My latest, Biometrics and the police state, is up at Da Tech guy Blog.
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Faustam fortuna adiuvat
American and Latin American Politics, Society, and Culture.
My latest, Biometrics and the police state, is up at Da Tech guy Blog.
Please read it, comment, and hit da tip jar!
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.
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?
First we hear that producers of cheap Malbec are getting squeezed by inflation. Now this,
Venezuela Sips More Local Rum, Less Pricey Whiskey
Lagging Economy Pushes Consumers Away From Expensive Scotches.
At fancy steakhouses and Spanish-style tascas, Scotch is served the Venezuelan way: poured to the brim in a highball glass with ice.
Let’s hope they don’t do that to any of these.
Regardless, $5 says the chavistas are still getting their Buchanan’s and Chivas.
*1848: Karl Marx puts out the Communist Manifesto.
Mary O’Grady on today’s WSJ:
A Terrorist Big Fish Gets Away
The Netherlands refuses to extradite FARC ally Hugo Carvajal Barrios to the U.S.
While O’Grady contradicts herself on the criminals’ intent, saying, on the one hand, “America’s voracious appetite for illegal drugs has allowed violent political actors to create powerful transnational criminal organizations”, while on the other hand stating, “All of this terror is done in the name of social justice for Colombians,” the effect of current U.S. foreign policy is clear: The bottom line? (emphasis added)
Yet it’s not surprising that the Netherlands decided it would be less costly to be on the good side of the bad guys than to be on the bad side of the good guys. After six years of the Obama global retreat, any leader would be crazy to expect the U.S. to go to the mat for an ally, even one that stuck its neck out for Uncle Sam. So when Venezuela threatened military and economic retribution at the Netherlands Antilles if Carvajal was extradited, the Dutch foreign affairs minister relented.
Read the whole thing here.
In the WSJ:
American Agencies Probe Venezuelan Energy Company
Federal and New York City law-enforcement authorities are investigating Derwick Associates, which became one of Venezuela’s leading builders of electricity plants during the Chávez administration.
Manhattan prosecutors are investigating Derwick and ProEnergy for possible violations of New York banking law, people familiar with the matter said.
Meanwhile, people familiar with the matter said prosecutors in the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section are reviewing the actions of Derwick and ProEnergy for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits offering foreign government officials improper payments in exchange for a business advantage.
Federal prosecutors are scrutinizing the difference between the prices ProEnergy charged Derwick for its equipment and the prices Derwick ultimately charged the Venezuelan government, one person familiar with the matter said. The person said that in some past FCPA cases, excessive margins have been used to conceal bribes to foreign officials.
Casto Ocando, in his book Chavistas en el Imperio: Secretos, Tácticas y Escándalos de la Revolución Bolivariana en Estados Unidos (page 224), estimates that the Chavez government awarded Derwick contracts of nearly a billion dollars (plus $400 million overruns) between 2009-2010.
Derwick Associates never won “competitive bids”. In the multiple occasions that Batiz and Ultimas Noticias asked Derwick Associates to reveal details of the contracts it had gotten from the Venezuelan State -bold added with the purpose of highlighting the fact that this is public money we are talking about- the company refused, repeatedly, to come clean. Derwick Associates has never been a “transparent company”. Quite the opposite in fact.
Read Alek’s post here.
I have an article coming up later today on a related topic, so please keep the following in mind:
The Black Book of the Sandinistas
In emulating Castro and their other communist heroes such as Stalin and Mao, the Sandinistas took control of everything in the country: mass organizations, the army, police, labor unions, and the media. They censored all freedom of speech, suspended the right of association and ruthlessly crushed the freedom of trade unions. Faithful to their Marxist ideology, the new tyrants seized the means of production. State controls and nationalization spread, aid to the private sector and incentives for foreign investment disappeared. To put it plainly, another 20th-century experiment with socialism annihilated a nation’s economy along with a peoples’ prospects for a better life.
Thousands of Nicaraguans who attempted to protect their property — or who simply committed the crime of owning private property — were imprisoned, tortured, or executed by the new despots.
Unlike the previous regime of Anastasio Somoza, the Sandinistas did not leave the native populations on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua in peace. In Khmer Rouge style, they inflicted a ruthless, forcible relocation of thousands of Indians from their land. Like Stalin and Mao, the new regime used state-created famine as a weapon against these “enemies of the people.”  The Sandinista army committed myriad atrocities against the Indian population, killing and imprisoning approximately 15,000 innocent people. The Sandinista crimes included not only mass murders of innocent natives themselves, but a calculated liquidation of their entire leadership — as the Soviets had perpetrated against the Poles in the Katyn Forest Massacre, when the Soviet secret police executed approximately 15,000 Polish officers in the spring of 1940.
The Sandinistas quickly distinguished themselves as one of the worst human rights abusers in Latin America, carrying out approximately 8,000 political executions within three years of the revolution. The number of “anti-revolutionary” Nicaraguans who disappeared while in Sandinista hands numbered in the thousands. By 1983, the number of political prisoners inside the new Marxist regime’s jails was estimated at 20,000.  This was the highest number of political prisoners in any nation in the hemisphere — except, of course, in Castro’s Cuba. By 1986, a vicious and violent Sandinista “resettlement program” forced some 200,000 Nicaraguans into 145 “settlements” throughout the country. This monstrous social engineering program entailed the designation of “free-fire” zones in which Sandinista government troops shot and killed any peasant of their choosing. 
The Sandinista Gulag also institutionalized torture. Political prisoners in Sandinista jails, such as Las Tejas,were consistently beaten, deprived of sleep and given electric shocks. They were routinely denied food and water and kept in dark cubicles known as chiquitas (little ones), that had a surface area of less than one square meter. These cubicles were too small to sit up in, were completely dark, and had no sanitation and almost no ventilation. Prisoners were also forced to stand for long periods without bending their arms or legs; they were locked into steel hot boxes exposed to the full force of the tropical sun; their daughters or wives were sexually assaulted in front of them; and some prisoners were mutilated and skinned alive before being executed. One sadistic Sandinista practice was known as corte de cruz; this was a drawing-and-quartering technique in which the prisoner’s limbs were severed from the body, leaving him to bleed to death. 
The result of all of these horrifying cruelties and barbarisms was yet another mass exodus from a country enslaved by communism with tens of thousands of Nicaraguans escaping and settling in Honduras, Costa Rica and the United States. 
As most Marxist regimes, the Sandinista despotism accompanied its internal repression with external aggression. With Soviet and Cuban aid
Carlos Eire says it’s conclusive proof that humans need to evolve further.
Linked to by Dustbury. Thank you!
Well, that didn’t take long!
Hugo Carvajal, a.k.a. “El Pollo” (the chicken), the Venezuelan consul candidate accused of providing weapons to the FARC, working with Iranian intelligence, and who’s under investigation for his role on the attacks to the Colombian consulate and the Jewish center in Caracas, was released by Aruban authorities, after Holland decided he did qualify for diplomatic immunity but declared him person non-grata.
This is yet another instance where America is perceived as weak, since
The arrest was based on a formal request from the United States. [Aruba's chief prosecutor Peter] Blanken said Aruba was “obliged to cooperate” because of a treaty with the United States.
Carvajal immediately flew back to Caracas, in time to attend the PSUV congress and walk into Nicolas Maduro’s arms:
The thing is that the swift, I repeat the word, retrieval of Carvajal means that not only the army has acted but also the drug traffickers, and all the thugs that could be affected
Raúl Stolk, in a post titled Chicken Run,
This, of course, raises a bunch of questions:
Miguel Octavio has a lot more questions:
-Why did Maduro want to name Carvajal as Consul to Aruba specifically? Is it related to the island being an offshore financial center?
-Why would a legal resident of the US, lend or lease his US company’s jet to someone in the US drug kingpin list in the Patriot’s Act era?
Juan Cristobal Nagel asks, Is there a link between Petrocaribe and Carvajal?
The Caribbean economies are mighty fragile. The last thing the US, the Netherlands, and other colonial powers need … is for Maduro’s instability to spill over into the islands.
Interesting question, but I think Nagel may overestimate U.S. influence on this issue.
More from Venezuela-Europa:
So: the man in charge of the foreign relations for the Kingdom of the Netherlands took the decision to liberate a man who
- came in with a false passport,
- had over $20000 with him and had not declared that money
- had not received the placet to become a consul,
- was accused by the US of having tortured and murdered two Colombian officials, of having helped a terrorist organisation and being responsible for cocaine trafficking.
To keep the caged bird from singing?
Daniel Duquenal expands on this,
The first thing, oddly, is the timing. Since Lopez arrest 5 months ago and the alleged clear evidence one wonders why did it take so long for the regime to start the trial. Waiting for the end of guarimbas? A trial can restart them at any time. Waiting for folks to go on vacation? There are no flights out! Expecting for scarcity problems to soften? They are not and will not for the foreseeable future. The answer is elsewhere,with the PSUV congress about to open. Some red meat thrown to the radical wing. Period, IMHO.
Another thing to wonder comes by asking the reverse question: why bother trying Lopez anyway? International pressure plays a role here, but not necessarily the way you may think. Sure enough there has been plenty of publications, the Washington Post for one pushing up the subject of Lopez dismal jail conditions. But the real deal brokers may be the people trying to organize Venezuela’s financial rescue.
Without a doubt, this is a show trial: Daniel concludes his post,
In case you still do not get it, the trial starts with 138 “witnesses” for the prosecution and only 1, ONE, for the defense
Thanks to Kepler, we can somehow confirm that our Chinese overlords are indeed taking the building. In this article from the website Archidead, looks like the Bank of China will turn “La Torre de David” as its South American HQ.
It’s going to be interesting to see what exactly the Chinese get from this, considering the ruinous state of Venezuela’s oil industry.
Maybe Homeland will do a follow-up episode on the “new”, Chinese, tower.