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.