Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nov30/05 - Now the Editors of the WSJ on Delahunt-Kennedy shameless appeasement

PMBComments: no comment required...read on!


The Wall Street Journal


Oil for Friends
November 30, 2005; Page A18

Money can't buy love, unless you're Anna Nicole Smith. But these days a little heating oil can buy friends in Washington, especially when they come as cheap as Democrat William Delahunt. Massachusetts wants bargain oil prices to help it through the winter. Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chávez wants influence in Washington. Leave it to the Congressman from the Commonwealth and a Kennedy to close the deal.

Last week Venezuela announced that its U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum would sell 12 million gallons of home heating oil at a 40% discount to help the poor in Massachusetts. The deal was announced by Mr. Delahunt on the lawn of a beneficiary before Thanksgiving, with Congressman Ed Markey at his side. "This today is about people, it's not about politics," Mr. Delahunt said with a straight face. Massachusetts-based Citizens Energy, run by the Kennedy clan, will be one of the distributors.

"To Citgo, to the people of Venezuela, our debt," the Congressman pledged. Mr. Delahunt should rightly feel a debt to the people of Venezuela, whose per-capita income is perhaps one-tenth that of Massachusetts and whose sole source of hard currency is the oil that their leader is now giving away to the second-richest state in the union. But Mr. Delahunt has no unpaid debt to Mr. Chávez. For some years now the Congressman has been lobbying hard for the Venezuelan despot, whom he paints as a misunderstood humanitarian. How French.

Mr. Chávez came to power in 1999. In seven years he has a domestic record of human rights abuses, election fraud, property confiscations a la Zimbabwe's Mugabe, erosion of the independent judiciary, limits on press freedom and militarization. His best friends include Fidel Castro, the Iranian mullahs and Colombia's FARC terrorists.

The Bush Administration is worried about all this, but Mr. Delahunt has no qualms. After Mr. Chávez was briefly deposed in 2002 because of his use of violence against dissent, Mr. Delahunt visited Venezuela and proclaimed, "I think he's learned from this. I think he understands that healing and reconciliation are the true qualities of leadership, not division." Mr. Chávez's attacks on his critics have since worsened.

Mr. Delahunt returned to Caracas to dine with Mr. Chávez in August and was asked whether he might be acting in opposition to U.S. policy. "I don't work for Condoleezza Rice. I don't report to the State Department. I report to the people who elected me in the state of Massachusetts. I belong to an independent branch of government."

Which would be more accurate if it were possible for Massachusetts to have a separate foreign policy. Mr. Delahunt's lobbying for the dictator undermines any official U.S. pressure on Mr. Chávez to behave more humanely, which is precisely why Mr. Chávez is returning the favor by plying Mr. Delahunt with cheap oil.


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Nov30/05 - On a fast moving crisis: Veneconomy Editorial comment

PMBComment: so much is going on in Venezuela that I will lean on my friends from Veneconomy for a quick overview of the political/electoral component of a fast moving crisis. Much more to follow. PMB

Veneconomy

Touching bottom?

This Monday, the National Electoral Council (CNE) “succumbed” to clear, unquestionable evidence that the fingerprint identification machines violate the universal principle of the secrecy of the ballot. In response to pressure from the OAS and the political parties, in particular Primero Justicia and Un Nuevo Tiempo (Manuel Rosales’ party), the CNE agreed to eliminate the use of the fingerprint identification machines at the December 4 elections, claiming that it was doing so as a temporary concession to increase participation, but insisting that it will use them in future elections.

This alone confirms that the CNE is manipulative, untruthful, and totally unreliable.

It has been made quite clear that the agency that represents the Electoral Branch of government in Venezuela has been lying barefacedly since last year, when it imposed the fingerprint identification machines on voters during the Recall Referendum, on the pretext that they would prevent people from voting more than once. It also lied when it claimed that these machines were reliable. And it lied when it refuted repeated claims by Súmate and election technicians that the privacy of the vote was being violated.

What is more, the CNE’s “concession” generated a climate of even greater confusion among political leaders and in the electorate, who are unclear which is the best path to take when dealing with a government that has redefined the concept of democracy, turning it into a fallacy.

The capacity that this illegitimate CNE has for trickery and fraud has been demonstrated, not only with the matter of the fingerprint identification machines but also with a manipulated, distorted Permanent Electoral Roll, allowing “twin voting,” and its unwillingness to count all the ballots, to name just a few of the many irregularities. Faced with this situation, Acción Democrática, COPEI, and Proyecto Venezuela have withdrawn from the December 4 elections, the first time such a thing has happened in the history of these parties. Primero Justicia and Un Nuevo Tiempo are in the process of deciding whether or not to take part in the elections and it still remains to be seen what stand they will take. If they do not withdraw, they will run the risk of being isolated or of being dubbed traitors by people who side with the opposition. The best option for both parties seems to be to apply the maxim of the political analyst Aníbal Romero, who says “it’s never too late to recover one’s dignity.”

Venezuela is on the threshold of yet another stage in its democratic process, and much water still has to flow under the bridge.


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Monday, November 28, 2005

Nov 28/05 - On the collapse of the electoral route

Enough! I vote, you vote, he votes, we vote THEY DECIDE!


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Nov 28/05 - Heritage Foundation weighs in on Chávez-Delahunt-Kennedy PR scheme

Heritage Foundation

Venezuela's Oil Shenanigans Wash Up on American Shores
by Stephen Johnson
WebMemo #923
November 23, 2005

Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez claims he is a bramble bush. Mess with him and you'll get scratched-that's what he told President Vicente Fox of Mexico, who urged hemispheric leaders to quit blaming other countries for their troubles at the America's Summit held earlier this November. This was an oblique reference to Chávez, who calls George W. Bush a Nazi and U.S. allies lapdogs.

Now Chávez is using his country's oil to stick a thorn in the side of the Bush Administration. That thorn is Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA)-an upbeat Chávez promoter who says that the fiery autocrat is not as bad as some may think. Claiming he doesn't work for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Delahunt recently negotiated with Chávez to arrange the sale of heating oil at below market prices to Massachusetts-based Citizens Energy Corporation.

Apologizing for bad actors is nothing new. During the 1980s, congressional liberals fawned over Nicaraguan revolutionaries who went on to lose a free election and steal between $100 million to $300 million in state funds and property. A decade later, several liberal lawmakers backed Haitian despot Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who ruled through street mobs, also stole millions, and resigned in disgrace.

Making deals for affordable home heating oil isn't novel either. Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II actually launched a successful political career in 1979 by forming Citizens Energy to aid needy citizens at a time of rising fuel costs. Venezuela's then-public oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), stepped in and sold modest allotments. Kennedy got the credit.

This time, Rep. Delahunt may have gone over the edge. However well-intended his constituent service, he is helping Chávez drive a wedge between the American people and their government. Granted, freezing Citizens Energy customers in New England may see things differently. But the rest of the country should take umbrage at a congressman dancing with a market manipulator who helped jack-up global petroleum prices only to sell at below-market prices to a select few.

In 1999, it was Chávez who stopped PDVSA from increasing shipments when other producers cut theirs. He then urged OPEC to reduce oil production to boost global prices and shelved plans to increase production capacity. His 2001 Hydrocarbons Law doubled royalties on foreign operators and restricted future private investment. Following a devastating oil workers strike in 2003, he took personal charge of a new national council that controls PDVSA.

Today, oil prices are higher than they would be otherwise because of Chávez. His talk of suspending exports to some countries creates a climate of speculation, artificially raising prices as refiners scramble to secure suppliers. His deferrals of investment in field equipment have lowered production capacity, also contributing to hikes.

Despite accusations at home that he is squandering public patrimony, Chávez still supplies Cuba's Castro regime with 50,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil and oil derivatives per day, all at below-market prices and on easy credit, reportedly financed over 15 years at 2 percent interest. Cuba allegedly owes Venezuela more than $1 billion in arrears.

Mr. Chávez also promised below-market petroleum to Caribbean nations in return for friendship. This past June, he signed a pact with 13 countries to supply them with oil at 60 percent of the market price, with the other 40 percent converted to a 25-year loan. The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, a hydrocarbons producer, is now losing sales because it can't arbitrarily cut prices for special customers like Chávez does.

This September, Chávez reportedly promised Nicaragua's Sandinista party leaders that he would supply selected municipalities with subsidized oil, which could hold down costs of taxi and bus fares. But what the president giveth, he taketh away-if and when he chooses. From 2003 to 2004, he halted petroleum shipments to the Dominican Republic because an adversary, former Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez, lived there in exile.
In the larger scheme of things, Chávez's coercive diplomacy has done little to win him friends. Caribbean and Latin American consumer nations haven't voted with his government in international forums because they know he helped to raise prices and keep them high while Venezuelans sip gas at about 12 cents a gallon.

Moreover, his friendship means little. Chávez's demeanor can switch from seeming benevolence to hateful insults depending on mood swings and perceived differences of opinion-as Mexico's Fox well knows.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) had it right when he said during his 2004 U.S. presidential bid that "Chavez's policies have been detrimental to our interests and those of his neighbors." Unfortunately, his House colleague doesn't see it that way. Instead of freelancing with a foreign power, as Rep. Delahunt has done, U.S. lawmakers should focus on letting free markets develop alternate energy sources and sidestep mischief from hostile, tricky regimes.

Stephen Johnson is Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Nov 22/05 - On a scheme to hoodwink America's poor: Hugo Chávez enlists a Kennedy for his anti-U.S. campaign

Cesar Chavez and Robert F. Kennedy
Different times, different Chavez and different Kennedy

PMBComment: It might be fair to say that without oil Hugo Chávez would have never been elected president. By 1998, bountiful oil had made the task of governing Venezuela seem like a simple – i.e. requiring little talent – routine of distributing relatively easy to exploit natural wealth. This flawed conception explains why the two main political parties, AD and Copei, brazenly fielded a former beauty queen and an untrained septuagenarian in the 1998 election. As a result, Chávez’s victory, feasible in theory due to decreasing standards, was also effortless in practice, and a surprise only to the winner who had started the year with less than 3% in the polls.

We can also state today that sans oil – and a desperately sought oil price run up - Hugo Chávez would have never lasted in power long enough to inflict the kind of permanent institutional damage that will almost certainly be his deplorable legacy.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise to find oil, and its main byproduct – oil money, in every nook and cranny of Mr. Chávez’s ploy to buy consciences and meddle in the internal affairs of other nations.

Just this week, we saw an on-his’s-knee Nestor Kirchner from Patagonia, Argentina pleading for more cash, and a member of the Kennedy family from Boston, Massachusetts trying to sugar coat - as energy charity - his long sought role of propaganda stooge for the Caracas government.

On the latter development, Sunday’s Boston Globe ran a front page story (read below in full) under the triumphant title “Thousands in Massachusetts to get cheaper oil”. The subheading states that “[Congressman Willliam] Delahunt, Chávez help broker deal”, and the story goes on to inform us that according to Citizens Energy Corp, “the approximately $9 million deal will bring nine million gallons of oil to [45,000] families and three million gallons to institutions that serve the poor, such as homeless shelters”.

Citizens Energy Corporation is the non-profit company set up in 1980 by Joseph P. Kennedy II, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy. According to the Globe, CEC is expected to sign this deal with CITGO, PDVSA’s wholly owned U.S. affiliate, today.

At the risk of appearing cold hearted, I will provide some of the very relevant elements not covered by the Boston paper that might put this self-serving and shamelessly political initiative in the proper context.

First, this is not a novel idea. Citizens got going in 1980 as a result of Venezuela’s decision to grant a term crude contract to 26-year-old Joe Kennedy who was then trying to prove that oil majors were somehow delivering rather expensive heating oil to residents in the northeastern United States. The idea was deemed worthy, and given the go ahead by Humberto Calderon Berti, Venezuela’s Oil Minister at the time (Calderon was also instrumental in the signing of San Jose Accord through which Caribbean and Central American nations were able to access favorable funding terms for their oil purchase from Mexico and Venezuela). The difference in those cases was that Venezuela’s government was not trying to rub its good deed - which in the Citizens’ case consisted in approving a small allocation of crude volume at officials prices in a very tight market were contracts were commanding premiums - in anyone’s face. As I remember, Calderon’s sole request was that some of the profit that might result from the not-for-profit scheme should be plowed back into energy conservation initiatives in Central American and the Caribbean. The first years of Citizen's cheap fuel program were stellar, and small scale conservation projects were funded in Costa Rica, Jamaica and even in Venezuela. After a few years, with the company making most of its money as a plain vanilla oil trader, Joe Kennedy capitalized his initial goodwill into a seat in the U.S. Congress (from were he retired in 1998 after six terms).

Second, it is important to remember that Venezuela, up to 1999, had always been THE MOST reliable source of imported energy for the U.S. During the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo it parted ways with its OPEC brethren and agreed to increase production to compensate for the shortages created by that retaliatory act. Since coming to office in 1999, Hugo Chávez chose to obliterate that record of reliability and pursue recklessly high prices instead of mutually convenient production increases. He scuttled PDVSA’s 10-year plan which would have Venezuela producing close to 5.5 million today (versus barely 2.7 MM it produces today). Over the years, the aspiring autocrat has repeatedly threatened to cut oil shipments to the U.S. for all sorts of concocted reasons. Today, Venezuela is considered to be a “highly unreliable source” of imported energy and as a result the entire Western Hemisphere has lost certain degree of energy independence and security.

Third, the most noticeable consequence of this strategy of constraining production has been higher prices for consumers all over the world. It is estimated that the “Chávez” premium can be anywhere between $7-10 per barrel. Venezuela is the most hawkish –and unrepentant - of price hawks within OPEC. Chávez frequently say that “the fair price of oil should be closer to $100/barrel”. His threats to suspend shipments to the U.S. are a welcome source of volatility - ergo profits - for speculators. So, while 45,000 families in the Boston area might be getting a “three week” reprieve thanks to Mr. Chávez’s largesse, EVERY family in the U.S. is paying much more EVERYDAY for gasoline, diesel, heating oil, lubricants, electricity and so on, because of Hugo Chávez recklessness. U.S. consumers in turn are funding most of Chávez subversive schemes in the Hemisphere (keep in mind that the U.S. buys 70% of Venezuelas oil exports at full price, while Venezuelan consumers and many countries in Latin America get huge politically driven discounts).

Fourth, Citizens Energy owns no terminal, does not own a fleet of trucks and is not capable of qualifying low income families as eligible recipients of this “cheap oil”. The latter task is performed by Community Action Programs. In 1980, CITGO was not yet part of PDVSA, and an intermediary was appropriate (the CEC scheme was also a lot more complex involving cut rate third party refining and transportion). But given CITGO’s significant presence in the Northeast, this “assistance” could have been arranged directly with the Commonwealth and through the CAPs. So what is Citizen’s and Joe Kennedy’s role in all this? What about Bill Delahunt? I do not know for sure. To me, they are allowing themselves to be used by an uncouth tormentor of Human Rights, who is hell-bent not only on making life difficult for the U.S. Administration, but is also on record (on multiple occasions) rejecting everything the U.S. stands for. While trying to earn some political capital by “doing good” in their home turf cannot be considered a felony, doing so by becoming accessories to a self declared enemy of the U.S. falls well short of conscientious citizenship.

Fifth, Joe Kennedy feels that he has covered his back against the above charge by haplessly stating the following ''You start parsing which countries' politics we're going to feel comfortable with, and only buying oil from them, then there are going to be a lot of people not driving their cars and not staying warm this winter…There are a lot of countries that have much worse records than Venezuela. At the end of the day it's not our business to go choosing other peoples' leaders, particularly when they are duly-elected democratic leaders." What he seems to forget is that no other government is trying to hoodwink the U.S. public into thinking that they are direct descendants of Robin Hood. The other, maybe equally undesirable, governments simply sell their oil to whoever is willing to pay for it, and at times, have been precluded from even doing that by Democrats in the White House. In a recent Op-Ed Senator John Kerry was much more on target when he actually criticized President Bush for allowing “thugs like Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro to distort and propagandize the interest and actions of the U.S., isolating the U.S. from millions with whom we share a common heritage and innumerable interests”. (Since this moral short circuit involves liberal democrats from Massachusetts, I will leave it to them, and Teddy Kennedy, to sort it out in the dining room table).

Sixth, by stating that he is only dealing with “the duly-elected democratic” leader of Venezuela, Joe Kennedy conveniently brushes aside the fact on September 11, 2001, all the democratic nations of the Hemisphere (including the U.S and Venezuela) signed a Democratic Charter that defines democracy in much more exacting terms than simply being the natural and hence acceptable outcome of “democratic elections”. While this might be a comprehensible oversight for a private sector executive, it is a huge failing for the scion of a family that prides itself on its rigorous approach to freedom, democracy and Human Rights around the world. I am convinced that a number of individuals who are risking all to highlight and reverse Venezuela’s current state of affairs would qualify for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Somehow I am certain Hugo Chávez, fraudulent largesse and all, will never be an RFK laureate.

Seventh, over the last few years it has been maddening to observe Representative Delahunt acting as Hugo Chávez main cheerleader/apologist in the U.S. Congress. No matter how evident Mr. Chávez’s anti-U.S. designs and rhetoric have become, Delahunt was there ready to explain, to dump dirt on the Venezuelan opposition and to take pot shots at the Bush Administration. Just last week, after a hearing on Democracy in Venezuela in the House of Representatives a number of congressional staffers wondered aloud as to Delahunt’s REAL motivation. Now we all have the answer, and it is clearly partisan, self serving and therefore debased.

And finally, in a recent conversation I had with Joe Kennedy on this same subject he screamed at me that his only interest was to “help the poor folks in Boston”. I googled all these good intentions and found a story in the Boston Herald that stated that “entities related to his Citizens Energy Corp. paid him [Joe Kennedy] more than $400,000 in 2003, the last year for which records are available.” Not bad for a non-profit executive willing to lend his name to a $9 million foreign disinformation campaign. PMB

Disclosure note: some of the facts in this note are well known to me because as a 22-year-old college student, I helped Joe Kennedy - at the request of his uncle Senator Kennedy, for whom I had worked in 1976 as an intern - present his case to Minister Calderon and to the folks at PDVSA, a company I never dreamed then I would work for, and much less become a Board Member of many years later. I consider Joe a friend, and I had a closer relationship with his late brother Michael, but I first and foremost consider Hugo Chávez a grave threat to my country - and beyond. I hope Joe will eventually understand this, but if he does not, there is nothing I can do.

Additional reference: letter written by Venezuelan Ambassador to Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, explaining the "humanitarian" objectives of this "cheap" oil-for-political-havoc scheme.

The Boston Globe

Thousands in Mass. to get cheaper oil

Delahunt, Chávez help broker deal

By Michael Levenson and Susan Milligan, Globe Correspondent and Globe Staff November 20, 2005

A subsidiary of the Venezuelan national oil company will ship 12 million gallons of discounted home-heating oil to local charities and 45,000 low-income families in Massachusetts next month under a deal arranged by US Representative William D. Delahunt, a local nonprofit energy corporation, and Venezuela's president, White House critic Hugo Chávez.

The approximately $9 million deal will bring nine million gallons of oil to families and three million gallons to institutions that serve the poor, such as homeless shelters, said officials from Citizens Energy Corp., which is signing the contract. Families would pay about $276 for a 200-gallon shipment, a savings of about $184 and enough to last about three weeks.

The contract is to be signed Tuesday by officials from Citizens Energy, based in Boston, and CITGO, a Houston-based subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela SA. The contract was arranged after months of talks between Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat active in Latin American affairs, and Chávez, a leftist former paratrooper and fierce critic of the Bush administration.

''We recognized that we had an opportunity," Delahunt's spokesman, Steve Schwadron, said yesterday.

Chávez showed ''an inclination to do a humanitarian distribution" of oil, and poor families in Massachusetts had a ''desperate need" for relief from high home-heating prices, Schwadron said. He characterized the deal as one between ''a US company and two nonprofits to help them do more of what they already do, with terms that mean the price is good."

Delahunt was not available for comment yesterday.

Schwadron said the congressman did not get involved in the details of the contract, but had raised the issue with Chávez and helped connect the nonprofits with CITGO, which is owned by PDV America Inc., an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela SA, the national oil company of Venezuela.

When the discounted oil arrives early next month, Citizens Energy -- whose chairman and president, former US representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, also helped arrange the contract -- will screen recipients with the help of local organizations that serve the poor. Some 350 local dealers will then distribute three-fourths of the oil to local families.

MassEnergyConsumer Alliance, a nonprofit group that also offers discounted oil, will distribute or sell the remaining quarter to homeless shelters, food banks, and low-income housing groups, said Larry Chretien, the group's executive director. Recipients must apply for the help, he said.

Home heating oil prices are expected to increase by 30 percent to 50 percent this winter because of rising oil prices, Chretien said. Because funding for the federal Low Income Heating Assistance Program is expected to pay for only one delivery of heating oil to eligible households, the CITGO agreement could help ease the crunch on some families, he said.

''Fuel assistance is woefully underfunded, so this is a major shot in the arm for people who otherwise wouldn't get through the winter," Chretien said. He said he hoped the deal would present ''a friendly challenge" to US oil companies -- which recently reported record quarterly profits -- to use their windfall to help poor families survive the winter.

Some foreign-policy analysts said Chávez helped broker the deal in part as a jab at President Bush. Chávez has frequently belittled the White House, saying it is not doing enough to help the poor, and he has called Bush an ''assassin" and a ''crazy man." Now, he has helped arranged for 285,000 barrels of oil to arrive in Massachusetts at a 40 percent discount over the next four months. Each barrel contains 42 gallons.

''It is a slap in the face" to the Bush administration, said Larry Birns, executive director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a group that tracks Latin American politics and government. ''Chávez is involved in petro-diplomacy."

Chávez has drawn criticism from human rights groups for his treatment of political foes and curbs on media freedoms. But he has also become a hero to some on the left who say he has helped improve conditions for the poor in his country and drawn attention to US foreign policy in Iraq and Latin America.

On Friday, a US State Department spokesman declined to comment on the oil deal with Chávez.

Schwadron said Delahunt's involvement had nothing to do with Venezuela's strained relationship with the Bush administration and was meant as a specific effort to ease high heating costs for Bay State residents.

Massachusetts already gets a great deal of oil from Venezuela, Chretien said, and the deal with CITGO means only that the oil will be less expensive. He added that he has never been approached with such an offer from a US oil company.

''We did not negotiate foreign policy here," Schwadron said. ''We steered clear of that."

Kennedy said he was not concerned about Chávez's politics.

''You start parsing which countries' politics we're going to feel comfortable with, and only buying oil from them, then there are going to be a lot of people not driving their cars and not staying warm this winter," Kennedy said. ''There are a lot of countries that have much worse records than Venezuela. At the end of the day it's not our business to go choosing other peoples' leaders, particularly when they are duly-elected democratic leaders."

Kennedy said Delahunt has been working with Chávez ''for years now and has gone down there many times and developed a personal relationship with him."

Chávez has used his influence in the global market before.

In August, he offered discounted home-heating oil to poor communities in the United States after meeting in Caracas with the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


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Monday, November 21, 2005

Nov 21/05- Hey, look...it's the pot calling the kettle black: Castro's puppy runs amok

Ramirez - LATimes


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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Nov 19/05 - On rhetorical excess and excessive candor: Chávez's verbal incontinence

If calling President Fox "the empire's puppy" was insulting, singing rancheras was injurious.

Question for Congressman Delahunt: Is this what you had in mind when requesting a moratorium on rhetoric?

I regret the conflict with the Mexican government; I have always made an effort to maintain good relations with all countries. I really regret it, but I could not stay quiet. I respect the majesty of the Mexican president, as I respect all presidents except one. Because Bush is an assassin, a mass murderer, a real crazy man, a real treat to the world. One cannot respect someone who does not respect the world, someone who threatens the entire world.. he cannot be respected”.

And for those who still think Chávez understand the workings of democracy

"Since 1998, the US. has bitten the dust, since they tried to prevent my election…here we are …We are never going to leave, the revolution arrived to stay in Venezuela
.

Both quotes by Hugo Chávez at anti-Fox rally in Caracas, November 19th, 2005


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Nov 19/05 - Link to Video replay of Nov. 17th, House of Representatives hearing on "Democracy in Venezuela"

PMBComments: given how badly the Venezuelan Government reacted to this hearing, I thought it would make sense to provide the link to the Webcast video where you can watch it. The government's wacko reaction is hard to understand given that they recently held a "Public Trial against Bush" attended by thousands of foreign students, and there was no reaction AT ALL from Washington. In that mock trial, Chávez, his VP - Jose Vicente Rangel (who acted as Chief Prosecutor) and a series of foreign witnesses for the prosecution said everything they wanted to say against the U.S. In pure Cuban style, there were no witnesses for the defense.

On the other hand, in the Hearing in the U.S. House of Representative there where a few Congressman that read right off the lobby cheat sheet handed to them by the Venezuelan information Office (Venezuela’s parallel "gringo-staffed-Cuban-adviced' Embassy in D.C.). And then there was Rep. William Delahunt: “blinded”, naive or dumb, or all three things combined. PMB

Note: you will find individual testimonies by going to individual link below

November 17, 2005:
10:30 a.m., 2172 Rayburn House Office Building
Hearing: Democracy in Venezuela
Hearing Notice, The Honorable Dan Burton, The Honorable Thomas A. Shannon, Mr. Joseph McSpedon, Mr. John Walsh, Ms. Ana Julia Jatar


View Webcast Video


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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Nov 17/05 - On the real invasion plans: it is Spain that wants it all back :-)


This would have been a more adequate acussation and headline


For more on Chávez's ABC Nightline "U.S. invasion plan" scam, I recommend you go to the following article:

On Chavez's conspiracy theories: the truth of Plan Balboa

By Aleksander Boyd, Editor, Vcrisis

Go to the Article


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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nov 16/05 - On the lost battle for Capitol Hill: Hugo Chávez's "democracy" under review

Warning: Lobbying does not work when the product is so tainted

PMBComments: Two developments from the U.S. Congress merit today’s post. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), the highly respected Chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations, wrote a letter to the National Endowment for Democracy expressing serious concerns about “the increasing number of reports on the efforts of certain foreign governments to thwart U.S.-originated support for grassroots democratic organizations in their countries”. Belarus, Uzbekistan, Russia, Egypt, and Zimbabwe are joined by Venezuela in this “usual suspects” lineup of countries that opt to blame foreigners for their citizens growing thirst for democracy, freedom and prosperity.

With regards to Venezuela, the letter highlights the case of “the leadership of the NGO SUMATE [which] is being prosecuted on conspiracy charges for receiving grant funds from NED to conduct voter education workshops, and its leaders have now been banned from leaving the country”.

Senator Lugar concludes by stating: “We take these developments seriously, inasmuch as they threaten the ability of democrats, operating peacefully and openly, to continue working with U.S. organizations that receive congressional funding to carry out their mandates”. He requests from NED a survey on threats to democratic assistance around the world in order to discuss “appropriate means by which to address this serious problem”.

If history is any guide, I would suggest that the Caracas regime start planning for the kind of relentless pressure that can be rallied from the outside by individuals that do not tread on these matters lightly. Senator Lugar far from being a Neocon, is a moderate, but firm, conservative that played instrumental roles in such “simple” tasks as calling Ferdinand Marcos’s final electoral bluff in the Philippines; setting the stringent – and still followed - rules for Nuclear disarmament in the former Soviet Union, and forcing a re-run of Kuchmas’ tainted election in the Ukraine last year. With yellow and orange people’s power revolutions on his mantle piece, it is sure good to count on his support as we – Venezuela’s true democrats - try to extricate our country from the jaws of a fraudulent, tainted, nuclear-seeking and very red revolution.

In another development that represent a setback to Mr. Chávez dreams of dividing U.S. public opinion around him, Congressman Dan Burton (R-Indiana), Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, issued the following statement in anticipation of today’s hearing in his Subcommittee on Democracy in Venezuela. What makes this unusually harsh statement relevant is that over the last few months Mr. Chávez had been meeting with Mr. Burton under the auspices of Representative William Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), Chávez's top cheerleader-apologist in the halls of the U.S. Congress. With this statement, it is clear that Mr. Burton puts an end to his efforts to seek dialogue with a dictator-on-training-wheels that is hell bent on prodding the U.S. into a desperately desired confrontation. I reproduce the entire statement below. PMB

CHAIRMAN DAN BURTON TO REVIEW

THE STATUS OF DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA

(Washington, D.C.) - Since his election in 1998, President Hugo Chávez has proclaimed to be the champion of the poor, supposedly fighting poverty and improving the social well-being of Venezuela and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, largely through revenues derived from his country's vast oil supplies. Despite these "efforts," poverty rates continue to rise in Venezuela, while democracy erodes, and instability rises.

"I have met President Chávez twice, both in Caracas, Venezuela and again in New York. On both occasions he indicated to me that he wanted to have a working dialogue with the United States Government, and that he was a supporter of democratic institutions. Since these meetings, I have listened to Mr. Chávez's speeches, where he continually uses rhetoric that sounds anti-democratic and revolutionary and this causes many problems" stated Burton.

"In his speech at the Summit of Americas, President Chávez openly talked about the revolutionary goals of communist Che Guevara, and the need for Guevara's revolution to continue throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. His talk of armed revolution is something all of the democracies of the Western Hemisphere oppose, and Mr. Chávez is gravely mistaken if he believes there will be no repercussions for his anti-democratic rhetoric and activities. His efforts to limit freedoms in Venezuela while simultaneously supporting anti-democratic, revolutionary, leftist efforts in Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and elsewhere throughout Latin America and the Caribbean is unacceptable to the United States of America and the international community at large" concluded Burton.

Congressman Dan Burton [R-IN-05], Chairman of the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, will hold a hearing entitled, "Democracy in Venezuela," on Thursday, November 17, 2005, in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 10:30 a.m., to review and measure the status of democracy and democratic institutions in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.


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Nov 16/05 - Wielding lies and fear: A Veneconomy Editorial

Veneconomy

Wielding lies and fear

Using lies as a political weapon to terrify and wipe out one’s opponents is grotesque and unacceptable at any time and in any place. Even more aberrant is when it is the government of a country that uses this strategy; and worse still is when society fails to confront these lies soundly and with determination.

For the past seven years in Venezuela the government has made lying a daily practice and part of its public policy.

The government is lying when it reports that oil production is higher than it actually is; it is also lying when it manipulates the true poverty figures and the population’s literacy index; it is lying when it confiscates land and property making use of “legal” contrivances; and it is lying when it accuses innocent people of crimes of all kinds.

Even worse than the lying is the extreme apathy and indifference of the people who do not react to so much falsehood.

In any country in the world where things function as they should, if the head of an agency, such as the Prosecutor General, attacks public figures whose behavior has been above reproach with accusations that are clearly unfounded, society would react by publicly rejecting such accusations categorically and immediately. But, sadly, this no long happens in Venezuela.

The reaction of the Banking Association to the accusation brought against its vice-president Nelson Mezerhane as one of people who allegedly masterminded the murder of Public Prosecutor Danilo Anderson was spineless and late in coming, as was the response of the new Archbishop of Caracas, Jorge Urosa to the accusation, on the same charges, against Cardinal Castillo Lara.

Government lies that are not refuted leave an indelible mark on society. Maintaining silence and giving consent out of fear is the most despicable of surrenders. Silence annihilates justice and renders people defenseless against those in government who have no ethical objection to seeking ways of humiliating anyone who opposes them or whom they find an embarrassment.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nov 15/05 - It's the MILITARY stupid!: the end of delusions

All ready for "the battle of the ticks"?

PMBComment: Over the last five years, I have been totally skeptical about what came to be naively described as the “constitutional, democratic, electoral and peaceful” solution to Venezuela’s crisis. Far from being a coupster (as some #%^&*s at State would have it) I think the facts bear out that I was nothing but a realist. People who govern in the manner Chávez and his band of thugs have chosen to govern, do not surrender power in an election. They do not just hand over the symbols of power to an opposition which would diligently deliver their heads, torsos and butts to a proper, and harsh, justice scheme.

The other reason I have been less than gullible is because I have always stated that this is a military government, not a democratic government. So yes, as James Carville would say – if he understood anything about Latin America – “it’s the Military stupid!” Hugo Chávez is, first and foremost, a mediocre, mid-level, military man with no need for negotiation skills. He does not see politics as a game to be won in the bargaining table, but as an epic battle with only two possible outcomes: glorious victory or dishonorable defeat. No grey, no in betweens, no sharing of anything. Hoping to win a political battle with such man is tantamount to beating Kasparov while blindfolded. What’s more, Hugo Chávez will cheat at politics even if you are blind, or too dumb, to see his moves. All is fair in the game of war.

At last, this position is being borne not only by a myriad of events in Venezuela, but also by the written word. If you go to this link – militarvenezolano2005 – you will encounter a very revealing document (which I do not think was meant to be public). Under the portentous title: Pensamiento Militar Venezolano. Mr. Chávez and his closest military sycophants spell out in wordy (and rather painful) detail their plan to obliterate any trace of democratic capitalism from Venezuela. Unabashedly declaring the US (“the empire”) as the enemy, they go into the gory detail of how the Americans will be utterly defeated after being lured into invading Venezuela. The strategy is pure and simple Iraq-redux; Reservists and Territorial Guards acting like insurgent “ticks” (they actually use the silly term “the war of the ticks”) would stop a formidable (yes, “they even have Robot soldiers”), but easy to demoralize, enemy. And if the U.S. does not venture into the “zona de matanza” (killing zone), the revamped reservists and the newly minted guards – now under the direct operational control of Commander-in-Chief Chávez - would go after those Venezuelans – the so called “quinta columnas” – that live “hedonistic” lives under “neoliberal patterns”.

The blatant glorification of war and the perverse delight in the prospect of civil confrontation should put an end to any illusion of a “c,d,e and p” solution to Venezuela’s systemic crisis and should serve as sufficient notice to the naïve, the apologists and the disinterested. PMB

Note: 1) a translation of the above reference document is being prepared, but for those of you who can tackle both Spanish and military verbosity, I recommend you focus on Chapter V of this criminal Justification for Civil War. 2) For a good definition of “quinta columna” – a classic Spanish civil war term – go to this Op-ed by Marciano a.k.a. Jose Vicente Rangel, eminence grise of this corrupt regime.


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Monday, November 14, 2005

Nov 14/05 - On why Chávez went Fox-hunting: so much closer to the real target

Hugo Chávez is a master at luring his prey

PMBComment: Venezuela and Mexico opted to “downgrade” the level of its diplomatic relationship as a result of a deliberate and garish provocation by Hugo Chávez. Calling President Fox “the empire’s puppy” was bad enough once…but to do it again after the Foreign Ministers had inked a sort of cease-fire is calculated and reckless warmongering. This is indeed a rude awakening for Mexico’s semi-comatose government.

After years of gleefully neglecting Chávez (how can one ever forget Mexico’s lackluster participation in the Group of Friends of then “marooned” Secretary General Gaviria or Foreign Minister Derbez’s feeble – and utterly futile - appeal to Chávez just last week “please remember we condemned the coup against you”) Mexico has now been lured by Chávez into a situation – a trap - that can potentially benefit Chávez in the eyes of millions of Mexicans – in both Mexico and the US. Meddling in Mexico’s political arena has been a long dream of his mentor Fidel Castro, and true to form Chávez has just inserted himself smack in the middle of that country’s uninspiring political scene.

As he has done so often with the opposition in Venezuela, he has picked the subject, the place, the time and the intensity of the battle. Once again he aspires to fight as “victim” and not as aggressor. Those who have dismissed, or chastised, Chávez’s opposition for seeking the early exit of this nasty charlatan, now have the opportunity to enjoy a little bit of the non-stop abuse he has heaped on millions of Venezuelans. Time and time again, Mexico stood by as if democracy, freedom, human rights and prosperity were not shared aims of all democratic citizens and government in the region. Hiding behind its “traditional” (PRI-inspired) non-intervention policy to skirt its duty as one of the emerging democracies in the region, Mexico has now been gored by a devilish leader hell-bent on creating chaos. Hopefully the political establishment in Mexico will band together and face this challenge united. Chávez might seem to be after Fox, but in reality he is after the whole enchilada. Mexico is close enough to the U.S. for Chávez to dream of finally drawing President Bush into a “mano a mano” – a trap once more - the White House has adroitly avoided for the last three years. PMB


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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Nov 8/05 - On the regime vs. THE PEOPLE: SUMATE as a formidable enemy for a corrupted state


PMBComment: The 7th Judge of the Caracas Circuit has issued an order banning four Sumate activists from leaving the country, among them its founders Alejandro Plaz and Maria Corina Machado.


On July 9th, the 41st Court of Control, presided by Judge Norma Sandoval, had ruled that Alejandro Plaz, María Corina Machado, Luis Enrique Palacios and Ricardo Estévez, should stand trial. She also ruled that they would remain free the duration of the trial.

These four pro-democracy activists were charge by the Public Prosecutor's Office with the crime of "conspiracy" against the government for having received funds from the US based, and publicly funded, National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The funds, less than $50,000, were used to conduct voter education activities in the context of last year's Recall Referendum which, please keep in mind, was the "electoral, constitutional, democratic and peaceful" solution agreed by the Government and the opposition as a result of the facilitation efforts of the OAS, the Carter Center and the UNDP.

This action by a judicial establishment that has demonstrated, time and time again, its subservience to the wishes of the Executive branch is but an instance of what has become an obvious and repulsive pattern of intimidation.

Those observing the December 4th parlamentary election will do well to assume a VERY different attitude that what was the case with Mr. Gaviria and Mr. Carter. In the rush to leave town with something to show for their otherwise fruitless stay, they both turned a blind eye to blatant illegalities and abuses of all kind. They ignored the fact that citizens have the right to vote free from fear. They seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew it, that this is a precondition to voting and counting votes! Not to mention that state sponsored intimidation on a massive scale is sufficient reason to quash any election for failing to meet minimum standards of fairness.

Gaviria’s and Carter’s silence in August 2004 was unacceptable, but the fact that they still remain silent about what they really “observed” while in Caracas and their cowardly failure to speak out about the obvious consequences of the very tainted recall they fumbled, makes them accomplices to what SUMATE's founders, and many many others, are enduring in the never-too-hard battle for freedom and democracy.

What is patently clear is that the work of SUMATE is being duly noted by a fraudulent regime, and I am convinced that the accused and millions of Venezuelans will only be emboldened by the blatant misuse of our legal system. PMB

Post post note: In answer to a readers question on why this measure was taken now, I think that Alejandro Plaz's recent press conference on his European trip in which he presented Sumate's "State of Venezuela's Democracy" had a lot to do with it. What the crude bunch that misgoverns us (and their Cuban handlers) fail to understand is that you can try to cover the sun with your thumb, but you can't blind the world to a reality that glows in the dark..


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Nov 8/05 - On why it is never a good idea to ditch your allies and cavort with dictators: France face-to-face with its man-made Katrina


"
Katrina's devastation points the finger at Bush's system...issues forgotten for years are back to the fore: poverty, the state's absense, latent racism"
Le Monde, September 8, 2003

Bush: "So, you got your own Islam problems now, Huh?
The shoes on the other foot – oh,oh the irony. So everything
is always my fault huh? Libertee Equlitee Who?...”
and so on…

PMBComments: the seriousness of the French riots cannot be overstated. This happened first in France because it perfected the politics of discrimination and refined the art of double standards. French history is rich in lessons that go unlearnt. Today France must seek the solidarity of all its citizens and the moral support of all civilized nations in the world. In return it must get off its high gelding and clean its act all around. And, BTW, I am not taking sides on the US-France spat underlying this...just making a point! PMB

Quote of the Week (for now):

"We must be lucid: The Republic is at a moment of truth ...The effectiveness of our integration model is in question...France is wounded. It does not recognize itself in these devastated streets and neighborhoods, in this outburst of hatred and of violence that vandalizes and kills,''

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin addressing the lower house of parlament

Restive France Declares State of Emergency
Tuesday November 8, 2005 11:01 PM

By JOHN LEICESTER Associated Press Writer

PARIS (AP) - The French government declared a state of emergency Tuesday after nearly two weeks of rioting, and the prime minister said the nation faced a ``moment of truth.''

The extraordinary security measures, to begin Wednesday and valid for 12 days, clear the way for curfews to try to halt the country's worst civil unrest since the student uprisings of 1968.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, tacitly acknowledging that France has failed to live up to its egalitarian ideals, reached out to the heavily immigrant suburbs where the rioting began. He said France must make a priority of working against the discrimination that feeds the frustration of youths made to feel that they do not belong in France.

``The effectiveness of our integration model is in question,'' the prime minister told parliament. He called the riots ``a warning'' and ``an appeal.''

Despite his conciliatory tone, Villepin said riot police faced ``determined individuals, structured gangs, organized criminality,'' and that restoring order ``will take time.'' Rioters have been using mobile phone text messages and the Internet to organize arson attacks, said police, who arrested two teenage bloggers accused of inciting other youths to riot.

``We must be lucid: The Republic is at a moment of truth,'' Villepin said.

Lawmakers at the impassioned parliamentary debate also spoke frankly about France's failings. But criticism of the government extended well beyond the country's borders.

Images of French teenagers from north and west African immigrant families pelting riot police with stones and gasoline bombs - reminiscent of Palestinian youths attacking Israeli patrols - have struck chords in the Muslim world.

The Egyptian daily Al-Massaie referred to the riots as ``the intefadeh of the poor.'' Arabic satellite networks have given lead coverage to the mayhem, with regular live reports. Newspapers have followed the story on inside pages, calling it a ``nightmare'' and a ``war of the suburbs.''

Arson attacks, rioting and other unrest have spread from the suburbs to hundreds of cities and towns - though acts of violence were down somewhat Monday night from the previous evening.

In the first reports of violence Tuesday night, a clash broke out between youths who threw gasoline bombs and police who retaliated with tear gas, LCI television said.

The 50-year-old state-of-emergency law that President Jacques Chirac invoked was originally drawn up to quell unrest in Algeria during its war of independence from France and was last used in December 1984 by the Socialist government of President Francois Mitterrand against rioting in the French Pacific Ocean territory of New Caledonia.

That Chirac took such steps was a measure both of the gravity of the crisis and of his sorely tested government's determination to restore control.

``France is wounded. It does not recognize itself in these devastated streets and neighborhoods, in this outburst of hatred and of violence that vandalizes and kills,'' Villepin said. ``The return to order is the absolute priority.''

Under the emergency laws, police - with 8,000 officers deployed and 1,500 reservists called up as reinforcements - could be empowered in areas where curfews are imposed to put troublemakers under house arrest, ban or limit the movement of people and vehicles, confiscate weapons and close public spaces where gangs gather, Villepin said.

The Interior Ministry said local officials were deciding whether curfew measures were needed in their areas. The Justice Ministry said curfew violators could face up to two months imprisonment and a $4,400 fine. Minors face one month imprisonment.

The northern French city of Amiens and the central city of Orleans said they planned curfews for minors under age 16, who must be accompanied by adults at night. Amiens also planned to forbid the sale of gasoline in cans to minors.

The widespread violence has already led France to begin fast-track trials, with 106 adults and 33 minors so far sentenced to prison or detention centers.

The violence started Oct. 27 as a localized riot in a northeast Paris suburb angry over the accidental electrocutions of two teenagers, of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent, while hiding from police in a power substation.

It has grown into a nationwide insurrection by disillusioned suburban youths, many of them French-born children of immigrants from France's former territories like Algeria. France's suburbs have long been neglected and their youth complain of a lack of jobs and widespread discrimination.

In his speech to parliament, Villepin said jobseekers with foreign-sounding names do not get equal consideration as those with traditional French-sounding names when presenting resumes.

The French system, said Jean-Christophe Lagarde, a lawmaker from Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of northeast Paris where the unrest started, is ``running out of steam.''

The main opposition Socialists, through their parliamentary leader Jean-Marc Ayrault, said they did not oppose the use of curfews but also warned that they should not be used to hide suburban ``misery'' or become ``a new mark of segregation.''

Communist Party leader Marie-George Buffet warned that the decree could enflame rioters. ``It could be taken anew as a sort of challenge to carry out more violence,'' she said.

French historians say the rioting is more widespread and destructive in material terms than the May riots of 1968, when university students erected barricades in Paris' Latin Quarter and across France, throwing paving stones at police. That unrest, a turning point in modern France, led to a general strike by 10 million workers and forced President Gen. Charles De Gaulle to dissolve parliament and fire Premier Georges Pompidou.

Associated Press Writers Christine Ollvier, Jamey Keaten and Angela Doland contributed to this report.


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Nov 08/05 - On why Bush will not meet Chávez: the futility of appeasement

PMBComments: I came across this reasoned explanation (see below) of why a meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Chávez is not likely to occur. I might add that it seems clear that at the end of the day, the latter does not really want it (and will shout anything to make sure it never happens) and the former is focused on real survival issues (his and others) and not on theatrics. Moreover, Chávez needs an enemy, and not a meeting, to justify his twisted plans - which have nothing whatsoever to do with such niceties as MORE democracy and LESS poverty.

Offending President Bush gives HCh ample reason to pursue a ruinous course that will undoubtedly bring, as intended, ruin to our nation. Using the “foreign enemy” and a potential “invasion” to justify the recruitment of “reservists” and “guardias territoriales” that would then, “on command”, turn arms on the “revolution’s domestic opponents” is part of a well documented – as yet unpublished – game plan aptly called Pensamiento Militar Venezolano. Having read it, I would christen this document (penned by Mr. Chávez and some of his most “brilliant” military cronies) Principles for a XXI Century Civil Confrontation.

I ONCE MORE take the opportunity to warn the appeasers of the grave error they make when they seek dialogue and court favors with a malignant individual whose “words” and “deeds” are inseparable parts of a very uncivil plan. PMB


"Ask the White House" with Tom Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs
November 2nd, 2005

Richard, from Grasonville, MD writes:
Will the President's trip to the Latin America Summit in Argentina involve a presonal dialogue with Venezuela President Chavez?

Tom Shannon
No meetings between President Bush and President Chávez are currently scheduled. President Chávez has stated publicly in recent days that he plans to go the Summit to declare the Free Trade of the Americas "dead" and denounce what he calls "U.S. imperialism." The President, on the other hand, will be there to work with his counterparts on a positive agenda to create jobs and economic opportunities for all our citizens and help the poor and traditionally marginalized groups fully join the economic life of their countries. It is unfortunate that the Venezuelan government has chosen not to take advantage of this opportunity to work constructively with its neighbors. It's thus hard to imagine a productive dialogue when the Venezuelan government has repeatedly made clear its negative intentions with respect to the Summit and its personal animosity toward the President. This is especially regrettable given our traditionally friendly relationship with the Venezuelan government and our continued close ties to the Venezuelan people.



Rest can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ask/20051102.html


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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Nov 07/05 - On how Hugo painted himself into a corner: Chávez overeaching at the IV Summit of the Americas

Now painted into a corner

PMBComments: it is not worth writing about the IV Summit of the Americas in the heat of the moment. Passions run high and spin dominates the day. But in the next few days the dust will settle and the real anecdotes – and the lasting consequences - will emerge. My guess is that those who naively expected the Summit to succeed will consider it an absolute failure. Those of us who had cero expectation for a Kirchner hosted event have to conclude that it went surprisingly well – actually astonishingly well.

Hugo Chávez grabbed the media headlines in the same way the exploits of an 18-year old suicide bomber tend to trump the inspired speech of the most eloquent 18-year old class valedictorian. We must be thankful that the world continues its progressive path because of the intellect and initiative that the latter embodies, and in spite of the nihilistic fervor and criminal behavior that takes the place of reason in the case of the former. Chávez, the bombastic agent provocateur, sought and made Mar de Plata his stage and without any doubt also painted himself into a corner from which he was unable to reach the shovel with which he promised “to bury ALCA” (FTAA).

Those who have spoken too quickly of “a continent divided” must have forgotten how to use their abacus. Only 5 out of 34 countries expressed reservations about ALCA. The combined GDP of the doubters is 6 or 7 times smaller than the combined productivity of the free-marketers. 4 of the holdouts – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay – explained their position as temporary, i.e. a reaffirmation of a long held position that the WHO should address agricultural subsidies in its upcoming Hong Kong meetings of the Doha Round before the Americas embark on a protracted regional trade negotiation. Only 1 country, actually 1 individual, opposed ALCA all together and proposed a Bolivarian alternative. 33 countries ignored it - ALBA - all together. Furthermore, the 34 reached consensus on every other issue contained in the somewhat longish Declaration. So it is lubricous to conclude that Chávez foiled Bush, when once more Hugo’s vaunted (bought) support in the Hemisphere proved as barren as in the election of the IDB President and as futile as in the blistering attempt to boycott the UN’s sixtieth anniversary Declaration.

Ten years ago Latin American countries represented a little bit more that 10% of global GDP, today that proportion has fallen to 4.5%, and as a result it can almost be said that the region itself is cornered with little place to go, and courting irrelevance. With Kirchner, Chávez and Evo Morales as sherpas, Latin America has one sure future, and it is against that awful vision of the future that we must all fight. Mar de Plata shall be remembered as the place and time in which the world woke up to the renewed danger of uncouth Latin populists. And it is because of this awakening that I consider this summit a real success. PMB

Note: I am attaching a very insightful article from The Times of London on the Summit, it is one of the best I have read.

The Times (UK)

November 07, 2005

Bush puts brave face on failure to secure trade deal

By David Charter and Fiona McCann

The Latin Americans have stalled plans for an economic zone to rival the EU, write our correspondents

PRESIDENT BUSH put a brave face yesterday on “frank” talks with his counterpart in Brazil as a bruising visit to South America did little to advance his plans for a giant free trade area to rival the European Union.

If the White House ever nursed a hope that the fourth Summit of the Americas would boost Mr Bush’s flagging image, that hope died as the talks in Argentina petered out late on Saturday without clear agreement on how or when they might resume.

Mr Bush’s follow-up bilateral with President Lula da Silva in Brasilia yesterday ended in warm words, but no sign of a meeting of minds on the stalled Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Standing alongside his host, Mr Bush said: “He has got to be convinced, just like the people of America must be convinced, that a trade arrangement in our hemisphere is good for jobs, it’s good for the quality of life.”

There were some small signs of progress on the free trade concept launched in 1994 by President Clinton with an eye to completion by January 2005. Mr Bush won support from President Fox of Mexico, who urged that, of the 34 states at the summit, the 29 that broadly favour the FTAA should continue to discuss it.

Brazil, one of five recalcitrant countries, co-chaired the talks with the US and there was a suggestion that Mexico and Chile might assume leadership to inject some momentum.

While Mr Bush left with little to boast about, the summit was not the public relations disaster many had predicted. President Chávez of Venezuela, the self-styled anti-capitalist, had been joined at the head of an anti-Bush rally by Diego Maradona, the Argentinian football star. Their rally was peaceful, but the anti-capitalist riots that followed did nothing to advance Señor Chávez’s brand of socialism or his proposals for a redistributive South American economic zone excluding the US.

His call for the FTAA concept to be “buried” was largely ignored. Even though he was joined by the four important nations of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in shunning the US plan, they will continue their own free-trade talks without Venezuela.

“We do not want to bury the agreement and we do not want to resuscitate it either,” Celso Amorin, the Brazilian Foreign Minister, said.

President Kirchner of Argentina urged the creation of globalisation that works for everyone, not just a few. Brazil showed that it was the real muscle behind the scenes by leading opposition to Mr Bush’s desire to set a date for the resumption of full FTAA talks. Senhor Lula said that he preferred to wait until next month, for the next ministerial meeting in the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Round of trade talks, when world agricultural subsidies are on the agenda. He won the day against the US and 28 other countries supporting a firm date to relaunch the pan-American free trade zone.

Senhor Lula, facing elections next year in which cosying up to Mr Bush could cost him votes, said: “We agree that the reduction, with a view towards the elimination, of agricultural subsidies, will be a key to balance.”

Showing the restrained tone that he has used throughout his visit, Mr Bush suggested they should keep working on the FTAA, but not introduce it if Senhor Lula judged it was against his people’s interest.

Dan Restrepo, of the liberal Centre for American Progress, said that the summit showed how much Mr Bush had lost control of the free trade agenda in South America. He said that Señor Chávez was “a sideshow”, and had distracted many people from the important relationship, which was between President Bush and President Lula. He said that the US and Brazil had been at odds about the FTAA almost as soon as it was proposed in Miami in 1994.

“Chávez is a good showman but it is quite remarkable that Chávez can pose as an anticapitalist leader with a straight face because his whole socialist revolution is greased by the sale of oil to the capitalist world,” he said.

The South American press criticised not only Mr Bush, the most unpopular US President in the region since polling began, but also his host. Argentina’s leading broadsheet, La Nación, called the summit an “all-out failure”. It said that Señor Kirchner had been “navel-gazing” when, at its inauguration, he blamed US policies for Argentina’s economic crash in 2001. La Nación criticised Señor Kirchner for not concentrating on the “common conflicts” of Latin America, such as social inequality.

It also saved some venom for Señor Chávez, saying that, without his oil, he would be insignificant, and that no country in the region would follow him.


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