Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Aug 30/05 - On the limits of "revolutionary" largesse and "one-man rule"

PMBComment: is Hugo Chavez losing his calm? Or is it that populism is more fun when done on an international scale. Even the best charities are not judged by the speed at which they disburse but for their administrative skill. Even with oil at $70/barrel Hugo Chavez might have a hard time owing up to all the commitments - non-challantly made - to buy political support at home and abroad. One day, it will not be desperate women who rush to plea with him but angry nations that turn their backs on this tropical Sheik. PMB

Bodyguards Remove Woman Who Nears Chavez

By Associated Press

August 30, 2005, 8:55 PM EDT

CARACAS, Venezuela -- A woman who rushed up on a stage to hand President Hugo Chavez a note was pulled away by bodyguards on Tuesday, and the Venezuelan leader urged supporters to remember there have been threats against his life.

The incident occurred while Chavez was addressing thousands of supporters in a Caracas convention center.

"It's dangerous, because I'm threatened with death, so you have to understand that the security team surrounding me is on alert," Chavez told the crowd.

The incident came more than a week after the U.S. religious broadcaster Pat Robertson drew condemnation from Venezuela's government and others for suggesting that Chavez should be assassinated because he poses a threat to the United States.

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, later apologized.

Chavez said the young woman who jumped up on the stage had tried to give him a note asking for help and saying she was homeless, living in the streets with her children.

Chavez told his supporters afterward "the period should pass into history in which Hugo Chavez has to be mayor, governor and has to be in charge of everything."

Before the incident, Chavez urged the crowd to calm down as some were shouting personal requests during the ceremony, which was held to announce funds for community projects.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was in Venezuela this week to try and reduce tensions between the United States and Venezuela, toured a state-run farming cooperative and praised social programs established by Chavez.

"Those who worked on the plantation own the land now," Jackson told more than 100 workers.
Copyright 2005


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Aug 30/05 - On religious hyenas: Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson "licking" Venezuela

PMBComment: nothing defines better the state of affairs in Venezuela than the nature of those who seem to have suddenly discovered it. In just one week, both Pat Robertson and Jesse Jackson have taken time from their "ministries" to brutishly threaten, or ignorantly praise, Hugo Chavez. This, my dear friends, is more than sufficient proof of the sorry state of our country. We have to keep in mind that when these guys show up in any country, it is because one extreme or the other has opened it's wallet. I am sorry to disappoint, but there is zero altruism in their actions, and little good in their motives. They are "for profit" kind of guys hiding behind non-profit tax schemes which they try to pass - rather well - as religious undertakings.

Robertson and Jackson do not meddle in developed countries because like hyenas they feed on societies that have essentially become social, political, and moral carcasses - and were one, or the other, side cannot seem to gather enough strength to tell them to mind their own business and get the hell out of their affairs. Castro's Cuba, Gaddafi's Libya, Mobutu's Zaire, Liberia under any Sargent, Saddam's Iraq, North Korea under father or son, are past stomping grounds of these despicable interlopers.

Today's Editorial from the Investor's Business Daily touches well on Jesse's weekend visit in which he demonstrated a level of ignorance on Venezuelan issues which betrays the real motives of his visit. Jesse is trying to smile all the way to the bank while Venezuela descends one more notch towards the "fifth" world. Jimmy Carter, Pat Robertson, Jesse Jackson..what a group! Can Jimmy Swaggart be far behind? PMB

Investor's Business Daily

Issues & Insights

Jesse In Caracas

Published on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Demagogues: Jesse Jackson was in top form, flying into Caracas to take a cheap shot at Pat Robertson and sing the praises of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. But amid the huzzahs, something ugly was happening outside.

Seems that Chavez was in top form, too, doing what dictators like his pal Fidel Castro do. Opposition leaders say that while Jackson was visiting over the weekend, Chavez's men sent mobs to ambush about 1,000 peaceful protesters with rocks, bottles and fireworks in downtown Caracas.

Venezuelan media reported nine injured, two seriously. An eyewitness said those hit hardest, and often from behind, were vocal dissidents.

The protesters weren't interested in Robertson's ill-chosen "assassination" remark, with which the Venezuelan government is making so much political hay. They want changes in Chavez's tainted election board so that fair elections can take place.

Somehow, Jimmy Carter's assurances that all's free and fair in Venezuela's electoral system didn't persuade them. Last year, Carter was an official monitor of the recall referendum that Chavez won amid cries of fraud. Chavez's opponents say he has stacked the election board with his cronies.

The protest marches show a lack of confidence, as does the 70% abstention in the municipal elections a few weeks ago. Results took a week to tally with the "latest" electronic equipment and had to be "corrected" again in a string of bizarre errors. It's left many Venezuelans thinking they're dealing with a dictator, not a democracy.

The protesters were marching to seek a chance to take out Chavez not by assassination, as Robertson suggested, but through a meaningful democratic election, something they don't have.

Jackson doesn't seem to grasp the significance of democracy. El Universal reported he told a local radio station: "We talk much about the right to vote democratically, but we should also have the right to a good life, health and the just distribution of resources."

So as Jackson was being feted by Chavez in the presidential palace, and Jackson was extolling Venezuela as "an example for the world," a violent organized attack was going on in the streets below. And Jackson was silent. Chalk it up to domestic politics.

Crying crocodile tears, Chavez has declared he's "deeply concerned" about the high cost of energy, especially for the poor in America. But rather than do something to keep prices down, like stop threatening to cut off oil to the U.S., Chavez wants to set up a system to distribute below-market energy to our have-nots.

If this attempt to stir Venezuela-style class resentment isn't meddling in U.S. domestic politics, nothing is.

His willing pawn is none other than Jackson, who's been chosen to distribute the largesse. Chavez announced this plan with Jackson on his weekly variety show, so we don't know how serious he is. But if he means business, Jesse (along with other luminaries like actor Danny Glover) will be the go-to guy for cheap energy — as a democracy crumbles and blood runs in the streets.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Aug 25/05 - On a columnist's failed attempt to make a point

PMBComment: knowing Marcela, I think there was a bit of pointed irony intended in today's article, BUT I searched real hard and I have to admit I did not consider it funny at all. I found it quite easy to take issue with sentence after sentence, and poke holes all over her key premises and conclusions.

Chavez's largess, it's motivation, it's consequences for the welfare of Venezuelans of all walks of life - poor and not so poor - and it's likely long term effect on the recipient nations, do not seem to me like a subject to lever on just to take a stab at the Bush Administration. And it certainly does not merit this lame attempt at moral equivalency. If there is ONE point I do agree with Marcela on, it is that the US has been very slow off the block and it is letting Hugo Chavez monopolize and intermediate far too much in the region.

Because it is Friday and because they were so darn obvious, I will spare you the rest of the comments I made to Marcela directly. PMB

Washington Post Web Edition

DESDE WASHINGTON COLUMN
August 26, 2005

By MARCELA SANCHEZ

WASHINGTON -- I am starting to think that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez can have a calming influence on Latin America.

At a time when record oil prices are becoming an ever-increasing burden, the leader of the world's fifth-largest oil producer is offering flexible financing not only to his close ally Cuba, but to most other Caribbean and Latin American nations. Chavez also promises more jobs and revenue in the region with plans to build a $2.5 billion oil refinery in northeastern Brazil and purchase Argentine oil tankers.

Just last week, when protesters crippled oil production in Ecuador,South America's second largest supplier to the United States, Chavez jumped to the rescue. Responding to requests from Ecuadorian officials, Chavez agreed to cover Ecuador's oil commitments, helping to calm the global market and to reduce the strike's fiscal impact on the struggling nation.

By golly, Chavez is a modern-day, Spanish-speaking Robin Hood. Such a characterization is, of course, heresy in Washington. To listen to Bush administration officials, one would come to believe that Chavez is the greatest ``negative force'' against democracy and the free market since he Cold War. He has been accused of supplying weapons to Colombian rebels, if financing Bolivian and Ecuadorian groups seeking to establish `Marxist'' states, and of being, with Cuban leader Fidel Castro's guidance, a ``subversive'' everywhere else in the region.

The truth is that Chavez is a lot of both. He is the Robin Hood who supports the poor with the money of the rich, and he is the ideologue who pushes an anti-imperialist, socialist agenda.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has chosen to take on the Chavez challenge purely in terms of the latter. In the administration's rhetoric and in its thinking, Chavez is a communist, a meddler and, most damning, another Castro. And so Washington serves up decidedly old and desiccated solutions that smell of long-failed anti-Castro strategies.

During Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Latin America last week, a Pentagon statement reiterated concerns over the ``menace'' that the Cuba-Venezuela axis poses to the region. Rumsfeld, on his third visit to the region in 10 months, stopped in Paraguay and Peru to shore up support among U.S. allies for what amounts to a policy of Chavez containment.

This kind of one-dimensional thinking blinds U.S. policymakers to the fact that Chavez's influence in Latin America is not all pernicious and, no matter how much it is hated, may be presenting solutions to Latin America's real problems in ways that Washington is not.

Latin America today is not in the midst of a Cold War where externally financed leftist rebel movements wage guerrilla warfare against democratic governments. Instead of taking up arms and heading to the mountains, an increasingly frustrated population is taking to the streets and demanding that their elected leaders deliver the goods promised by U.S.-touted reforms.

For all Chavez and Castro would like to take credit that this is their doing, and for all that Bush officials would like to give it to them, the fact is that such popular discontent is more the fault of democracy and free markets than an axis diabolico.

So the onus, in great part, is on Washington to help these countries prove that the U.S. liberal democratic model ``is valid … has a human face, and it delivers,'' according to John Cope, Latin America expert at the National Defense University.

This is why both Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo took advantage of Rumsfeld's visits to send an urgent plea to Washington to do a better job of opening the U.S. market to their products. According to Paraguayan press reports, Duarte told Rumsfeld that ``Latin America needs the support of developed nations to strengthen its economies, because without such backing democracies in the region are at risk of failing.''

The success of democracies in Latin America hinges on the ability of their economies to reduce poverty and inequality, the true source of resentment and instability. Chavez's impact can go either way -- at times increasing instability, at times reducing it.

But as long as the Bush administration obsesses solely on the destructive side of Chavez, it will be distracted from the hard work necessary to help Latin American economies succeed. And as long as it avoids that challenge, as long as high oil prices continue, Chavez will be more than happy to offer a hand.



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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Aug 23/05 - On Reverend (?) Pat Robertson's criminal stupidity

PMBComment: if Chavez's US lobbyists - Patton Boggs and a few others less well know - had sought out an optimal dissemination scheme for Chavez's constant "victimization" cries, they could never have done better than Pat Robertson's "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it." This kind of flippant, quasi-criminal (or maybe criminal), counterproductive, public statement plagues those who are addicted to non-stop preaching and extremism, and that is why Robertson and Chavez - poles apart ideologically but both charlatans - make a good pair for controversy and headlines. In Spanish we say "Dios los cria y ellos se juntan " seldom has this adage been more applicable than today.

I like to finish my short comment of this lamentable occurrence with what I hope is a plain and apt quote:

" Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some insist on abusing the privilege." - Unknown

PMB

PS: at the end of the press note you will find a sensible joint statement made from Brazil by travelling Senators Norm Coleman (Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee) and Mel Martinez (the first US Senator born in Latin American) repudiating Robertson. The White House should up the ante and study carefully the legal implications of Robertson's call for violence. Latin America does not need a martyr as unhinged and intellectually corrupted as Hugo Chavez, and the US can well afford in its anti-terror crusade to prosecute an errant and stupid televangelist for blatantly violating US law and affecting the governments ability to conduct foreign policy.

Robertson: U.S. should assassinate Venezuela's Chavez
State Department says comment 'inappropriate'


(CNN) -- Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has called for the United States to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, calling him "a terrific danger" bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson told viewers on his "The 700 Club" show Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel accused Robertson of making terrorist statements and demanded that the United States take action, according to The Associated Press.

"The ball is in the U.S. court after this criminal statement by a citizen of that country," AP quoted Rangel as saying. "It's huge hypocrisy to maintain this discourse against terrorism and at the same time, in the heart of that country, there are entirely terrorist statements like those."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Robertson is a private citizen and that his views do not reflect U.S. policy.

"We do not share his view and his comments are inappropriate," he said. "And as we've said before, any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless and without fact."

Robertson, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, called Chavez "a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us badly."

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said. "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Robertson accused Chavez, a left-wing populist with close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro, of trying to make Venezuela "a launching pad for Communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

"This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen," he said.

Chavez has said he believes the United States is trying to assassinate him, vowing that Venezuela, which accounts for more than 10 percent of U.S. oil imports, would shut off the flow of oil if that happens.

The Unites States has denied such allegations in the past.

Executive orders issued by Presidents Ford and Reagan banned political assassinations.

Robertson's comments Monday were the latest in a string of controversial remarks in recent years by the religious broadcaster and founder of the Christian Coalition.

Last October, during the heat of the presidential race, Robertson told CNN that during a meeting with President Bush before the invasion of Iraq, the president told him he did not believe there would be casualties. The White House strongly denied the claim.

In May, during an ABC interview, Robertson ignited a firestorm with his response to a question about whether activist judges were more of a threat to America than terrorists.

"If they look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," he said.

Defending his remarks in a letter to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Robertson insisted he was not being cavalier about the 9/11 attacks. But he also refused to apologize, saying Supreme Court rulings on abortion, religious expression in the public square, pornography and same-sex marriage "are all of themselves graver dangers in the decades to come than the terrorists which our great nation has defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq."
A 'nuke' for Foggy Bottom

In October 2003, Robertson, criticizing the State Department during an interview on "The 700 Club," said "maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up," referring to the nickname for the department's headquarters in Washington.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called the remark "despicable."

In July 2003, Robertson asked his audience to pray for three justices to retire from the Supreme Court so they could be replaced with more conservative jurists. "One justice is 83 years old, another has cancer and another has a heart condition," he said.

Robertson insisted he was only calling for prayers for the justices to retire and was not asking his followers to pray for their demise.

In November 2002, Robertson charged that the Muslim holy book, the Quran, incites followers to kill people of other faiths and disputed Bush's characterization of Islam as a religion of peace.

"It's clear from the teachings of the Quran and also from the history of Islam that it's anything but peaceful," Robertson said in a subsequent interview with CNN. "Of course there are peace-loving Muslims. But at the same time, at the core of this religion ... is jihad, and it is to subject the unbelievers either to forced conversion or death. That's what it teaches."


Copyright 2005 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Chavez ally: Robertson a 'fascist'

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A Venezuelan lawmaker on Tuesday accused U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson of shedding his Christian values by calling for President Hugo Chavez's assassination.

Pro-Chavez lawmaker Desire Santos Amaral said she was shocked to learn that Robertson, a former U.S. presidential candidate, said on his show that if Chavez believes the United States is out to kill him, then it should. Robertson said this would stop Venezuela from becoming "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

"This man cannot be a true Christian. He's a fascist," Santos said. "This is part of the policies of aggression from the right wing in the North against our revolution."

Robertson's comments appear likely to further stoke tensions between Washington and Caracas. Chavez has repeatedly claimed that American officials are plotting to oust or kill him -- charges U.S. officials have denied.

Chavez has irritated U.S. officials with his leftist policies, his fiery rhetoric against American "imperialism" and his increasingly close ties to U.S. regimes in Cuba and Iran. He says he is leading Venezuela toward socialism and, in a visit to Cuba this week, praised President Fidel Castro's system as a "revolutionary democracy."

Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, called Chavez a "terrific danger" to the United States on his TV show "The 700 Club" and said it would be easier to kill Chavez than invade Venezuela.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

The United States is the top buyer of Venezuelan crude, but Chavez has made it clear he wants to decrease the country's dependence on the U.S. market by finding other buyers.

Santos rejected Robertson's allegations that Chavez aims to turn the South American country into a sanctuary for radical groups hostile to the United States.

Santos said Venezuelan authorities have long been aware of the threat of an assassination attempt against Chavez, who has increased security to reduce such risks.

She said radical right-wing Chavez foes are mulling the possibility of killing him "because they haven't been able to defeat him through elections or coups."

Chavez has survived a brief 2002 coup, a devastating two-month strike that ended in early 2003 and recall referendum in 2004. Chavez is up for re-election next year, and polls suggest he is the favorite.

Santos said she thinks U.S.-Venezuelan relations could still improve, but she added that comments seeking to spur violence by "charlatans and fascists" like Robertson only get in the way.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

U.S. Senators Criticize Robertson Call to Assassinate Chavez

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. Senators Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota and Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, said a call by U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson for the U.S. government to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was ``irresponsible'' and ``incredibly stupid.''

The senators, visiting Brazil to meet with government and business leaders, spoke with reporters today in Rio de Janeiro.

``It was an incredibly stupid statement and has no reflection on reality,'' said Coleman, the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations subcommittee on the western hemisphere. ``I met with President Chavez on my last visit a couple of months ago and he related that concern to me, about how the U.S. was out to assassinate him. I told him not to lose any sleep about it.''

Robertson, a television evangelist, said yesterday on a broadcast of his ``700 Club'' program that Chavez is a ``dangerous enemy.'' He said killing Chavez would be cheaper than going to war to remove him.``We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come to exercise that ability,'' Robertson said.


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Friday, August 19, 2005

Aug 19/05 - Sobre posible sanciones de EEUU a Venezuela por la expulción de la DEA

PMBComentario: ojala que en el Departamento de Estado alguien lea y le haga caso a Marcela Sánchez. Si algo es evidente es que Hugo Chávez necesita una confrontación con los EEUU como los peces necesitan el agua, es decir en cuantía y ya! Lleva meses subiendo el tono de sus ataques y amenazas, y sin embargo no logra mostrar a los suyos la evidencia de los muy mentados planes de invasión o magnicidio que dizque tienen preparados los gringos. Menos aun ha logrado que el Presidente Bush se digne a responderle, o siquiera a mencionarlo en publico. Para un narcisista-paranoico, que además dicen esta sobre-medicado con lithium, la indiferencia debe ser la peor de las torturas. Su reacción contra la DEA - justificada o no - parece mas producto de una estrategia publicitaria orientada a buscar deliberadamente la " descertificación" …por lo cual caer en la trampa de complacerlo seria un garrafal error. Quizás lo que hay que hacer es dejar a Venezuela en suspenso mientras "se evalúa las implicaciones en el corto, mediano y largo plazo de las últimas medidas unilaterales del Gobierno Venezolano". Ojala que el deseo de aparentar estar haciendo algo con respecto a Chávez no lleve a Washington a caer en la trampa que Chávez, con la ayuda de su mentor Ricardo Alarcón, le han tendido. PMB


PD:
al final del articulo de Marcela, incluyo una nota de prensa de 1998 que hace referencia a la opinión del ultimo Canciller de la democracia Venezolana sobre lo odioso del tema de la certificación unilateral...en el fondo ahí es donde sigue residiendo el problema y es por ello que tipos como Chávez tienen instrumentos que pueden usar para perturbar a los certificadores.

Washington Post

De nada sirve sancionar a Venezuela

Por Marcela Sanchez

Friday, August 19, 2005

Más allá del petróleo, el último vestigio de una relación racional y de cooperación entre Estados Unidos y Venezuela se encuentra en la lucha contra las drogas. Desde el 2002, autoridades venezolanas han confiscado cantidades record de cocaína, cuyas cifras solo son comparables con las alcanzadas en México. El año pasado Washington alabó la "excelente" contribución venezolana para frenar a organizaciones de tráfico de drogas que se aprovechan de la permeable frontera de 2200 kilómetros de ese país con Colombia.

La semana pasada, sin embargo, el Presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez suprimió la cooperación con la agencia estadounidense antidrogas DEA, acusando a sus agentes de espías y posteriormente suspendiendo su inmunidad diplomática. Washington por su parte revocó la visa de tres oficiales militares venezolanos, incluido un alto comandante antidrogas. Al mismo tiempo le recordó a Caracas que según la ley estadounidense, el Presidente Bush deberá decidir el mes entrante si Venezuela puede ser certificado por "cooperar plenamente" en la lucha contra las drogas.

A menos que el significado de cooperación plena haya cambiado, es probable que Bush descertifique a Venezuela bajo la ley de Control Internacional de Narcóticos de 1992. Esto quiere decir que Washington declarará a Venezuela un mal socio y a menos que encuentre un argumento para prescindir de la aplicación de sanciones, suspenderá toda ayuda que no sea antidrogas o humanitaria; además pondrá fin al apoyo a préstamos para Venezuela de instituciones multilaterales. Pero aunque la ley estadounidense y las acciones venezolanas justifican la descertificación, dicha medida sería en gran parte contraproducente.

Para empezar, de nada serviría en el propósito de fortalecer la lucha antidroga. A Chávez no le preocupa nada el oprobio que acompaña a la descertificación --sabe perfectamente que Washington considera ya a Venezuela casi como un país paria. Además, Venezuela está volando alto con los precios del petróleo y difícilmente depende de la ayuda estadounidense. Quinto productor mundial de petróleo, el país andino alcanzó la semana pasada un record histórico de $31 mil millones de dólares en reservas internacionales. De los $3.5 millones de ayuda estadounidense asignada a Venezuela para este año, solo $500,000 serían suspendidos bajo la descertificación.

Más significativo aún, como advierte Rand Beers, secretario asistente de estado para asuntos antidrogas bajo los Presidentes Clinton y Bush, la medida es "un instrumento brusco" que tiende a causar "mayores efectos" negativos que los previstos. En Colombia, la descertificación destinada a castigar al gobierno de Ernesto Samper en los 90, terminó perjudicando al país entero. Desde 1999 le ha costado a Washington unos $4 mil millones de dólares ayudar a Colombia a recuperarse.

Aunque las consecuencias involuntarias en Venezuela tal vez no sean económicas, la descertificación muy seguramente fortalecerá a Chávez. El líder andino se deleita con cualquier acción de Washington que parezca imperialista o extrema y la usa hábilmente para mantener viva su revolución. La descertificación impuesta por el principal consumir de drogas del mundo parecería hipócrita y sólo aumentaría la simpatía hacia Chávez entre quienes sospechan de Washington.

La descertificación también daría un golpe mortal a algunos de los avances más significativos en las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Venezuela en años. Desde que llegó a Caracas hace un año, el Embajador estadounidense William Brownfield ha visitado con frecuencia barrios pobres de Caracas, lo que sugiere por lo menos un aprecio tácito por lo que constituye la fuente de poder de Chávez.

En febrero, la embajada estadounidense auspició unas sesiones de béisbol para jóvenes en Caracas con el jugador de los Yankees de Nueva York Bernie Williams. La embajada también organizó y pagó instrucciones en Estados Unidos para entrenadores de béisbol venezolanos. Altos miembros del Comité de Relaciones Internacionales de la Cámara estadounidense han empezado a trabajar en un proyecto de ley que aumentaría recursos para tales iniciativas de buena voluntad.

Pero el hecho es que la descertificación de drogas debilitaría estas vías de acercamiento al descontinuar fondos estadounidenses para casi todo excepto emergencias. Eso es lamentable ya que estos gestos representan el comienzo de una política estadounidense más constructiva en Venezuela que toma más en serio la apremiante situación de los más pobres -- y especialmente debido a que el prestigio de Chávez entre los pobres podría estar erosionándose.

Después de siete años en su cargo, la mayoría transcurridos en pleno boom petrolero, los programas asistenciales de Chávez o misiones no han surtido todo el efecto esperado. De acuerdo con datos oficiales, la tasa de desempleo en Venezuela el año pasado era más alta (13.7 por ciento) que en 1998 (11 por ciento). Más del 53 por ciento de los hogares vivían en la pobreza el año pasado a diferencia de un 49 por ciento hace siete años. El porcentaje de hogares sin servicios básicos permanece exactamente igual.

Si la descertificación no hace nada a la postre para mejorar los esfuerzos antidrogas, si socava un enfoque estadounidense más constructivo, y si de hecho ayuda a apuntalar a Chávez, Estados Unidos necesita descertificar a Venezuela tanto como los estadounidenses necesitan continuar comprando drogas ilícitas. A pesar de la obvia idiotez de hacer ambas cosas, lo más probable es que las dos sucedan.

© 2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

UN POCO DE HISTORIA:

1997 - El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores rechazó la evaluación por unilateral

EE.UU. otorgó certificación antidrogas a Venezuela

Washington, febrero 26.- El gobierno estadounidense reconoció que "Venezuela dio una serie de pasos importantes el año pasado para mejorar sus esfuerzos antidrogas", según destacó el informe del Departamento de Estado Norteamericano sobre Estrategia Internacional de Control de Narcóticos que otorga la certificación a Venezuela por la lucha contra el narcotráfico, el cual fue dado a conocer este jueves.

La secretaria de Estado norteamericana, Madelaine Albright, presentó este informe anual, que acompaña el anuncio de la "certificación" del gobierno estadounidense, mediante la cual se evalúa el nivel de colaboración de los países productores y de tránsito de drogas en la lucha de Estados Unidos contra este flagelo social.

Venezuela y otros 21 países recibieron la "certificación" de que cooperan en la lucha contra el narcotráfico.

El informe del Departamento de Estado citó, como ejemplo de los logros del gobierno venezolano en esta área, el nombramiento con rango de Ministro del presidente de la Comisión Nacional Antidrogas, Carlos Tablante.

"Los esfuerzos antinarcóticos de Venezuela resultaron en un incremento de más de 150 por ciento en los decomisos de cocaína en 1997", destacó el informe en las seis páginas y media dedicadas a Venezuela.

VENEZUELA RECHAZA LA CERTIFICACION

Por su parte el ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas, a través de un comunicado expresó que el Gobierno reiteraba su rechazo a la certificación por considerarlo un proceso unilateral con efecto extraterritorial de legislaciones internas.

Asimismo el comunicado indica que Venezuela celebra que Estados Unidos "volviendo sobre sus pasos" esté contemplando utilizar un mecanismo de evaluación multilateral sobre los progresos de los países en la lucha contra las drogas.

Agregó la Cancillería que una evaluación multilateral permitirá que todos los países sean observados según normas transparentes y bajo la vigilancia de los organismos internacionales competentes". (Venpres)


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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Aug 18/05 - On Brazil's putrid corruption mess

PMBComment: by comparison to what is cooking (or is it baking?) in Venezuela, the PT's crime seem petty thievery...what a difference oil and a tight grip on all state institutions makes! Even 2.1 million barrels of oil exports per day - a pitiful amount compared to the true productive potential of Venezuela - goes a long way when multiplied by $53/barrel, and even more when spent liberally with no checks, no balances and no shame. What’s more, the chavistas and their acolytes and accomplices do not need to hide $100,000 in their underwear, they simply wire their spoils to their favorite US bank and that is that!

It will be interesting to watch if the investigators, or the press, turn their attention to the corrupt international activities of Dirceu and Marco Aurelio Garcia. One can only guess that the plot will thicken behind giant Venezuelan public work and oil projects awarded without bidding to Brazilian companies and Venezuela's purchase of millions of tons of Brazilian foodstuff. And, just maybe, we will also find out what former Brazilian OAS Ambassador Pecly Moreira was instructed to observe - by these same two characters - when he managed to see nothing wrong whatsoever with last year's recall referendum in Venezuela. PMB


The Economist


The fall of the Workers' Party

Aug 18th 2005
From The Economist print edition



As polls suggest for the first time that Brazil's President Lula da Silva might lose next year's election over a big corruption scandal, his Workers' Party—Latin America's largest left-wing party—risks disintegration


THE fortunes of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president, could yet recover from the corruption scandal which has paralysed his government for the past three months. But his Workers' Party (PT) will never be the same again. An internal election next month is likely to see the party turn further left or split—or both. In any event, it seems set for a drubbing from the voters at a general election next year. The PT's move to the centre in the 1990s stirred optimism about Brazil's economic prospects. It is now in jeopardy.

The scandal turns on allegations that PT officials used illicit cash to finance the party's campaigns and to buy the loyalty of congressional allies. They deny this; no prosecutions have yet been brought. But the affair has already toppled José Dirceu, the president's chief adviser, along with the PT's entire leadership. It has also implicated a score of congressional leaders from the PT and allied parties, along with some opposition figures.

On August 11th, Duda Mendonça, a publicist who orchestrated Lula's 2002 presidential campaign, admitted that he was paid through offshore accounts—a crime if the PT authorised the transaction. For the first time an opinion poll has predicted that Lula would lose next year's presidential election to José Serra, the man he beat in 2002 and who is now mayor of São Paulo. Even so, Lula is not finished yet. He is more popular than his party. There is no proof that he endorsed illegal payments. The economy is set to grow strongly next year. Opposition parties downplay talk of impeachment.

But for the PT, which claimed a monopoly on ethical politics in Brazil, the scandal has precipitated an identity crisis. The party's origins lie in mass strikes which helped to end Brazil's 1964-85 dictatorship. Its election victory in 2002 was widely seen as a sign that Brazil had completed its transition to democracy. The PT's conduct in office appeared to confirm that party and country were maturing together. Like Britain's Tony Blair, and unlike traditional Latin American leftists, Lula's government has made economic stability the foundation of his quest for social justice.

Lula's victory and the pragmatism that followed were made possible by a transformation of the party engineered a decade ago by Mr Dirceu and his allies (known as the "majority camp"). This turned a party of militants—a mixture of Catholic activists, left-wing intellectuals and union leaders—into a mass party of 840,000 individual members. With that came a change in ideology. In its early days the PT knew that it was against capitalism and "bourgeois" democracy, but not what it was for. "We were born saying No," said a former party leader last year. By 2002, Lula stood for moderate social reform.

But the changes opened up fault lines which the scandal has widened. According to his critics, Mr Dirceu, a former communist who trained as a guerrilla in Cuba, never lost his authoritarian habits. In the state of São Paulo, the PT's base, Mr Dirceu's disciples "profiled the members in every municipality", assessing their loyalties and "intimidating those who were not in his circle", says Rudá Ricci, a PT activist turned sociologist.

Others criticise Mr Dirceu's pragmatism. The drive to "win the election at all costs" and ally with parties of the right "dismantled the ethical and political patrimony of the PT", claims Ivan Valente, one of 15 left-wing congressmen who this month formed a "free PT" faction, which rejects the party leadership. The party's former treasurer, Delúbio Soares, became known as the "suitcase man", says Mr Ricci. Mr Dirceu denies knowing of illicit financing and insists that he democratised the party, but by most accounts he wielded near-absolute power over it.

The scandals have triggered a three-way struggle for the party's soul. The left wants to restore its former ideology and structure, as well as its ethics. Mr Dirceu's group is fighting to keep control. The party's new president, Tarso Genro, formerly the education minister, is caught in the middle. The PT is due to elect new leaders on September 18th; after the end of that month, prospective candidates in the 2006 elections can no longer switch parties. By then the PT's new shape will be clearer.



Even if Lula wins the election, his party may lose many congressional seats, robbing it of the confidence to promote unpopular reforms

Mr Genro is the candidate of the "majority camp" but has criticised the government's economic policy. His efforts to punish tainted party leaders have been blocked by Mr Dirceu. Candidates from several leftist factions will challenge Mr Genro. They want an end to congressional alliances with centre-right parties and the sacking of Antonio Palocci, the orthodox finance minister, neither of which Lula can afford to concede. Much of the "Free PT" could end up leaving the party.

In theory, the majority that remains would form a more cohesive grouping, more supportive of Mr Palocci's moderate economic policies. Most PT congressmen think these are correct, says José Eduardo Cardozo, who is one of them. If miscreants are punished, the PT "will emerge bleeding but whole", he says.

Maybe. But it will have trouble finding allies and raising money for next year's election. Even if Lula were to win, most analysts expect the PT to lose up to 40 of its 90 seats in the 513-seat lower house. Such setbacks might rob the party of the confidence to promote unpopular reforms. "The majority camp had a clear political project to incorporate market-friendly reforms into a leftist platform," says Christopher Garman of Eurasia Group, a consultancy. Now "all these guys have fallen." The new team will worry more about defending the PT's electoral base, which is urban, unionised and resistant to reform. Brazil will have to wait for a Workers' Party that is both pragmatic and clean.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Aug 18/05 - On a New Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere

PMBComment: as has been expected since Condi Rice was named Secretary of State, President Bush has nominated Tom Shannon as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. While one man cannot reverse the many errors that have characterized Bush's Latin policy, clearly Tom's move to State unifies under one roof - for the first time since the 2000 election -Latin America policy formulation and execution - so there can be no more excuses for foul ups like the one we all saw in the aftermath of the recall referendum in Venezuela, or the many blunders that will forever define Roger Noriega's failed tenure.

Tom is a respected diplomat, with extensive Latin exposure. He is understated and quiet, but undeniably cerebral and deliberate. During his years of service in the NSC he not only won the confidence of Dr. Rice (and that of her boss) but he was also exposed to the political intricacies that so many times elude career diplomats. His experience in Venezuela has, and will continue to serve him well, as he now has to deal effectively with a problem that both the Clinton and Bush administrations grossly underestimated. John Maisto, his boss in the US Embassy in Caracas and his predecessor in the NSC job, made a chamberlainesque miscalculation when he dismissed Chavez as a simple charlatan despite full evidence to the contrary. Today the US is confronted on a daily basis by a man that proved Maisto and his infamous doctrine "judge him for his deeds and not for his words" totally wrong. Tom Shannon will have his plate full with the consequences of this grave error. For the sake of many in the region, we wish him well as we welcome his long awaited nomination. PMB

White House Personnel Announcement

President George W. Bush today announced his intention to nominate four individuals and designate two individuals to serve in his Administration:

The President intends to nominate Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State (Western Hemisphere Affairs). A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Shannon currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State. Prior to that, he was Director of Andean Affairs and as U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS). Mr. Shannon received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary. He later received his M. Phil and D. Phil from Oxford University.

cont....


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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Aug 2/05 - Sobre las graves advertencias del Cardenal Castillo Lara

PMBComentario: su eminencia no desperdicia palabras para resaltar la gravedad de la crisis y distribuir algo la culpa. Ojala que Jimmy Carter vea que su desempeño en Venezuela es considerada "nefasta" TAMBIEN por un distinguido miembro de la jerarquía católica. Es cada día mas evidente que el Cardenal ha optado por jugar en Venezuela el papel que una vez jugaron cardenales en Centro América, las Filipinas y Polonia para desenmascarar a peligrosos farsantes..sean estos gobernantes de sus respectivos países o apólogos extranjeros, PMB

Cardenal Castillo Lara pronostica baño de sangre en Venezuela

Miami. El cardenal Rosalio Castillo Lara dijo que no habrá guerra civil en Venezuela "pero sí un baño de sangre" y pronosticó que Estados Unidos se arrepentirá de haber reconocido el triunfo del presidente Hugo Chávez en el referendo de agosto de 2004.

El religioso fue entrevistado anoche telefónicamente por el canal 41 de Miami, dijo DPA.

"Ruego todos los días a Dios para que no se dé ese hecho".

El cardenal, quien fue uno de los estrechos colaboradores del papa Juan Pablo II, dijo que Chávez ejerce ilegalmente porque perdió el referendo revocatorio.

"No lo digo ahora, sino que lo denuncié al día siguiente del 16 de agosto en una entrevista con Radio Vaticano", recordó.

Atribuyó la convalidación de la victoria de Chávez a la "nefasta intervención de (Jimmy) Carter".

El domingo el diario El Tiempo de Bogotá publicó una entrevista en la que Castillo afirmó que "Chávez es un paranoico, un castrista que se cree Bolívar y un dictador que no quiere a Colombia, apoya la guerrilla y desea un Estado comunista". También acusó al jefe del Estado de causar el aumento de la delincuencia al instigar a los pobres a robar.

El vicepresidente José Vicente Rangel ripostó diciendo que el cardenal "está obsesionado con Chávez".


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