Venezuela: Beyond-the-grave nepotism

September 20th, 2014

Your country seeks a seat in the UN’s Security Council. Who better than the late dictator’s daughter, who has never held a job?

Security Council-ready!

Chávez Heir Lands First Job: U.N. Envoy
Some say María Gabriela Chávez, a daughter of Venezuela’s late Socialist leader Hugo Chávez, is unprepared to be deputy ambassador to the United Nations, as Venezuela seeks a Security Council seat on the world body.

Ms. Chávez, 34 years old, has never held a formal job and is known as a socialite—the Kardashian of Sabaneta, her father’s hometown—who posts “selfies” on social media, said former diplomats and political analysts. Unlike her older sister, Rosa Virginia Chávez, who studied international relations, the younger Ms. Chávez has demonstrated little inclination for geopolitics.

Rosa Virgina is not to be confused with her other sister, Rosinés Chávez who has demonstrated some, shall we say, unsocialistic tendencies,

while María Gabriela knows all the right people,

She’ll fit right in at the UN.

[Post corrected to add omitted text]


Venezuela: What hemorrhagic fever? UPDATED

September 19th, 2014

The Venezuelan government continues to deny it,VENEZUELAN GOVERNMENT DISMISSES EXISTENCE OF DEADLY ILLNESS

An apparent viral disease causing fever and skin rashes has taken the lives of ten in Venezuela, according to hospital officials. While doctors have ruled out both Ebola and Chikungunya fever, they remain stumped as to what is causing the illness.

According to El Universal, the nation’s largest newspaper, the virus has hit hardest in the northern state of Aragua, where eight people died last week. Maracay’s Central Hospital in the region declared a “state of alarm,” noting that the disease could be either viral or bacterial, but tests have not confirmed its identity. Of the initial eight victims, half were children, all who died less than 72 hours after being admitted to the hospital. One of the ten victims died not in Aragua, but in the capital, Caracas.

As Venezuela and others follow the disastrous Cuban model, the open border presents new challenges.

Monica Showalter’s editorial at IBD:
As Obama Leads Anti-Ebola Charge To Save Africa, Little Done About New Diseases Coming Up From Border

Venezuela has confirmed 398 cases of chikungunya fever, 55,970 cases of malaria and 45,745 cases of dengue fever — all diseases that were either unknown or else had had been eradicated from the country two decades ago. There’s also 9 deaths from a strange new, unnamed hemorrhagic fever in Aragua state.
Meanwhile, in Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica, a monster dengue epidemic is raging through the region right now, with 120,000 cases, and 60 deaths, and public health emergencies declared in those countries.

Indeed,

The reality is, an unguarded border, a welcome-mat approach to illegals, well developed smuggling networks, and zero medical screening are virtually a guarantee of the spread of new diseases — and demand the political will to investigate it.

But the president’s focus is on Africa right now, and on the frightening disease that has caught the media’s attention and which may get his poll numbers up.

Yet the millions of malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS cases far more rampant in those African countries are getting no attention. Nor are the illnesses that could easily come up here from the south.

It points to crass politics — a wag-the-dog bid to divert public attention from the president’s other political problems, and a pander for the Latino vote.

Add to that the rumors of terrorism, while the administration ignores the Danger at the Southern Border,

since Political imperative trumps national security.

UPDATE
Deadly Outbreak in Venezuela Deemed ‘Terrorism’
President Nicolás Maduro said he ordered the prosecution of doctors who had alerted the public to the recent deaths of nine people in a public hospital from an unidentified but possibly infectious disease.

Argentina: Cristina’s vultures

September 19th, 2014

Argentinian president Cristina Fernandez has taken time between Botox injections to indulge in more name-calling.

No longer satisfied to refer to Argentina’s creditors as vulture funds, she now has vulture airlines:

Cristina tilda de ‘buitres con turbinas’ a American Airlines Cristina dubs American Airlines ‘vultures with turbines’

Why?

American Airlines will not sell tickets in Argentina more than 90 days in advance. Cristina says this is an “attack against the country to cause uncertainty” about the currency.

Considering how Argentina joins the Venezuela School of Economics by passing laws

that cap consumer prices of goods, set profit margins for private businesses and levy fines on companies found to be making “artificial or unjustified” profits

AA is worrying about getting paid. Over in Venezuela, the government is withholding US$3.6 billion in airline ticket revenue.

UPDATE
Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!


Venezuela: Celebrities’ ire

September 18th, 2014

While here in the U.S. we talk about Mia Farrow’s junket to Ecuador, in Venezuela two other celebrities are in the spotlight: Maria Conchita Alonso and Jose Luis Rodriguez El Puma.

Venezuela threatens citizenship of actress Alonso

The country’s foreign ministry announced in the official gazette that it would ask a judge to remove her Venezuelan nationality.

Alonso and her brother Robert are democracy activists, very much opposed to chavismo.

El Puma, now in Chile for today’s national holiday, and is calling for a military coup against the Cuban-run Venezuelan dictatorship so the country can leave behind the “dictatorial, perverse and diabolico” Cuban model (link in Spanish – my translation),

“I call on them to save a country from catastrophe. I look at Venezuela and I see Cuba 50 years ago.”
“I appeal to the men and women of the Venezuelan Armed Forces, who have prepared throughout their lives to defend and protect the country; honor your uniforms and don’t allow these people to continue to impoverish Latin America’s richest country, your children’s country.”

El Puma, who recently made public his incurable lung condition, clarified he wants a peaceful transition to democracy once the chavistas are ousted. Here’s the video (in Spanish),

In other Venezuelan news,
Acquisition of El Universal to be challenged in Panama 

When asked about his involvement in the purchase of El Universal on 10 July 2014, Carlos Odin Velazco expressed disbelief, and claimed he had nothing to do with it, nor did he have the funds to make such a purchase.

A week later, on 17 July 2014, the agent for Tecnobreaks Inc. (Jose Alejandro Quiodetis) registered a document of an “extraordinary shareholders meeting”, purportedly held on 14 February 2014, during which Carlos Odin Velazco was removed as company director. The three Spanish citizens referred to above, and related to Epalisticia in Spain, were appointed as company director, treasurer and secretary. Tecnobreaks capital was increased from $10,000 to $1,000,000.

When I ask Carlos Odin Velazco on 3 September 2014 about that “extraordinary shareholders meeting” -held in February according to registry documents- he said that he was never informed about it, and went on to say that Quiodetis had done so without his authorization. Odin Velazco went on to claim that Quiodetis had sold Tecnobreaks without his permission, and therefore none of the decisions purportedly reached during that meeting were legally valid.

Odin Velazco is now considering legal proceedings against Quiodetis in Panama, for the unlawful appropriation of Tecnobreaks. Alek Boyd has the full report here.

Ecuador: Celebrities for hire

September 18th, 2014

Well, it’ll come as no surprise to anyone who reads Paul M. Barrett’s book Law of the Jungle, but the Ecuadorian government paid celebrities to tour areas of the rainforest allegedly contaminated by Texaco.

Allow me a Capt. Louis Renault moment,

Apparently Mia Farrow received from PR firm MCSquared $180,000 and Danny Glover $300,000. As you may remember, Danny reportedly received US$18 million bucks from the late Hugo Chavez for making a movie about Toussaint D’Overture, the Haitian slave that led the revolt against the French and declared himself emperor.

We’re still waiting for Danny’s movie.

But back to Mia, she and filmmaker Phelim Mcaleer engaged in a discussion on Twitter,

after which she deleted the tweet and blocked Mcaleer, to the amusement of those following the exchange,

[Meme translation:
Danny, we're broke and forgotten.
Mia, let's go to Ecuador. The Boss is sure to give us dough
]

Bianca Jagger is another celebrity who headed to Lago Agrio, and later protested against Chevron in New York,

Is that a fur coat?

Daryl Hannah, Sting and wife Trudie Styler, and Al Gore also turned up at the old Texaco site, as Barrett reports in Law of the Jungle. No word on how much they got.

AND,
I posted yesterday on Law of the Jungle. For a full book review, read When oil first flowed through a new pipeline in 1972…


En español: Guillermo Padrés en la Unidad de Quemados

September 17th, 2014

Guillermo Padrés,

Luego de que se revelara que construyó una presa en su rancho familiar sin pedirle permiso a nadie, el gobernador de Sonora llega a la Unidad de Quemados… y en el Cineclub de Nicasio: Lucy

Why the game should stand tall

September 17th, 2014

My latest article, Why the game should stand tall, a review of the excellent When the Game Stands Tall, is up at Da Tech Guy Blog. Go read it, and hit Pete’s tip jar.

Ecuador: If Correa ain’t happy . . .

September 17th, 2014

. . . he hires Putin’s PR people.

Two items from Ecuador,

First:

I’ve been hesitating to review Paul M. Barrett’s new book, Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who’d Stop at Nothing to Win about fraudster Steven Donziger.

While the book is interesting, I find statements like “While not a materialistic person driven by financial rewards, Donziger sometimes groused about the cost of his career choices” (page 134) exasperating. Paul Barrett may believe that Donziger was not “driven by financial rewards” while setting up a Gibraltar corporation to hold proceeds of the judgment, but readers of Law of the Jungle should read Judge Kaplan’s 497-page decision, which quotes Donziger’s personal notebook on April 4, 2007:

. . . I sit back and dream. I cannot believe what we have accomplished. Important people interested in us. A new paradigm of not only a case, but how to do a case. Chevron wanting to settle. Billions of dollars on the table. A movie, a possible book.I cannot keep up with it all.

That said, Barrett is now under attack by the Republic of Ecuador’s U.S. public relations advisers, New York-based Ketchum. His article, What It’s Like to Be Attacked by Putin’s American Flack explains the latest,

Ketchum’s memo about my book connects the dots regarding why Ecuador cares so passionately about the case. Among the “difficult questions” Law of the Jungle raises, according to Ketchum:

Barrett’s book does raise many questions, among them,

• “Ecuador took the biggest part of the income obtained from petroleum extracted from the Amazon, approximately $23.5 billion against $1.6 billion for Texaco-Chevron.” The precise figures are subject to dispute, but according to government records, the split was roughly 90-10 in favor of Ecuador. This contradicts a central theme of the plaintiffs’ (and Correa’s) narrative: that Texaco derived all the benefit from industrializing the rain forest and left the host country with only the nasty side effects. The Ketchum memo warns the embassy that my reporting raises additional questions: How did Ecuador spend its majority proceeds from oil exploitation? Why wasn’t this money spent on environmental controls? Why was the money not used to help those harmed by the drilling?

Make sure to read Barrett’s full article. You can find all of his very interesting Business Week/Bloomberg articles here.

Ecuador engages in “widespread repression of the media”; now they try to export the repression to our shores via a public relations firm.

The second item:

As you may recall, president Rafael Correa has come up with a fake currency to cover up a fiscal deficit, including debt service, of some $9.2 billion.

Correa claims there’s no plan to replace the dollar. Steve Hanke, who 14 years ago was the chief intellectual architect of the nation’s switch to the dollar, is skeptical,
Ecuador’s Dollarization Architect Doubts Correa’s Pledge

“What Correa’s trying to do is kind of loosen the straitjacket that dollarization has him in,” Hanke said. “If you go off, the fiscal deficit gets bigger, the level of debt gets bigger, inflation goes up and economic growth goes down. All the economic indicators just go south.”

Correa is expected to run for a fourth presidential term in 2017, having changed the law on presidential term limits.

Ketchum may be looking forward to it.

RELATED:
For Ecuador’s PR Firm, Celebrity Backing Carries Hefty Price Tag
MCSquared paid more than $500,000 for Mia Farrow, Danny Glover junkets

UPDATE,
Linked to by Bad Blue. Thanks!


Is ISIS at the border? UPDATED

September 16th, 2014

Who to believe?

U.S. Pushes Back Against Warnings That ISIS Plans to Enter From Mexico

Militants for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have traveled to Mexico and are just miles from the United States. They plan to cross over the porous border and will “imminently” launch car bomb attacks. And the threat is so real that federal law enforcement officers have been placed at a heightened state of alert, and an American military base near the border has increased its security.

As the Obama administration and the American public have focused their attention on ISIS in recent weeks, conservative groups and leading Republicans have issued stark warnings like those that ISIS and other extremists from Syria are planning to enter the country illegally from Mexico. But the Homeland Security Department, the F.B.I. and lawmakers who represent areas near the border say there is no truth to the warnings.

So the question remains,
Who to believe? This, or the Obama administration?

UPDATE:
Frances Martel:

One country the Islamic State has made significant efforts to infiltrate, however, is Canada. Canadian jihadists are a significant contingent of the Islamic State Western population, and the group has targeted the nation in its propaganda videos. In one particularly egregious attempt to recruit Canadian jihadists, the Islamic State released atribute video to dead jihadist André Poulin, a Canadian, using footage of the man explaining why he left Canada to fight for the Islamic State. Poulin describes his early days watching hockey and fishing and concludes that jihad is much more fulfilling than Canadian life.

Moderate Muslims in the country have also raised the alarm that their congregations are being infiltrated by terrorist groups. Pacifist Canadian leader Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada (ISCC), received death threats from extremists for calling attention to their recruitment. ”Absolutely I am convinced that this recruitment is going on right here in this country, under our noses, in our universities, in our colleges, in the places of worship, in our community,” he told Canadian public television. Canadian citizens are so at risk for being radicalized by Islamist terrorist elements that the mother of one slain Islamic State jihadist has founded a support group for Western families struggling to cope with the loss of their child to jihad, and for those who fear their children are being radicalized and hope to prevent them from leaving to Iraq and Syria.

UPDATE
Linked to by Outrageous Minds. Thank you!


Venezuela: What do El Puma & Ricardo Hausmann have in common?

September 16th, 2014

What do a retired pop idol and a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government have in common?
Answer: Any criticism is met with public pillorying.

First instance: El Puma.

[Note: all the YouTubes are in Spanish]

Jaime Bayly interviewed last week singing star José Luís Rodríguez, best known as El Puma (link audio starts immediately) in his show last week. El Puma is Venezuelan and was very clear about Venezuela’s disastrous dictatorship,

It didn’t take long for Maduro to verbally pillory El Puma, saying that everybody will forget El Puma but all will remember Hugo Chavez,

Of course, Maduro may be correct, but for the wrong reasons.

Bayly talked about it last night, contrasting the joy El Puma brings his fans with the misery raining on Venezuela from chavismo,

Second instance: Ricardo Hausmann

Meet the Academic ‘Hitman’ Who Infuriates Venezuela’s President (emphasis added)

Ricardo Hausmann sounds like a scary guy. Last night, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called him a “financial hitman” and “outlaw” who is part of a campaign “that has been initiated around the world against Venezuela.”

Who is this supposed international assassin? A bearded, 50-something professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government who wrote a recent opinion piece saying Venezuela should default on its international debts. Traders in the bond market already consider this a possibility given the country’s financial straits, but Maduro seems to have taken it hard because Hausmann is himself Venezuelan and served as planning minister in 1992-93.

Maduro, like his late mentor and predecessor Hugo Chávez, presents himself as the champion of Venezuela’s poor. Hausmann attacked that image in his opinion piece by writing that many of the bonds on which Venezuela is paying interest “are held by well-connected wealthy Venezuelans,” while “severe shortages of life-saving drugs in Venezuela are the result of the government’s default on a $3.5 billion bill for pharmaceutical imports.” He said that the choice of Maduro’s government not to default “is a signal of its moral bankruptcy.”

That clearly did not go over well with Maduro, who instructed the attorney general and public prosecutor to take unspecified “actions” against Hausmann.

Here’s Maduro in his TV cadena, calling Hausmann a financial hit man,

Chavismo has turned Venezuela into a country where whores (not just the streetwalkers) cash in as currency traders. Hausmann’s assertions shouldn’t come as a surprise.

UPDATE:
You wouldn’t know it from looking at Maduro, but there’s a shortage of boobs in Venezuela.