Thursday, June 30, 2005

Jun 30/05 - On Venezuela's fiscal imprudence

PMBComment: the Economist manages to fumble an obvious story about abuse of power and misuse of public funds. Stating cavalierly that “even if some is stolen, much of the money from the BCV may end up funding social projects”, the writers and editors miss the point that history is full of examples in which this type of largesse and the popularity it brings temporarily to the dispenser have little to do with effective, democratic and accountable governance. Any election bought in this manner is bound to be unfair and less than transparent. Keep in mind that campaign finance laws have been implemented world-wide in order to level the playing field and keep the incumbents from eternizing themselves. My only explanation for this weak story from this superb outfit is that they tried to shove too much info in too little a space. No even the final sentence “One day they may come to rue their complaisance”, compensates for their glaring lack of connection between fiscal prudence and electoral fairness. PMB

The Economist

Venezuela
Bank raid

Jun 30th 2005 | CARACAS
From The Economist print edition


Reserve money for the revolution

HUGO CHÁVEZ, Venezuela's left-wing president, has long cast a covetous eye at the foreign-currency reserves of the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV), the country's central bank. With prices for Venezuela's oil exports at record levels and with strict exchange controls in place, those reserves have climbed to almost $30 billion. This, say officials, is $10 billion-12 billion more than is needed to back the country's currency. The “excess”, they say, should be turned over to the government to spend on Mr Chávez's socialist revolution.

Last year, the BCV yielded to government pressure and allowed Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state oil monopoly, to divert $2 billion of its dollar revenues that would normally be deposited at the bank into a new fund for social projects. Despite the objections of some BCV officials, the government has taken this to be a “rotating” fund, to be topped up as and when necessary.

Now this fund is to be absorbed into a bigger one, called Fonden (the National Development Fund). A bill close to approval by the National Assembly will require the bank to divert at least $5 billion into Fonden this year, and to make annual payments thereafter. These billions, officials cheerfully admit, constitute a parallel budget whose spending will be decided by the president alone. That looks to be against the constitution, drawn up under Mr Chávez in 1999: Article 314 states that “no kind of spending will be made which has not been foreseen in the Budget Law.”

Orthodox economists are aghast. But most concede that the transfer of funds in itself is unlikely to lead to a swift devaluation or to higher inflation. Government spokesmen say that the money will not be spent in Venezuela but instead will be used to pay foreign debts or to purchase capital goods abroad. However, the bill's text refers to education and health projects, as well as to vague “special and strategic situations”.

Opponents see another blow to Venezuela's institutions. The constitution sets as the BCV's objectives price stability and the maintenance of the value of the currency. The BCV is prohibited by law from endorsing or underwriting deficit financing. But in practice, it is coming to resemble a government piggy-bank. PDVSA, too, is being used to further Mr Chávez's purposes: on June 29th, he signed an energy co-operation pact with 13 Caribbean countries, including Cuba. This codifies, and may expand, schemes under which Venezuela supplies subsidised oil. In return, it can expect diplomatic support in regional bodies.

Mr Chávez often calls on Venezuelans to fight corruption, which the government blames on capitalist thinking. Opponents point out that the president is dismantling the checks and balances required to deter it. But even if some is stolen, much of the money from the BCV may end up funding social projects. Venezuelans are likely to show their appreciation for that by supporting Mr Chávez in a parliamentary election in December. One day they may come to rue their complaisance.



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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jun 29/05 - Sobre el nuevo recalentamiento de la relacion EEUU-Venezuela

PMBComentario: es evidente que entramos en una nueva etapa en la confrontación EEUU-Chávez. El mismo Departamento de Estado que avalo con asombrosa premura los resultados de un referéndum colmado de irregularidades, hoy pone por escrito - sin revelar pruebas por supuesto - sus preocupaciones en torno a las actividades anti-democráticas de Hugo Chávez. Seria recomendable que antes de lanzarse a escribir estas notas que desconciertan a sirios y troyanos, los EEUU circulen un mea culpa, o al menos una explicación coherente, de parte de quienes, como Colin Powell & Co, optaron por escuchar los cantos de sirena - y los temores de guerra civil - de Jimmy Carter en la madrugada del 16 de Agosto. La democracia Venezolana fue herida de muerte cuando un par de asustados (¿o chantajeados?) "facilitadores": Cesar Gaviria y el inefable Jimmy Carter, pretendieron - sin éxito observable - volverse "observadores" de la solución que con tanta dificultad ellos mismos creían haber encontrando para la crisis venezolana. Quienes ridiculizamos constantemente a estos improvisadores de oficio vimos con estupor como estos dos chiflados dejaban pasar una y otra, y otra, irregularidad del CNE (órgano electoral) con el solo propósito de evitar ser ellos quienes con justificadísimas objeciones descarrilaran su querida "vía" electoral.

"Legitimado" por los resultados de un referéndum que fue fraudulento desde la infancia, el Sr. Chávez se ha sentido a sus anchas para utilizar los recursos de TODOS los Venezolanos, sin control y ni recato, para esclavizar a unos países paupérrimos - en mas de un sentido - que sufren los embates de unos precios del petróleo que suben, entre otras razones, por la manipulación permanente que hace Hugo Chávez del tema petrolero. Venezuela hoy debería estar produciendo 5.1 millón de barriles si Hugo Chávez no hubiese abortado en 1999 el plan de expansión que heredo totalmente financiado. Venezuela pudiera estar produciendo los 3.2 millones que dice producir, si la respuesta a el paro petrolero no hubiese sido botar a mansalva a 19,000 empleados de PDVSA, incluyendo a casi todos lo que sabían algo del tema. Los 2.5 millones de barriles que Venezuela aporta a duras penas y de forma desordenada al mercado son factor importante en el nivel de precios que observamos todos y sufren unos mas que otros. Venir ahora a dársela de generoso con un dinero mal habido y pésimamente administrado es la peor hipocresía...si ignoramos lo que menciono en el primer párrafo y las citas de algunos de los "agradecidos" asistentes a la recién terminada Cumbre Energética de Jefes de Estados del Caribe. PMB



Durante la cumbre de Puerto la Cruz

EEUU envió informes contra Venezuela a países del Caribe

Al igual que en la cumbre de la OEA, el Departamento de Estado envió a los países que participaban en la Cumbre Energética de Jefes de Estado un comunicado acusando a Venezuela de desestabilizar.


Prensa MCI

29 de Junio de 2005, 11:14 PM


El presidente de la Republica, Hugo Chávez Frías, denunció que el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos puso a circular un documento en contra de Venezuela, lo que calificó como una falta de respeto a todos los países de la región.

En el segundo debate de la Cumbre Energética de Jefes de Estado y/o de Gobierno del Caribe el mandatario Venezolano dio lectura a un comunicado con fecha del 27 de junio, y dirigido a los gobiernos de la Comunidad del Caribe (Caricom). El texto dice:

Tenemos entendido que los líderes del Caricom se reunirán con el Presidente Chávez, en Caracas, a fin de debatir la temática energética y otros relacionados, los días 28 y 29 de junio. EEUU espera que los dueños de la Caricom aprovecharan esta oportunidad para reiterar la importancia del respeto, de todo continente, de los principios democráticos, al tiempo que se discuten temas económicos.

El apoyo a la democracia en Venezuela, y en otras partes, es la piedra angular de la política exterior del Presidente Bush. EEUU está seriamente preocupado por la creciente amenaza a la democracia en Venezuela, la concentración de poder en el Ejecutivo, la politización del poder judicial, una autoridad electoral viciada que no inspira confianza, y el ataque a los derechos civiles básicos y al estado de derecho; como país signatario de la Carta Democrática Interamericana, Venezuela está en la obligación de respetar la democracia, los derechos humanos y el estado de derecho.

Conociendo la larga tradición y solidos principios democráticos de la Caricom, esperamos que tomen nota de la importancia que Venezuela respete la Carta Democrática Interamericana y preserve sus tradiciones democráticas.


El mandatario interrumpió la lectura y calificó estos señalamientos como una acusación indigna.

Seguidamente, prosiguió con la lectura del documento emanado por el Departamento de Estado:

Existen cada vez mas pruebas de que Venezuela está utilizando activamente su riqueza petrolera para desestabilizar a sus vecinos democráticos en las Américas mediante el financiamiento de grupos extremistas y antidemocráticos en Bolivia, Ecuador, y en otras partes. EEUU está trabajando para ayudar a nuestros amigos democráticos del continente y disuadir cualquier interferencia en los asuntos internos de las democracia de la región.


Al culminar la lectura, el presidente Chávez hizo un señalamiento enérgico: "Si alguien ha interferido y ha atropellado las libertades y la democracia en este continente, ése fue el gobierno de EEUU. ¿Quién apoyó a Pinochet y a las dictaduras mas salvajes que han llenado de sangre estas tierras? El gobierno de los EEUU. Ahí esta la historia que los señala con su dedo despiadado y acusador".

Al rechazar estas acusaciones "estoy defendiendo la dignidad de este pueblo y esta patria, además el atropello es contra todos".

Esta carta "es una falta de respeto a nuestro pueblo y a nuestro gobierno, me indigna, es una agresión mas, un intento mas del imperialismo salvaje de los EEUU que ha llenado de sangre la América".

Igual que en la OEA

Algo similar a esto ocurrió en la última reunión de la OEA. Hace unas semanas atrás, "unos funcionarios del Departamento de Estado repartiendo unos papeles, tratando de convencer a nuestros amigos del hemisferio de que el conflicto que reventó en Bolivia -esos días- estaba siendo impulsado por Venezuela; el propio subsecretario de Estado así, lo dijo en plena sesión de la OEA, mientras yo estaba en Caracas, muy preocupado, llamando a Carlos Mesa, llamando a Evo Morales, llamando a Lula, a Kirchner".

Siempre "el gobierno de Estados Unidos acusándonos abiertamente; razones tendríamos incluso para romper con ese gobierno, por dignidad. No sé si lo haremos algún día, pero son tantas agresiones injustas, tanta falta de respeto tiene un límite, Cristo decía que cuando a uno le dan una cachetada hay que poner la otra mejilla, pero con esto ya tenemos las dos mejillas moradas de tantas cachetadas"

Chávez agradeció a los países del área caribeña por mantenerse solidarios con Venezuela. También recordó la profecía bolivariana, cuando el Libertador en 1826 escribió: "Los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica parecen destinados por la providencia para plagar a la América de miserias a nombre de la libertad". En esos mismos días Bolívar también señaló: "a la cabeza de nuestro continente veo una gran nación, hostil y capaz de todo"

Para finalizar, el presidente venezolano evidenció la inmoralidad del gobierno estadounidense que al momento de ocurrir una tragedia natural en la zona envía a los gobiernos del Caribe cheques por 10 y 20 mil dólares de "ayuda", "mientras gastan en armas 20 mil millones de dólares anuales. Esa es una gran burla".

Algo sobre la Cumbre:

El Universal
CUMBRE / Trinidad y Tobago y Barbados cautelosos ante propuesta venezolana
Petrocaribe nació bajo la duda
Los jefes de Estado y de Gobierno reunidos en la I Cumbre Energética del Caribe un acuerdo que activa el mecanismo, aunque sin llenar las expectativas que se había formulado el presidente Hugo Chávez

PEDRO PABLO PEÑALOZA

ENVIADO ESPECIAL EL UNIVERSAL

Puerto La Cruz. Pese a todas las fallas de logística que rodearon al I Encuentro Energético sobre Petrocaribe, una virtud debe reconocérsele a los organizadores del evento: sin duda, fue un acierto tomar la foto de rigor antes de la compleja segunda reunión de trabajo de los jefes de Estado y de Gobierno que asistieron a la cita de Puerto La Cruz.

Para esa hora (alrededor de las 4:30 pm) aún los participantes podían esbozar una amplia sonrisa, aunque ya las divergencias habían empezado a aflorar en la primera sesión donde se discutió el acuerdo que sentaría las bases de la iniciativa petrolera diseñada por Caracas para sus vecinos caribeños.

Apuntador en mano izquierda, el presidente Hugo Chávez explicó en tono didáctico, láminas mediante, los alcances y beneficios de este pacto. Con la excepción del mandatario cubano, Fidel Castro, quien se permitía interrumpir brevemente a su homólogo venezolano, los invitados escuchaban con atención y en silencio la exposición de la propuesta.

Pero luego del monólogo, los huéspedes abrieron la boca y lanzaron preguntas que muchos observadores daban, a estas alturas, como claramente respondidas. "¿Nuestra participación está limitada a la compra de combustible? ¿Este acuerdo nos obliga a tener una suerte de exclusividad con Venezuela?, porque nosotros también compramos a Trinidad y Tobago, y Suriname", inquirió Samuel Hinds, primer ministro de Guyana.

Antes había tomado la palabra el presidente de República Dominicana, Leonel Fernández, quien tras apoyar con fervor esta idea destacó que "sería importante precisar algunos aspectos del esquema: Petrocaribe funcionará en adición al acuerdo de San José y el Acuerdo de Cooperación Energética de Caracas. Imagino que, en algunos casos, estos pactos se pueden superponer".

Posteriormente, Fernández recomendó fijar "cuál es la referencia del precio del petróleo que se tomaría en el mercado internacional", y recalcó que Petrocaribe serviría para "consolidar la estabilidad política de la región".

Empero, los cuestionamientos más contundentes provinieron del primer ministro de Trinidad y Tobago, Patrick Manning. "La implicación inmediata de esto es que los productos de Venezuela tendrán una ventaja competitiva en relación con los de mi país. Creo que olvidaron nuestro suministro y quisiéramos analizar en detalle esta propuesta", comentó Manning, quien advirtió que "esto es complicado porque algunas de las instalaciones son propiedad de las corporaciones multinacionales y no de los Estados".

Silencio informativo

Con los periodistas encerrados en un salón donde, presuntamente, se llevaría a cabo una rueda de prensa que jamás sucedió, avanzó la segunda sesión de trabajo que pudo ser cubierta gracias a una pequeña pantalla plana ubicada en el lugar, que funcionó hasta que "sorpresivamente" la reunión salió del aire.

En ese instante, la polémica subía de tono entre las delegaciones y Chávez admitía las diferencias que afectaban la unidad de criterios. Mientras, en los pasillos corría un rumor afirmando que Guyana, Trinidad y Tobago, Santa Lucía, Barbados y Bahamas no suscribirían el documento.

"El problema es que este papel no fue negociado y conversado por todos, sino que fue puesto por Venezuela, sin recibir mayores observaciones del resto", argumentaba un representante de una comitiva extranjera para justificar la incomodidad de ciertos dignatarios de la zona.

No obstante, al final sólo Trinidad y Tobago y Barbados (este último supuestamente por solidaridad con el primero) se abstuvieron de rubricar el Acuerdo de Cooperación Energética Petrocaribe.

Una fuente aseveró que en la determinación de Puerto España habría pesado, además de lo manifestado por Manning, "su rechazo a la mención de la Alternativa Bolivariana de las Américas (ALBA)". Oficialmente se diría que "solicitó prórroga para evaluar su adhesión al convenio".

Los otros 14 sí aplaudieron con fervor la aparición de Petrocaribe; sin embargo, llamó la atención que la encargada de Protocolo que leyó un extracto del papel firmado por estas naciones no hizo referencia al ALBA, a pesar de que el convenio oficial incluye este término en su apartado inicial y le dedica su segundo capítulo al denominado "Fondo ALBA-Caribe para el desarrollo económico y social".

La suspensión de la rueda de prensa que estaba en agenda causó suspicacias entre los comunicadores que sufrieron este evento y a sus organizadores, que complicaron la labor reporteril.

"Realmente, aquí lo que se dio fue un paso muy pequeño, todavía falta mucho por andar y estamos lejos del objetivo final", admitió sin disimular su frustración un miembro del grupo venezolano, minutos después de que la muchacha del Protocolo anunciara con bombos y platillos: "surge indeteniblemente (sic) Petrocaribe".

Los beneficios

Un financiamiento más laxo que el acuerdo energético de Caracas, pagaderos a un máximo de 25 años y financiamiento de hasta 50% de la factura energética, será el alcance de Petrocaribe, según la propuesta presentada por el presidente Hugo Chávez.

El jefe de Estado también impulsó la creación del Fondo ALBA-Caribe, para el cual dijo aportaría 50 millones de dólares. En la mesa redonda, Chávez explicó que el porcentaje del financiamiento a largo plazo dependerá del precio del petróleo, para ello manejó escenarios de 15 a 100 dólares el barril de crudo. "Como ya los precios pasaron la barrera de los 40 dólares, hemos decidido en este convenio que proponemos extender esa escala (del acuerdo de Caracas)".

"Si el precio sube a 50 dólares se incrementaría a 40% el financiamiento y en la hipótesis que no quisiera imaginarla, pero como en algunos escenarios existe, me atrevo a traerla aquí. Si por alguna razón el precio del barril sobrepasara los 100 dólares ¡Dios no lo quiera!, ofreceríamos financiamiento de 50% de la factura petrolera a los países signatarios. Además el período de gracia lo extenderíamos de 1 hasta 2 años en este convenio", puntualizó el mandatario nacional, quien al percatarse que algunos porcentajes estaban errados en la tabla que leía, fue ayudado por su homólogo cubano, Fidel Castro.

Destacó que el Pacto de San José y el convenio Energético de Caracas, según el "plan estratégico, lleva implícita la articulación de todos esos convenios y la unificación en la iniciativa Petrocaribe".

Chávez precisó que "independiente de cualquier nivel de precio (del petróleo) en el convenio de Petrocaribe estamos dispuestos a extender a dos años de gracia el período previsto" para la cancelación de la factura.

Al referirse al financiamiento a corto plazo "pasaríamos de 30 a 90 días el pago correspondiente de la factura. En cuanto al pago diferido se mantendrá las mismas bases del acuerdo de Caracas, 17 años, incluyendo los 2 de gracia, mientras el precio se mantenga por debajo de 40 dólares". Aclaró que si el precio del crudo supera esta cifra "el período de pago se extenderá a 25 años, incluyendo los dos de gracias y el interés no sería de 2%, sino bajaría a 1%".

Para el pago diferido, según el convenio, Venezuela está dispuesta a aceptar bienes y servicios y, en casos especiales, precios preferenciales".

Petrocaribe funcionaría _según la propuesta presidencial_ a través de un Consejo Ministerial, conformado por los ministros de Energía y Petróleo o sus similares de cada país. A su vez tendría una Secretaría Ejecutiva, presidida por el titular venezolano. "Se reuniría obligatoriamente una vez al año.

"Y el que falle pudiera ser retirado de la organización. ¡No!, ¡no!, yo no puedo ir. ¡No!, hay que ponerle a esto seriedad y formalidad", advirtió.

Explicó que en el marco de la Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (ALBA), su contrapropuesta al Area de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA), propuso la creación de ALBA_Caribe, para el funcionamiento de Petrocaribe. Sin mayores detalles adelantó que el fondo se alimentaría "de algunos aportes de instrumento financiero y no-financiero", así como de un porcentaje a convenir del suministro petrolero que Venezuela otorgue a cada nación caribeña.

Reiteró que a través de PDVCaribe será transportado "sin intermediación" el petróleo y sus derivados. "Los fletes que resulten de estas operaciones se cobrarán al costo". La nueva filial de Pdvsa organizará una red de buques y almacenaje "incluyendo, donde sea posible, capacidad de refinación y distribución".

Con información de María Lilibeth Da Corte


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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Jun 15/05 - Sobre la caída del poder de José Dirceu, alumno predilecto de Fidel y "corruptor" del PT

PMBComentario: Hace solo unos días el verdadero "presidente" de Brasil:
José Dirceu, dio una entrevista al diario El País de Madrid (ver abajo). Con su
descaro típico, este ex-guerrillero, entrenado en Cuba, hoy mercader
impúdico de la política, quiso darle crédito a Chávez por hacer lo que
"no se ha hecho durante cien años en Venezuela. Usa los ingresos del
petróleo para modernizar el país y conseguir un mayor equilibrio
social." Hay que ser muy ignorante - o algo más - para decir soberana
babosada. Lo que no se había hecho en un siglo es darle contratos a
mansalva a unos brasileños populistas, corruptos y atorrantes que
llegaron después de mucho al poder en un simple “quítense ustedes para
ponernos nosotros”.

Y COMO ERA DE ESPERARSE DESDE HACE MUCHO TIEMPO...

Hoy se anuncio la destitución del Sr. Dirceu por hacer lo que siempre ha hecho.

Me atrevo a decir que es una medida tardía de Lula quien difícilmente
escapara responsabilidad por un escándalo que define el estilo que
implantó el PT desde que llego al poder. Los amigos de Chávez tienen
todos el mismo signo, y con el tiempo el y ellos terminaran repudiados
y enjuiciados por quienes creyeron su canto de sirenas. PMB

Extracto de entrevista de Dirceu con El Pais, Madrid, 7 de Junio de 2005:

Pregunta: .......¿Cómo ve al presidente Hugo Chávez?

Respuesta: Chávez no es un elemento desestabilizador. Su conducta es
consecuencia de varios intentos ilegales de apartarle del poder y de
un golpe de Estado fallido. Nuestra política es integrar a Venezuela
en América Latina, en Mercosur. Es lo que se debió hacer con Cuba y no
se hizo. Todo lo contrario del bloqueo. Chávez está haciendo lo que no
se ha hecho durante cien años en Venezuela. Usa los ingresos del
petróleo para modernizar el país y conseguir un mayor equilibrio
social. Está muy bien que el presidente Zapatero trabaje para integrar
a Chávez. EE UU es un país que quiere vender armas a todo el mundo.

¿Cómo puede objetar que España le venda armas a Venezuela? Nosotros
también compramos los mismos aviones a España. Los necesitamos para
patrullas de seguridad en el Atlántico Sur.

NOTICIA ESPERADA DESDE HACE MUCHO TIEMPO:

Lula decide reemplazar a su jefe de gabinete, José Dirceu

BRASILIA, 14 (Reuters). El presidente de Brasil, Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva, decidió reemplazar a su jefe de gabinete, José Dirceu, y otros
ministros, mientras el diputado Roberto Jefferson ratificó el martes
su denuncia de que el partido del mandatario pagó a legisladores por
su apoyo.

Una alta fuente del gobierno dijo a Reuters que Dirceu, uno de los
hombres fuertes de la administración de centroizquierda de Lula,
acordó con el Mandatario que dejará su cargo y reasumirá su mandato
como diputado para ser el jefe del bloque del oficialista Partido de
los Trabajadores (PT).

La fuente agregó que la salida de Dirceu será acompañada por otros
cambios ministeriales, en momentos en que Lula enfrenta su peor crisis
política desde que asumió la presidencia en enero del 2003.

Dirceu, que estuvo exiliado durante parte de la dictadura militar que
gobernó Brasil entre 1964 y 1985 y recibió entrenamiento guerrillero
en Cuba, había realizado desde la jefatura del gabinete críticas a la
política económica ortodoxa de Lula.

La noticia de su salida animó a los mercados brasileños y la Bolsa de
São Paulo cerró con un alza de casi 3 por ciento, mientras operadores
señalaban que el ministro de Hacienda, Antonio Palocci, refuerza aún
más su posición en el gobierno.

La crisis política en Brasil se desató tras las denuncias del diputado
Jefferson, un estrecho aliado de Lula, divulgadas la semana pasada en
una entrevista a un diario local.

El legislador dijo que el PT pagó mensualidades a diputados de dos
partidos, también parte de la heterogénea alianza legislativa que
apoya al presidente Lula.

El martes, en un testimonio ante el Consejo de Etica de la Cámara de
Diputados, Jefferson ratificó sus denuncias, pero reiteró que no
cuenta con pruebas para respaldarlas, como fotos o grabaciones, lo que
causó alivió en los mercados.

"Confirmo integralmente las entrevistas dadas", dijo el diputado,
quien justo este martes cumplió 52 años. "Pruebas no tengo", agregó.

Jefferson reafirmó también que varios ministros, entre ellos Dirceu,
conocían el supuesto esquema de pagos y acusó al gobierno de maquinar
una campaña de prensa para culpar a su Partido Trabalhista Brasileño
(PTB) en casos de corrupción denunciados en la empresa estatal de
correos.

Agregó que Dirceu mantenía un esquema de aislamiento sobre Lula, al
que describió como un hombre bueno, bien intencionado y honesto.
"Querían tirar el cadáver de la corrupción al PTB. ¡El PTB no es
responsable por la corrupción en los correos, no es señor Silvio
Pereira (secretario de organización del PT), no es señor José
Dirceu!", dijo Jefferson.

Histriónico y mordaz, Jefferson agradeció ser convocado a declarar
ante el Consejo de Etica, que debe investigar sus acusaciones y podría
anular su mandato como legislador por quebrar el decoro legislativo.


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Friday, June 10, 2005

Jun 10/05 - On US Senator Mel Martinez's criticism of US policy towards Latin America

PMBComment: Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida), who shares WYSIWYG traits with George W. Bush, bluntly exposed in Florida one of the worst hidden secrets in Washington: when it comes to Latin America, what little interest does exist seldom, if ever, morphs into effective and durable policy.

Being of the opinion that President Bush indeed cares one iota about the region, I am nevertheless convinced that many of those he has chosen to implement and communicate his Latin policy have ill served him and their country. The growing anti-US sentiment in the region is undeniable and troublesome. Under the cover of US and Bush-bashing the most retrograde, fraudulent and inept political players in the region are getting a second chance few would have imagined in the pre 9/11 days.

If Iraq has turned into a mess for lack of adequate planning and an excess of roadside bombs, US’s Latin America policy is falling prey to a pack of lies that somehow carry more punch that some hard learned – but pitifully sold – lessons and truths. As time passes, this begins to look like an uncontested bout that is bound to produce vertigo, heartbreak and increased suffering for hundreds of millions. While adept charlatans like Castro and Chavez have earned cachet for stage managing this surprisingly asymmetrical struggle, inept communicators and a lackadaisical approach to the region here in Washington deserve their fair share of blame for what is now on the plate and for what is yet to come.

As President Bush stated in Fort Lauderdale, the battle being played out in Latin America is all about contrasting ideas with regards to freedom, human rights, democracy and economic advancement. But the Roger Noriegas of this town are concerned mostly about the trappings of their office and career maintenance or advancement. Others are too enthralled by the convoluted nuance of trade diplomacy. They have zero clue of how perplexing US one-track mindedness and the consequent abandonment of basic tenets have been. It is also amazingly absurd that this US President, affable and well disposed towards all things “Hispanic”, has failed to develop productive personal bonds with some of his counterparts in the region or at least an acceptable level of favorable opinion among the common folk in Latin America.

My recommendation to the first Latin American elected to the US Senate, is that he use his unfettered access to suggest:

1) A change in the Latin team at State ASAP;

2) An invitation by the President to a handful of key Presidents in the region to a weekend of unscripted and off-the-record conversations in Camp David or Crawford;

3) The appointment of a trusted confidant of the President as conduit for follow-ups and more regular direct communication with his colleagues in the region (as President Clinton did so successfully with Mack McLarty);

4) Forget about making trade accords the visible face of policy – people do not relate well to these, they benefit from them, but cannot relate to the nuance that surrounds them and the debate they elicit;

5) Attempt to translate his strong personal values into a credible message that is well disseminated to a population that actually shares many of them; and,

6) Ensure that Condi Rice spends as much time in the region as possible – a black, very smart and extremely charming woman with enviable access to the most powerful man in the world is the best proof of what the US has achieved after centuries of harsh struggle in pursuit of freedom, justice and prosperity.

PMB

AP
Martinez wants focus on Latin America, discouraged by Iraq war

Brendan Farrington, Associated Press Writer
10 June 2005 14:26

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - Sen. Mel Martinez criticized the Bush administration and Congress on Friday for paying little attention to growing Latin American problems and lamented the slow progress in Iraq.

While Martinez said the administration is increasingly aware that it needs to pay more attention to Latin America, he said it should have been a focus from the start, given instability in countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Haiti.

"The administration has been very remiss for the last four years in its direction toward Latin America to their great consternation now," said Martinez, R-Fla. "There is a growing recognition of the administration and in Congress that we have not been paying enough attention to a region that's really in trouble."

Martinez, speaking at the annual Florida Society of Newspaper Editors/Florida Press Association convention, said problems have reached the point where urgent action is needed by the United States.

"We have tremendous problems in Bolivia right now. It's a crisis situation. So is Ecuador, in a little more latent way," Martinez said. "And clearly Venezuela, in partnership with Cuba, are creating a lot of problems for stability, for democracy, for the rule of law. And I think that's going to spill over into the upcoming elections in Central America."

The U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti hasn't been doing its job, Martinez said, expressing concerns that there could be problems with upcoming elections there.

"I'm anxious to go to Haiti. What a basket case it is," Martinez said. "We need for those elections not to be a setback. They're not going to be the full answer, but it can't be a setback."

Martinez, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he's planning a trip to Latin America in August and has asked fellow committee member Norm Coleman, R-Minn., for guidance on who would be truly interested in joining him.

The response, Martinez said, was "Your question is the problem. There's not that many of us."

Martinez, who strongly supported Bush's efforts in Iraq during his campaign last year, also expressed concerns about progress in the war.

"I am discouraged by how long it has taken for us to begin to draw down some forces," he said. "I would have thought by now, and I think in a clearer moment that the president and (Defense) Secretary (Donald) Rumsfeld would have thought that by now we would be in a position to be able to draw down some forces. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case."

He said he has had to write many condolence letters to the families of Floridians killed in Iraq.

"It brings home the importance of the decision to send men and women to go to war," he said. "It has become a foreign fighters' war against us there and the progress seems slow and difficult."

He also said the Bush administration should consider Sen. Joseph Biden's suggestion that the U.S. military's prison camp on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be shut down. Biden, D-Del., made his remarks this week in the wake of a Pentagon report that detailed incidents in which U.S. guards desecrated the Quran.

Last month, Amnesty International called the detention center for alleged terrorists "the gulag of our time."

"It's become an icon for bad stories and at some point you wonder the cost-benefit ratio," Martinez said. "How much do you get out of having that facility there, is it serving all the purposes you thought it would serve when initially you began it, or can this be done some other way a little better?"


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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Jun 9/05 - On the OAS: a useless organization?

PMBComment: today I just have a quote and a question since the Economist article below is dead on and appropriately starts by asking “What exactly is the Organisation of American States (OAS) for?

The quote: "All that we see in Venezuela is that groups and opposition say that the separation of powers is not very clear," he said. "But we don't have a full report on that." Secretary General Insulza, (Washington Post, June 7th, 2005)

The question: Mr. Insulza, are you trying to say that the millions of dollars spent by the OAS in the last few years have not generated a report worthy of your concern? …and a follow up: is there a report on Bolivia?

PMB

PS: no wonder the US, which foots 74% of the OAS’s total budget (64% of ordinary budget and also most of the extraordinary items), is getting restless with this proud and “non-interventionist” bunch of dependents. It would be great to hear Mr. Insulza say to the US “pay only your fair share because I have managed to get Brazil, Mexico and my own country to up the ante and fund this organization in a way that reflects our desire to be weaned from your influence”. That my friends would give Mr. Insulza a leg to stand on when making cavalier statements like the one quoted above.


The Economist

How to protect Latin American democracy

Jun 9th 2005
From The Economist print edition


Wanted: a watchdog with teeth but not an American poodle

WHAT exactly is the Organisation of American States (OAS) for? For much of its 57-year history, the answer has been: not much. It has a fine mansion in Washington, DC, and a famously lavish pension scheme, both mainly paid for by the United States. In return, the 34-member organisation did Washington's bidding in its “backyard”.

In recent years, as democracy has spread across Latin America, the OAS has stirred. It has helped to protect democratic rule in several countries. In 2001, it adopted a Democratic Charter. This committed its members to representative democracy—and to take diplomatic action where this breaks down or is damaged by unconstitutional actions.

Sadly, in some Latin American countries, democracy still needs succour. This week, Bolivia was in chaos: the president resigned, for the third and seemingly final time, driven out by radical protesters who want the country's gas industry nationalise. They are supported—and, claims the United States, financed—by Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's elected president, who has eroded pluralism and civil rights at home. In April, Ecuador's president was booted out by its Congress, and replaced by his vice-president. In Haiti a United Nations mission is trying to organise an election amid gang warfare.

But the OAS can step in only when asked by the country concerned. To bolster democracy, George Bush's administration wants to give some teeth to the Democratic Charter. At a meeting this week in Florida addressed by Mr Bush, American diplomats urged the OAS's foreign ministers to set up a permanent committee to police the practice of democracy in the region partly by hearing testimony from civic groups.

But Latin America no longer automatically follows Washington's lead, in part because democracy has brought centre-left governments to power in some places. That was reflected in the recent election as the OAS's secretary-general of José Miguel Insulza, a capable Chilean who was not Mr Bush's first choice. The foreign ministers duly diluted the American initiative, vaguely instructing Mr Insulza to “make proposals”.

That reaction was predictable. Their past experience of invasions and coups sponsored by the United States makes Latin Americans suspicious of anything that smacks of meddling in their affairs. Indeed, they signed up to the Democratic Charter only because its strictures are sugar-coated with “due respect for the principle of non-intervention”. They also suspect that the new plan is a fig-leaf for an American plot to oust Mr Chávez, a stridently anti-American populist.

But it is Latin America, not the United States, which has most to gain by trying to protect its democracy. South America's leftish leaders have been far too ready to pay court to Mr Chávez. They see that as an easy way to please their own political base while doing good business; in return for the bearhugs, Mr Chávez offers cheap oil and other deals.

Accepting these is short-sighted. Complaisance in the face of even elected autocracies of any political stripe endangers the shared democracy and closer integration which Latin America's leaders claim to champion. There is a large middle ground of diplomatic measures between passivity and forced regime change. Whether the OAS—rather than the newly-proclaimed South American Community—is the right body for such diplomacy is debatable. But the Democratic Charter is there. It is Latin America's responsibility, and in its own interest, to make it worth the paper it is written on.


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Monday, June 06, 2005

Jun 06/05 - On OpEd by Jackson Diehl "The Facade of Latin Democracy", Washington Post

PMBComment: Jackson Diehl treats us to an Op-Ed that once again proves that in Washington it has been the Post and not the Bush administration that has consistently understood the risks posed by the Chavez government to Venezuelans and neighbors alike. He makes a very valid point when he states that “even the governments (in the region) that secretly share Bush's anxieties resist standing up on their own -- partly out of deference to the region's tradition of nonintervention, partly because of their disgruntlement with Bush's first-term policies and partly because they covet a slice of Chavez's growing pile of petrodollars”.

However, I feel compelled to add two other factors that might explain the lack of solidarity of “big boys” Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. The first is outright fear of a Chavez backlash if joint attempts to contain him fail. Having allowed the man to build a very lofty bully pulpit, many democratic leaders in the region fear that the “aura” of Chavez is now as combustible as his petrodollars as a means to ignite unrest in their respective political circuses.

The second has to do with the credibility of the US administration in the region and on this matter in particular. While the US was focused on things afar, or far “more important”, those responsible for the region in an impervious State Department run amok.

On the subject of Venezuela Foggy Bottom (area of Washington were Foreign Service careerists at times seem to lay in state) has been rudderless and the signals could not have been more confusing throughout. We went from the denial of a US visa to a coupster candidate in 1998 (Clinton era, but John Maisto as US Ambassador in Caracas), to the barefaced appeasement implicit in the now infamous Maisto Doctrine (“do not judge him by his words, but for his deeds”), to Colin Powell’s’ cavalier approach to the regional implications of Chavez’s shenanigans, ending with Roger Noriega’s keenness to move on and deal with Chavez after Carter and the OAS turned a fraudulent referendum process into an electoral defeat for democracy. How then can we blame regional governments for fearing alignment with inconsistent US policymakers on a common strategy towards Chavez?

Having said this, I have no doubt that Lula, Kirchner, Lagos, Fox, and a few others that might matter, will eventually see the light and recognize that their own survival is threatened by the wrecking ball that governs from Caracas. At that point, if it is still timely, Venezuela’s democrats might expect to count with the solidarity not only of a reelected and reengaged George Bush and his infinitely more principled and informed second term Secretary of State, but also from many democrats in the region that were historical recipients of a democratic Venezuela’s largesse and hospitality. PMB

The Washington Post

The Facade of Latin Democracy

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, June 6, 2005; A19

The threat to Latin America's fragile democratic order grows steadily more visible, from the latest round of paralyzing strikes in Bolivia, to the creeping Sandinista coup against Nicaragua's beleaguered president, to Hugo Chavez's preparations to militarize Venezuela with Cuban-style popular militias. But the greatest danger of all may be the refusal of the region's remaining democrats to acknowledge what they see.

As President Bush addresses the general assembly of the Organization of American States today in Fort Lauderdale, his aides will quietly be struggling to persuade the organization's new secretary general, Jose Miguel Insulza, and the region's big governments to agree on ways to counter the anti-democratic movements that are steadily gaining ground in Central and South America, or at least to help the weak presidents and struggling dissidents they threaten to swamp.

Bush appears finally to have awakened to the challenge, which is embodied by Chavez. In his ever-closer bonding with Havana's security and intelligence apparatus, his aggressive encouragement of the insurgencies in Bolivia and elsewhere, and his constant stoking of Latin anti-Americanism, the elected but increasingly authoritarian Venezuelan is emerging as the natural successor to a fading Fidel Castro -- only Chavez is neither broke nor bound to an outdated Soviet ideology.

Bush, meanwhile, finds himself confounded by a familiar Latin conundrum: Direct U.S. intervention, however benign, risks regional rejection as Yanqui imperialism. But even the governments that secretly share Bush's anxieties resist standing up on their own -- partly out of deference to the region's tradition of nonintervention, partly because of their disgruntlement with Bush's first-term policies and partly because they covet a slice of Chavez's growing pile of petrodollars.

In preparation for this week's assembly the administration floated a couple of modest but rather useful ideas: not the military invasion of Venezuela that Chavez ludicrously warns of, or the regional boycott once employed against Cuba, but the elaboration of an OAS consensus on democratic standards and the creation of a mechanism that would allow nongovernmental groups in each of the organization's 34 countries -- labor unions, human rights organizations and the like -- to deliver reports about departures from those norms. But even these distinctly unimperialist measures have been hard to sell to the region's leading democracies, such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

"We need for some of these governments to step up and show leadership," one frustrated administration official said. But "one of the things that is clear is that not many people in Latin America are where we are in sizing up Chavez and what kind of threat he does or doesn't represent."

That reality frustrates not only the State Department but Latin American citizens who are putting their lives on the line in defense of democratic values. One of the boldest, Maria Corina Machado of the Venezuelan election monitoring group Sumate, was in Washington last week before a meeting of 117 nongovernmental groups with the OAS ambassadors on the eve of the assembly. Machado stopped by to see me on her way to what she thought was a discussion with staff at the National Security Council; instead, upon arriving at the White House, she was ushered into a surprise meeting with Bush.

The briefing I heard from this 37-year-old single mother, who for more than a year has been fighting treason charges ordered up by Chavez, was deeply sobering. Since winning a recall referendum last August, the self-styled "Bolivarian revolutionary" has systematically gutted or intimidated Venezuelan institutions, from the courts to the media to the opposition parties, while preserving just enough formal democracy to give himself cover with his forgiving neighbors. "We feel very lonely," Machado said. "People outside say to us: 'You can come in and out of the country, you have a free press, you don't have thousands of political prisoners, you have elections -- so what's the problem?'

"But Chavez doesn't need to close newspapers in order to force people to censor themselves. He doesn't need thousands of political prisoners if he can make examples of a few people in every sector of society, a labor leader here, a journalist there. And he doesn't need to cancel elections if he can use his appointees to change the rules so that the voting can be easily manipulated. It is a terrific facade, but inside is an atmosphere of total control and fear. Traveling around the country, as I do, it's shocking to see how frightened people are about what the government can do to their lives."

Machado got to make her case to Bush and to the OAS ambassadors only because her organization was invited to the nongovernmental forum by the United States. A Venezuelan attempt to overturn the invitation procedure and ban her failed. Though her criminal trial is due to resume on Friday, she came and spoke freely; though she enraged Chavez with her blunt words outside the White House, she will return to Caracas and face the court system he now controls. By so conspicuously trying to stop her, she says, "the government has given evidence that everyone in the OAS can see, of how they use intimidation to silence dissent. If in Venezuela you speak out you are punished.

"But we are going to say it louder, because now maybe more people are listening to us," Machado said. That, anyway, is her hope.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jun 2/05 - On PDVSA: from real oil to true lies..as seen by Luis Pacheco, Former VP of Corporate Planning

www.petroleumworld.com


Op-Ed Commentary
2+2=5
Luis A. Pacheco:

In 1949, before dying of tuberculosis, George Orwell published his anti-utopian novel, " 1984" , where he described a totalitarian society fuelled by high technology. The story is told through the eyes of Winston Smith, a minor bureaucrat in the Ministry of Truth, whose job is to rewrite history so that it complies with the political objectives of the state and remains in harmony with the ruling party's slogans:

War is Peace… Freedom is Slavery… Ignorance is Strength

All this comes to mind after watching and listening to the Minister of Energy and Petroleum and President of PDVSA, reading a prepared statement in front of the Commission established by the Venezuelan National Assembly to investigate the role of foreign private companies in the Venezuelan oil industry, better known as "Apertura Petrolera".

The Minister, escorted by his resident scriptwriter, both of them wearing brand new red ties, and with a demeanour of superiority that until very recently it was attributed only to what they have christened as the "Old PDVSA", took pleasure in presenting a rewritten version of the Venezuelan oil history, from the time of nationalization until the present day.

It was, however, an old script that the Minister read, although truth be told his recitation was almost flawless; no doubt the minister has blind faith on his scriptwriter. No new information was given, no new interpretations forwarded. No explanation was offered in regard to the present state of the oil industry. The Professor went over very old ground, plagiarized his own writing, and through the voice of the Minister, retold his biased version of the Venezuelan oil saga

One would have hoped that once inside PDVSA, and having experienced the complex subject of managing a corporation, the duo whose responsibility it is to manage Venezuela 's main industry, would have tempered the dogmatic view that has always accompanied them. Once more we were victims of our naiveté; their real objective continues to be the annihilation of the past as the only way of avoiding the comparisons with their unsuccessful present.

Once more the Minister managed to get away from answering questions on the sorry state of PDVSA and the ministry he heads. He chose instead to mount a merciless attack on the reputation of hundreds of decent Venezuelan. He carelessly accused them of unpatriotic deeds and transformed himself into a self righteous denouncer of alleged wrongdoing by previous administrations. This was done before the indifference of the majority of the deputies present, and to the chorus of partisan applause.

He read more than fifty pages of malicious half truths and innuendo, reaching an unprecedented level of defamation of honest people. He portrayed all those that preceded him at the helm of the oil industry as mercenaries for foreign interests. He never stood up to his own responsibility for the dismantling of the former oil juggernaut, hiding behind a phoney façade of patriotism and replaying the old charade of the struggle against the evil empire and his lackeys.

As the Venezuelan oil industry becomes a shadow of its former self, those responsible for its demise chose to settle in public old scores against absent adversaries ("Old "PDVSA) , and manage to transform their best allies into new adversaries (foreign operating companies).

The Minister not only tried to rewrite recent history by falsifying the accomplishments of his predecessors, but also wasted the opportunity that history put in his hands to start the healing process that it is so badly needed to start walking the long road to recover the Venezuelan oil industry.

It was clear from the prepared libretto, and the wandering answers to some of the questions, that the Venezuelan oil industry has a new strategic paradigm: politics and then… more politics. Gone are the days when Venezuela aspired to the myth of progress in the wake of oil, as the late Jose Ignacio Cabrujas once wrote.

One would like to imagine a healthy debate between those who designed and made a reality, warts and all, the "Apertura Petrolera", and those who appear only capable of licking their old wounds, real or imaginary. The country will no doubt benefit from such an exchange.

Alas, this is not at all possible; at least not as long as the present political masters continue intent in building a society in which, as in the end of " 1984" , the interest of the state makes Winston Smith accept the rewriting of his own personal history, including that 2+2=5.

Luis Pacheco, former PDVSA executive director of corporate planning, PDVSA and managing director, Bitor. Petroleumworld not necessarily share these views.

Editor's Note: Petroleumworld encourages persons to reproduce, reprint, or broadcast Petroleumworld Editorial articles provided that any such reproduction identify the original source,
http://www.petroleumworld.com and it is done within the fair use as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law

Internet web links to
http://www.petroleumworld.com are appreciated.

Petroleumworld News 06/02/05

Copyright©Luis Pacheco 2005, All rights reserved


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