange of Communism” trips

April 18th, 2014

Make sure you bring your own soap and toilet paper: “Get up close and personal with the locals that make up the melange of Communism.”

The Sydney Morning Herald calls it ‘Travel for the mind’ with George Negus – Venezuela & Cuba
READER OFFER: With George’s instinctive journalistic interest, this two-country excursion will awaken and engage your mind.

NO SEATS AVAILABLE 

SMH readers are flying to Venezuela for a $10,000 per head socialism celebration while Venezuelans are trying to fly out

“Of course, I’d rather fly,” he said. “But there are no seats available.” Cordova said that he had tried for a month to get a seat on an airplane, to no avail. That’s because the economic policies that have driven him to leave Venezuela have also made it exceedingly hard for people to depart by air.

That’s the “melange of Communism” for you.

Thursday night Paddy & Nico

April 17th, 2014

Story here.

Cuba: The great unwashed, by governmental decree

April 17th, 2014

Michael Totten continues his travel journals,

I heard no end of horror stories about soap shortages, both before and after I got there. A journalist friend of mine who visits Cuba semi-regularly brings little bars of hotel soap with him and hands them out to his interview subjects.

“They break down in tears when I give them soap,” he told me. “How often does that happen?” I said. “A hundred percent of the time,” he said.

I too brought soap with me to the island—full-size bars from the store, not small ones from hotels—but I didn’t want to make people cry wherever I went, so I left them discreetly for hotel staff, waiters, taxi drivers, and so on. And I tipped everyone as generously as I could since the government refuses to pay them.

None of this economic impoverishment is the result of American policy. The United States is hardly the world’s only soap manufacturer, for instance. Cuba can buy it from Mexico. Or Canada. Or the Dominican Republic. Cuba can make its own soap. It fact, it does make its own soap. The reason the country does not have enough is because the government historically hasn’t cared if the little people can’t wash. Soap is just one item among thousands that is strictly for the elite, for the “haves,” and for those lucky enough to find some in the shops before it runs out.

In a non-communist country where such a basic product is in short supply, somebody would mass-produce it and sell it. Soap-making doesn’t require nuclear physics. You can make it at home. Google “soap recipe” and you’ll see how easy it is. But Cuba is a communist country where private commerce is banned. If you make stuff and sell stuff, you might become “rich” and “bourgeois,” and the authorities will send you to prison.

Read the whole thing.

Related:
Condom shortage hits Cuba


Venezuela: Inspired by Marx!

April 17th, 2014

Marxist Nicolas Maduro’s making a fashion statement inspired by Marx.

Groucho Marx, that is:

Nicolás Maduro introduced the new symbol of the revolution: The mustache cap.
The Venezuelan president surprised all during at event by showing the new icon of chavismo, by which all his followers can have his mustache.

Nicolás Maduro presentó el nuevo símbolo de la revolución: la “gorra del bigote”
El presidente venezolano sorprendió en un acto al mostrar un nuevo dispositivo del chavismo, gracias al cual sus seguidores pueden tener su bigote

The cap has a detachable mustache you can place under your nose.

I’m not making this up,

Maduro wore a blue one, but it’s also available in red or green.

Just in time for Mother’s Day!

Mad Men’s somber final season opener

April 16th, 2014

madmen_iconUnlike the prior season, this season’s opener had me glued to the TV set from beginning to end. The episode is titled Time Zones, and Joel Murray as Freddy Rumsen opened it with an entrancing monologue (an ad for Accutron watches) that also serves both as a metaphor on time, and on the value of objects for those of us who are fond of our material possessions – especially our watches.

The pitch of Rumsen’s voice, the flat delivery, and the use of this monologue as the opener for the final season brings us into a Twilight Zone* of sorts, in keeping with the T-Zone title.

Read the rest of my review at Da Tech Guy Blog.

In Silvio Canto’s podcast

April 16th, 2014

talking about The latest from Colombia plus other US-Latin America stories of the week with Silvio and Cecilia Torres.

Live at 8PM Eastern, and archived for your convenience.

Venezuela: No amnesty for jailed opposition

April 16th, 2014

Certainly not a khaki scout.

Venezuela rejects amnesty for jailed protest leaders

The Venezuelan government has dismissed calls by the opposition for an amnesty for jailed protest leaders.

Government and opposition representatives met for a second time on Tuesday to try to put an end to two months of anti-government protests.

Following the meeting, Ramon Aveledo of the opposition MUD coalition said his proposal for an amnesty law had been rejected.

It’s all par for the course: Having put the Cubans in charge of Venezuela’s public notaries and civil registries, and of the computer systems of the presidency, ministries, social programs, police and security services as well as the national oil company,

Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, has deepened Caracas’s dependency on Havana even further. As students have taken to the streets in protest against an increasingly authoritarian regime the government has responded with a brutal repression that relies on many of the tools and tactics perfected by the police state that has run Cuba for too long.

Among those who would be denied amnesty are 30 military officials arrested for conspiracy to topple Cuba-controlled dictatorship

Among those arrested are the brothers Riviera Lago, one a colonel and the other a lieutenant colonel. Also two members of the National Guard, two from the navy, and one from the army. These are added to the generals arrested three weeks earlier, Oswaldo Hernandez Sanchez, Jose Machillanda Diaz, and Carlos Millan Yaguaracuto. The generals are all from the air force, like the majority of those involved in the alleged conspiracy.

Up to now, there have been very few military showing support for the protesters.

Other Venezuela items:
[T]he supply of currency in the economy [has] dried up almost completely.

Venezuela’s delusional leader

Media Ignore How Maduro’s Death Squads Operate with Impunity Thanks to Gun Control

Passover: The Maccabeats do Les Misérables

April 15th, 2014

If you go to Gerard‘s, you’ll get the lyrics for sing-along.

Panama: Martinelli strikes back

April 15th, 2014

Well, after Mary O’Grady wrote about Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli choosing his wife to run for vice-president, Martinelli tweeted,

This WSJ journalist once interviewed me because she was a close friend of Jimmy Papadimitriu, who now advises Varela,”

The WSJ didn’t take the tweet sitting down:

He is referring to Juan Carlos Varela, who is Mr. Martinelli’s vice president and former foreign minister. Mr. Varela broke with Mr. Martinelli and is now running to succeed him as the presidential nominee of a competing party. We don’t know if Mr. Papadimitriu advises Mr. Varela, but we can say that Ms. O’Grady is not and has never been a friend of Mr. Papadimitriu. She did interview Mr. Martinelli—in 2010 when Mr. Papadimitriu was his chief of staff.

No doubt Mr. Martinelli was upset that Ms. O’Grady called out his electoral power play. Panamanians remember, and not fondly, military dictator Manuel Noriega, who was removed by U.S. troops in 1989. If Mr. Martinelli has designs on becoming one more caudillo, he ought to man-up and tell the voters rather than hide behind his wife’s illegal candidacy.

Why does this matter to the US?

Because Panama, especially following its canal expansion, remains a key trade partner to the Americas, and especially to the US. A true democracy, engaged in free trade, is best for the hemisphere.


Chile: 15 dead in #Valparaiso

April 15th, 2014

Something out of Dante,

At least 15 dead, 500 injured in Chile port city fires

Helicopters and airplanes dumped water on wildfires and the smoldering wreckage of hilltop neighborhoods around Valparaiso for a third straight day Monday as sailors in riot gear stood ready to evacuate 700 more families whose homes could be lost if the winds shifted.

Already 11,000 people were homeless as wildfires sent burning embers flying from hilltop to hilltop. A 15th body was found, and the toll of destroyed homes rose to more than 2,500.

To add to the destruction, the fires are so fierce they create their own winds.

Pray for the people of Valparaiso.