Friday, June 24, 2011

Chávez Illness Sparks Succession Talk

Chávez Illness Sparks Succession Talk - WSJ

By JOSé DE CóRDOBA in Mexico City and KEJAL VYAS in Caracas

Venezuelan officials scrambled Thursday to reassure compatriots that President Hugo Chávez was not seriously ill after his brother said the president would remain in a Cuban hospital for up to 12 more days, making it likely that Mr. Chávez will be away from the country for nearly a month.
The absence has sparked furious speculation about the president's health and led many in Venezuela to ask: What happens if the former army officer who has ruled Venezuela for 12 years is suddenly incapacitated or even dies?
"Nothing will ever be the same," said Juan Carlos Zapata, a political analyst in Caracas. "This is the first signal that Chávez has an end and that there is nobody to take over. He might come back, but nothing will be the same."
Wednesday night, Mr. Chávez's brother Adan said he had just returned from Havana where Mr. Chávez was "satisfactorily" recuperating from an emergency operation on June 10 to treat a pelvic absess, a pus-filled cavity that can result from injury or infection.
Speculation coming from Cuba and Venezuela has focused on the possibility that Mr. Chávez has prostrate cancer, and has had his prostrate removed. A senior Venezuelan official didn't respond to emailed questions about the speculation.
Mr. Chávez's return to Caracas could take place in 10 or 12 days, his brother said on a television program. Venezuela's Defense Minister Gen. Carlos Mata Figueroa said Thursday that Mr. Chávez was "stronger than ever," and would be back "soon."
Under Venezuela's constitution, Vice President Elias Jaua would take the helm if Mr. Chávez is incapacitated. But whether he could remain in power long enough to preside over presidential elections scheduled for December 2012 is open to question, analysts say.
A populist caudillo—or strongman—whose rule rests on the personal and emotional tie he has developed with many poor Venezuelans, Mr. Chávez has no natural successor, analysts say.
"Chávismo without Chávez is not possible," said Alberto Barrera, a co-author of a biography of Mr. Chávez. "Chávez, who is a great showman, is the emotion through which the people connect to power."
Like many caudillos, Mr. Chávez has built a cult of personality, and dominates the country's airwaves, speaking on television and radio for hours at a time. His visage is plastered on billboards across the country.
Polls show other Chávez supporters are unknown or unliked by most Venezuelans, said Daniel Kerner, a Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group. "Chávez has made it difficult for anyone to rise to that level where they can be seen as a replacement."
Many analysts say that neither Mr. Jaua nor other top Chávez officials have any of the president's charisma, which is the glue the president has used to build a following.
Mr. Chávez's exit from the political scene would no doubt lead to a fierce succession struggle among leading members of his movement. Mr. Jaua, who analysts say comes from the most leftist branch of Mr. Chávez's movement and has close ties to Cuba, could be challenged by other powerful Chávez followers such as Diosdado Cabello, a former soldier now a powerful congressman who controls much of the political apparatus of Mr. Chávez's socialist party.
Rafael Ramírez, the head of the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, the oil-rich's country piggy bank, is seen by analysts as another would-be contender for power, as is Mr. Chávez's brother Adan.
If Mr. Chávez were to be incapacitated, Cuba's crack security services might play a key role, analysts say. Mr. Chávez, who considers himself to be Fidel Castro's spiritual heir, provides Cuba with up to 100,000 barrels a day of cut-rate oil, making the island's economic survival largely dependent on Mr. Chávez's largess.
"The two Castro brothers, who were Catholics once, must be burning a lot of candles, praying for Chávez's survival," says Riordan Roett, head of Latin American studies at John Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
Venezuela's military would also play a crucial role. Much of the military has benefited from perks and money-making opportunities provided by Mr. Chávez. But there is resentment among some officers of Cuban influence in the armed forces, and fear that civilian militias armed by Mr. Chávez pose a threat to the institution and the country.
"These political vacuums are very dangerous. There will be a fight," Mr. Roett said. "There will be military moves. There will be moves among the Bolivarian factions."
Some analysts believe that Mr. Chávez, a master of the grand political gesture, is only biding his time to make a triumphal comeback from Cuba, as if from the dead. Such a return, they believe, could help overpower his political opposition.
The former tank commander-turned president still commands the loyalty of about half of his countrymen. But many Venezuelans have become frustrated by the country's surging criminal violence, its spluttering electrical system, as well as the highest inflation rate in the world.
One key date for Chávez watchers: July 5th, when Mr. Chávez is expected to host a spectacular and long-planned regional summit marking the 200th anniversary of Venezuelan independence July 5th.
But the longer time goes on without specific news on Mr. Chávez's situation, the more anxiety grows. "I'm hearing so many rumors now, I don't know what to believe," said Manuel Acosta, a 47-year-old taxi driver.
"Of course you don't want to wish ill upon anyone but if there is a change in the leaders, we can hope that things will start to change for the better."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Venezuela rated the worst performer in accountability - World Justice Project

According to the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index - Venezuela rated the worst performer in accountability

The Rule of Law Index was prepared by the World Justice Project -an organization partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (created by computer entrepreneur Bill Gates) that regularly reviews compliance with the rule of law and access to independent justice in the world Transparency
Venezuela is viewed as the worst government in the world in accountability and effective checks by its citizens, according to the Rule of Law Index -an annual survey on rule of law around the world released on Monday by the World Justice Project, a US institution.
Venezuela is "the worst performer in the world in accountability and effective checks on the executive power," said the report entitled Rule of Law Index around the World prepared by the World Justice Project, AFP reported.
In Venezuela "corruption is widespread (ranking 54 out of 61 countries), crime and violence are common (ranking 64), government institutions are not transparent and the judiciary system is ineffective and subject to political influence (ranks last, 66.)".
"Venezuela ranks relatively well in terms of religious freedom (ranking 15th), accessibility of the civil courts (ranking 21st), and protection of labor rights (ranking 27th).
"The country also displays serious flaws in guaranteeing respect for fundamental rights, in particular, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to privacy," the text added.

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Spain betrays Cuba's dissidents

Spain Betrays Cuba's Dissidents
President José Zapatero helped Castro get rid of the best leaders of the island's nascent democracy movement. JUNE 13, 2011

Despite 21% unemployment and a looming debt crisis, Spain is still considered one of the world's great travel destinations. That is unless you are a Cuban prisoner of conscience who was deported and dumped here by the military dictatorship in Havana. In that case, life as an alien on the sunny Iberian Peninsula is economically and psychologically grim.
Over the past 11 months, the Cuban regime has abruptly removed 115 political prisoners from their jail cells and banished them to Spain, calling their exile "liberation." Many of them are part of a group known as "the 75," who were arrested in March 2003 for activities like collecting signatures on a democracy petition, leading peaceful marches, or writing for independent newspapers. They were permitted to leave with their immediate families and bring one change of clothes from Cuba, but they were not given the chance to say goodbye to friends and extended family and were issued no papers. A number of them have tried to claim political-refugee status, but the Spanish government has not been eager to grant it. As a result, many of them still have no permanent documents.
Last week I met with 10 of them here. Their stories of years in Cuba's dungeons and of the wider repression across the island are hair-raising. One of them showed me smuggled photos from inside the notorious Combinado del Este prison, a filthy, infested facility not fit for animals. Some prisoners of conscience have spent years there.
Cuban dissidents rally outside the Cuban Embassy in Madrid on Feb 26, the anniversary of the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
After three days of these interviews, I began to slump under the weight of the Cuban reality. But the cloud that darkened my spirit was not brought on by anything these patriots had revealed about the hell-hole known as Cuba. I am well-versed in Castro's human rights record. The truly distressing part of the prisoners' stories is the morally bankrupt role played by the Socialist government of Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in assisting the Cuban dictatorship to disguise the deportation as "liberation." It's what one might expect from the bosses in Burma, North Korea or Iran.
The harsh prison conditions in Cuba are legendary, though the regime has not allowed any human rights observer to have a look in more than two decades. One of the exiles told me about a punishment technique called "the crab," which he said is used on common criminals but one human rights activist in the U.S. told me is also used on political prisoners. One handcuff is put on one wrist and the other handcuff is put on the opposite ankle. Another set of handcuffs is put on the other wrist and ankle. Then the prisoner, wearing only underwear, is tossed onto the floor of a dank cell where he may remain for a day or more. Beatings, solitary confinement and harassment of family members at home are also common practices.
This kind of stuff is supposed to curb dissent but after seven years of grisly prison life, many of "the 75," a number of whom were serving sentences of more than two decades, showed no signs of cracking. Orlando Zapata Tamayo went on a hunger strike and died at the hands of the regime in February 2010. The beatings by Castro thugs of the Ladies in White—the wives, sisters and mothers of the political prisoners—were captured on cellphones and went viral on the Web. Another hunger-striking dissident, Guillermo Farinas, was gravely ill.
"The 75" had become a huge public-relations problem for the regime. As governments and intellectuals around the world condemned the systematic brutality, it was clear that more than a half-century of Cuban propaganda promoting the socialist paradise image was in danger of going down the drain. To minimize the damage, the regime needed not only to get the prisoners out of the country under the headline of "liberation," but also to ensure that they would land in oblivion. Spain agreed to help, and why not? Then-Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos has a warm relationship with the Castro government and was a frequent VIP guest on the island.
Most of the former prisoners told me that they did not want to leave Cuba, but Cardinal Jaime Ortega, who acted as a go-between for the dictatorship, pressured them and their families. Family members, worried that their loved ones might die in prison, asked them to take the Spanish exit.
Once in Spain, they realized they'd been had. They were clearly political refugees, and under Spanish law they were entitled to claim that designation. But for Spain to admit that they were victims of political persecution would negate the whole point of the exercise, which was to paint Castro as a great humanitarian who had set them free. This is why many of those I spoke with remain in legal limbo.
The transition to democracy in Cuba depends on two things: New leaders at home and international solidarity with their struggle for liberty from abroad. Mr. Zapatero has betrayed the Cuban people on both fronts.

Write to O'

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Elections en Peru - June 5 2011

After we have suffered Hugo Chavez, and he had changed so much Venezuela, for bad unfortunately, I have to go with Keiko.

Really, it has become a no brainer: Keiko for Peru's president
The Peruvian second round tomorrow has drawn so much ink (and even some blood) that one would expect a distant observer to pull his hairs in agony at how come a country has reached such lows. But if indeed the lows have been reached, surprisingly at the end the choice of lesser evil has turned out to be simpler than expected.
I am not going to rehash what has been rehashed hundreds of times, about Humala coup mongering past or Keiko tainted associations. After all, if Vargas Llosa has been willing to make a fool of himself repeatedly on that matter there is no need for others to follow in his path.What has been the clincher for me where the interviews granted on the same day to Patricia Janiot of CÑÑ by both candidate.
I watched them last night. I did not like any of the two but it was very, very clear that Keiko Fujimori has a better grasp of issues, a more consistent and coherent thought process, and a better body language than Humala, no question about that.And if I add some cynicism, whatever system Keiko Fujimoro might be secretly planning we already know how to get out of it with minimum damage and a functioning economy.
Ollanta Humala system will eventually be even worse than the one of Chavez because the guy is clearly less able than Chavez to emotionally control the forces that his tenure will undoubtedly try to unleash. In a country without the constant oil spigot of Venezuela to smooth over the major mistakes, Ollanta Humala is a sure road to misery, a return to some of the old Velasco Alvarado era knee jerk reflexes, and a higher potential for civil war than Keiko, who, let's not forget it, cannot introduce the racial card to her politics the way a Chavez did or an Humala surely will do.In other words, Peru could survive better a Keiko stint than an Ollanta stint and this is enough reason to vote for Keiko Fujimori.
Let's hope that enough people in Peru understand that while they hold their nose and vote.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Danger - Venezuela - Iran

If this is true Chavez sold our pretty Venezuela to Iran? How long venezuelans have to deal with this criminal?

Danger / Michael Rowan
PDVSA will be penalized for ignoring UN and US sanctions against strategic materials traded with Iran, which could complicate business in the US via CITGO

If the news in the mainstream Western press is right, Venezuela is preparing for a surprise attack against the USA. The German newspaper Die Welt reports that missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons have been installed on the Paraguana peninsula, where the missile-infrastructure 20 meters below ground and the no-fly Venezuelan air space above them are controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. While some Venezuelan military and their Cuban masters may be furious about this Venezuelan surrender of sovereignty to a foreign power - ironic in the Cuban case - the missile operation continues while being officially denied by the government.One SHAHAB missile costs the equivalent of hundreds of houses promised to the poor, who number over 10 million in the country according to government estimates and 15 million according to independent sources. As opposed to the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when Fidel Castro invited the Soviet Union to station missiles in Cuba, Chavez may be purchasing the Iranian missiles secretly under the cover of dozens of opaque Iranian-Venezuelan deals dating from 2006 and worth up to $20 billion. Those deals have stimulated ongoing foreign investigations of uranium mining, shipments of sanctioned arms and nuclear weapons materials, terrorist training camps, cocaine and slave trafficking, and the money-laundering that pays for it all.The dots are being connected. PDVSA will be penalized for ignoring UN and US sanctions against strategic materials traded with Iran, which could complicate business in the US via CITGO, thus threatening oil sales which account for 95% of Venezuela's export earnings. Chavez's characterization of all these reports as lies concocted by his enemies rings as hollow as the insistence by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief, that his sexual encounter with a maid in a New York hotel was not rape but consensual. Speaking of consensual, one wonders if Chavez's military alliance with Iran is consensual - with the Venezuelan electorate. It's hard to imagine voters would willingly put the country at risk of losing everything out of solidarity with Iran.

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Makled Inc

After I saw La Reina del Sur (The Queen of South) - a soup opera from Telemundo, and its success related with drugs mafia, I think the Makled Inc case could also be a soup opera, or maybe a movie. It would be a bad propaganda for Hugo Chavez.

Makled Inc.
As many other companies of renowned alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled, Aeropostal went to the hands of the Venezuelan State at the end of 2008

Makled's case
There is no way to have a look at the case file of Venezuelan Aeropostal airlines. "It is in custody." It is like saying that this folder cannot be touched.

As many other companies of renowned alleged drug kingpin Walid Makled, Aeropostal went to the hands of the Venezuelan State at the end of 2008. The Venezuelan government seized this and other goods shortly after finding almost four tons of cocaine in a farm rented by the Makled family in Tocuyito, central Carabobo state. Since then, all that is known about the destination of the property of Makled and his brothers is that it went to the Venezuelan government.

Even in public files of Venezuelan registry offices, everything related to Makled is "in custody." There is no interest to air the details of each of his companies. Perhaps because some of them not even are in his name. Businessman Nelson Ramiz warned against it in a motion for appeal brought on May 16, 2008 at the judicial circuit in Caracas metropolitan area.

Ramiz attested to this situation several months before Makled was prosecuted for the crimes of paid assassination, drug trafficking and money laundering. And he was adamant in his statement now from Miami, on the other side of the phone. "Checks bounced; the sale of Aeropostal was a swindle."

Pleased to meet you, my name is Walid

First time they met, it was a businessman-to-businessman cordial talk. Makled called Ramiz to express his interest in the airline.

The stoppage in December 2007 made Aeropostal's troubles come to the surface. It lasted a few hours. However, the event unleashed another, protracted strike organized not by in-house staff, but by the Venezuelan National Civil Aviation Institute. The board would stop selling tickets in Christmas time as long as the company would make its situation formal.

This is what Ramiz calls "bullfighter's sword thrust." He is positive that they had their eyes on the company. Before spending the corporate reserves, in 2008 a buyer showed up, promising to soothe the headache. He was Walid Makled.

He introduced himself as a concessionaire of Valencia airport and several warehouses at the dock of Puerto Cabello. Everything was apparently running smoothly. Nevertheless, before anybody could object to the sale of the airline, Ramiz warned that two things were needed: "Money and political liaisons." Got it! The seller gave the green light. Apparently the buyer was in possession of the two cards

Some weeks later, Ramiz was signing in New York a conditioned sale agreement in installments together with Basel Makled. Nowadays, the latter shares some of his brother's charges. However, the three million US dollars checks which ensured the key of Aeropostal's offices bounced in the United States. The checks, previously signed in Venezuela by Walid, were bad checks.

"Then, they would tell me that they were having cash flow troubles," Ramiz recalled. "I went to Venezuela, visited Aeropostal's offices at Torre Polar. However, some agents of Carabobo state police would not let me in to speak to Makled."

In this way, the impasse went to the court. Ramiz filed a complaint for fraud at the Public Prosecutor Office and, later on, he filed a motion for appeal against Caracas Fifth Commercial Registry Office.

"They recorded the sale with forged documents. I personally appeared at the Registry Office, but they did not let me do anything."

A washing machine, but not for laundry
"In order to expand their business and legitimize the funds from their operations in Carabobo, they went in quest of a vehicle for them to have clout inside and outside Venezuela and freely move their shipments," reported daily newspaper Reporte in its edition of May 27.

The full-color front page aimed at Makled: "Aeropostal... another chapter of the Syrian Sopranos."

"They have turned Aeropostal into a washing machine, not precisely of dirty clothes," the newspaper admonished on May 27 in an article signed by Luis López/CJ.

Translated by Conchita Delgado

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Venezuela Electrical Crisis

Chavez brought his incompetence to govern Venezuela. We didn't have this problem before since 1960-1997.

We were happier then, and we didn’t know.

Venezuela's provinces are sacrificed for the sake of Caracas
A power-rationing program has saved the Venezuelan capital city from outages, but hits most of the province. The Planta Centro complex, one of Latin America's largest thermal power plants, is also working at full capacity

Only one of the three Tacoa power generation units is operating

Energy The Ministry of Electricity and the National Electrical Corporation (Corpoelec) reported on Tuesday on the implementation of a power-rationing program in most of the country. The step was taken due to maintenance works in Unit 8 of Tacoa thermal power plant in the state of Vargas (northern Venezuela's coast).Igor Gavidia, the head of the National Center for Electric Power Delivery of the National Electricity System (SEN), said in a press release that power-rationing began on Tuesday, including a load of 300 megawatts (MW). The rationing program, he added, "will continue with two blocks of 200 MW each, depending on the increase of power demand" at night. The implementation of a power-rationing program has prevented outages in the Venezuelan capital but hits most of the province. The Planta Centro complex, one of Latin America's largest thermal power plants, is also working at full capacity.As stated by the competent authorities, the power cut was made in proportion to the demand of each state. A total of 120 MW were cut in the central part of the country, the plains region and part of the western Venezuelan states. According to the report the cuts were as follows: Carabobo (14 percent); Yaracuy (1 percent); Guárico (3 percent); Cojedes (1 percent); Portuguesa (3 percent); Miranda (4 percent); Aragua (8 percent); Falcón (5 percent) and lower Apure (1 percent).The Ministry of Electricity cut 27 MW in the western states of the country: Mérida (1 percent); Táchira (3 percent); Trujillo (2 percent); Barinas (2 percent) and the higher parts of Apure (1 percent). In the eastern region of the country, the power rationing amounted to 75 MW, and it was as follows: Sucre (4 percent); Monagas (6 percent); Anzoátegui (12 percent) and Nueva Esparta (3 percent). In the case of Lara and Zulia states the power-rationing was 5 percent and 21 percent, respectively.mleon@eluniversal.comTranslated by Gerardo Cárdenas

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