Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category

Venezuela: Celebrities’ ire

Thursday, 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: If Correa ain’t happy . . .

Wednesday, 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!


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

Tuesday, 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.

Venezuela: The next default

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Mary O’Grady writes on more to come from the ALBA deadbeat zone:
Venezuela Heads to a Default Reckoning
Amid bills for imports and debt servicing, and shrinking dollar liquidity, something has to give.

Venezuelan bond prices swooned last week on renewed speculation that the government of President Nicolás Maduro might soon default on as much as $80 billion of foreign debt. The yield on the government bond due in 2022 hit a six-month high of 15.8% on Sept. 9. David Rees of London-based Capital Economics, who last year warned of the risks of falling oil prices to Venezuelan solvency, told Bloomberg News by telephone that “the bond market is finally beginning to wake up.”

That may be true. It’s clear that the foreign exchange that Venezuela earns from oil exports cannot pay its import bills along with debt service. There are dire shortages of industrial and consumer goods as well as services. Something has to give and odds are that allowing the required adjustment to the economy won’t be the government’s first choice.

Nearly 1 million [corrected] barrels per day (almost one third of the daily 2.3 million barrels of crude OPEC says Venezuela produces) don’t generate revenue: 300,000 bpd go to Cuba, some 100,000 bpd are smuggled into the Colombia by insiders, and 650,000 bpd are sent to China to pay debt. This is even more disastrous when considering how the Venezuelan economy has become more dependent on oil after foreign capital leaves the country and productivity plummets.

Venezuela: Deadly new illness

Friday, September 12th, 2014

El Nuevo Herald and La Patilla reports that Venezuelan doctors are on the alert for a mysterious new illness whose victims die within 72 hours and which the hospitals don’t know how to treat.

Eight people from the state of Aragua have died in the past ten days. The symptoms are general malaise, high fever, skin rash, and mouth sores that become infected, after which the patients develop internal and external bleeding.

Duglas León Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, has gone on the record saying, “we don’t know what it is.”

Happening in the middle of a health crisis in the country, the Venezuelan government has denied the reports, accusing Natera of “engaging in a campaign of rumors and terrorism.”

In other medical news, Exported to Venezuela, miserable Cuban doctors clamor to get into U.S.


55 years a slave: The new Cuba-Brazil human traffic

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

From The Economist’s Intelligence Unit,
Brazil extends contracts for 11,500 Cuban doctors

Since August 2013, Cuba has collected over US$700m from the Brazilian government in exchange for the services of 11,456 Cuban medical professionals working in over 2,700 towns and cities across the country. The Brazilian government recently announced that the programme will continue next year, with total payments amounting to US$511m.

Communist Cuba is broke, and its main source of income is selling off its citizens (emphasis added),

Currently, the sale of services abroad is Cuba’s largest source of hard currency: in 2014, the government estimates that it will collect US$8.2bn from these deals. Around 50,000 Cuban health professionals work in 66 countries worldwide, although around half of those work in Venezuela, with an additional 11,456 in Brazil. The agreements with other foreign countries are similar to the Brazilian setup, with Cuban doctors paid less than the salary of local medical staff, and the remainder of their pay being transferred to the Cuban government.

I am disgusted to read that The Economist’s Intelligence Unit ended its report with this,

The Economist Intelligence Unit is not changing its macroeconomic forecasts in light of the renewal of the programme, but it will come as a relief to the Cuban government and will help to mitigate the scaling-back of the sale of professional services to Venezuela.

As Capitol Hill Cubans correctly points out,

These government-to-dictatorship contracts, whereby Cuban doctors have absolutely no say about salary, work conditions and have their passports confiscated, have been denounced internationally — andwithin Brazil – as forced labor.

(Read here the testimony of a Cuban doctor who defected.)

They are clearly in violation of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the International Labor Organization’s (“ILO”) Convention on the Protection of Wages.

As Brazil’s National Federation of Physicians (FENAM, in Portuguese), has stated, “the contracts of the Cuban doctors have the characteristics of slave labor and only serve to finance the Cuban government.”

Meanwhile, in the island-prison,

“The USSR discovered that the best way to control its people was by keeping them standing in line all day long.”


Venezuela: Censorship vs online media

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The WSJ reports,
Venezuela’s Press Crackdown Stokes Growth of Online Media
Digital Alternatives Expand as Newspapers and Broadcasters Struggle

Using legislation, steep fines, pressure on advertisers and control of printing paper, the government during the past decade has corralled the mainstream press, says Carlos Lauria, who oversees the Americas for the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. He and other free-speech advocates say the intimidation has deepened since Mr. Maduro was narrowly elected in April 2013 after the death of his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, with dozens of reporters detained, beaten and censored, Mr. Lauria says.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders recently ranked Venezuela among the worst offenders on its press-freedom index.

The article mentions Twitter, La Patilla, Vivoplay and Prodavinci.

I also recommend these 4 Venezuelan blogs (in alphabetical order): Caracas Chronicles, Devil’s Excrement, Infodio, and Venezuela News And Views.

Venezuela: Chavista Lord’s Prayer UPDATED

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Just like cults, totalitarian states are all about the consolidation of power: material and spiritual. Take a look at the latest, complete with the Sign of the Cross,

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN THE CHAVISTA SIGN OF THE CROSS
In the name of Chávez, of Maduro, and of the sovereign people, we shall live and win
NOW TEACH YOUR LITTLE FRIENDS

Allow me to pause and say hello to my little friend,

But wait! There’s more!

“Chávez nuestro que estas en el cielo, en la tierra, en el mar y en nosotros, los y las delegadas, santificado sea tu nombre, venga a nosotros tu legado para llevarlo a los pueblos de aquí y de allá. Danos hoy tu luz para que nos guíe cada día, no nos dejes caer en la tentación del capitalismo, mas líbranos de la maldad de la oligarquía, del delito del contrabando porque de nosotros y nosotras es la patria, la paz y la vida. Por los siglos de los siglos amén. Viva Chávez”.
Our Chavez, which art in heaven, on land, on sea and in ourselves the [male] and [female] delegates, hallowed by thy name, thy legacy come to us to carry it over to people here and there. Give us this day our daily light so that it may guide us every day, do not let us fall into capitalism temptations, and protect us from the meanness of the oligarchy, from the sin of smuggling, for us is [male] and [female] the fatherland, peace and live. For ever and ever, amen. Viva Chavez.

Daniel Duquenal:

I do not know if this is a provocation, an excessively elaborated prank (I wish it so, make it be so My Lord) or if these people have finally reached the deep end.

Here’s a video of the “prayer”:

The “prayer” closed a five-day workshop on “designing the socialist formation [i.e., indoctrination] system” and Maduro, most of his Cabinet and several governors were in attendance, so I assume it’s not a prank.

Lord almighty.

UPDATE:

Look at the mural: Simón Bolívar, Jesus and Hugo Chávez under a sign that reads, “Against imperialism, g*ddammit!” The tweet reads, “Have you seen more shameless and immoral crap than this?

Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!

Twitter hashtag #ChavezNuestro

Biometrics and the police state

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

My latest, Biometrics and the police state, is up at Da Tech guy Blog.

Please read it, comment, and hit da tip jar!

Is Populism beatable?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Today is question day: Is Populism beatable?

Populism has been the driving force behind both our political landscape and our economic misfortunes. This trait has marked the misguided economic policies of several administrations, with Chavismo just exacerbating the problem. Because, in essence chavismo repeats a well’worn recipe: continue to fuel the spending binge, among other insane policies, with an unprecedented oil boom backing this profligate party.

Indeed,

Populism thrives in societies where the rule of law is undermined or non-existent, with sky-high economic inequalities, a weak institutional framework, and polarization among other contributing factors.

Carlos Rangel’s post offers a start, but my question is, can totalitarian Communism be ousted from Venezuela at this point?