Monday, May 23, 2016

Counterpunch Magazine and Jeff Blankfort give voice to pro US coup propaganda against Venezuela.

If you Google my name with Venezuela you'll find that I've been critical of the Chavista government going back for years, but I've always maintained an opposition to United States intervention and I've defended the good and progressive things they've done.

It's beyond argument that Venezuela is in a state of collapse and that the government is responsible in major part for the misery of the Venezuelan people and the loss of the positive advances towards ending poverty that Venezuela made between 1999 and 2013. However there appears to be a campaign underway to make a pro US reversion to the old regime that the Chavista political revolution had ousted from power acceptable to progressives outside of Venezuela. Hand in hand with this campaign is a campaign to humiliate, discredit, intimidate and neutralize non Venezuelans who supported or defended the Chavez movement.

At bottom the campaign aims to identify socialism with the Venezuelan catastrophe and discredit socialism for another generation.  I don't know if Jeff Blankfort and Counterpunch magazine understand that in pushingPEDRO LANGE-CHURION forward this is what they're doing.

Lange-Churion has very valid criticisms of the Chavista movement and government. I've put several of the same criticisms out myself. The problem is in the possible alternatives and next steps. This is where he is doing harm and Counterpunch along with Jeff Blankfort have helped him so far.

Revolutions are messy. They are said  to even eat their children.  It's also been said that revolutions aren't tea parties. So, any revolution is marked with error, even crimes. They should be avoided unless they are necessary. By the 1990's one was necessary in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez and a group of soldiers around him picked up the challenge.

The Venezuelan revolution never was complete. It didn't smash the capitalist state. It didn't dispossess the Venezuelan one percenters. It booted them from political office, and instituted reforms based on the money pouring in from Venezuela's oil sales. It also turns out that it allowed Venezuela to try to challenge United States policies and hegemony. This was Chavez ' cardinal sin. He lobbied to revive OPEC and had some responsibility for the recovery of oil prices. He threw a lifeline to revolutionary Cuba. He set out to build a parallel organization to the Organization of American States that wold exclude the USA. (UNASUR). He strove to build a trade bloc in an effort to break the economic headlock the United States holds in Latin America. He invited Russian forces to visit and dock in Venezuela and moved to have China, not the US, be Venezuela 's first trading partner. He kicked the corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration out of Venezuela  ( they have the run of neighboring Colombia which is where the cocaine comes from and where cocaine production continues to increase.) He took the Venezuelan Embassy out of Tel-Aviv and sent the Israeli Embassy packing. He defied sanctions against Iran. He refused to accept a United States ambassador who had publicly insulted the Venezuelan armed forces. PEDRO LANGE-CHURION calls these "antics" that enamored the international left.

Fast forwarding, Chavez died (or perhaps was murdered). Before he died Chavez named Nicolas Maduro to take his place. Oil prices collapsed and the effects of an ongoing embezzlement of hundreds of billions of dollars started to bite.

Maduro has been floundering. Millions of Chavistas abstained or spoiled their ballots in the legislative  elections in December 2015. The opposition, much the same personnel of the old regime and the "misguided " in Lange-Churion's words US backed coup of 2002 and the insurrectionary economic sabotage of 2003. These are the people who Lange-Churion and Jeff Blankfort want to dress up as a broad coalition spanning center-right all the way to "socialists." Jeff Blankfort amazes me in this. I didn't think.I knew a more intransigent opponent of US imperialism and racism.

The leader of the opposition bloc in the Venezuelan legislature is Henry Ramos-Allup. Lange-Churionand Blankfort want us to see Ramos-Allup as a "socialist", which I suppose if you consider Henry Strauss-Khan  and Tony Benn (late edit- Tony Blair, may God forgive that error) socialists Ramos-Allup might count for one also.

Venezuela is a color conscious country to the point of illness. Every shade of skin color has its own name and children in the same household are in many cases treated differently based on skin color. So, it shouldn't surprise that Venezuelan rightist ( like the fake socialists) found it hard to accept a man of color, Hugo Chavez as president.  This is similar to the Republican Party here that never accepted the fact that a Black Democrat beat them in two elections.

Hugo Chavez had had the remains of Venezuela's founding father, Simon Bolivar,  exhumed to try to determine the cause of his death. Bolivar has always been portrayed as a man of solely European background. The study found, however, that Bolivar's features pointed to African ancesters. The new official image of Bolivar acknowledged this.

When the oppositionists took over the National Assembly the first order of business was to remove the portraits of both Bolivar and Chavez, the first President of color and revered by the majority of Venezuela's people, who also are of color, as the first modern leader who both resembled them and cared about them.

Ramos-Allup was outed by Wikileaks as someone who often pestered the United States Embassy in Caracas to give him money. His associates often did the same and also pestered for visas and college scholarships for their families.  If the recall referendum succeeds this year the president by default will be none other than Ramos-Allup.

The opposition has not been able to accomplish a mass mobilization since the Chavistas lost the legislative elections and they have offered no program to address the situation of hunger, inflation, collapse of the medical system.

Barack Obama has twice signed proclamations labeling Venezuela an imminent threat to United States security.  A drug smuggling case against nephews of Celia Flores, wife of President Maduro is unfolding in New York.  THE COCAINE COMES FROM COLOMBIA AND THE US DEA HAS THE RUN OF COLOMBIA! I shout this because the US isn't going to forgive Chavez' "escapades" and wants a pretext. Venezuela is rich not only in petroleum but in gold, diamonds and coltan, a mineral needed for smart phones, tablets and computers. In keeping with its doctrine of "full spectrum dominance" the US would want the power to cut off any other country, China for example, from access to coltan.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Guardian Comments on Venezuela's Plight and I Respond

People dying in what were once well-equipped and efficient hospitals, killings every day in the streets, queues for everything outside the shops, angry demonstrations in the capital – that is Venezuela today. How has a rich and once promising country reached this pass?
President Nicolás Maduro last week

 read more:

Venezuelan Socialist Accuses Government

The following is an enhanced machine translation from the original Spanish to English of an interview of the Venezuelan political leader, Nicmer Evans.  It's been edited by me to make it more understandable to English speakers who are not familiar with the situation in Venezuela. While I am not a member of Marea Socialista or a follower, I find their emphasis on the embezzlement of hundreds of billions of dollars from Venezuela and opposition to the determination of both the government and the opposition to pay the external debt regardless of the harm done to Venezuela and legality of much of this debt to be the "missing link" in all discourse regarding the crisis in Venezuela. Understanding that hundreds of billions of dollars have been embezzled and shipped out leaving a crisis of material deprivation and an enormous foreign debt helps clarify the situation. 

   Nícmer Evans: "Maduro betrayed the legacy of Chavez"
Nícmer Evans: "Maduro betrayed the legacy of Chavez"By Carlos"There is more pandering and perfidious, perverse and miserable corruption," says Evans Nicmer, political scientist, social psychologist and leader of Marea Socialista Carlos Diaz 
"The economic, social and political crisis in Venezuela is the result of ineptitude, paralysis and lack of planning by the government of President Nicolas Maduro," said Nicmer Evans , political scientist, social psychologist and leader of Socialist Tide, in an interview with "The Reason".
"Urgent measures are needed to solve the main problems of the country. First, make a call to the countries that have benefited from the solidarity of Venezuela (countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and others that have received cheap oil from Venezuela - editor) to provide drugs while we solve the economic issue .Many people are dying from lacks there is no medicine for epilepsy, cancer or heart conditions. It is absurd that this happens in a country that has received billions of dollars of oil wealth , " he added.
The second proposal aims for greater public participation in executive decision making , said Evans. "Acts such as preventing Marea Socialista from participating in the electoral process while the governing Psuv requires multiple steps to collect the signatures of the recall are absurd and incoherent, situations especially when Chavez never resorted to methods such as these."  he said.
"Venezuela is paying an unpayable foreign debt and does so at a time when people die for lack of medicines. It is miserable for people to lose their lives for this situation, this is not socialism, this is a Kakistocracy or government of the worst and which is absolutely inept " he said.

"Maduro melted engines"

Is it necessary that Maduro Maduro leaves power?
All this poses the change of the government of President Maduro. In that sense, Marea Socialista is respectful of the call made for the recall referendum. However, we disagree with misleading the people by saying that the country's problems will end the day after Maduro leaves office. It is the same deception that took place during the elections of December 6 when they (the opposition- editor) promised people that the food queues would end the next day if the opposition won. We must overcome impunity, ie require sacrifice from those who robbed the country before asking those who live honestly by their own work.

Hasn't the government put in  measures such as the creation of the National Council of Productive Economy and Economic Emergency Decree?

They do not work because they respond to communications or propagandistic strategies that do not generate any results. It's just populism and does not produce any recovery in the economy.That is, the government has a socialist discourse that does not conform with its practice in reality. ( In words) Maduro is not implementing the actions from the right, but the bad actions of the government is far from their rhetoric and unfortunately end up doing most harm. (Maduro has proclaimed what he calls economic engines, such as tourism (!)- editorMaduro melted these engines by calling the private sector to run the economy and the Council appointed an entrepreneur as economy minister (Miguel Perez Abad) in a supposedly socialist government.

They stole 457 billion dollars

In the last three years has there been a deterioration of the Venezuelan State?

The government of President Chavez was  defined as having its subject: those living from their work and who were( previously) excluded from the system. Today, the government of President Maduro has defined an entirely different political subject: Living from the other's work. Unfortunately, the distribution of quotas in the power and economy to support his government has led to a serious deterioration. During the government of Venezuelan President Chavez each worker on average earned $ 600 a month and today does not exceed $ 15, and may reach $10 in the next three months. It is unworthy that most Venezuelans pay for the crisis that led those who stole more than 300 billion dollars, according to what Maduro admitted in February; although we estimate that it's 457 billion. This has been the world's largest scam and there was responsibility of the government teams Chavez and Maduro. the same of the Fourth Republic, (old regime) ie, capital flight and corruption are reproduced. There may be responsible for those who are not, because he's dead, but the culprit is alive and is called Nicolas Maduro.
From where will popular discontent come? Are there are conditions for another social explosion as the Caracazo? (A major uprising that the old regime drowned in blood-editor).
That depends largely on the position of the (opposition  ) Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). The MUD has called for rallies and marches to push out Maduro and has not held a well attended one. But when they called to sign the recall itself there were a lot of people, and that must be recognized. However, these people were deceived because they were told that if they replace Maduro it was going to end shortages of food and medicine. So said the leaders of the MUD put up signs that unfortunately was giving distorted information. The opposition is offering what it will not fulfill: because the solution not only is beyond Maduro leaving which is one of the steps. The opposition does not offer any alternative to exit the crisis.

MUD Ni, Ni Psuv (Neither the oppositionists nor the governing party).

What is your assessment of the new National Assembly (AN) ? Has it been as inoperative as when it was in the hands of Chavez?
Same or worse. Surveys say that AN has 20 points less in public approval because they did not fulfill their promise to end the queues, shortages and inflation. Discontent against the PSUV and MUD continues to increase, more than 50% of the Venezuelan population is not identified with any of both leaderships. This opens up possibilities to break the polarization and thus they are preventing the legalization of the Marea Socialista as an electoral party because they know that our choice would mean loss of votes for the PSUV and the MUD. The only agreement that exists in the country is the cosmic dust and sand beach Ramos Allup said in January 2015 when he referred to the different polarization electoral options.
If the recall referendum would be held tomorrow, do you think that Maduro would lose or would he be victorious?
I have no doubt, President Maduro has no chance of winning . He not betrayed the people win because he thought he would continue the legacy of President Chavez because he frustrated the expectation he generated with the Dakazo in December 2013. At that time it was thought that his government would be hard on price regulation, however today most prices are market based and his rhetoric is limited to only a fetish against Polar. ( The major food processing and distribution company - editor) addition, it has grown breed integrated military importers who benefit from government commissions.

No danger of military coup

Is Maduro hurting Chavismo?
Maduro is to Chavismo what cancer was for President Chavez. He is doing fatal damage that needs to be corrected. If President Chavez was alive, no doubt, would have different conditions for the evaluation of the national situation. There is a discontent with Maduro's Chavismo that should have electoral expression and, even, might win against the PSUV and the MUD.
Is there a danger of a military coup ?
No. There is a predominant sector that benefits from the government through corruption. There is another sector that seek to preserve the institutional balance. It is very difficult to have a military coup, however, who do speak of this possibility is Diosdado Cabello and Padrino López. Both have direct participation in this possibility or handle information not shared with society. And of course, all Venezuelans have the right to know what happens within the National Armed Forces.
Is socialism no longer viable in Venezuela?
No. Maduro's management portrayed the left as not being democratic and not trusting the people. The Venezuelan people do not believe in the right, or the possibility of a government that claims to be leftist and does not take the necessary measures.Maduro is not neoliberal but neither is left.

"There is a perverse corruption"

Who created the bachaqueo ?, What sectors are enriched with this distortion of the economy?(bachaqueros are people who buy subsidized price controlled goods and then sell them for higher prices -editor)
The product bachaqueo is an absolutely unworkable economic model in the country.
In the last three years it has increased corruption in government?
I think not,  because there is less money to steal. If more pandering than before, there is a more perverse and miserable most perfidious corruption. Today is greater discretion for the allocation of resources, there is no comptroller on the use of public resources.
Has the flight of capital from the country stopped?
Thete are no figures to measure that. We estimate that between 1999 and 2013  274 billion dollars were embezzled from the state and we have reported on a cash imbalance of PDVSA (The National Petroleum Company-editor) of 215 billion dollars. That is, we do not know where 457 billion dollars are, though surely out of the country. President Maduro urged that all that absconded money be reinvested in the country, although ihe did not recognize that it is ill-gotten capital. It is important that all this money is returned and reinvested in the country. Unfortunately, we do not see any political will in the government of Maduro.

"Lynching is a symptom of impunity"

Did the government lose control over the problem of crime?
That is part of an accumulation since the Fourth Republic and is related to impunity and the deterioration process. It is a very strong structural problem that is due to the absence of the (revolutionary- editor) transformation of the judiciary. This has meant that impunity is unstoppable and that only those with money can buy justice.
Why has there been increased lynchings?
Lynching is a symptom of impunity, which arises because of the absence of rule of law and justice. It has been micro major crises that have manifested themselves through looting and that sum diagnosed a serious problem but it is still not a like a Caracazo social upheaval.That means that there is a political consciousness in Venezuela, strengthened during the government of President Chavez and which is allowing overcoming this critical moment.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Too bad to be true: Venezuelan Government Public Health Report Is So Alarming, It Must Be Typographical Errors!

Some of the figures are bad enough, but some are so off the chart it seems they just can't be real.

Maternal Mortality up five times in three years!?

2. General Mortality

Official data of this index can not be defined but as creepy. So much so that we hardly believe that this value is true and prefer to think that this is a mistake.
Explain why: official data imply that in 2012 were dying patients 2.96 per 100 high. And according to data published in the 2015 Annual Report and Accounts of the Ministry of Popular Power for Health , up to 31%. That is, the data says that out of 100 patients discharged 31 die.
If these numbers are real , this would be one of the most notorious Venezuelan health debacles and probably in the entire history of the continent. However, as I said, it is possible that it is a mistake and that the number who have tried toreflect is 3.1 out of every 100 high. Hopefully, if so, and since it is such a significant error, the Ministry confirm the figures given in the Report and Accounts .

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The embezzlement of hundreds of billions of dollars from Venezuela's National Petroleum Company must be undone.

I'm fairly certain that an incoming President Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are both thinking about a nation to invade and stomp on as a ritual proof of toughness. That's if President Obama doesn't already have invasion plans in motion. After all,  he's declared Venezuela to be a national security threat to the United States two years in a row.

Candidate Bernie Sanders has demonstrated an awareness and sensitivity to the history of United States bullying of Latin American countries.  I am hoping against hope that the Berner movement can succeed.  One very useful step that an incoming President Sanders could take would be an offer to assist Venezuela in recovering embezzled dollars. With even a substantial amount of the embezzled dollars Venezuela could be on a rapid recovery track.

Below is a machine translation from the Spanish which I have enhanced for clarity.

Embezzlement exceeds what Petrolero intended as Tax Revenue in 15 years

An unnamed country, a government in the shadows ...

By Carlos Carcione
Monday, 05/09/2016 10:00 a.m.

The volume of capital flight and accounting maneuvers in  PDVSA, Venezuela's national oil company among other things not yet elucidated, is gigantic. Investigations so far made public, offer such a large amount of data for analysis it is necessary to disaggregate, to understand the dimension of Embezzlement operated.

It is not simple maneuvers of corruption. We are in the presence of a mobster pattern of accumulation of capital. In this paper we compare the embezzlement with income received as the state oil contribution to the national budget of Venezuela.
As is clear from the study conducted by the research team of Marea Socialista, (a political party whose background is in the Chavista movement but which has been blocked by election authorities from participating in electoral politics) embezzlement to the Nation by capital flight added to the inconsistencies between revenues and expenses in foreign currency of  PDVSA between 1998 and 2014 exceeds the total fiscal revenue Petrolero (IFP) of the country in MM $ 126.888.- in the same period.
This emerges from a comparison between the amount contributed in dollars and IFP and the sum of capital flight that came under the national government, more inconsistencies in the reports of the management of dollars from the state oil company.
To explain it in more understandable for readers terms we can say as follows: It can be said, without equivocation, that during the period studied (1998-2014) funded the National Budget PDVSA two countries.
One, which is recorded in the numbers that the budget of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is built, to which the oil destination MM $ 348.743.-.
And the other, an unnamed country, with a government in the shadows, without public numbers or records of income and expenses. No known budget. A country that turned out to be larger from the point of view of its economic weight that the Bolivarian Venezuela, which ended up, as if 475.631.- Dollars were allocated a budget ghost were a bottomless barrel, $ MM whose investments and expenses were used, in fact, to fatten the accounts and assets of mafias dedicated to private capital accumulation of illegal or illegitimate at the expense of oil rents manner.
So progress has been stifled for our land and our people for at least a generation of Venezuelans.
However there is a way to recover that effort. If  we successfully put up a great national movement for the realization of a Public and Citizen's Audit, we may put a name on the shadow country, a face on the government and those mafias that seek to steal the future of our Venezuelan people. It will fight to recover the embezzled and punish criminals.

Venezuela is enduring a social, political, ethical, moral and economic crisis that has millions of citizens of an oil rich country that's been governed by people who call themselves socialist since 1998 living with hunger, shortages of almost every necessary item that one can name incuding water and electricity. By subsidizing imports the government helped destroy Venezuela's ability to feed itself as Venezuelan farmers could not compete with the very cheap subsidized imported goods.

The government has opposed United States policies like the Cuban trade embargo, the war against Iraq and Sanctions against Iran, notherwise to mention its closing of Israel's Embassy. These actions have earned the country the support and praises of leftists and opponents of globalization of all stripes. The country did also initiate social programs for the benefit of Venezuela's poor. In light of declining oil prices in part orchestrated by the United States and its Saudi allies Venezuela would have to fall back on what should have been a large reserve fund and domestic production to maintain the well being of its people.  Obviously there is no reserve fund, but a large and ethically questionable foreign debt. Putting upside down and inside out the recommended economic policy that has a developing country protect its own producers from foreign competition.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The ground is being laid for a US intervention in Venezuela

The Washington Post, once again, is urging an intervention in Venezuela.

According to the Washington Post editorial opposition members of the National Assembly were in Washington lobbying for intervention.  Interestingly they are said to have cited the embezzlement of hundreds of billions of dollars from Venezuela.  The editorial asserts that the embezzlement is the work of the Chavistas. They are supposedly seeking US assistance in recovering the money. It's interesting , as  they haven't made the embezzlement and recovery much of an issue back in Venezuela.  The assumption that only Chavistas are responsible is not valid. For one thing not all government and central bank employees are Chavistas. The bureaucracy is heavily infiltrated by opponents as well as non political careerists.  The main avenue for embezzlement is the sale of United States dollars for extremely low insider prices to entrepreneurs and foreign businesses operating in Venezuela.  Polar Enterprises,  the major food processor and distributor in Venezuela has been both a target of fierce rhetoric from the government and a recipient of these cheap discount dollars. The dollars either end up sold on the illegal money market for over a hundred times the amount the entrepreneur purchased them from the government for or are used to import food that's supposed to be sold at steep discounts but ends up sold for what the market will bear,
most often in neighboring countries.  

The opposition has organized a popular  recall against President Maduro.  There is and will continue to be controversy over whether the recall is being conducted under the letter of the law and whether the government is unlawfully impeding it. I am not a legal expert who can decide this question but I would imagine that the government will do what it can to delay and derail the recall.  The opposition will angle for United States intervention in the name of democracy. 

The recall is lawful in principle but there are procedures.  This is where the rub is and the cry for intervention under the Organization of American States  Democracy Charter will probably grow out of - a conflict over procedure.