Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rise of Chávez Sends Venezuelans to Florida

January 23, 2008
Rise of Chávez Sends Venezuelans to Florida

WESTON, Fla. — In December 2002, Ariel Dunaevschi, then the owner of a furniture business in Caracas, Venezuela, was on vacation in New York with his family when opponents of President Hugo Chávez called a crippling labor strike hoping to bring the government to its knees.

As the protest wore on, paralyzing the country’s oil industry and devastating the economy, the Dunaevschis saw a very uncertain future for Venezuela and arrived at a painful decision: they would be better off staying in the United States.
They flew to Florida and rented a house here in Weston, a suburb west of Fort Lauderdale that has become so popular with Venezuelan immigrants, it is known as Westonzuela.

“I had a business in Venezuela, I had shops in Caracas, everything was working perfectly,” Mr. Dunaevschi, 39, said. “I left everything.” He added, “I began here from zero.”

The Dunaevschis are part of a wave of Venezuelans, mostly from the middle and upper classes, who have fled to the United States as Mr. Chávez has tightened his grip on the country’s political institutions, imposing his socialist vision and threatening to assert greater state control over many parts of the economy.
While many have been able to establish legal residency and obtain a green card, either through business or marriage, others have remained here illegally.
The surge is an example of how the political and social realities of Latin America are immediately reflected on the streets of South Florida, a dynamic that has come to define this region in the past half century.

Many Venezuelans have been able to transfer some of their wealth as they have settled in America. For two years, Mr. Dunaevschi flew to Caracas every few months carrying empty suitcases, which he filled with the family’s essential belongings and carted back to Miami.

In Caracas, he laid off the family’s employees, sold his cars, furniture and properties and eventually closed his business. Meanwhile, in Miami, he opened a new furniture company and settled into his new American life.

According to census data, the Venezuelan community in the United States has grown more than 94 percent this decade, from 91,507 in 2000, the year after Mr. Chávez took office, to 177,866 in 2006. Much of that rise has occurred in South Florida, making the Venezuelan community one of the fastest growing Latino subpopulations in the region this decade. In many ways, the Venezuelan influx is reminiscent of the Cuban migration spurred by Fidel Castro’s overthrow of Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and his imposition of a socialist state.

Manuel Corao, director of one of several Venezuelan newspapers published in South Florida, said the main reason for the migration was a fear that Mr. Chávez would significantly alter the quality of life for the middle and upper classes.

“The principle reason is fear of change of daily life, the loss of private property, loss of independence from the government, fear of the loss of constitutional rights and individual liberties,” said Mr. Corao, who relocated permanently from Venezuela in 1996 and runs Venezuela al Dia, a thrice-monthly tabloid with offices in Doral, a Miami suburb where Venezuelans have settled.

Like many of the Cubans who came to South Florida in the early Castro years, most Venezuelans who arrived during the first few years of the Chávez administration probably did not expect to stay long.

“They didn’t think Chávez would last long, so a lot of Venezuelans are moving their families nearby, and the nearest place in the states is Miami,” said Thomas D. Boswell, professor of geography at the University of Miami.

Sinking their roots into the South Florida soil, Venezuelans have shifted their money into American banks, married and divorced, opened businesses, become active in local politics, and seen their children graduate from American schools.
Mr. Dunaevschi’s decision to keep his family in the United States was made easier because his wife, from whom he is getting divorced, was an American citizen. “I could work,” he said. “But for a lot of people without papers, it’s more complicated.”

Like many Venezuelans who have recently come to South Florida, Mr. Dunaevschi underwent a significant change in his standard of living. Faced with a much higher cost of living, he abandoned some of the luxuries he enjoyed in Venezuela, like a domestic staff and chauffeur.

“Life was very good there,” he said. But like many Venezuelans here, he cannot imagine returning as long as Mr. Chávez is in power, a sentiment that echoes the resolve of many Cuban exiles not to return to Cuba until Mr. Castro dies.

“I won’t consider it, as long as there’s that guy there,” Mr. Dunaevschi said.
Even the defeat of Mr. Chávez’s constitutional overhaul in December, which would have allowed him to remain in office indefinitely, did not seem to offer the deeply cynical exile community much new hope. In the meantime, Venezuelan exiles go on with their new lives here.

There are now at least five newspapers and magazines that feature news about Venezuela and the Venezuelan community in South Florida. Venezuelans have started restaurants and bakeries, business groups, political organizations working on both American and Venezuelan issues, and even a medical center for low-income Venezuelans.

“We untied the boat in Venezuela and now we’re here,” said Ernesto Ackerman, who runs a medical supplies business in Miami. “We’ve tied knots in this port.”
Mr. Ackerman is also president of Independent Venezuelan-American Citizens, a group that is trying to encourage Venezuelan participation in local politics. He and other community leaders say they are inspired by the example of the Cubans, who have come to dominate South Florida politics, but they acknowledge that the Venezuelans are still in their political infancy here.

Venezuelans are outnumbered in South Florida by Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Mexicans, Nicaraguans and Dominicans, according to data from the 2006 census, but Venezuelan leaders here believe their population may have vaulted to fourth place on that list, upwards of 100,000, taking into account those who have overstayed tourist visas.

The growing Venezuelan population has been a windfall for Miami banks, as many Venezuelans bring their money here. Ken Thomas, a banking analyst in Miami, said the amount of that capital flight was unclear, although he said it was “clearly in the billions.”

“One of the interesting things about South Florida is that when Latin America is doing well, we do well,” said Israel Kreps, who handles public relations for Mercantil Commercebank, a Venezuelan-owned bank based in Coral Gables. “When Latin American is doing badly, we do well.”

For many Venezuelans, the move has come at an emotional price. In return for the relative political and economic security of the United States, they have suffered the cultural dislocation and homesickness familiar to immigrants everywhere.
One place they have sought camaraderie is El Arepazo, a small cafeteria-style Venezuelan restaurant attached to a Citgo gas station in Doral.

“It’s become a place of celebrations and protests,” said Carlos Nuñez, 46, a Venezuelan who moved to Miami in 2000 and now owns a company that sells heavy construction machinery. “We celebrate the failures of Chávez and bemoan the successes of Chávez.”

On a recent Thursday night, several dozen people — mainly men, mainly Venezuelans — had gathered at El Arepazo for a weekly dominos session. The matches were lively, the players raucous. They heckled each other and the news broadcasts on El Arepazo’s seven television screens, which were showing Venezuelan soap operas and news footage of Mr. Chávez celebrating with two Colombian women, whose release from Colombian rebels he had negotiated.

Daniel Garcia, 34, an events promoter in Miami, stood off to one side watching the games. Mr. Garcia moved to Miami from Venezuela in 1996 to take a summer job distributing a friend’s entertainment magazine. But he ended up staying longer than he expected, and once Mr. Chávez came to power in 1998, he decided to make his relocation permanent. “There was no question I wasn’t going back,” he said. “No way.” Mr. Garcia is now married and has a child. He said places like El Arepazo kept him and other Venezuelans connected and helped numb the longing for home.
“For a while you may forget about Chávez, forget about Miami, you’re drinking your beer, you’re insulting everybody, you’re having fun,” he said. “It’s a way to forget about everything


Chavez to Colombia: FARC You

Chavez to Colombia: FARC You
By John R. Thomson
Monday, January 21, 2008

In the ongoing saga between Venezuelan despot President Hugo Chavez and Colombian democratic President Alvaro Uribe, Chavez for the moment appears to have the upper hand. He basks in the glow of – finally – securing the release of two female hostages from the narco-trafficking and kidnapping terrorist FARC [the Spanish abbreviation of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] organization.
However, analysts in Caracas and Bogota, the countries’ capitals, are betting Chavez has overplayed his hand and that Uribe will prevail not only against his Venezuelan nemesis but also in his war of attrition against Colombia’s guerrilla gangs.
Uribe ended 2007 with the powerful revelation that one reason FARC’s once bruited, oft delayed Christmas release of three hostages had not taken place was that Emmanuel – born in captivity – was in fact already in a Bogota foster home. Undoubtedly under great pressure from an embarrassed Chavez, the release of the two ladies, both prominent politicians and one Emmanuel’s mother, ultimately took place this past week.

The cracks in the Chavez – FARC peace façade are already appearing: less than 72 hours following the two ladies’ release, FARC gunmen kidnapped six others from a beach on Colombia’s Pacific coast.

At the same time, Chavez’s plea for FARC and ELN, the two leading guerrilla groups, to no longer be called “terrorists” but belligerent combatants was rejected out of hand, not just in Bogota and Washington but also by the European Union, indicating how low the once romanticized revolutionary “freedom fighters” have fallen.
Leftist Colombian political figures are separating themselves from Chavez’s attempt to legitimize the FARC. Carlos Gaviria, head of the far left Polo Democratico party, as well as Senator Gustavo Petro, a Polo Democratico leader and close friend of Chavez, have both deplored the Venezuelan’s call to end the guerrillas’ terrorist designation.

All sides are holding Afro-Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba accountable for her ardent support of Chavez and, implicitly, the FARC. A prime factor: several weeks ago, more than five million citizens marched in the streets of the country’s main cities, demanding that the kidnapping stop and those held be released.

The Chavez-FARC alliance is not new. The FARC has enjoyed safe haven basing rights in the western jungles bordering Colombia for its troops and safe houses in Caracas for its leaders for many years. More recently, Venezuelan authorities have enabled some 300 tons annually of Colombian cocaine through the country for re-export to Europe and the U.S. – a highly profitable arrangement for both FARC and Chavez.
As important, there are strong indications that significant amounts of Russian arms purchased by Venezuela are being transshipped to FARC camps for use in their “liberation movement”.

Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe seeks to implement a multi-faceted effort to free more hostages and to strengthen his country’s anti-guerrilla position:

Surprisingly, Uribe has acquiesced in Hugo Chavez serving as a clearly biased “mediator” in hostage relief efforts. With more than 700 hostages, results to date are miniscule, but every release or escape is widely welcomed by the Colombian people, whatever the reason.

A strong government effort to win over guerrillas has been spectacularly successful, especially with the ELN, the second most powerful terror organization. Inducements to lay down their arms include cash as well as technical training programs sponsored by America’s Plan Colombia.

Simultaneously, Colombian military efforts to eliminate guerrilla leaders and encampments are steadily progressing.

Critical to the Colombian strategy is approval by the U.S. Congress of the pending free trade agreement. To date, Democrats and their labor union allies have offered multiple excuses for holding the agreement hostage [big labor has committed to spending $200 million in support of Democrats during the 2008 election cycle].
In an effort to offset the pull of American labor bosses, Colombia has shown several Congressional delegations the results of the Uribe administration’s ongoing efforts to curb violence, quell the narcotics trade and curtail what have always been minimal human rights abuses.

Unfortunately, the latest group of Washington travelers ended their visit with a carefully balanced pair of utterances. Representative James McGovern [D-Massachusetts] earned positive points by demurring from Chavez’s call for Colombia’s guerrilla groups to be legitimized as belligerents.

However, Rep. George Miller [D-California], chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee, said it was not an appropriate time to take up the free trade agreement, because of “new realities” facing the U.S. economy, including rising unemployment and recession fears. Sadly, Miller ignored the economy-strengthening fact that the FTA allows more than 90 percent of American products and services duty free status, which combined with the undervalued dollar provides significant export growth potential. This was the Democrats’ fifth rationale for refusing to take up the bilateral trade deal since its agreement by both parties in late 2006.

Such a position is extraordinarily frustrating to Colombians in and out of government, because very few of the country’s existing and prospective exports – key among them coffee and fresh flowers – prove a threat to U.S. producers. That said, encouraging legitimate agricultural exports is a strong means of discouraging farmers from cultivating the coca plant, the source of 90 percent of the world’s cocaine.

Given a little help from its friend to the north, Colombia has a very good chance of achieving the Uribe government’s ambitious plans. Despite Hugo Chavez’s current coup in the freeing of two FARC hostages, it can be hoped that truly bipartisan Congressional consideration of the free trade agreement will result in its passage, to the benefit of both countries and a particular boon to efforts to stabilize Colombia.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008



For those of you that aren’t Venezuelans, PDVSA is our state-owned oil company and the livelihood of our economy


*** PDVSA’s oil production is down but milk imports are up.

PDVSA’s oil production has declined by some 800,000 barrels per day during the last seven years and it will inevitably keep declining, as investments are significantly below requirements. This means that oil exports, the economic lifeline of Venezuela, have also been declining, not only because production is down but also because domestic consumption is sharply up. Meanwhile PDVSA, led by the future liberator of Bolivia, Rafael Ramirez, has opened a new division called PDVAL, PDVSA Alimentos, to import food (faster than producing it). The opening of this new division has been a major event in the State of Zulia. It is born, says Ramirez, “to solve the problems of supply of basic foods, in answer to the existing situation of hoarding, contraband and detour of products” in the country”. PDVSA is engaged, Ramirez says, in a struggle to prevent the food from going to Colombia (although for many years the food has been coming from Colombia!). PDVAL is working together with the
National Guard and has the full cooperation of the workers of the oil company, all dressed in red.

PDVSA is importing food through Bariven, an affiliate company. Bariven is fully and enthusiastically engaged in emergency imports of milk, tuna in cans, soy oil, margarine, tomato paste and other products. Their offices in the U.S., Argentina and other countries place ads in the newspapers and send letters to food exporters to ask for their offers of chicken, beef, eggs and other foodstuffs. “This is not a temporary program” says Ramirez, who is probably being trained at MAKRO, “we will continue distributing food through our network of commissary stores”.
Ramirez approaches the task with revolutionary zeal: “We will import 125,000 tons of food and will continue importing until we defeat the hoarding and the lack of supply”.

In these days Venezuela is a strange country all right. New police equipment is donated to Bolivia while our crime rate is the highest in the hemisphere. Houses are built in Cuba while Venezuelans have no homes of their own. New refineries are financed or promised for 14 countries around the world while Amuay and Cardon have fires and accidents every other month and gasoline shortages flare up in different places of the country. Top food importer Hugo Chavez claims that the FARC are a civilized political group and that the government of Alvaro Uribe wants war. PDVSA is planning to open a furniture division and has already become the biggest food distributor in the country.

Ii seems like PDVSA geologists will not be talking anymore about the Cretaceous and the Oca Fault but about the price of eggs and how many tons of milk are coming in. Production Engineers will not bother so much about pressures and temperatures and drilling muds but about margarine or about who is the real owner of ProArepa. I am happy that my geological career is over and I do not have to start talking about cassava and corn as part of my job.

PDVSA, Platanos de Venezuela S.A.? Not for me.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Chávez says he chews coca daily

Chávez says he chews coca daily

Analysts said Chávez's comments before National Assembly amounted to a dangerous endorsement and might be an admission of an illegal act.

Sun, Jan. 20, 2008
El Nuevo Herald

Venezuela's controversial President Hugo Chávez has revealed that he regularly consumes coca -- the source of cocaine -- raising questions about the legality of his actions.

Chávez's comments on coca initially went almost unnoticed, coming amid a four-hour speech to the National Assembly during which he made international headlines by calling on other countries to stop branding two leftist Colombian guerrilla groups as terrorists and instead recognize them as ``armies.''

''I chew coca every day in the morning . . . and look how I am,'' he is seen saying on a video of the speech, as he shows his biceps to the audience.

Chávez, who does not drink alcohol, added that just as Fidel Castro ''sends me Coppelia ice cream and a lot of other things that regularly reach me from Havana,'' Bolivian President Evo Morales ``sends me coca paste . . . I recommend it to you.''

It was not clear what Chávez meant. Indigenous Bolivians and Peruvians can legally chew coca leaves as a mild stimulant and to kill hunger. But coca paste is a semi-refined product -- between leaves and cocaine -- considered highly addictive and often smoked as basuco or pitillo.

''It is another symptom that [Chávez] has totally lost the concept of limits,'' said Aníbal Romero, a political scientist with the Caracas Metropolitan University. ``It shows Chávez is a man out of control.''

More seriously, Venezuelan and Bolivian analysts said Chávez's comments amount to a dangerous endorsement of a substance controlled around the world, and perhaps even an illegal act by a very public head of state.

''If he is affirming that he consumes coca paste, he is admitting that he is consuming a substance that is illegal in Bolivia as well as Venezuela,'' said Hernán Maldonado, a Bolivian analyst living in Miami. ''Plus, it's an accusation that Evo Morales is a narco-trafficker'' for sending him the paste.

Morales is the longtime head of a Bolivian coca-growers' union and is known to chew coca in public, even during cabinet meetings, since he took office. Bolivia limits the coca acreage in an effort to control supplies of coca leaf that wind up being refined into cocaine.

Most likely, however, it seems Chávez was referring to chewing coca leaves, a traditional and legal practice among indigenous groups in the high Andes mountains but illegal in Venezuela, according to experts.

''Venezuela signed the Vienna Convention of 1961, which regulates everything that has to do with narcotics,'' said Mildred Camero, former president of the government's main counter-narcotics agency, the National Council Against the Illicit Use of Drugs. ``On the list . . . the coca leaf was prohibited.''

Although the growing and chewing of coca leaf is legal in Bolivia, Morales ''should explain the shipments he sends to Chávez,'' said Carlos Sánchez-Berzaín, a Morales critic and former Bolivian interior minister now living in Miami.

''The [Bolivian] government should declare how it sends the coca, how much it sends, with what frequency, the weight, in what type of container, because it is a controlled substance and the government must be monitored,'' Sánchez-Berzaín said.

This is not the first time that the president praised the properties of coca leaves. During a visit to a communal kitchen in western Caracas in early 2006, with Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez, Chávez suggested using the kitchen's ovens to bake bread made from a special coca-based flour.

''We could try that here, as part of that effort to de-Satanize a product that our indigenous people have been producing for centuries,'' he said.

In early 2007, Venezuela signed an agreement to buy 4,000 tons of coca leaf from Bolivia in what it said was an effort to diminish the supply available for refining paste and cocaine and launch the manufacture of food and medicinal products on an industrial scale.

Caracas made the first payment of $500,000, but the project remains frozen, in large part because of the legal implications of shipping the leaves across borders.

Although coca leaves have nutritional and medical characteristics, ''the principal component is an alkaloid, cocaine,'' that can be ''harmful'' if it's made part of a daily diet, Nancy Siles, a biochemist with the Bolivian College of Biochemistry and Pharmacy, wrote in a a recent report.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Country report forecast - January 2008


Link below:

Country Report Forecast_2008

Outlook for 2008-09

• Mr Chávez's defeat in the December 2007 referendum on constitutional reform will give a boost to the beleaguered opposition. However, internal divisions and a lack of influence over policy remain significant challenges.
• The government will continue to use the state’s wealth of energy resources as leverage to deepen diplomatic and commercial relations with countries it considers "friendly" within and outside the region.
• The government is unlikely to move towards full state control of the economy, but concerns about further nationalisation will curb private-sector investment.
• The central government deficit is forecast to widen, as non-oil revenue falls, but the true fiscal position will be worse, as an increasing burden of expenditure will be placed on PDVSA and Fonden.
• Deficiencies in the policy environment and a stabilisation of fiscal revenue will combine to produce a deceleration of GDP growth in the forecast period.
• Assuming that oil prices remain high, the authorities are unlikely to devalue the bolívar until 2009. Sales of dollar-denominated assets will increase, but the gap between the premium and official exchange rates will remain large.

The political scene: Referendum defeat boosts opposition

On December 2nd, the electorate voted to reject a government-sponsored reform of the constitution, whichwould have significantly enhanced the powers of the president, Hugo Chávez (November 2007,
The political scene).
The vote was divided into two blocks, the first relating to changes proposed by Mr Chávez and the second to changes proposed by the National Assembly. The result was close; according to the official figures from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE, the electoral authority), the first block was repudiated by 50.7% to 49.3%; the second was rejected by 51.1% to 48.9%. There were several hours of considerable tension before the CNE announced that with 87% of the ballots counted, the result was "irreversible". Mr Chávez conceded defeat, although there was speculation that this concession might have been wrung from a reluctant president by implicit or explicit threats from elements within the armed forces.
Mr Chávez's defeat can be attributed in large measure to the recent coalescing of a mass student-based opposition movement, combined with the open rebellion of former Chávez allies. A retired general and popular former minister of defence, Raúl Baduel, campaigned strongly against the constitutional changes and urged Venezuelans to come out in force to vote "no". A small party allied to Mr Chávez, Podemos, also rejected the proposed reforms. The relatively high rate of abstention (45%) also hurt the government's campaign, since many of those who stayed at home were Chávez supporters. This suggests that support for the president rests mostly on his social spending programmes and generally pro-poor policies, rather than on his socialist ideology. A deteriorating economic situation has also contributed to disillusionment with the government, with price and exchange controls generating shortages of basic goods and rampant inflation (see Economic policy). Outside the economic sphere, there is also growing disillusionment with failure to improve delivery of basic services, such as water and housing, to the poor, which is blamed in large part on corruption and mismanagement of the oil windfall.
This result is a major political and personal defeat for Mr Chávez, as it marks the first time that he has lost a national election since winning the presidency in 1998. Mr Chávez has insisted that his planned reforms have been delayed rather than abandoned. He could use his significant powers, including the ability to legislate by decree under the Ley Habilitante and complete dominance over the National Assembly, to push through some of the proposed changes.
However, given the lack of public support this could deepen divisions within his own ranks. Some of the proposed changes would still require a reform of the constitution via a petition by voters, which is unlikely. Much will depend on how the opposition positions itself over the coming months. The victory of the "no" campaign was evidence of the emergence of a "third pole" (as Ismael García, leader of Podemos, calls it), comprising those who have become disillusioned with Mr Chávez but are reluctant to join the ranks of the discredited and unpopular opposition parties. This could be a dangerous development for the president, who has been very successful in presenting his adversaries as belonging to pro-US camp. This places the opposition in a position to reap considerable gains in regional elections due in October, but this will require the traditional and new opposition elements to forge a workable alliance.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Will Venezuela erase a murder conviction in the Antonini case?

Will Venezuela erase a murder conviction in the Antonini case?
3 January 2008

Corrupt officials within the Venezuelan government, intent on damage control in the Antonini money laundering scandal, are reportedly in the process of placing a large bribe with a senior appellate judge, to illegally erase the murder conviction of Walter Alexander del Nogal, the reputed supervisor of Antonini's multiple money laundering operations in Argentina.
Del Nogal, who is a senior advisor to DISIP, is presently in custody in Italy, arrested under an order of the Anti-Mafia Magistrate, pursuant to allegations that he was engaged in narcotics trafficking, including the sale of cocaine, with the Sicilian Mafia.
He is also a fugitive from justice in Switzerland, having escaped whilst serving a sentence for drug trafficking and money laundering, several years ago.
Do they really think an illegal act by a court will rehabilitate this career criminal in the eyes of the public?
This week's developments demonstrate that desperate measures are being undertaken by corrupt officials to divert the public's attention from the issues of endemic governmental corruption that were revealed in the Antonini scandal.
The government's obvious attempt to use the publicity surrounding the efforts to secure the release of three hostages held by the FARC having failed, it is now looking to abuse the judicial system: Military sources in Venezuela have reported that an illegal payment will be offered to Judge Alfonso Dugarte, of the Court of Appeal, to set aside the convictions of del Nogal [UID 441491] and co-defendant Ramiro Helmeyer Quevedo [UID 441490], who were found guilty of killing Mario Patty Fajardo, by throwing him out of an aircraft flying over the Caribbean in 1995.
President Chavez issued a pardon for both defendants. Helmeyer, also a DISIP advisor, is a fugitive from justice in the United States, having fled a federal firearms charge; he was later indicted on the charge of Escape in US District Court in Georgia.
* Helmeyer is also reported to have been the terrorist who disrupted the Caracas financial district in 1993 with six bomb attacks, having received the explosives from dissident Venezuelan Military officers linked to Hugo Chavez Frias.
The grounds alleged to vacate the conviction are that the deceased is not only still alive, but a fugitive from justice in Valencia where he as been charged with auto theft. The proponents of this scheme have stated that Patty has been seen alive, and court documents have reportedly been forged, with sufficient supporting facts created, to falsely document the bogus criminal charges.
The fact that Patty has not been seen since he was seen falling into the Caribbean thirteen years ago does not seem to have bothered the plotters, who allegedly include the highest-ranking official in the Ministry of the Interior, which supervises the judiciary, who is reportedly instructing the ranking judge of the Circuit Court, Magistrate Eladio Ramon Aponte Aponte [UID 318820], on this matter.
Should this bogus legal maneuver be successfully completed during the coming week, then the man whom most experts believe orchestrated a complex money laundering scheme in Argentina last year will be free of his homicide conviction.
Is this a case of governmental corruption stepping in to pervert the criminal justice system in furtherance of a money laundering cover-up?
You decide, but as for me, I wonder if all this trouble is to convince an imprisoned Walter del Nogal that he is better off not cooperating with the authorities in Italy, for he probably could bring down a government if he talked.
* United States vs. Helmeyer, Case Nos. 82-cr-00220, 00355 (N.D. Ga.)

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt was a candidate to be the Colombian President, and was kidnapped in February 2002, 6 years ago. To be informed to the kidnapping of the Colombian-French citizen Ingrid Betancourt, go to the following link.

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Oliver Stone has just declared, in his way back to Caracas after the Colombian hostage fiasco, that "Chavez is a great man" and Uribe is "the guilty party, a fraud".

He can say all he wants, but public opinion can already see the truth in the wall. The FARC did not deliver the hostages, the clowns recruited by Chavez went home with their tails within their legs and Stone could not film one foot related to the hostages.
Who is right? Stone is a proven Castro's ass-kisser. He wants to be an Ahmadinejad's ass-kisser and, of course, he is now a Chavez's ass kisser. He surely made millions but he lacks one thing: dignity. I would like to ask him:

Do you know that there are many political prisoners in Venezuela, in spite of the "pardon"recently issued by the clown?

Do you know that Venezuela has a murder rate twice as large as Iraq's?

Do you know that Chavez has received about $600 billion during his tenure and that he has almost nothing to show for it?

Do you know that the United Nations has disclaimed Chavez's pretensions to have eliminated iliteracy in the country. Do you know that Venezuela had a 93% literacy rate before Chavez came into power?

Do you know that Chavez's relatives are a bunch of thieves?

Do you know that there is not one single prisoner for corruption during Chavez' s tenure, when corruption has been at the highest historical level in Venezuela?

Do you know that there is no sugar, no milk, no sardines, no chickens in the Venezuelan markets?

Do you know that companies that do business with the Chavez's government are often owned by Chavez's friends and relatives?

Do you know that the acquisition of Argentinean bonds enriched illegally the bankers friends of Chavez and some of Chavez's bureaucrats?

Do you know that the parallel market rate of the Bolivar is three times higher than the official rate?

Do you know that Chavez has bought about $8 billion in weapons although this money was desperately needed by the Venezuelan poor?

I could go on and on but, Mr.Stone, but the questions above will suffice. What are you looking for in Venezuela? A stable supply of cocaine?
Copied from blog:

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Chavez's promised hostage release fizzles

Some friends in Venezuelans web forums were commenting that maybe Ingrid Betancourt, the key hostage, is not alive, and that is the reason this operation failed.
vdebate reporter.
January 2, 2008
Chávez’s Promised Hostage Release Fizzles, His Second Major Setback in Weeks
RIO de JANEIRO — Last week, Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, seemed on the verge of one of his biggest triumphs to date. Now, amid renewed acrimony with the Colombian leader, Álvaro Uribe, he is staring at his second major political defeat in just over a month.
Using his credibility as a former rebel leader, Mr. Chávez orchestrated a plan to release three hostages being held for years in the jungle by a Colombian guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.
Bristling with confidence, he assembled his allies in Latin America, including the former Argentine president, Néstor Kirchner, to witness a breakthrough in the decades-old conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC. The movie director Oliver Stone was part of a multinational group of observers that included diplomats from seven countries, including France and Switzerland.
Then on Monday, Mr. Chávez’s showman moment seemed to turn from history-making success into his latest failure.
For reasons that remain unclear, the FARC refused for four days to give the exact location of the hostages to Venezuelan helicopter pilots. Mr. Chávez read a letter from the rebel group late Monday that said the promised security conditions had not been met.
“This is an important defeat for Hugo Chávez’s regional agenda to promote his Bolivarian revolution and utilize his contacts with armed groups to win political influence,” said Román Ortiz, the director of security and post-conflict for the Ideas for Peace Foundation, a Bogotá research institute focused on Colombia’s armed conflict.
A successful mission would have been likely to have embarrassed Mr. Uribe, a conservative who has made little progress in negotiating the release of any of the several hundred hostages held in jungle camps, some for nearly a decade. Mr. Uribe has been skeptical of Mr. Chávez’s attempts to spread his Socialist ideology across the continent.
At the same time, the operation would have helped Mr. Chávez bounce back from a narrow defeat in a referendum early last month on a proposal that would have tightened his grip on power. For several days, at least, Mr. Chávez and Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, also managed to divert attention from the brewing scandal involving a suitcase filled with $800,000 in cash believed to be a secret Venezuelan donation to her campaign.
Mrs. Kirchner dispatched her husband to Colombia, and several other countries joined in a scramble to claim credit for helping to break the impasse in the only armed conflict in the Western hemisphere.
But the FARC, which appeared to want to help Mr. Chávez while showing up Mr. Uribe, did not cooperate.
“Clearly, Chávez did provide the best chance for making some progress, but it wasn’t enough,” said Michael Shifter, a vice president at the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy group in Washington. “In the end, the distrust that the FARC felt for the Colombian government trumped any good feelings they felt for Chávez.”
Mr. Uribe accused the FARC of lying about its reasons for scuttling the promised transfers, even suggesting that the rebels did not have one of the three hostages, a 3-year-old boy named Emmanuel who was born in captivity to a rebel soldier and Clara Rojas, another of the hostages. Ms. Rojas and Consuelo González were to have been delivered with the boy to the Venezuelans.
Hopes ran high that the transfer of the three hostages would lead to wider prisoner exchanges for more of the 700 hostages reportedly still in guerrilla hands. They are believed to include a former Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, a dual French-Colombian citizen kidnapped in 2002.
France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been lobbying for Ms. Betancourt’s release since videos and photos were seized late last month that apparently showed her alive. The materials also appeared to show that three American contractors, Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves and Keith Stansell, who were captured in 2003 when their plane went down in the Colombian jungle, were alive as well.
Now the failed mission has exposed Mr. Chávez to criticism of misplaced priorities. As he worked to mediate the release of hostages in Colombia, in Venezuela kidnappings are spiraling. Some estimates show that Venezuela has more abductions per capita than Colombia now, but the Venezuelan government has done little to tackle the problem.
The breakdown in the deal with the FARC led to a new round of harsh accusations between Mr. Chávez and Mr. Uribe. Mr. Chávez said he had “plenty of reasons to doubt Uribe’s team and their analysis and hypotheses.” He accused Mr. Uribe of trying to “dynamite” the operation, a claim Mr. Uribe denied.
Jenny Carolina González contributed reporting from Bogotá.

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