Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category

Venezuela: Leopoldo Lopez to remain jailed while on trial UPDATED

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

After three days of closed hearings, Judge Adriana Lopez decided that Leopoldo López will be tried on charges of inciting violence at anti-government demonstrations, and must remain jailed for the duration of the trial. She said

Mr Lopez would face charges of damaging property, arson and instigating violence.

No date for the trial was announced.

The decision comes as no surprise, even when the WaPo refers to López as a “Venezuelan hardliner.” Were he a Colombian member of the FARC, would the WaPo refer to him as a “Colombian activist”?

But I digress.

Juan Cristobal Nagel examines the decision,

The whole document is a masterpiece of Dadaist chavismo.

The government’s entire case rests on the analysis of the speeches made by Leopoldo, speeches in which he dared question the legitimacy of the authorities, and told people to march and stay on the streets to demand democracy. The Prosecutors then weave a legal theory that, taken to its logical conclusion, makes Leopoldo responsible for everything that has happened since the Venezuelan protest movement began in February.

To say that the accusation makes no sense does a disservice to the nonsensical.

López has been in jail since February 18, when he handed himself over to the authorities during a huge demonstration.

UPDATE:
The WSJ reports Jailed Venezuela Opposition Leader to Face Trial in August


Carlos Eire’s Capt. Louis Renault moment

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Actor Claude Rains in Casablanca, playing Capt. Louis Renault,

National Book Award winner Carlos Eire, writing at Babalu,

Venezuela has been withholding funds from all airlines that service the country. How do they do it? The money paid by passengers has to go into a government account. Then that account never dispenses the funds to the airlines.

All told, they have siphoned over 4 billion dollars in this way. And the airlines are now waking up and demanding their money.

Officials in Caracastan have offered to pay a very small fraction of the money owed, and to do so in installments, over several years.

In the meantime, they are demanding that the airlines keep flying in and out of their country under the same arrangement, with the money from the passengers being funneled through a government account that never pays out.

The International Air Transport Association is shocked, shocked by this Castronoid behavior!

…. And in Caracastan, the negotiators are shocked, shocked that the IATA is crying foul!

I wonder if charter flight carrier GECA Airlines, owned by German Ferrer, son of high-ranking chavistas German Dario Ferrer and Luisa Ortega Diaz had any trouble collecting. Read more about the Ferrers in Chavistas en el Imperio.

Related:
Unfortunately, A Bleak Future For Venezuelans.

how can the Government pay its debts, when all of its operating (Not liquid, operating!) international reserves are not enough to pay the debt with the airlines?

Venezuela: US to sanction chavistas

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

U.S. House Passes Bill To Penalize Venezuela
Move Ratchets Up Pressure on President Nicolás Maduro’s Beleaguered Government.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill Wednesday to penalize Venezuelan government officials found to violate human rights in that country’s crackdown on a protest movement, ratcheting up pressure on President Nicolás Maduro’s beleaguered government.

The bill calls for President Barack Obama to draw up a list of Venezuelan officials who are alleged to have violated human rights, freeze any assets they might have in the U.S., and bar them from entering the country by either withdrawing or denying visas.

A similar bill has been approved by a Senate committee, and is headed for a vote on the Senate floor in coming days.

Passage of the bill also raises pressure on the Obama administration, which has been wary of passing any kind of sanctions for fear it could create a backlash by allowing Mr. Maduro to mobilize supporters against the U.S. and distract from Venezuela’s growing homemade troubles. The administration also fears that the sanctions could jeopardize attempts at reaching a negotiated solution between the government and the opposition.

What negotiated solution? The o-called “negotiations” fell apart already.

14 Dems opposed the sanctions:The

Democrats led by Michigan Rep. John Conyers wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday backing his administration. They also urged an exchange of ambassadors with Venezuela after a four-year hiatus.

Does this sound like a government willing to exchange ambassadors?

Venezuela alleged on Wednesday that the U.S. ambassador to Colombia has plotted to destabilize President Nicolas Maduro’s rule, adding to tensions between the two countries as the U.S. House approved a measure calling for sanctions on officials in the South American nation over human rights abuses.

A couple of days earlier, Mind your own business, Venezuela foreign minister tells Kerry.

In Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro welcomed the Democratic lawmakers’ initiative, saying he hopes “there is a bit of wisdom” in Washington. This wisdom from the guy who talks to a bird he thinks is Hugo CHavez.

Never mind, the Russian Foreign Minister says all problems should be solved on the constitutional basis, without threats of sanctions. In theory, they should; in reality . . .

Yleem D.S. Poblete posits that, in addition to the human rights violations,

For the sake of U.S. national security interests, the United States needs to act swiftly and resolutely to hold the Chavez-Maduro apparatus accountable.

The bill is now headed for a vote on the Senate floor.

Silvio Canto and I talked about this and other LatAm topics in last night’s podcast:
Elections in Colombia PLUS other US-Latin America stories of the week

Cuba: Why is the US Chamber of Commerce chief visiting?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Because they bought hook, line and sinker the propaganda bs:
U.S. Chamber of Commerce chief visits Cuba (emphasis added)

The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a group of American business executives visited a cooperative here Wednesday to become acquainted with the new forms of non-state management being pushed in Communist Cuba.

And,

Almost a year ago the service cooperatives began operating in Cuba, a novel iniative in a country that during five decades of ongoing revolution had only allowed that management formula to be applied in the agricultural sector.

So, five decades of Communist coops later, the agricultural sector continues to be in ruins. And Thomas Donohue hasn’t figured that yet?

Along with Donohue, Marcel Smits, the chief financial officer of Minnesota-based agribusiness giant Cargill, is there ” to assess the island’s business climate.”

Tweet of the Day: What Private Enterprise?

By Cuban democracy leader, Ailer Gonzalez Mena:The President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce praises the expansion of private enterprise in Cuba. What private enterprise? Castro’s no?

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) called it “shameful that a group like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would choose to visit the island gulag of Cuba where the tyrants owe billions of dollars to the private sector all over the world.”

Alberto de la Cruz points out,

There are two simple yet very important requirements for doing business with Cuba’s apartheid Castro dictatorship: 1) All business agreements have to be made with the Castro regime and all monies from that business must go through them, and 2) You are required to actively and consistently parrot, regurgitate, and disseminate Castro-communist propaganda. Furthermore, neither of these two requirements are negotiable and any prospective investor looking to do business in Cuba has only two options; they either comply fully with the demands or they must forgo doing any business in Cuba.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donahue is fully aware of these requirements and seems to have no issue complying with them.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) describes the hostile environment in Cuba, in a letter to Donohue, naming businessmen the regime has incarcerated:

While the Cuban government may be undertaking cosmetic changes in an attempt to attract badly-needed foreign investment and revive an economy that has suffered from a half-century of chronic mismanagement, I believe it is imperative to detail the frequently hostile operating environment that international business leaders have encountered in Cuba. The case of British businessman Stephen Purvis of Coral Capital is an irrefutable reminder of the ongoing risk faced by foreign businesses working in the country. Although Coral Capital was one of the largest private investors in Cuba – working closely with the Cuban government to renovate the Saratoga Hotel and develop the Bellomonte Country Club – the government eventually turned on Mr. Purvis, accused him of espionage and breaches of financial law, seized all of his assets, and imprisoned him for 16 months prior to his release in July 2013.

It is important to emphasize that Mr. Purvis’ misfortune is hardly uncommon. Canadian citizen, Cy Tokmakjian, President and CEO of the Tomakjian Group, has languished in a Cuban prison for nearly three years and still awaits trial. After providing the Cuban government with transportation, mining and construction equipment for several years, Mr. Tokmakjian was jailed in September 2011. The Cuban government seized his personal assets and those of his business, but never formally charged him with any wrongdoing. These examples are a clear indication of the complete lack of protection for foreign investment in Cuba, and should serve as a sharp warning for any company, including any U.S. business group, studying conditions in the country.

And let’s not forget working conditions in the island-prison

Furthermore, I am deeply concerned about the U.S Chamber of Commerce’s willingness to seek out a relationship with a regime that is in constant violation of international labor rights. More specifically, the Cuban government’s labor and employment practices are in direct violation of International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions on freedom of association, collective bargaining, discrimination, the protection of wages, and the abolition of forced labor. Regrettably, Cuba’s recent foreign investment law makes no efforts to bring the country’s poor labor conditions into accordance with international standards and, therefore, bears a paradoxical implication – it proposes beneficial changes for the state but ultimately ignores the benefits of the people.

Donohue says

his agenda was unhindered by the Cuban authorities and he was confident he was getting a “fair look” at Cuba

Yeah, right.

I wonder if Donohue is fluent in Spanish (looking at the above photo he seems to be traveling with an interpreter), and, if not, is he allowed to bring his own interpreter. Or is he allowed only a Cuban government-approved interpreter – for which he is billed? How much is he billed for the interpreter? How much is the interpreter actually paid?

The only certain thing coming out of this trip is that the oppression of the Cuban people will continue.


Venezuela: 9.8% in extreme poverty

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

To those out there thinking that chavismo has “improved the economy drastically and ameliorated poverty drastically”, chew on this:

9.8% of the population is living in extreme poverty (a 38% increase over the prior year), according to the Venezuelan government’s own figures, as Education Minister Héctor Rodríguez mentioned on February 25 during his speech at a Campaign for Eradicating Extreme Poverty event.

Keeping the populace poor is a feature, not a bug, for chavismo; Héctor Rodríguez himself has said, “We’re not going to pull them out of poverty so they can become protesters,” a sentiment echoed by Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who says. “The poor must remain poor, we need them like that, we must keep them poor and hopeful.” [quotes in Spanish here]

But back to the latest poverty numbers, Spanish newspaper ABC reports and I translate,

During the second half of 2013, 9.8% of the population, that is, 2,791,292 citizens lived in extreme poverty, while during the same period in 2012 the number was 7.1%, according to statistics published in Venezuelan daily «El Universal».

Looking at the article in El Universal (my translation), the number of households living in poverty increased by 28% in one year:

The percentage of Venezuelan households living in poverty increased from 21.2% in 2012 to 27,3% in 2013.

Contrast that with the chavistas rolling in dough. That’s 21st Century socialism.

The news of Chavez’s death was released on March, 2013. All this was happening while he was still alive, but his legacy lives on.

(h/t Café con Libertad · 27 de mayo de 2014)


Venezuela: Wives of jailed mayors win

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Patricia Gutierrez in San Cristobal

Rosa Brandonisio in San Diego

Wives of Jailed Venezuela Opposition Mayors Dominate Vote. The wives of Daniel Ceballos and Vicencio (Enzo) Scarano won by landslides in San Cristobal and San Diego, yet

The result is little more than a symbolic victory for Mr. Maduro’s detractors as both sides remain in a tenuous standoff after more than three months of off-and-on demonstrations that have cost at least 42 lives. Protests began by addressing rampant crime before taking on corruption as well as economic woes like high inflation and frequent shortages of basic goods.

Sunday’s vote is unlikely to change the political landscape. Mr. Maduro, the successor of late leftist firebrand Hugo Chávez, has emerged mostly unshaken with the help of soldiers to put down the unrest, while the opposition is split over its next step as the protest movement shows signs of fatigue.

Bloggers differ on this conclusion: Alberto de la Cruz sees it as Cuba’s puppet dictatorship in Venezuela takes major hit in mayoral elections.

Daniel Duquenal explains,

All the efforts of the regime to brow beat these cities, to divide opposition, to promote abstention have failed and it looks like the gains were made more at the expense of chavismo than possible abstention. there is no way around, this is a major set back for the regime, a major confirmation that the opposition is now an electoral majority. Days of reflection for all ahead. Chavismo strategy is a dead end of violence and repression. The MUD cannot possibly win if it does not find a more durable way to tie protest and elections and clear message as it was, miraculously, the case today. Yes, I wrote miraculously.

Juan Cristobal Nagel has more on Polls vs. chavismo vs. guarimbas vs. naysayers and sees it as

a heavy defeat for chavismo. It shows that the government continues losing support, unable to muster its forces even when faced with political neophytes and an opposition that is both financially and physically exhausted. If they were counting on political infighting within the opposition to keep their voters home, they were mistaken.

I hope the opposition is able in future elections to again circumvent the chavista intervention in election results.

Highly-connected chavistas continue to loot the oil money. Alek Boyd is on the trail of Derwick Associates:

The Derwick boys aren’t in the wealth-creation league of Onassis-type of entrepreneurs: they’re simply laundering proceeds from ill gotten contracts their school chums got for them thanks to chavismo’s rampant corruption and nepotism.

Alek also has an update on Raúl Gorrín

The City of Miami recently declared Raul Gorrin -Boligarch owner of TV channel Globovision- persona non grata, after reports have surfaced about his property purchases in Cocoplum. U.S. authorities would do well in checking backgrounds of property owners at Jade Ocean..

Indeed.

Bob Menendez on the Venezuelan nightmare

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Senator Bob Menendez, D-NJ, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes about The Venezuelan nightmare (emphasis added)

Venezuela’s alleged socialist paradise has morphed into a verifiable real-life nightmare.
At a time when many countries in the Americas are experiencing an economic ascent underpinned by growing middle classes, every indicator reveals that Venezuela is regressing at an alarming rate.

Bread shortage frustrates Venezuelans Venezuela’s ‘erosion of Democratic order’

Frightening levels of criminal violence are coupled with economic freefall, punctuated by sky-high inflation and a scarcity of basic food items.

In Venezuela today, the rule of law is abandoned, the judiciary is hollowed out, freedom of the press is nonexistent, and corruption runs rampant. Drug traffickers collude regularly with government officials and the free flow of narcotics out of the country poses a threat to hemispheric security, as well as to the United States.

Read the whole thing.

In fact, Venezuela’s Dictatorship No Longer Cares About Appearances.

Silvio Canto and I touched on the subject in yesterday’s podcast.

As if things weren’t bad enough, there’s a potable water shortage.

CNN has more on Venezuela:


Cuba and moral blindness

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

What do The Council of the Americas and Gabriel García Márquez have in common?

My latest, Cuba and moral blindness, is up at Da Tech Guy’s. Read it, and hit the tip jar, please.

UN: Cuba to chair World Health Assembly

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

The UN believes statistics put out by totalitarian regimes, so, obscene as this may be, it comes as no surprise:
UN Elects Cuba to Chair World Health Assembly Even as Cubans Lack Aspirin, Basic Health

The consensus election today by 194 WHO member states chose the sole candidate, Cuban Health Minister Roberto Tomas Morales Ojeda.

“The sole candidate” makes me suspect that no one reputable would risk their credibility chairing this farce, n’est-ce pas?

UN Watch condemns “UN handing propaganda victory to a dictatorship” and lists several instances of the abhorrent medical conditions Cubans must endure in the island-prison:

While the Cuban articles claimed the Castro regime has achieved numerous health milestones, experts and international observers say the health system is in disarray.

Although Cuba has sent thousands of doctors to Venezuela in exchange for oil, their doctors are considered poorly trained:

Back in 2008 Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez described how, if you’re admitted to a hospital, you must bring everything:

The room has a thin light and the air smells of pain. I begin to unpack what I’ve brought. I take out the little sack of detergent and the aromatic with which I’ll clean the bath; its aroma floods everything. With the bucket we can bathe the lady, using the cup to pour, because the water faucet doesn’t work. For the great scrubbing I brought a pair of yellow gloves, afraid of the germs that spread in a hospital. Mónica tells me to continue unpacking and I extract the package of food and a puree especially for the sick. The pillow has been a wonder and the set of clean sheets manages to cover the mattress, stained with successive effluvia.

The most welcome is the fan, which I connect to two peeled wires hanging from the wall. I continue to unpack and come to the little bag of medical supplies. I have obtained some needles appropriate for the IV, because the one in her arm is very thick and causes pain. I also bought some gauze and cotton on the black market. The most difficult thing—which cost me days and incredible swaps—is the suture thread for the surgery they are going to do tomorrow. I also brought a box of disposable syringes since she yells to high heaven when she sees the nurse with a glass one.

If you want photos, The Real Cuba posts them in all their gut-churning detail.

Could someone please explain why the U.S. continues to host and fund the UN?


Venezuela: Crackdown time

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

faustaMy latest at Da Tech Guy Blog,
Venezuela: Crackdown time is up.

Please read it and hit Da Tip Jar!