Venezuela on the front page, again

I must admit that I haven’t been posting much about Venezuela because of personal reasons.

I blog because I greatly enjoy blogging. I enjoy not only posting at this blog, but also receiving emails, corresponding with readers and bloggers from all over the world, talking to other bloggers over Skype, and meeting with bloggers in person. When my family is out of town I go to New York and meet with other bloggers.

Through blogging I am also able to allow my visitors to participate in my thought process, something this guy realized way before I realized it myself (which is probably why he writes with the name of three dead shrinks. But I digress). And he’s correct: a lot of times I figure out my own position on an issue as I write the post.

Obviously I’m not the most insightful of bloggers, but my research is solid and current, and I always welcome more information. As I said, I really enjoy what I’m doing. But some news do get me down.

Since I purposely try to convey a message of cautious optimism in nearly all of my posts, I have become most reluctant to post about Venezuela.

My reluctance, however, is also matched by my desire to continue to convey accurate information on a subject about which I have posted for the past 3 years. It is a subject of national interest, particularly in view of the current seditious leadership in Congress.

The feedback I get from people who are living in Venezuela, or have travelled recently to Venezuela, is uniformly glum. Things are bad with no end in sight. The prospect of another 50-year-long regime like Cuba’s is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good prospect. Make no mistake, the road to perdition is well marked.

This morning I wasn’t planning on posting about Venezuela, but as I picked up the newspaper the headline, Farms Are Latest Target In Venezuelan Upheaval, continues to confirm that Venezuela is firmly positioning itself as Cubazuela:

Vicente Lecuna jabs a wall map of his Santa Isabel ranch so angrily that the map crashes to the floor. “I used to produce 10,000 tons of sugar cane a year,” says the 67-year-old Venezuelan cattleman. “Now it’s zero! Zero!” he shouts.

Two years ago, squatters seized about half of Mr. Lecuna’s 3,000-acre ranch, setting up a cooperative named “Re-Founding the Fatherland.” Far from being evicted, the squatters got loans and tractors from the government of President Hugo Chávez. They then uprooted the sugar cane and decided to try their hand at growing plantains.

Mind you, this is at a time where cane-sugar derived ethanol is increasingly becoming a resource for wealth creation.

By ruining the sugar industry, Chavez shot his country in the proverbial foot twice, not just because sugar-cane ethanol is now a commodity, but also because Venezuelan oil production declines as operational oil rigs are down.

But it’s all in the name of the revolucion

If the rhetoric smacks of the 1960s, it’s because Mr. Chavez dreams of transforming Venezuela just as Fidel Castro did Cuba. Mr. Chavez has already sharply cut private companies’ role in Venezuela’s lucrative oil industry, and uses the state oil company to funnel billions of dollars to his social projects. He has nationalized the leading telephone company and the main electric utility. He speaks of wanting to drive a stake through the heart of capitalism, limiting the role of money and installing a barter system.

Aside from destroying property rights, a cornerstone of democracy, one fact is ignored when dividing agricultural land into small parcels for the use of untrained people:

Agriculture is a science, and as such it needs to be managed by well-trained personnel that know what they’re doing.
I learned this at a young age: my father owned a farm; my brother is an agronomist.

Farming looks deceptively simple because so much of the work involved can be done by unskilled labor. But agriculture is a science that involves a body of knowledge and the application of tested practices that will not respond to a command economy like Chavez is trying to bring about:

The chaos in the countryside has contributed to shortages in basic items like milk and meat, a paradox in a country enjoying an economic boom traceable to high oil prices. Also spurring the shortages are price controls on certain foods that keep them priced below the cost of production. Meanwhile, 19%-plus inflation – as oil revenue foods the economy – spurs panic-buying: purchasing price-controlled and other goods the shopper might not immediately need for fear of having higher prices in the future or not finding the items at all.

The article goes on, explaining how thousands of slum-dwellers are paid a monthly stipend

to learn a hodgepodge of Marxism, “ancestral” Venezuelan farming methods, and Cuban fertilizer-making techniques

The Cuban fertilizer is known as humus de lombrices, and was highly praised in the film I watched last Friday at the PHRFF. It is nothing more than a pre-Medieval technique of growing worms in cow manure within a cement trough.

I assure you, worm humus does not sustain the large-scale farming necessary for a country such as Venezuela to feed itself.

More mismanagement had turned the Hato Paraima, a 120,000 acre cattle ranch, into fallow land.

A related article in today’s New York Times also mentions that there have been dozens of kidnappings of landowners by armed gangs in the last two years.

The bad news continues: Venezuela’s climbing GDP deemed to be unsustainable due to the lack of production and investment. Hardly surprising, considering how Nationalisation sweeps Venezuela

On 1 May, Labour Day, he took control of the last remaining private oil companies in the country.

Next are CANTV, the main telecom company; the electric company, Electricidad de Caracas; and the banks.

While nationalizing the banks, Chavez wants to branch out into international banking: apparently Chavez is going ahead with the proposed Banco del Sur, involving not only Venezuela but also Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. The countries involved, however, might not share Hugo’s goals – particularly if Venezuela wants them to pull out from the World Bank and the IMF. As the article points out,

Pulling out of the IMF would amount to a technical default on Venezuela’s bonds and would raise the cost of future borrowing. Leaving the World Bank would tear up bilateral investment treaties that Venezuela has signed with other countries (and which use the bank’s investment-dispute machinery).

While the Minister of Finance stresses that “No trouble or inconvenience is expected with regard to Venezuela’s scheduled repayment of the external debt, amortizations and interests to bond holders for an amount near USD 22 billion” if Venezuela leaves the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, it begs the question as to whose trouble and inconvenience.

The ministers involved have decided that the Banco will be just a development bank.

Development, indeed.

Update, Friday 18 May: The Wall Street Journal does Yaracuy, and The New York Times does Yaracuy. Don’t miss Daniel’s excellent essay on Land seizure in the bolivarian revolution

Update, Sunday 20 May: Hugo Chavez approaches the Mugabe level of economic mismanagement

Update, Monday 21 May: WSJ Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady predicts a gloomy outlook for Hugo Chavez’s price controls



Payment and hostages, and a few items from Latin America

So, We’ve Established That We’ll Pay:

In Afghanistan two weeks ago Hamid Karzai went along, against his better judgment, with an Italian demand that he free some Taliban prisoners in order to secure the release of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo. The Europeans, the Italians in particular, have a history of coddling hostage-takers with cash payments. Shortly after that deal was cut, two French aid workeers were seized as well as a dozen or so Afghans. The Taliban wanted two senior leaders released into exchange for Mastrogiacomo’s translator, Ajmal Naqshbandi. Friday, Karzai said enough. He was sorry he had done it and he won’t make the same mistake again.

Naqshbandi was beheaded Sunday. This was a criminal and tragic act. But his blood is not on Karzai’s hands. It is on the hands of the Taliban with whom we and the Afghan government are at war. And it is on the hands of the Italians who insisted on a deal to save one journalist. The Taliban is now upping the ante, threatening to behead four Afghan medical workers. And if the French aid workers are murdered, their families may want to take that up with the Italian government as well.


Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori’s been trying to escape justice for years now, and he’s hiding in Chile, but Peruvian authorities are worried that he may flee again to Japan, even when Japan supposedly kicked him out two years ago.

Fujimori, who came to power under democratic elections, has the “distinction” of being the only Latin American president to submit his resignation by fax after fleeing the country.


The WSJ had an article on Monday on Ecuador’s current constitutional crisis, Sharp Left Turn in Ecuador (by subscription only), where president Rafael Correa is following Hugo’s pattern:

To get the ball rolling on the new constitution, Mr. Correa has decreed a national referendum on whether the country wants to elect a constituent assembly with “full powers”. A “yes” vote would mean that the assembly would not only be charged with drafting the new law, but also be given authority to dissolve Congress, remake the courts and end term limits for the president.

Mr. Correa’s opponents feel certain that he is following the road mapped by Mr. Chavez, whose power grab rested mainly on a constitutional rewrite that allowed him to destroy competing institutions designed to act as checks on his power.

Expect more of the same if Hugo continues to export his Bolivarian revolution.


Speaking of Chavez, Miguel has a post on fudged statistics on highway deaths, and one on CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas and the end of an era. Investor’s Business Daily explains how Chavez Blows Venezuela’s Fortune

Venezuela’s state oil company is a mess. Revenue in 2006 came to $101 billion, down 26% from the year before, and profit was only $4.8 billion. The poor results were due in part to the $13 billion of investment money that Chavez diverted to handouts for the poor. It is estimated that the company needs to be spending at least $3 billion a year on infrastructural maintenance and capital improvements.

Chavez is also giving away at least 100,000 barrels a day to Cuba, something the ruling Castro brothers sell on the open market at their own profit, draining Venezuela’s finances further.

The biggest reason for the decline in exports is falling production, the inevitable result of a long string of broken contracts and private-property expropriations. The investment that’s been chased out is not being replaced, not even by other state oil companies that Chavez claims to favor. Investment from U.S. companies has fallen more than 90%.

Mora speculates on the You Tube revolution


Mexican president Felipe Calderon is achieving reforms, says the Economist, among them the first structural reform of the pension system in decades:

The pension reform raises the retirement age and phases in individual savings accounts, matching a similar reform of private-sector pensions approved a decade ago. It aims to restore solvency to a system that is already in deficit, even though Mexico is still a demographically young country.

The speed of its passage—it was debated for a week in the Chamber of Deputies and just two days in the Senate—points to careful backroom preparation by Mr Calderón’s advisers.


The Economist also has an article on the Falklands, Their island story

Update Sigmund Carl and Alfred has a most interesting post on immigration that you must read.

Val has a post From the rumor mill… on Olga Guillot. I grew up listening to her records, and found in You Tube a lovely version of Vete de mi

Tu, que llenas todo de alegria y juventud
que ves fantasmas en las noches de trasluz,
y oyes el canto perfumado del azul
Vete de mi.

No te detengas a mirar las ramas muertas del rosal
que se marchitan sin dar flor
mira el paisaje del amor
que es la razon para sonar y amar

Yo, que ya he luchado contra toda la maldad
tengo las manos tan desechas de apretar
que no te puedo sujetar
Vete de mi

Sera en tu vida lo mejor, de la neblina del ayer
cuando me llegues a olvidar
como es mejor el verso aquel
que no podemos recordar.

Songs like that don’t even need candlelight to be romantic.


"Say ‘ello to my leetle fren’", part 2

The caption says,

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, laugh with Bolivia’s President Evo Morales holds his hand during the inauguration of Rafael Correa as new president of Ecuador in Quito, Monday, Jan. 15, 2007

Makes you want to sing,

Feelings, wo-o-o feelings,
Wo-o-o, feelings again in my arms.

doesn’t it?

(thank you, M.)

Update, Sunday 21 January: Love, Look at the Two of Us

Prior posts ‘Jad’s junket
“Say ‘ello to my leetle fren'”
Shall we dance?


Chastity in the news, and other items

Not Sonny and Cher’s daughter Chastity, but chastity, via The Anchoress: Casual sex is a con: women just aren’t like men
Former groupie Dawn Eden explains how she realised morality made more sense for women than free love

Our culture – both in the media via programmes such as Sex and the City and in everyday interactions – relentlessly puts forth the idea that lust is a way station on the road to love. It isn’t. It left me with a brittle facade incapable of real intimacy. Occasionally a man would tell me I appeared hard, which surprised me as I thought I was so vulnerable. In truth, underneath my attempts to appear bubbly, I was hard – it was the only way I could cope with what I was doing to my self and my body.

The misguided, hedonistic philosophy which urges young women into this kind of behaviour harms both men and women; but it is particularly damaging to women, as it pressures them to subvert their deepest emotional desires. The champions of the sexual revolution are cynical. They know in their tin hearts that casual sex doesn’t make women happy. That’s why they feel the need continually to promote it.

The article was published in the London Times. I’ll be very surprised if the NYT would carry it in their Styles section. Just a couple of weekeds ago they had a feature article about a 50-yr old porn actress. Dinesh D’Souza writes on Pornography — The Real Perversion (h/t Maria)


Don’t miss LGF‘s videos of Dispatches: Undercover Mosque.

Afghan civilians stop terror attack at U.S. base. As U*2 put it,

This seems to clash with the “America out of everywhere” mantra which is incessantly bleated by the French mainstream preSS.


Say ‘ello to my leetle fren’? Well, My leetle fren’ has more fun than Hugo and Mahmoud!

Speaking of Hugo, he says Fidel doesn’t have cancer. Not if he’s dead, he doesn’t.
Update Dada lives: Elephants In Academia posts that CNN is concerned about Fidel Castro’s right to privacy.


Muslims say they’ll boycott Northwest Airlines. I predict the stock price will rise.

Via Larwyn,
American Digest says There’s No Stopping This Insanity Now

The media as red Cell

Saudi Arabia Joins Egypt In Supporting Bush Iraq Plan