Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category

Cuba: Risky business

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Canadian businessman Cy Tokmakjian, age 74, was sentenced to 15 years in jail, effectively a life sentence, by the Communist regime, after

Cuba offered to free jailed Canadian executive Cy Tokmakjian in return for $55-million and company assets, his company said on Monday, but the deal fell through because the firm didn’t have the money and the businessman wanted to clear his name.

Of course he was denied that chance, was convicted of bribery and other economic charges, and the Communist thugs carried on as usual,

Cuba seized about $100-million worth of the firm’s assets on the island and also sent two Tokmakjian aides[,Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche,] to prison.

Peter Foster writes about the Risky business in Cuba
After forty years of ‘constructive engagement’ with Cuba, government-backed Canadian investment has effectively propped up the regime
Read the whole article.

Among other businessmen who have been imprisoned: Krikor Bayassalian, Nessin Abadi, Sarkis Yacoubian, Stephen Purvis, Amado Fakhre.

Venezuela: Why the military won’t rise up

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

While El Puma and a few others call for Venezuela’s military to rise up against the Cuban-run dictatorship, there’s a big reason why that’s unlikely: perks.

Perks, and the likelihood they already are running the country:

New Cars for the Army as Venezuelans Line Up for Food

The market with everything from subsidized meat to baby strollers, along with loans, new cars and apartments, are perks provided to the armed forces as the economy contracts, poverty rises and President Nicolas Maduro’s popularity sinks to a record low.

The benefits help ensure the loyalty of the military, while siphoning reserves away from the poor who have seen wage growth fall behind inflation, according to analysts, citizen activists and academics.

Since Maduro came to power 17 months ago, the armed forces have created their own television channel, housing program and bank, the only military-owned one outside Iran and Vietnam. A third of Venezuela’s 28 ministers and half the state governors are now active or retired officers, mostly companions of former paratroop commander and late President Hugo Chavez.

This echoes the Cuban model, where most businesses that cater to tourists are own by the military. In fact, Venezuela is now a military regime:

The rise in prices is not the only kind of inflation affecting Venezuela. Bloomberg reports that “its military now has between 4,000 and 5,000 generals” for a ratio of one general for every 34 servicemen (in the United States the ratio is one general per 1,490 servicemen). As expected, generals enjoy higher salaries and many other benefits. Moreover, the intelligence community believes that high-ranking army officers control most illegal activities in Venezuela, from smuggling to drug trafficking. In other words, military men are profiteering from the status quo.

Juan Cristobal Nagel:

Count the Armed Forces alongside Wall Street and China as the three groups Maduro will never default on. That´s why it pains me to read simplistic stuff such as García Mora’s latest, where he wonders out loud when the country will finally break.

Venezuela: Nothing to dance about

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Nicolas Maduro was in NYC for the climate change summit and the UN General Assembly – ignoring protesters, but he also took the Mrs. dancing in the South Bronx, where he indulged on the congas,

Over in Venezuela, while the cat was away the mice had nothing to dance about:

The opposition are beginning to collect signatures to force a constitutional assembly and remove Maduro before the 2019 presidential elections.

Unions Confront Venezuelan Leader
Workers are increasingly striking to protest President Maduro’s Labor policies; ‘the state is the new big boss,’ complains one union leader.

The discontent has spread to unions representing hundreds of thousands of state workers. The National Federation of Public Sector Workers, which represents administrative workers and teachers, this month publicly criticized the government for delaying contract renewals. Some of them expired as long as 10 years ago, leaving workers with devalued salaries.

Venezuela’s Bolívar Currency Hits Record Low on Black Market
The plummeting Venezuelan currency breached a new, symbolic low of 100 bolívares per dollar on the black market Friday.

The central bank’s international reserves meanwhile are down 29% to $21 billion since the start of 2013.

Francisco Toro writes about The Routinization of Barbarism:

Secret public spending is fundamentally unacceptable. Public spending not approved by a legislature is by its nature unconstitutional. The routinization of secret public spending is an outrage no minimally law govern country would yield an inch to, even by implication.

Small wonder that The Economist refers to Venezuela as Probably the world’s worst-managed economy.


Just what the world needs: Eau de Hugo! UPDATED

Friday, September 26th, 2014

UPDATE

I guess Raul’s not getting a cut,
Insólito escándalo en Cuba: Raúl Castro prohibió los perfumes “Ernesto” y “Hugo” [Incredible scandal in Cuba: Raúl Castro forbids “Ernesto” and “Hugo” perfume]

Earlier post:

No, not the German designer, the Venezuelan dictator:
“Eau de Revolution”: Cuba scents honor Che, Chavez

Cuba’s biggest producer of natural products has come up with a pair of colognes for the discerning supporter of international socialism who wants something more than just the iconic “Che” T-shirt.

A woodsy and refreshing citric scent with notes of talcum powder called “Ernesto” honors guerrilla leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara. For those seeking something softer and fruitier, there’s a blend with hints of mango and papaya called “Hugo,” for the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

“Cuba’s biggest producer of natural products” ought to produce some soap and shampoo that the locals could afford, but I digress.

I can’t imagine why death would smell like “a woodsy and refreshing citric scent with notes of talcum powder” in the bottles of Che stink, but the fruitier Chavez ought to have some notes of sulfur, in honor of Hugo Chavez’s 2006 appearance at the UN and his 2009 Copenhagen speech, where he went heavy on the sulfur. In 2006 he said George W. Bush smelled of it, and by 2009 it was Barack Obama’s turn.

The sulfur scent can be easily replicated – back when I was a kid, you could buy this, and what could be more suitable for the “discerning supporter of international socialism”?

Tip of the hat to the esteemed Carlos Eire, who finds the news completely nauseating,

Creating a line of perfumes that honors dead tyrants and sociopaths is the last thing that would have ever crossed my mind, but I’m no genius and am only 1/16th French.

Clearly neither Carlos nor I are “discerning supporters of international socialism.”

And,
My late uncle Ernesto, were he still alive, would surely have made several off-color jokes about Che stinking of a “woodsy and refreshing citric scent with notes of talcum powder.” I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagination.

NOTE: If anyone has a clip of the Pinky and the Brain Calvin Brain Subjugation ad, I’d love to post it!


Maduro goes to the South Bronx

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Carlos Eire tells us that Maduro visits Chavistas and Useful Idiots in the South Bronx

Apparently, Maduro found plenty of admirers, both among the natives and the Birkenstock-sandal-Mother Jones-and-Subaru crowd, most of whom seem to revere him as the current incarnation of the spirit of Hugo Chavez.

That, and an influx in millions of dollars in Venezuelan charity and free heating oil; Communists don’t live on Birkenstocks(*) alone.

In a dazzling display of smart diplomacy, the U.S. is copacetic,
Maduro recalls Chávez with trip to South Bronx as country makes bid for U.N. security council seat

Maduro, a year and a half into his term, arrived in New York with unanimous backing from Latin America and Caribbean nations to represent the region on the council beginning next year. The U.S. is uneasy with the nomination but says it has no plans to try to derail the bid, as it did in 2006.
. . .
Venezuela is expected to defend U.S.’ archenemies if it wins a seat on the council.

(*) Disclosure: I own Birkenstocks, too. Comfortable when you need them, and owned by capitalists.

Venezuela: Don’t talk about the Chikungunya

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

A new turn on government-controlled healthcare:

Venezuela Seeks to Quell Fears of Disease Outbreak
The government is seeking the arrest of a doctor for saying a string of deaths in a Maracay hospital could point to a mosquito-borne disease

A string of deaths in a hospital here has sparked fears of a potent, mosquito-borne disease and led authorities to seek a doctor’s arrest for allegedly sowing panic, leaving residents wondering how to explain their symptoms.

Angel Sarmiento, president of the College of Doctors in Aragua state, told reporters on Sept. 11 that a virus or bacteria may have been responsible for the deaths of eight patients in quick succession at the Central Hospital of Maracay. A ninth patient died three days after Dr. Sarmiento’s comments.

Insisting there was no cause for general alarm, President Nicolás Maduro last week accused Dr. Sarmiento of “psychological terrorism.”

The confusion in Maracay over the deaths—and over who to believe on their cause—shows how difficult it has become to arrive at a rational approach to public health in Venezuela. Part of the problem, doctors here say, is that the silencing of independent media has squelched the flow of information.

“To dissent, to have a position different from the government, leads to a witch hunt,” Dr. Sarmiento said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I am not a terrorist. I am a doctor.” He said he was still in Venezuela but was in hiding because he worried he would face a politically motivated prosecution.

Much of the fear has been focused on Chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted by mosquito bites that has been present in Africa and Asia for decades but only recently spread to the Americas. Though there is no cure for the disease, its symptoms can be alleviated with medication. The disease has killed at least 113 people this year in the Caribbean region, according to the Pan American Health Organization, with the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe hardest hit.

Two cents’ worth: bring back DDT.


Venezuela: Beyond-the-grave nepotism

Saturday, 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: 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.