Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mercosur Expanding and Forging Closer Links w/a Flailing EU?

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Latin America's Mercosur trade bloc is planning to fast-track Venezuela's long-delayed accession as a full member as regional leaders push plans to strengthen and expand the organization.

Mercosur is in talks with the European Union on a trade agreement that both sides increasingly see as a window of opportunity for increased trade and new revenue streams.

The EU has been searching for ways to stimulate its economic performance as it battles to contain the contagion of crisis over its members' debt-ridden economies.

Mercosur offers a huge potential market for Europe, covering about 5 million square miles of territory, a population of more than 267 million and a combined gross domestic product of $2.9 trillion.

The trade pact's members, increasingly skeptical about immediate business prospects in recession-hit Europe, see an entry into EU's free trade regime as a long-term investment.

Venezuela's accession as a full member is also crucial to Mercosur's regional trade expanding to the benefit of full members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and associate members Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, the current president of Mercosur, said he would propose amendments to membership rules when Mercosur's council meets Tuesday in Montevideo. Venezuela's accession as a full member has been snagged by delays in ratification by Paraguay's Parliament, the only remaining stumbling block under current rules.

The rules require assent from each of the member countries' parliaments before full membership can be confirmed.

"We talked about the review of legal criteria in such a way that on Dec. 20, when the Mercosur summit convenes in Montevideo, it can open the way for Venezuela's full membership, something on which both Argentina and Brazil and Uruguay are in accord," Mujica said.

"The only thing I spoke about with the Argentine president is that Mercosur legislation, as currently drafted, does not allow Venezuela's incorporation unless the Paraguayan Senate approves it, even when the Paraguayan government supports Venezuela's full membership," he added.

Mujica said Mercosur leaders discussed the possibility of changing the rules to facilitate Venezuela's admission, the last time last week when they assembled in Buenos for the inauguration of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in her second term in office. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, even though he's being treated for cancer, also attended the ceremonies.

Venezuela's membership of Mercosur has been mired in controversy over criticism of radical policies pursued by Chavez. The Brazilian lawmakers' opposition to Venezuela's membership was overruled by former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his supporters. However, in Paraguay, President Fernando Lugo's government has been unable to secure a convincing majority to push through a pro-Venezuela ratification vote in that country's congress.

Mujica's comments triggered new speculation about the current level of "consensus" on Venezuela's membership. He said in published comments that Lugo might still need a little talking to for the membership issue to be resolved.

The legislatures in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay approved Venezuela's accession as a full member after it signed a membership agreement in 2006 but Lugo's opponents in Paraguay's congress continue to hold back ratification, partly to embarrass the president and partly because of opposition to Chavez.

The Mercosur presidential summit will open in Montevideo next Tuesday when the six-month rotating chair will pass from Uruguay to Argentina.

Under current rules any modification to a 1991 treaty of Asuncion, Paraguay, that governs Mercosur requires consensus from the presidents of the four founding members.

Read more:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Potlatch for Patagons? A Warning for China.

Are the Fallas de Valencia a form of socialized potlatch from the ancestors of the Patagons?
I will simply state, without waiting further, that the extension of economic growth itself requires the overturning of economic principles—the overturning of the ethics that grounds them. Changing from the perspectives of restrictive economy to those of general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican transformation: a reversal of thinking—and of ethics. If a part of wealth (subject to a rough estimate) is doomed to destruction or at least to unproductive use without any possible profit, it is logical, even inescapable, to surrender commodities without return. Henceforth, leaving aside pure and simple dissipation, analogous to the construction of the Pyramids, the possibility of pursuing growth is itself subordinated to giving: The industrial development of the entire world demands of Americans that they lucidly grasp the necessity, for an economy such as theirs, of having a margin of profitless operations. An immense industrial network cannot be managed in the same way that one changes a tire... It expresses a circuit of cosmic energy on which it depends, which it cannot limit, and whose laws it cannot ignore without consequences. Woe to those who, to the very end, insist on regulating the movement that exceeds them with the narrow mind of the mechanic who changes a tire.
- Georges Bataille ...or did this traditional festival originate with the Chinese?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Meet the New Boss... Same as the Old Boss

from Reuters

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's FARC guerrilla leader Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, is considered a reserved and quiet rebel, seen more as a military strategist than the politically-minded ex-leader whom he replaced.

Trained in irregular warfare in Cuba and politics in Russia in the 1980s, Timochenko took over as head of the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, after Colombian forces killed boss Alfonso Cano this month.

The 52-year-old was born Rodrigo Londono in the coffee-growing province of Quindio, and after many years as a militant in the youth communist party, Timochenko completed his medical studies and joined the FARC in the early 1980s.

The guerrilla leader rose rapidly through the ranks of the FARC, becoming part of the seven-member ruling secretariat in the early 1990s, according to Colombian military sources.

Timochenko is now the commander of the Bloque Magdalena Medio - comparable to an army division -, is believed to operate in the Norte de Santander region and to be head of intelligence, according to Colombian security services.

Married to a woman thought to live in Venezuela and with two daughters, the bearded Timochenko treats his subordinates well but delegates little, according to government sources.

Colombian intelligence services consider Timochenko a hardline commander, which diminishes hopes of a negotiated solution to the nearly five decades of civil conflict.

His center of operations borders neighboring Venezuela.

A regional intelligence source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that Timochenko was in Venezuela and would risk being tracked by Bogota if he tried to re-establish himself on the Colombian side of the remote border region.

Colombia's attorney general has put out 117 capture orders against Timochenko for kidnapping, murder, rebellion and terrorism while the United States has offered up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, Jack Kimball and Helen Murphy; Editing by Eduardo Garcia)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Noriega: Chávez cancer progressing faster than expected

from the Miami Herald by Antonio Maria Delgado
A former official in the Bush administration said in a column that President Hugo Chávez is in worse health than he has let on.

President Hugo Chávez’s cancer is spreading faster than expected and his doctors fear that he may have only a few months left to live, a former U.S. government official said Wednesday, citing sources inside the Venezuelan government.

“The international team of doctors in charge of treating Hugo Chávez’s cancer does not expect him to live more than six months,” said Roger Noriega, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Noriega’s opinion came in a column titled “Hugo Chávez’s Big Lie and Washington’s Apathy,” published on the Internet portal of Inter-American Security Watch.

“Sources who have given me privileged information and documents from inside the Venezuelan government indicate that Chávez’s cancer is spreading faster than expected and could kill him before the presidential elections in October 2012,” added Noriega, who was also undersecretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs in the Bush administration.

According to Noriega, U.S. officials knew that Chávez was suffering from cancer six months before the Venezuelan president acknowledged it publicly and now they know that it is unlikely that he would be the candidate in the next presidential elections.

Noriega said that high-ranking leaders of the Chávez regime are worried that his most fervent followers would feel betrayed once they learn what he referred to as the Venezuelan president’s “big lie.”

“Chávez wants his people to believe that he was ‘healed’ months ago and that the recent visits to Cuba have confirmed his miraculous recovery,” he said. “However, his physical deterioration is speeding more rapidly than his doctors had predicted and, despite this serious situation, Chávez has insisted on receiving low doses of chemotherapy to avoid long absences from the political scene during this fragile period.”

He added that Chávez’s political advisors are worried that he will die soon and leave his successor with the incredible task of explaining why the leaders of the country instigated such a big lie.

According to Noriega, the doctors believe that the decision of receiving a lower dose of chemotherapy to try to continue his public functions is suicidal, but they have no alternative but to follow the plan.

And what is worse, “the treatment to fight the cancerous cells in the Venezuelan leader’s bones has not started yet,” he said.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shades of "The Prisoner"...

#6 - "You won't get anything out of me, #2."

Is Daniel Ortega Headed for a Fall?

from the Miami Herald
Nicaraguans will vote on Sunday. At stake are the presidency, 90 seats in the national Congress and 20 in the Central American Parliament. According to some polls, Daniel Ortega can expect about 40 percent of the vote, Fabio Gadea 30 percent, and Arnoldo Alemán 10.

The problem is that it is very difficult to conduct polls in Nicaragua. The Güegüense factor prevents it. What is that? The Güegüense is a character in Nicaragua’s earliest (and most elaborate) colonial theater. He hides behind a mask, deceives, defends his interests shrewdly and underhandedly, and hides his intentions.

The first time I heard about this unusual phenomenon was after the 1990 elections. According to almost all the polls, including those done by Spain and the United States, Daniel Ortega was going to beat Violeta Chamorro by almost 20 points. But the reverse happened: Doña Violeta trounced her opponent at the polls. I think only two skillful pollsters got it right: Victor Borge of Costa Rica and Alfredo Keller of Venezuela. Both introduced elements in their questions that allowed them to weed out lies and doublespeak.

When the results came out, they created a political earthquake. The failed pollsters gave a strange explanation: hundreds of thousands of güegüenses had voted, they said. People who said one thing and did the opposite. I remember an American “expert” who told me, frustrated by his failure, “This is a country of liars.” Wrong: it’s a country of cautious people, which is something very different.

The Nicas learn very early in life, maybe in infancy, that the assertion “The truth shall make you free,” from the Gospel of John, may be true on Lake Tiberias but in Nicaragua it can lead you straight to disaster. That’s why people hide their intentions.

That observation comes to mind because of an article by Pedro Joaquín Chamorro published in La Prensa of Managua. Pedro Joaquín, a politician and journalist who is very close to the campaign of Fabio Gadea, a successful businessman and radio commentator renowned as a good and honest man, believes that the Nica voters once again are hiding their true intentions. They’re afraid of what the Sandinistas represent, so they lie or don’t respond.

How does Pedro Joaquín know this? He intuits it, because he has toured the country with Gadea in a political campaign almost without any economic resources, based on face-to-face meetings and a handshake, and has perceived the same warm complicity that perhaps existed in 1990, when Nicaraguans wore their poker faces and smiled when told about the Sandinista revolution, even though they had secretly decided they would vote for democracy and freedom.

My impression is that this time it will be more difficult to beat Ortega. The opposition goes to the polls bitterly divided and has to beat, in the first place, Hugo Chávez, the great elector, with his hundreds of millions of petrodollars. Chávez and Ortega have created a private enterprise, Albanisa, that they operate at will, with which the Venezuelan buys international influence for his 21st-Century farce with public money, while the Nica has a huge coffer with which to acquire political clients and perpetuate himself in power buying votes with gifts and favors.

Because that’s exactly what these elections are all about: perpetuating themselves in power. Daniel Ortega - who already has broken the law and who, with the aid of some absolutely docile judges, slipped a law past the Constitution that annulled the ban on consecutive reelections — will seek approval during his next term for a bill that will enable him to be the nation’s leader as long as he feels like sitting on the presidential chair.

It’s impossible to say how long “Daniel-ism” will last, but the ideological roots of 21st-Century socialism are weak and getting weaker. Cuba may have been the reference point once, but it no longer is. And, while Venezuela may be the group’s inexhaustible checkbook, it may soon abandon that costly role.

When? Probably when Hugo Chávez exits the stage as a consequence of precarious health or his innumerable and skillful political adversaries. In sum, although he wishes to perpetuate himself in power, Daniel Ortega is dangling from a very thin rope that will eventually coil around his ankles. He, too, will fall.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Argentina Prepares to Grab All Corporate Oil/Mineral Profits - Can Outright Nationalization Be Far Off?

Mommy Wants to Go on a Shopping Spree...
from Bloomberg News
Argentina ordered oil, gas and mining companies to repatriate all export revenue as the government struggles to stem accelerating capital flight from South America’s second-biggest economy.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in her first move since winning re-election on Oct. 23, changed a 2002 decree requiring companies such as Repsol YPF SA and Pan American Energy LLC to keep at least 30 percent of their export revenue in the country. Today’s decree, published in the official gazette, applies to future sales.

The decision by Fernandez, who nationalized the $24 billion pension fund industry and called for a limit on purchases of farmland by foreigners, is part of an effort to slow capital flight estimated at $3 billion per month that is draining central banks reserves. The policy may make it harder to attract foreign direct investment to Argentina that the United Nations estimates fell 30 percent in the first half of the year.

“These types of controls only discourage investment and thus hurt exports,” said Juan Pablo Fuentes, a Latin America economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The oil sector is already hampered by controls and regulations. This will only add to those problems.”

Tumbling Investment
Foreign direct investment in Argentina fell to $2.4 billion from $3.5 billion in the first half, while increasing 54 percent to $83 billion for Latin America as a whole, according to a UN report published yesterday. Faced with inflation economists estimate at 24 percent, Argentines pulled $9.8 billion out of the economy in the first half of this year, compared with $11.4 billion in all of 2010.

Export sales from oil, gas, petrochemicals, gold and copper in Argentina totaled $10.7 billion in 2010, or 16 percent of total exports, according to the national statistics agency. Argentina places a 100 percent tax on oil exports above about $45 per barrel, compared with a global price that has ranged from $75 to $114 per barrel this year.

The move ensures “equal treatment to all production activities,” according to a statement in today’s official gazette. Mining companies had been exempt from the policy requiring that 30 percent of export revenue be repatriated since 2004.

Falling Reserves
Capital flight prompted the central bank to sell $2.7 billion of reserves in August and September to curb a depreciation in the peso, which has weakened 6.1 percent this year. Reserves have fallen to $47.8 billion this year from a record $52.6 billion while central banks in Brazil, Mexico and Chile build up savings.

"This shows the problems the government is having in trying to stop capital flight,’’ said Walter Molano, an emerging markets analyst with BCP Securities. "The government is willing to take strong measures to stop it."

The yield on Argentina’s peso bonds due in 2033 rose 4 basis points to 11.83 percent. The benchmark Merval index rose 0.3 percent to 2,857.89 at 10:32 a.m. New York time.

Kristian Rix, a spokesman for Repsol YPF, Spain’s biggest oil company, said in an e-mailed statement the company will “respect the law.”

Company Reaction
Jorge Palmes, chief executive officer of AngloGold Ashanti Ltd’s Argentine unit, said in an e-mailed response to questions the company wasn’t aware of the measure.

A Vale SA official in Rio de Janeiro, who declined to be named citing corporate policy, said the company didn’t have an immediate comment.

E-mails to Goldcorp Inc, Pan American Energy, Pan American Silver Corp. weren’t immediately returned today. Officials at YPF SA, Argentina’s biggest energy company, Xstrata Plc, Chile’s state-oil refiner Enap and Petroleo Brasileiro SA weren’t immediately able to comment.

Fernandez, 58, has tapped central bank reserves to pay debt and steady the peso, nationalized carrier Aerolineas Argentinas SA and fined economists who question official inflation reports since taking office in 2007. She has also kept caps on utility prices, causing Berkshire, U.K.-based BG Group Plc and France’s GDF Suez to leave the country. Metrogas SA, Argentina’s largest natural-gas distributor, filed for bankruptcy.

Delayed Deals
BP Plc, the U.K.’s second-biggest oil company, said yesterday it may delay completion of its sale of a $7.1 billion stake in Pan American Energy to Bridas Corp., co-owned by Cnooc Ltd, until next year as it doesn’t yet have the necessary Argentine antitrust and Chinese regulatory approvals.

Bridas, also owned by Argentina’s billionaire Bulgheroni family, agreed in November to buy BP’s 60 percent stake in Pan American that it doesn’t already own. The deal can be terminated by either party if the approvals aren’t received by Nov. 1, unless both sides agree to an extension.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chavez, Quien lo Seguira?

from Fox News
HAVANA – Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez likely has less than two years to live, his former doctor said, as the ailing firebrand traveled to Cuba for a checkup following cancer treatment.

Chavez, 57, has been through four rounds of chemotherapy in Cuba since revealing he had a cancerous tumor removed in June. But Venezuela has provided few details about the exact nature of the cancer, aside from that it was in the pelvic area.

Salvador Navarrete, his former personal surgeon, told Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal on Sunday that the leader's condition likely was worse than publicly admitted.

The doctor described the prognosis as "not good." He added, "When I say this, I mean that he has no more than two years to live."

Navarrete said Chavez likely was suffering from either a tumor in his pelvis or a sarcoma, which would explain the intensive course of treatment.

Navarrete was the personal surgeon for Chavez from 2002 until earlier this year, when Chavez changed his medical staff to exclusively Cuban doctors.

Before departing for Havana, Chavez told Venezuelan TV that the visit was routine, but he did not disclose any details of his condition. Earlier reports said the visit was for a checkup, to see whether there were any malignant cells in his body, AFP reported.

Chavez has been in power since 1999 and has maintained that he will recover in time to win re-election in 2012.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chavez to Venezuelans - What's Was Yours is Now Mine - But In the Name of the Poor, of Course!

from The Independent
Venezuela president Hugo Chavez's policy of nationalising strategic private businesses has taken a new twist with his announcement that his government will expropriate hotels and holiday homes at an upmarket Caribbean resort.

The president plans to turn Los Roques, an idyllic archipelago of deserted beaches of perfect white sand with swaying palms and dazzling coral reefs, into a state-run getaway for his country's urban poor.

Speaking on national television, he said that yachts and speedboats confiscated from fugitive bankers would be used to transport holidaymakers from the mainland. "There are some houses there that were illegally built. We are going to expropriate them." Talking by phone link rather than appearing in person – a tactic the president has increasingly used since starting chemotherapy for cancer – he added that the archipelago, a national park, had in effect been privatised by Venezuelan and foreign members of "the upper bourgeoisie".

The measure may turn out to be one of Mr Chavez's least controversial nationalisations. Los Roques was declared a protected area in 1972 and it is unclear why local authorities permitted any private properties on the islands, effectively allowing the archipelago to become one of Latin America's most exclusive beach destinations. Lying 95 miles off Venezuela's northern coast, Los Roques is a paradise for bird watchers, snorkellers and scuba-divers. Since assuming office in 1999, Mr Chavez has overseen widescale nationalisations in Venezuela, including cement makers, steel mills and large swathes of land belonging to international corporations but deemed idle by the government.

He has also forced some of the world's largest energy companies to renegotiate drilling contracts for the country's highly-prized oil fields. Venezuela now has the largest crude reserves in the world, according to the president.

However, this would be the first time that Mr Chavez has targeted private homes. Not all the nationalisations have gone smoothly. Mr Chavez's government took over several supermarket chains, justifying the move by saying they were not catering to the country's poor. The stores now sell food at heavily-subsidised prices but often lack basic staples, and shoppers frequently have to queue for hours.

Expropriating Los Roques could help position Mr Chavez, 57, who had surgery to remove a malignant tumour from his pelvis in June, for presidential elections next year. He is massively popular with Venezuela's poor but his poll ratings, now hovering around 40 per cent, are some 30 per cent below their historic high.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Canta Pa' Mi

We’ll make love
Three in the sky and two in the sun
We’ll make love
In the sea and in the bread
In the mouth and in the eyes
Making love in hands
And in kisses and in hearts
Flowers doing it that way

Remember the love
That light of love!

And yes and no, oh oh oh
We gotta make it together oh oh oh
The love which eh eh eh
Consumes us and binds us together

We’ll make love
Two in the sky and three in the sun
With the mouth and with the heart
Flower, do it that way

Remember the love,
That smell of love!

And yes and no, oh oh oh
We gotta make it together oh oh oh
The love which eh eh eh
Consumes us and folds us

Well I,
Down there, down there,
As a boy I knew more about it
More, more
Love was
A kick in the backside
And so many stars up there
Love that
I don’t know who you are,
What 7,8,9,10 you’ll be
You know I miss you
The ciocabeck, the ciocabeck

And yes and no, oh oh oh
We gotta make it together oh oh oh
The love which eh eh eh
Consumes us and tricks us

Well I,
Down there down there,
As a boy I knew more about it
More, more
Love was
A band in your head
And so many stars up there
Now that
I don’t know who you are
What 7,8,9,10 you’ll be
You know I miss you
The ciocabeck, the ciocabeck

Monday, October 3, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Is this the Long Awaited Energy Storage Breakthrough?

Researchers from the NUS Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative (NUSNNI) have developed the world's first energy-storage membrane, answering the need for cost-effective and environmentally friendly energy storage and delivery solutions.

The research team, led by Principal Investigator Dr Xie Xian Ning, used a polystyrene-based polymer to deposit the soft, foldable membrane converted from organic waste which, when sandwiched between and charged by two graphite plates, can store charge at 0.2 farads per square centimetre. This capability was well above the typical upper limit of 1 microfarad per square centimetre for a standard capacitor. The cost involved in energy storage is also drastically reduced with this invention, from about US$7 to store each farad using existing technologies based on liquid electrolytes to about US$0.62 per farad.

Dr Xie said: "Compared to rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors, the proprietary membrane allows for very simple device configuration and low fabrication cost. Moreover, the performance of the membrane surpasses those of rechargeable batteries, such as lithium ion and lead-acid batteries, and supercapacitors."

Supported by grants from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology (SMART) and the National Research Foundation, the research took about one and a half years to reach its current status and the team has also successfully filed a US patent for this novel invention.

The discovery has also attracted the attention of scientific journals worldwide, and was featured in Energy & Environmental Science and highlighted by renowned international journal Nature.

"With the advent of our novel membrane, energy storage technology will be more accessible, affordable, and producible on a large scale. It is also environmentally-friendly and could change the current status of energy technology," Dr Xie said.

Going forward, the team will explore more applications for this efficient energy storage solution. It is also looking into opportunities to work with venture capitalists to commercialise the invention.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Never the Cancer that Kills You...

from The Telegraph
Hugo Chavez, who has been fighting cancer, was rushed to a military hospital for emergency care following kidney failure, according to reports.

The leftist, staunchly anti-US stalwart Chavez went into the Military Hospital in Caracas on Tuesday morning, the report on the newspaper's website said, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the case.

"He was in fairly serious overall condition," a source told the Miami-based Spanish-language daily. "When he arrived, he was in quite serious shape and that is why he was brought in for emergency care."

Venezuela's Information Minister Andres Izarra appeared to deny the report in a posting on the micro-blogging website Twitter.

"Those who should be admitted are the journalists of the Nuevo Herald, except into a madhouse (instead of a hospital)," Izarra tweeted, without providing further details.

On Sunday, Chavez sought to assure Venezuelans he was healthy, telling them that cancer-fighting chemotherapy treatment has not left him with any debilitating side effects.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What's the Point in Recognizing Palestine?

...if the Palestinians themselves refuse to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugee's. All it will do is give birth to a new form of apartheid:

Palestinian Lebanese Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah went on to say that:
…Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. “They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”
The Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain responsible for refugees, and Abdullah says that UNRWA would continue its work as usual.

Palestine STILL requires PERMANENT UNWRA contributions??? So what's the point, again??? The Arab nations refuse ONCE AGAIN to acknowledge the rights of their own citizens and accede to the realities of conflict, as they have continued to do since the camps were first established in 1948. This isn't a "solution", it's the perpetuation of Arab injustice thrust upon ever-shallower and emptier UN donor pockets. The Israeli's recognized the right s of ALL Jewish refugee's from Arab lands. Why can't the Arabs do likewise? What do they do with all their oil money, anyway? Why must Europe and the US subsidize Arab intransigence?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Venezuela's Loss is Columbia's Gain

from NPR
Nearly a decade ago, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez fired 20,000 striking oil workers, many in highly specialized areas who had years of experience.

Venezuelan oil production has since fallen, and those banished oil workers are helping boost oil production in other countries, including one new oil frontier, Colombia.

On a recent day on Colombia's southern plains, the oil fields run by Pacific Rubiales, the country's biggest private oil producer, were a hive of activity.

Oil rigs noisily drilled, while nearby, thousands of workers paved roads, installed pipelines and built huge oil tanks. Across 700 sun-baked square miles, they are fixated on one objective: producing more oil to add to the quarter-million barrels pumped each day.

It's a far different place than it was a few years ago, when Marxist guerrillas targeted oil installations and oil production in Colombia barely topped 14,000 barrels daily. Then, the Venezuelans came. One of them was Ronald Pantin, now chief executive of Pacific Rubiales.

"We knew that that oil was here because we understand very well all the geology here in South America," he said. "We bought the Rubiales field, and now you see what has happened."

In 2002, Venezuela's oil workers were on the front lines of huge protests against Chavez, that country's fiery leftist leader.

Chavez got the upper hand and purged dissident workers from the state oil company. Pantin, a former executive at the company, was among those who had previously quit. But his colleagues — many with a quarter-century of experience — were among those fired.

"[Chavez] fired knowledge. And then you had this diaspora of Venezuelans going everywhere — to Canada, Colombia, the Arab countries, everywhere, people with pretty good experience in the oil sector," Pantin says.

Oil workers in Venezuela took part in strikes and protests in 2002. President Hugo Chavez fired some 20,000 workers.

Similar Geology

Hundreds landed in Colombia. The fact that the country was largely unexplored was attractive to Venezuelan oilmen like Humberto Calderon, who founded Vetra Energy with other Venezuelans.

Calderon knew Colombia shared some of the same geological formations as his homeland. He says two other factors helped attract wildcatters: security policies that weakened the rebels and favorable financial terms that lured investors.

"The conditions were here, the opportunities to grow here were present, and at the same time we feel very well-protected, that any political interference wouldn't come here to affect us," he says.

Colombia's gain has been Venezuela's loss: That country had once been the world's fifth-largest exporter; now, it's down to 11th place. And in Colombia, production rose from just over 500,000 barrels a day in 2005 to nearly 1 million barrels today. Most of the oil is exported, and the biggest recipient is the United States.

A quarter of the production is in the southern plains, where helicopters ferry oil workers from one end of the Rubiales field to the other. There's a school, a hotel and streets of prefabricated housing for workers. German Hernandez, a Colombian who oversees oil operations in the area, remembers a far different place a decade back when he first arrived.

There were fewer than 20 workers, he says, and they lived in tents.

Today, Hernandez says, it's the country's biggest oil field.

The goal for this company, he says proudly, is to double its production to half a million barrels a day in five years.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

WIll Energy & Mineral Wealth Displace the Dollar as an International Exchange Mechanism?

from Noticias 24
Moscow, 26 August, 2011 (AFP) - Russia nad Venezuela are studying the possibility of creating a new international financial institution, that would become the equivalent of the World Bank in a more modest form, it was reported in the Russian periodical Kommersant.

In 2010, the two countries countries singned an accord regarding the creation of a bank of 4 billion dollars and designated to finance public projects, Kommersant recorded.

According to the periodical, on Thursday in a meeting between Hugo Chavez and the Russian Chancellor Serguei Lavrov, that the bank would have offices in Moscow and two other cities, Caracas and Bejing.

Sources in the Russian delegation who accompanied Lavrov on his visit that Venezuela wishes to convert it into a financial institution with much more importance than originally envisioned.

"We are studying rhe possibility of converting this bank into an international financial institution in the image of the World Bank, but of course with a much more modest proportion," stated these sources.

Other members of the delegation indicated that Chavez was disposed to transfer to this bank a portion of the accounts of the Venezuelan state oil company.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Venezuela Hits Another Downgrade

from CNBC
Standard & Poor's on Friday downgraded Venezuela's credit ratings as it implemented a new methodology more heavily focused on political risk—a key weakness in the oil-producing country.

S&P cut Venezuela's long-term sovereign rating to B-plus from BB-minus. The outlook on the new rating is stable. The agency's new methodology was published on June 30, a little more than a month before it invoked political concerns to downgrade U.S. credit ratings.

Political risk has been a constant issue in Venezuela, where change in economic rules and nationalization of companies are common. Uncertainty about the health of President Hugo Chavez, who had surgery in Cuba earlier this summer to remove a cancerous tumor followed by chemotherapy treatment, has added to those risks, S&P said in a statement.

"In our opinion, changing and arbitrary laws, price and exchange controls, and other distorting and unpredictable economic measures have undermined private-sector investment and hurt productivity, weakening Venezuela's domestic economy," S&P analyst Roberto Sifon Arevalo wrote in a report.

Venezuela's vast oil and gas reserves "somewhat" offset the policy uncertainty, S&P said. The country posts steady current account surpluses which, combined with strict capital controls, result in positive net asset positions.

However, S&P expressed concern about the actual level of Venezuela's gold and foreign exchange reserves after reports that the country plans to repatriate them.

"When you have the reserves held abroad, you do have some level of confidence," Arevalo told Reuters in an interview. "That is not going to be the case anymore. They are going to be held at the central bank domestically, then you fall in the same circle of lack of transparency that everything else has in Venezuela."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chavez Catches Gold Fever - Prelude to Military Conflict?

from the Financial Times
President Hugo Chávez said on Wednesday that he will nationalise Venezuela’s gold industry in a bid to stamp out illegal mining and boost international reserves.

“We don’t want war with anyone, but we have to defend our country,” said the former tank commander during an address to the army as he was presenting them with newly purchased Russian military equipment.

“I’m counting on you because the area remains in anarchy, run by mafias … We can’t keep allowing them to take it away,” he said, adding that he would sign a decree in the coming days approving the move. “Let’s convert it into our international reserves because gold is increasing in its value.”

The move follows opposition accusations that the Venezuelan government plans to transfer billions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves held in countries such as the US to banks in “friendly” countries such as China, Russia and Brazil in order to avoid its assets being frozen.

Analysts estimate that of Venezuela’s $29bn international reserves, the government will only be able to move about $5bn of its cash reserves.

But with some two-thirds of its reserves held in gold, amounting to 364 tons worth $18bn, the government is allegedly also planning to move the 211 tons of gold that it keeps abroad, worth $11bn, to the vaults of the central bank in Caracas, according to opposition lawmaker Julio Montoya.

“We think that China, Russia and Brazil have asked Venezuela to transfer the reserves to guarantee the loans that the government has received in recent years,” said Mr Montoya. According to local paper El Universal, Venezuela has accumulated some $34bn of debt with those countries over the past 16 months.

Despite sitting on one of the largest undeveloped gold deposits in the world in the south of the country, Venezuela has struggled to develop its gold sector for decades, which has been over-run by illegal miners and smugglers. Although Venezuela officially produces 11 metric tons of gold a year, illegal miners extract an additional 10 to 11 tons a year, according to Mr Chávez.

After nationalising the assets of three foreign companies, the only international company still extracting gold from Venezuela is the Russian mining company Rusoro.

Venezuela now faces several international arbitration suits, with Canada’s Gold Reserve announcing earlier this month that it has raised the amount it is claiming from the seizure of its two gold projects to $2.1bn from $1.9bn.
from Bloomberg News
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the central bank to repatriate $11 billion of gold reserves held in developed nations’ institutions such as the Bank of England as prices for the metal rise to a record.

Venezuela, which holds 211 tons of its 365 tons of gold reserves in U.S., European, Canadian and Swiss banks, will progressively return the bars to its central bank’s vault, Chavez said yesterday. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Barclays Plc (BARC), and Standard Chartered Plc (STAN) also hold Venezuelan gold, he said.

“We’ve held 99 tons of gold at the Bank of England since 1980. I agree with bringing that home,” Chavez said yesterday on state television. “It’s a healthy decision.”

Chavez, whose government depends on oil for 95 percent of its export revenue, is looking to diversify Venezuela’s cash reserves from U.S. and European banks to include investments in emerging markets including Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, central bank President Nelson Merentes said yesterday. The world’s 15th-largest holder of gold is bringing back its gold after a 28 percent rally in the price this year.

Venezuela’s reserves stood at $28.6 billion on Aug. 16. Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said that the weakening U.S. dollar, a near-default by the U.S. government and the European sovereign debt crisis threaten Venezuela’s savings and they will be more secure at home and in “allied” countries.

‘Green Light’
Chavez, speaking by phone on state television last night, said he signed the document yesterday authorizing the transfer of the gold reserves. “I said, ‘I give my absolute approval to this idea’,” Chavez said. “I gave it the green light.”

The central bank already has about $7 billion of gold in its vaults. Of the country’s liquid reserves, which amount to about $6.3 billion, 59 percent are held in Switzerland, 18 percent in the U.K and about 11 percent in the U.S., according to a government report.

The government may be moving to repatriate reserves ahead of arbitration case rulings to avoid an “attachment risk” that could freeze international assets, Boris Segura, a New York- based strategist at Nomura Securities, said in a research note.

The repatriation and diversification of reserves may also cloud transparency of government holdings, which would be a negative for the country’s credit, he said.

Lack of Transparency
“We sense that Venezuelan debt prices already incorporate a sizeable ‘lack of transparency’ premium,” Segura said. “However, looking at the possible geopolitical signals that these proposed policies communicate, we fear that Venezuelan bond prices may suffer.”

In all, Venezuela has 365.8 metric tons of gold reserves, according to the World Gold Council.

Chavez’s decision could have “worrisome” implications because of less data transparency and the threat that the gold stock could be used for politically motivated spending ahead of next year’s presidential elections, RBS Securities Inc. said.

“It is clear that the motivation appears mostly to fit a political agenda to align with strategic political partners and retaliate against the recent U.S. sanctions on fears that assets might at some point be frozen,” RBS Latin American analysts Felipe Hernandez and Siobhan Morden wrote in a note.

Borrowing Costs
Venezuela has the highest borrowing costs among major emerging-market countries. The extra yield investors demand to own Venezuelan government bonds instead of U.S. Treasuries rose 43 basis points, 0.43 percentage point, to 1,233 basis points today at 9:20 a.m. in New York, according to JPMorgan & Chase Co.’s EMBI+.

Yields on the government’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds maturing in 2027 rose 47 basis points to 14.02 percent at 9:20 a.m. in New York, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price fell 2.28 cents on the dollar to 69.84 cents.

Chavez also said yesterday that he’s preparing a decree to nationalize the gold industry to halt illegal mining and dedicate local production to building up reserves.

Of 17 arbitration cases pending against Venezuela in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, at least three of them are over mining ventures, including Crystallex International Corp. (KRY), a Canadian gold producer whose Las Cristinas mine was taken over by the government in February.

Gold Reserve Inc. (GRZ), a Spokane, Washington-based mining company, is seeking $2.1 billion in damages after its Las Brisas gold and copper project was seized in May 2008.

No Surprise “Today’s announcement is not surprising,” Doug Belander, Gold Reserve president, said yesterday in an interview. “We believe that their objective all along was to take over the entire industry.”

The South American country, in an effort to boost stalled production and take advantage of rising prices, last year relaxed restrictions on gold exports to allow some companies and joint ventures with the government to send as much as 50 percent of their output abroad.

Rusoro Mining Ltd. (RML), a Vancouver-based mining company, is the last publicly traded gold mining company operating in Venezuela. The company’s stock rose 4 percent to 13 Canadian cents as of 10:15 a.m. in Toronto, after yesterday plunging 17 percent to its lowest in almost a decade.

Rusoro Chief Executive Officer Andre Agapov said today that it had not received any indications from the Venezuelan government that its projects in the country would be affected.

“We believe the government’s announcement is targeted toward the many illegal mining operations in Bolivar state,” Agapov said in a statement.

Gold Production
Venezuela produces 11 metric tons of gold a year, and illegal miners extract an additional 10 to 11 tons a year, Chavez said in May.

Venezuela’s National Guard first seized control of the Las Cristinas mine, which has reserves of about 27 million ounces, in November 2001 from Canada’s Vanessa Ventures.

Gold futures for December delivery rose $24.30, or 1.4 percent, to $1,815.50 an ounce on the Comex in New York today at 9:30 a.m. Prices touched a record $1,817.60 on Aug. 11.

“If there isn’t enough room to store the gold in the central bank vaults I can lend you the basement of the Miraflores presidential palace,” Chavez said.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Proof that Venezuela's Voters Are Amongst the Oldest in the Once Free World

from Noticias 24
The Electoral National Council of Venezuela (CNE) published this Sunday a list of more than 17,500 people than they appear registered as voters with ages between 111 and 129 years of age, that will be suspended of the registry unless they confirm their existence.

“If you have a well-known relative or who could be between these ages interests to you to review this listing”, says the cover of this listing that was sent to newspapers of national circulation.

In the notice, the CNE asks for the relatives of these centennial citizens to communicate through a gratuitous call to a number established for this purpose with the idea to help to purge the Electoral Registry.

“It is important you do that it because these voters temporarily will be suspended of their condition of voters until they are updated in the Electoral Registry”, it is indicated the cover of the list.

The CNE is preparing the electoral processes that are approaching, like the primary elections of the opposition, that will be realised in next February, and the presidential ones at the moment, that will be conducted by the end of 2012.

In the middle of the 2006 and on the eve of the presidential elections that would be realised in December of that year Electoral Registry initiated a new purification, that in the open put the existence in Venezuela of two called citizens “Superman” by its outpost age, whom put in doubt the seriousness of this organism. Nevertheless, the existence of these citizens, as well as the one of baptized others with peculiar names like Hitler or Barbie could be verified.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Venezuelan's Reaction to the Phony Politics of Sean Penn

Ozzie Guillen is a native born Venezuelan, and he doesn't think very kindly of the foreign dictator's favorite useful progressive idiot Sean Penn. The reason why Guillien isn't keen on Penn is, because Sean Penn is going around giving the false impression on how great the country of Venezuela is. The problem with Sean's assertion about Guillien's home country is that Sean has come to his conclusion from his grand guided tour of the country by Hugo Chavez and his cronies. Ozzie Guillien knows the "real Venezuela". He knows all about the poverty and lower standards of living under Hugo Chavez. It's hard not to understand why Ozzie Guillen sees Sean Penn as a loser. I would add the word clueless in front of loser.
h/t - Tyrone @ Wake up Black America!

I guess when Sean Penn needs a donation to HIS favorite charity, Hugo Chavez is the Go-To Guy. And when Hugo Chavez needs an apologist for communist oppression in America, Sean Penn is the Go-To Guy. You wash my back... and I'll wash yours.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bush v. Obama for Budget Busting Spending Policies...

...and the winner according to OMB is, Barrack Hussein Obama!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On Deriving the Infinite from Finite Elements E=mc2

SOCRATES: Some god or divine man, who in the Egyptian legend is said to have been Theuth, observing that the human voice was infinite, first distinguished in this infinity a certain number of vowels, and then other letters which had sound, but were not pure vowels (i.e., the semivowels); these too exist in a definite number; and lastly, he distinguished a third class of letters which we now call mutes, without voice and without sound, and divided these, and likewise the two other classes of vowels and semivowels, into the individual sounds, and told the number of them, and gave to each and all of them the name of letters; and observing that none of us could learn any one of them and not learn them all, and in consideration of this common bond which in a manner united them, he assigned to them all a single art, and this he called the art of grammar or letters.
- Plato, "Philebus"

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is Chavez Thinking "Legacy"?

Today, Hugo Chavez announced that he would surrender the military site which provides "air cover" for the presidential palace at Miraflores in order to create a grand new "Central Park"/"Bolivar Park" from the former La Carlota Military Airport in Caracas. Is this an indication that Hugo is trying to establish a "legacy" that can later be renamed for him after his death from cancer? He claims to be "gifting" the soon to be converted park to the people of Caracas. The land was his to "gift"? Wow. This is some uber-prime downtown real estate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chavez again vows, "Socialismo o Muerte!"

from the Washington Examiner:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez promised on Tuesday to accelerate his drive for socialism in Venezuela as he recovers from surgery that removed a cancerous tumor.

Chavez's confident remarks add to indications that the president expects to bounce back from his June 20 surgery in Cuba. He has also been shown in recent days doing stretching exercises, leading a Cabinet meeting and addressing troops.

"The opposition and the counterrevolution are crying out that Chavez is done for, that he's dying... that he'll have to hand over, that the transition is coming," Chavez said on state television, speaking in a phone call to a ceremony at a state-run university.

"Well, I'm going to tell you, with the grace of God and the will that we have, we're going to rise above all of this," Chavez added. "The only transition that's under way and that we have to accelerate and consolidate is the transition from the capitalist model ... to the socialist model."

Chavez has said he underwent surgery in Cuba to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. Chavez hasn't said what type of cancer is involved.

Since his return to Caracas on July 4, the 56-year-old president has slowed his normally heavy agenda and has limited the length of his televised speeches, saying he is under strict orders from his doctors.

Still, Chavez's voice seemed strong as he launched into a song by Venezuelan folk singer Ali Primera during his phone call on Tuesday. He excused himself after about 15 minutes, saying it was time to have a snack, followed by "physical rehabilitation and ... treatment."

Chavez, who is up for re-election in December 2012, has been actively posting messages on Twitter, and has made several public appearances in the past several days, though fewer than usual.

State television showed footage of him doing stretching exercises outdoors on Monday alongside several aides and military officers.

"I promise you I will live, we will live and triumph," Chavez told the students and professors, who responded with applause.

Chavez called his health situation "one of the ambushes of life." He told his audience at the tuition-free Bolivarian University that his illness has made him more determined than ever.

Chavez said he intends "to accompany you for many years more."

Chavez, a former army paratroop commander, said his rehabilitation regime has required discipline, including waking up at 5 a.m.

That is a significant change for a president who used to speak regularly late into the night while drinking cup after cup of coffee.

"I've become a cadet once again, and I see the sunrise," Chavez said. "I had forgotten the sunrises. It had been a long time since I had seen a sunrise."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Venezuela Sin Chavez!

from the Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Since Hugo Chavez became Venezuela's president more than 12 years ago, he's been a constant presence in the lives of Rosiri de Blanco and her family.

The 41-year-old mother of four has loyally watched Chavez's weekly TV program "Hello, President" and received subsidized food from the popular markets his government set up. When her hillside slum home was damaged in a mudslide in November, she and her neighbors moved into a public housing complex covered with posters of the charismatic leader.

Then, without warning nearly four weeks ago, the ever-present "comandante" disappeared from public sight.

De Blanco and her fellow evacuees in the Conde housing complex are now discussing what would have been unthinkable just a month ago: the possibility of a Venezuela without Chavez.

"Without Chavez, there's nothing," de Blanco said as she and her neighbors prepared to hold a small Mass for the president's recovery in their building's courtyard. "It's necessary to think about him, but it's necessary to have a positive attitude. We are asking God that Chavez leave all this behind him."

Despite the president's return from Cuba on Monday, his health and political future remain very much in doubt as he recovers from a June 20 surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region.

The 56-year-old leader appeared fatigued during his speech to thousands of supporters Monday afternoon from a balcony of the presidential palace. He himself admitted during the address, "No one should believe that my presence here ... means that we've won the battle. No, we've begun to climb the hill. We've begun to beat the illness that was incubated inside my body."

Talk about Chavez's future is buzzing across this bustling capital city, as newspapers, radio programs and conversations on the street weigh questions of succession and the fate of Chavez's socialist-inspired Bolivarian Revolution.

De Blanco said she wept the night of June 30 when she watched a thinner, weakened Chavez reveal his medical state for the first time.

For much of the past month, Venezuelans had the unusual experience of seeing very little of Chavez publicly. He arrived in Cuba on June 8 for what his government said was a scheduled visit.

In the following weeks, there were no broadcasts of "Hello President" or the usual hourslong televised speeches by the famously loquacious leader. Until his June 30 revelation, Venezuelans received scant communication from the president, such as a June 12 phone interview with state television and short videos of him convalescing in a track suit.

Chavez stunned the nation with his announcement of the cancer. He didn't say what type of the disease he was fighting or reveal his prognosis for the future.

With tongue in cheek, Venezuelan comedian Andres Schmucke wrote in the newspaper El Universal that he found himself starting to miss Chavez, despite all the problems his government had left unsolved.

"It's been 13 years seeing you every day, hearing you every day, reading news about you every day," Schmucke wrote. "I miss your televised speeches. I miss 'Hello, President.'"

Chavez supporters in Caracas have tried to keep the president in the spotlight by holding daily rallies wishing him a quick recovery. Over the weekend, hundreds of children and their parents marched through the center of town waving signs printed with slogans such as "We'll have Chavez for a while" and "You are my inspiration." They finished in a park and wrote notes to their president on a wall topped with the words "A Rainbow of Love for Chavez."

Government news media have joined in by running ads blaring an administration slogan: "Onward, Commander."

Computer programmer Carlos Rivas, 38, said he's enjoyed the break from his ever-present leader.

"I feel more peaceful without Chavez talking everyday," Rivas said. "He's mortal like anyone else. A Venezuela without Chavez is possible."

Rivas and his wife were leaving a park in of one of Caracas' affluent neighborhoods, where thousands of people were enjoying their four-day weekend celebrating the country's bicentennial. Not far away was a manicured square that has long been a gathering spot for Chavez opponents.

His wife Rosa Lopez, a 32-year-old electrical engineer, said she believed the country was ready for a change. Many young professionals like herself have left Venezuela, she said, due to low salaries and annual inflation rates that have hovered around 30 percent over the past three years.

"It's healthy for the country to have another leader," Lopez said. "People are happy. They aren't worried about Chavez or his health."

For de Blanco and her fellow evacuees, the uncertain fate of Chavez's government has sparked worries that they could lose benefits such as government-subsidized food and shelter.

Chavez's administration has housed storm refugees all over the capital city, some in an unfinished downtown shopping mall expropriated by the government.

Andres Avelino, who also was forced from his home during last year's torrential rains, credited the Chavez administration with providing his government pension.

"These are benefits that we have never had before," said the 60-year-old retired construction worker. Many in his working-class neighborhood, San Agustin, wore the bright red shirts that have become the norm for Chavez supporters. Avelino's shirt touted Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela, while another man's shirt read: "Chavez is the Winner."

Avelino said he believes deeply in Chavez and prefers not to imagine a future without him. Without Chavez, he said, "it would get ugly in Venezuela."

Gigantes y Cabezudos

The Festival of San Fermin is underway this week (July 6-14) in Pamplona. Join the gigantes and cabezudos there for a celebration dispairing their absence (and our own loss of masculinity) in our daily lives as we preoccupy ourselves with "running from the bull" (instead of either being dragged along by or confronting it).
Tourists (Nicrap), take note... ;)

Friday, July 1, 2011

An Ode to Hugo's Prisoners of Conscience

Bloody riots at a Venezuelan prison descended into a gunfight between thousands of troops and inmates, after violence that left at least 22 people dead.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Diablo Rojo

Dedicated to the Quick Recovery (or otherwise) of Hugo Chavez

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Where's Hugo?

from the WSJ
CARACAS—Venezuela's voluble and ubiquitous President Hugo Chávez hasn't returned to the public eye after a surgery in Cuba that has friends and foes alike speculating about the state of his health and the future of his rule.

Mr. Chávez has been in Cuba since June 8, when he was felled by a pelvic abscess for which he underwent an operation two days later. Soon after, Venezuelan officials said the flamboyant leader was in good health but would recuperate in Havana for a "few days."

Those few days have stretched to 11, punctuated by false alarms over the date of his return. On Monday, a ruling party lawmaker said Mr. Chávez was hours from touching down in Caracas and urged his supporters to prepare a "tremendous" welcome for him. The claim was quickly refuted on the Twitter account of Venezuela's Communications Minister Andres Izarra.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chávez made another virtual appearance. In a statement posted on Mr. Izarra's Twitter account, he lamented the death of another Venezuelan official who had sought medical treatment in Cuba.

"We don't know very much about [Chávez's] health, there is no official news, only partial reports," said Chávez critic Teodoro Petkoff, a former presidential candidate and current editor of the opposition newspaper Tal Cual.

Mr. Chávez raised concerns when he said, during a call to a Venezuelan television station two days after his operation, that there were no "malignant" signs found, a former top Venezuelan health official said.

The former official, who asked not to be named, pointed out that a pelvic abscess—a pus-filled cavity that can result from injury or infection—is a reaction to a condition. "His choice of words was a red flag," the official said.

The former official also said there was a possibility that Mr. Chávez would be hospitalized when he returned to Venezuela, another potential sign of the severity of his ailment. If it was a matter of simply treating an abscess, Mr. Chávez would likely not need a hospital at that point, the official said.

Once a slender tank commander and would-be major-league baseball pitcher, Mr. Chávez has cultivated an image as a health-conscious sportsman. But 12 years in power have taken their toll.

Mr. Chávez, 56 years old, has gained a lot of weight since his days on the mound, works long hours and is known for drinking quarts of coffee daily. Nevertheless, he seemed poised to resume a full schedule in early June after a knee injury had sidelined him, when he left Venezuela for visits to Brazil, Ecuador and Cuba.

In Cuba, he suffered acute pain during a meeting with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and was rushed into surgery.

Since then, Mr. Chávez has been nearly invisible, except for a phone call into a Venezuelan television station on June 12, two days after his operation, and photographs of Mr. Chávez wearing a tracksuit in the colors of the Venezuelan flag as he is flanked by Fidel and Raul Castro, published in the state newspaper Granma on June 18.

In a three-paragraph note, Granma assured its readers that Mr. Chávez was in close communication with top Venezuelan officials and was "on top of the principal issues of his country."

The mystery surrounding Mr. Chávez's health is a throwback to the Cold War secrecy which persists in Cuba, one of the last Communist governments left standing.

In Cuba, the health of Mr. Castro and other important figures is treated as a state secret. Five years after Mr. Castro was forced to step down from power after undergoing an emergency operation, the exact nature of his illness has never been divulged by the Cuban state.

During normal times, Mr. Chávez dominates Venezuela's airwaves and public space. He is prone to break into television broadcasts of baseball games and Venezuelans' favorite soap operas to opine at length about matters such as local news events and the latest manifestation of U.S. imperialism.

Perhaps following Mr. Castro's advice to get some rest, Mr. Chávez has been noticeably silent about the week's events in Venezuela, where 5,000 troops are fighting to squelch a prison rebellion that so far has taken some 40 lives.

Romer Guevara, a 41-year-old court bailiff, said he didn't have any problem with Chávez governing from Cuba while recuperating. Mr. Guevara, who said he was politically neutral, added there was one thing he is sure he hasn't missed during Chávez's absence. "We don't like those long speeches," Mr. Guevara said. "We get tired of all that talking. He interrupts our shows all the time. He cuts in all the time when I'm watching baseball or a basketball game."

But Mr. Chávez has continued to enact major legislation from Havana, over the complaints of opposition lawmakers who unsuccessfully insisted he cede presidential duties during the extended and unplanned absence from Venezuela.

A long absence from Caracas would raise political uncertainty as the nation prepares for presidential elections next year. Mr. Chávez has no heir apparent, and a long absence due to health reasons could touch off a succession struggle between prominent Chavistas who belong to different and competing factions.

"It's revealing how Venezuela depends on one man rule," said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank. "There is nobody else. He makes all the decisions. There's a real risk the government won't work if he's out for a long time."

Mr. Chávez is the most prominent existing example of a common Latin American phenomenon—the caudillo—rulers who base their legitimacy not on any sort of allegiance to institutions, but rather on developing a strong and emotional bond with Latin America's masses, especially the poor. During his decade-long rule, Mr. Chávez, who combines many of the qualities of a television evangelist with the authoritarian values of a soldier, has weakened many of Venezuela's already feeble institutions.

Now his illness could weaken his movement as it prepares to face a determined opposition in elections.

"Its a classic case of caudillos where there is no heir apparent," said Eric Olson, a Latin American expert at Washington's Woodrow Wilson Center. "His emphasis has been on building up the caudillo and on tearing down institutions."

Mr. Chávez' health is no doubt a major concern in Cuba. Any instability in Venezuela would have a major impact on the economically distressed island, which depends on cut-rate Venezuelan oil and on the personal connection struck with Mr. Chávez, for its economic survival.

Some analysts believe Mr. Chávez' long absence could be a sign his government is entering a crisis, especially if his health deteriorates. "There's nobody that one can see that can take his place," said Claudio Loser, president of Centennial Group Latin America advisory firm and former head of Western Hemisphere affairs for the International Monetary Fund. "As strong as his movement is very much caudillo-oriented, very much linked to the leader in power."

But others believe a healthy Mr. Chávez will soon be back giving orders from Venezuela's presidential palace. The down time in Cuba will not be long enough to disrupt Chávez's legislative agenda or his 2012 reelection bid, says Boris Segura, senior Latin American economist at Nomura Securities.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is the Palestinian Problem the Result of Arab Prejudice and Consequently Wholly an Arab (not Israeli) Problem?

When the Arabs declared war on Israel in the days following Israel's birth, Palestinian refugees of the war were herded into refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and former Egyptian territories and prevented from permanently resettling in neighboring Arab countries. European and Americans responded with U.N. relief and founded an organization (UNWRA) to sustain the Palestinians in these new PERMANENT refugee camps (similiar to the concentration camps of WWI and II). Meanwhile, millions of Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese and other North African Jewish citizens of these countries were forced to emigrate to Israel, and were welcomed and quickly resettled in the new Jewish homeland of Israel. This gave birth to "the Palestinian problem"... but no one ever saw a corresponding Jewish refugee problem. Why is this? It's because the neighboring countries didn't see the Palestinians as "refugees", they saw them as defeated and worthless scum.

Need proof?

from the Jerusalem Post
Sheikh Qabbani tells visiting Palestinian delegation for refugees, “We’ve hosted you and no longer want you... You will never be victorious."

The mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, was quoted this week as saying that Palestinians are no longer welcome in his country.

He also condemned Palestinians as “trash” and said that he’s not afraid of their weapons.

Sheikh Qabbani’s remarks were made during a meeting he held in his office in Beirut with a Palestinian delegation representing refugees and various Palestinian factions in Lebanon.

The furious mufti later kicked the Palestinian representatives out of his office.

More than 400,000 Palestinians live in Lebanon, most of them in extremely harsh conditions in refugee camps.

The meeting was called to discuss Palestinian “assaults” on state-owned and Islamic Wakf lands in Lebanon.

“We’ve hosted you and no longer want you,” the mufti told stunned members of the Palestinian delegation.

Accusing Palestinians of “usurping” Wakf lands to build houses, Sheikh Qabbani told his visitors: “I will defend Wakf lands even if that costs me all what I have.”

Attempts by the Palestinian representatives to clam the mufti further enraged the top religious official, who at one point shouted at them: “You are trash. You [Palestinians] will never be victorious. Nor will your cause. I’m no longer afraid of your weapons.”

The Palestinian delegates said they were extremely shocked by the mufti’s abusive language and threats.

“He called us trash,” one of them said. “He didn’t even give us time to respond to his allegations.”

Samir Abu Afash, Secretary-General of the PLO in Beirut, said he sent a report to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the mufti’s remarks.

Abbas instructed the Palestinian representatives to refrain from a confrontation with Sheikh Qabbani out of fear that such a move would escalate tensions between the two sides.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora later phoned Fathi Abu al-Aradat to apologize on behalf of the mufti.

The mufti lost his temper following complaints that Palestinians living in refuge camps in Lebanon had illegally seized lands belonging to the state and the Islamic Wakf Trust.

Sheikh tayseer Tamimi, former head of the PA religious courts, strongly condemned the mufti of Lebanon, saying that his statements were unsuitable for a man of his status.

He said that Sheikh Qabbani had a long history of instigating sectarian strife between various communities in Lebanon and demanded that he apologize to all Palestinians.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We LOVE ALL Legal Immigrants...'s the illegals that can't be tolerated

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Venezuelan Migration to Columbia

from Semana
"The best president that Columbia has ever had is Hugo Chavez," states a refined Venezuelan lady of the Caracas elite who decided to move to Bogota. "Thanks to him, the best prepared Venezuelans with money to invest are here today."

And it's true. The presence of Venezuelans in Columbia, and Bogata in particular, have ceased being a simple curiosity and have transformed themselves into a veritable phenomenum. And although many Columbians could not have predicted it, what is happening is interesting because this is one of the rare cases of high impact immigration into Columbia in her two centuries of republican history.

The exodus made it's first pronounced imapct in 2005, when petroleum experts who had been laid off from PDVSA in mass began to arrive. But in reality, the peak was in 2011, when every day 46 entry visas are approved for Venezuelans to live in Columbia.

In spite of becoming a diaspora in less than five years, we have to say that they have left a significult hole in the infrastructure of that country. And it remains to be related is how a bunch of fired employees from PDVSA have presided over a veritable petroleum boom in Columbia over these past few years.

But the Venezuelans haven't only inserted themselves in the midst of the heart of the economy. Last week opened two new super film productions of Caracol and RCN, and in both Venezuelans without papers appeared: in "the witch", Gledys Ibarra is "la negra" and in "El Joe", Andres Suarez is Francisco Vergara, to cite two recent examples.

But in whatever sector you look, you'll see a Venezuelan. From the more exclusive art galleries, to other more popular venues like in the spectacular musicals and comedies. "The La Cometa gallery is featuring for the next few months the Venezuelan Carlos Cruz Diez, one of the masters of optical art in the world who has sold 41 works so far at prices reaching 120,000 Euros. About half of the works were purchased by Venezuelans. Today I'm happy with them," said Steven Jaramillo, gallery owner.

Venezuelans have also entwined in the daily life of Columbians. Like the Health Store retailers Locatel and Farmatodo, whose owners brought them with them. Or restaurants and cafes like "Picollo Venezia", and "Ciboulette", and "Positano", "Budares", and "The Venezuelan Areparia", and "Sueko Bread", and "Andrea's", to mention a few recently established by Venezuelans. A magazine, "The Librarian" was launched in Columbia by the recognized journalist Sergio Dabhar, ex-director of the daily "El Nacional de Caracas". And even a member of the Academy of Language from the neighboring country, Rafael Arraiz Lucca, who today is now a university professor in Columbia.

The 1st Wave: The P Factor

This new migration is so interesting because after only a few years a few Venezuelans, not to mention any individually, decided to fix their eyes upon Columbia. On the contrary, there had been evident antagonism. "The Venezuelan did not see Columbia as an option for tourism or investment. In Venezuela arrived the worst of the poor: undocumented Columbians, without skills and looking for work", explained the Venezuelan.

What was it then that lead to a change of opinion? From the beginning, above all classes, middle and high that fled Chavez, most sought refuge in Miami. But around 2005, the oilmen started to open their door.

It all began towards the end of 2002 when workers from PDVSA united to ask for the resignation of president Hugo Chavez. It was one of the most critical episodes of the now long legacy of Chavez climb to power. The companies losses that year were calculated to be more than $10 million and the president, without a second thought, in a huff laid off some 18,000 employees, including those who had made the oil company the third largest in the world.

All those minds, filled with experience, now looked for other markets. And that is how they came to Columbia, first Luis Giusti (preident of PDVSA from 1994-1999), later Ronald Patin (the 2nd from the oil company since 2000) and Humberto Calderon Berti (who had been president of PDVSA, chancellor of Venezuela and president of OPEC) arrived. They created the three firms who have shaken the world of hydrocarbons in Columbia, Pacific Rubiales, Alange and Vectra.

Between the three are produced a large portion of the crude oil in the country. But the most important thing that they were the front line protagonists is the increase of the petroleum industry in Columbia which according to government sources this week, is now close to a millions barrels of oil a day.

The three oil men consulted by SEMANA agree that when they arrived in Columbia as a result of changes in the oil production model created by the National Hydrocarbon Agency which created a favorable climate for investment. With them arrived a litter full of engineers, geophysicists, and all kinds of other well qualified scientists. In the immigration records one can note the first great leap in 2004, when Venezuelans created the first company, in this case Pacific Stratus. "According to information given, there could be as many as 1,300 Venezuelan oil workers," said Luis Giusti to this reporter.

Three years later, they bought Petro Rubiales, and in 2008 fused the two companies and there was born "Pacific Rubiales". To give you the idea of dynamism which the neighboring Venezuelans imprinted upon the petroleum business one needs to listen to what Pantin says, president of Pacific Rubiales: "When we came here in 2007, the company produced 24,000 barrels and by the end of the year we were producing 275,000 barrels. Columbia then produced 560,000 barrels per day and today produces close to a 900,000."

And Humberto Calderon, president of Vetra, added: "Columbia was delayed many years due to a lack of human capital, which has now arrived. To make a good petroleum engineer takes 15-20 years, and those that arrived in Venezuela were persons with 30 or more years of experience."

Without a doubt, thanks to these oil workers, the word of mouth spread to Caracas that Columbia was a great port.

The 2nd Wave: To Save their Money!

Regardless, the most pronounced effect of the exodus has been made in the past few months. While in 2004 Venezuelans visas were given to about 2 people a week, by the middle of 2010 it was 163 and now in 2011 it has reached 230.

If in the first wave that arrived in Bogata were petroleum experts fired under harsh weather by Hugo Chavez, in the second wave were all the bourgeoisie that had been denounced by him and who now fled terrified. Chavez: "Stateless bourgeoisie, since economic war was declared on me. Then I declare the war económic" , it said in June of the past year. "We are going to see who can produce more: if you, bourgeois of junk, bourgeois without mother country, or us, I expect."

Excited with that battle cry, Chávez first eliminated the parallel dollar or 'exchange permitted', which much more made the access difficult of people to obtain the currencies they needed to make businesses or to move their savings out of danger, considering that was living with an inflation of the 30 percent. And later, in December, it confiscated from industralists six residential sets that were in construction and eight more then pending.

For that reason it doesn't seem strange that there was created a particular interest on behalf of the Venezuelans to make businesses in Colombia. They come openning restaurants, to install businesses, to buy property, root. What matters to them is to save whatever money that they have left.

And for that reason also, those that landed in Bogota were members of the refined Venezuelan bourgeoisie. Last names like Oteiza, Pocaterra, Priange, Machado, Mussi, Cohen, Mishaan and others that have been presidents, ministers, of the bank, of the stock-market, of the arts or are of the intellectually outstanding of that country. Although, if one notices of them, "in Colombia arrived not only the powerful ones, but also the children of "potentially powerful".

Proof of this is that in the walled city of Cartagena, for example, Venezuelans have bought five old mansions, as well as one of the best boutique hotels.

Camilo Herrera, manager of the consulting firm Raddar, said to Money Magazine that in the history of its company there had not had so many inquieries as those that have been received since October of 2010. "We have received requirements from at least 15 companies or Venezuelan investors interested in market studies and business consultions".

A similiar frenzy has been felt in the real estate sector. An alliance of the main manufacturers of Colombia, that is appropriately called Own House Colombia G-5, and the Web page has made only this year four fairs in Venezuela. And also it was already created a binational writing desk of lawyers, Arciniegas, Briceño and Plana, that tries to help Venezuelan investors to settle down in Colombia.

The situation has reached such point that the main food company of Venezuela, Polar, in spite of having its headquarters in the neighboring country, now exports from Colombia. In addition, within the last months have arrived or announced that are going to relocate to Colombia are the Dipromuro group (concessionary of vehicles), Ovejita (a traditional mark of clothes), Proseín (multinational of remodeling) and Valmy (cosmetic), among others. All to establish production plants or retail outlets. In this way, the things are not easy for all. Some, like those of the Cotti coffee, have not resisted and have been closed.

We are without a doubt in the middle of a new phenomenon in Colombia. The exodus of people from other nationalities has not been common in our country. The great migrations were those of afro-Spaniards during la Conquista. And those of Arabs - Syria, Lebanese and Palestinian at the end of nineteenth century. The rest have been of smaller scope, which at most have gotten to become expatriot colonies that can have an impact in localities, but they do not permeate the society. That was, until the Venezuelans came.