Saturday, May 26, 2012

Queremos Paz

from Wikipedia:
The December 2001 uprising was a period of civil unrest and rioting in Argentina, which took place during December 2001, with the most violent incidents taking place on December 19 and December 20 in the capital, Buenos Aires, Rosario and other large cities around the country.

The uprising was a predominantly middle-class uprising against the government of President Fernando de la Rúa, who had failed to contain the economic crisis that was going through its third year of recession. Since 1991, the Argentine peso was at a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. The dollarization had been instrumental to overcome the chronic hyperinflation bursts of the late 1980s, but almost entirely deprived Argentina of control over its monetary policy, and a sudden revaluation of the dollar in 1997 ended up harming exports, which were the only important source of foreign currency at the time.

De la Rúa's economic policies suffered a severe blow in March 2001 when Economy Minister José Luis Machinea resigned from office. He was briefly replaced by the then-Defense Minister Ricardo López Murphy, who himself was forced to resign following negative reception to his shock program. After only two weeks in office, López Murphy was replaced by Domingo Cavallo, who had previously served as Economy Minister between 1991 and 1996, and who was widely credited to be the man that took Argentina out of hyperinflation.

Cavallo took to administer the country's economy, establishing new taxes and special agreements with certain sectors of the Argentine industrial establishment. He also took to restructure Argentina's massive foreign debt in an operation known locally as the megacanje ("mega-exchange", i. e. an exchange of debt bonds for others at more advantageous conditions). From the first moment, there were allegations of corruption and money laundering about the megacanje.

De la Rúa's political situation was also precarious. His arrival to power in 1999 had been possible thanks to the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education, a coalition formed by the Radical Civic Union and the FrePaSo, which managed to defeat the incumbent Justicialist Party (the Peronists) in that year's presidential elections. However, the Alliance (as it was known) failed to achieve a majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, and lost the provincial elections to the Peronists, who then remained in charge of large and critical districts such as the Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe provinces.

The government coalition was strained from the first moment; the FrePaSo leaders resented being "junior members" of the government (being forced to that position after losing their bid to the Governorship of Buenos Aires), while the Radicals were divided between their left- and right-leaning factions (De la Rúa was a leader of the party's conservatives), especially regarding economic policy. In late 2000 a political scandal broke out when it was reported that SIDE, Argentina's intelligence service, had paid massive bribes to a number of senators to approve a controversial Labor Reform Act. The head of SIDE, Fernando de Santibañes, was a personal friend of De la Rúa. The crisis came to a head on October 2000 when Vice President Carlos Álvarez resigned, citing De la Rúa's unwillingness to tackle corruption.

The March 2001 crisis (see above) also caused the resignation of all the FrePaSo Cabinet ministers, leaving de la Rúa without political support. The congressional elections of October 2001 were a disaster for the government, which lost many of its seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to the Peronists. The election results marked also a growing unrest within Argentina's voters, who took to cast millions of null or blank votes. The Peronists seized the opportunity to appoint Senator Ramón Puerta to be President Pro-Tempore of the Argentine Senate, a situation which added to De la Rúa's political weakness since in the Argentine system the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate is next in line for the Presidency after the Vice President. With no Vice President of its own, Puerta's designation meant that De la Rúa had a virtual Peronist Vice President.

Social unrest was also growing. Since the late 1990s, protest movements had formed in Argentina, notably the piqueteros ("picketeers"), initially made up of unemployed workers. The piqueteros blockaded major roads and highways demanding government subsidies and other welfare measures. They featured prominently during the March 2001 crisis.

This entire crisis came to a head on November 29, 2001, when Argentines took to banks and financial institutions to withdraw millions of pesos and dollars from their accounts. Had the withdrawal continued, Argentina's entire banking system would have collapsed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

There are NO FARC Rebels in Venezuela?

from Noticias 24
Caracas - Up til this moment, they number 10 the Columbian citizens captured by the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) following last Monday's confrontation between guerillas and active Columbian military forces in some cases only two kilometers from their border with Venezuela, said the Ministry of Defense's General in Chief, Henry Rangel Silva.

The Entailment of the prisoners with guerilla forces will be determined and those affected sent to Columbian immigration officials, detailed Rangel Silva while supervising the 100 year plan in the Manuel Par Battalion in El Tigre (Zulia) and the frontier security base near El Indio, a site near where the confrontation occured.

We are detecting their relations (with the guerillas) so that we can act in accordance with the Law. We have always been respectful of the Human Rights of all people within our territories, recited the chief of Defense Forces.

The confrontation last Monday left 12 Columbian military personnel dead and four wounded. Since then, we have deployed newarly 3,000 FANB effectives in two brigades, in addition to those already active in the zone, in order to reinforce security on the Columbian-Venezuelan border. Rangel Silva guaranteed that his territory was free of armed insurgent groups.

"Fortunately, we have not had any situations leading to the confrontation of armed irregulars because there are none in our country," said the Minster, who agreed that irregular groups could trespass the border and eventually would be dealt with "the iron hand and work" of Venezuelan military units.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Paranoia Strikes Deep

from (Reuters) -
A veteran Venezuelan crossword-writer has been accused of hiding a coded message to assassinate President Hugo Chavez's brother in the latest surreal twist to election year politics in the South American nation.

Neptali Segovia was interviewed by intelligence agents, his newspaper said on Friday, after a state TV pundit said he had disguised a message to gun down Chavez's brother, Adan, in the answers to various clues in a crossword this week.

"These sorts of messages were used a lot in World War Two," the pundit, Perez Pirela, said earlier in the week in a dramatic denouncement of Ultimas Noticias newspaper on live television.

Segovia has denied any subversive intentions.

While causing laughter in some circles, the case also shows the dangerously polarized environment in Venezuela, where the socialist Chavez has been accusing opposition leaders of planning violence in the run-up to an October presidential vote.

Mystery over cancer-stricken Chavez's condition has only heightened the nervous atmosphere in Venezuela.

The pugnacious Pirela, who uses an early evening TV show to lay into Chavez opponents, said a group of mathematicians, psychologists and others had studied the Spanish-language crossword and concluded it was a coded assassination plot.

Answers to clues included "Adan", "asesinen" (meaning "kill") and "rafaga" (which can mean either a burst of gunfire, or a gust of wind).


"It's a message ... I'm speaking in the name of truth," Pirela added, noting how French leader Charles de Gaulle used to broadcast coded messages from London to Resistance fighters in France during World War Two.

Police were not available for comment.

But Ultimas Noticias said six officers from Venezuela's intelligence service had visited the newspaper's editorial offices on Thursday asking for information about Segovia.

After that, he went voluntarily to the intelligence service's headquarters to give a statement, it said.

"I am the first to want to clarify this. I have nothing to hide because the work I have been doing for the last 17 years has only a cultural and education intention, and is transparent," Segovia was quoted as saying.

"I was treated respectfully. They took down my comments and made a routine summary. Then they took me home."

Another newspaper, the militantly pro-opposition Tal Cual, lampooned the Chavez government on Friday with a front-page crossword highlighting the nation's ills.

Clues included: "What officials do when they misuse public funds" (Corruption); Perhaps the most abused law? (Constitution); and "Name of supreme leader who governs our destiny? Bearded." (Fidel Castro).

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Coming Revolution

from the FT:
Politicians across the spectrum in Venezuela are trading dire predictions of impending violence in the vacuum left by uncertainty about the health of President Hugo Chávez.

The opposition has warned of plans to postpone or even cancel elections due in October because of speculation that the socialist leader’s cancer will prevent him from running.

“Civil unrest is coming, they are going to provoke it, to stop the elections,” Henry Ramos Allup, a leading opposition politician, told reporters this week, accusing the government of arming paramilitary groups with Kalashnikov rifles.

“Since they can’t win the elections, those subversive groups will organise a tumult including looting, selective attacks on opposition leaders and members of the middle classes,” he said, adding that this would be used to justify military rule.

On the other side, government officials and loyalists have spoken of plots to assassinate Mr Chávez and stage coup d’états.

The president himself, who officials said on Wednesday had just completed a sixth round of radiotherapy in Cuba following a recurrence of the cancerous tumour in his pelvic region, broke a week-long silence on Monday to denounce such schemes, as well as deny that he was abandoning his duties as president while in Cuba.

“They have always had and always will have those plans up their sleeve, with the backing of the empire [the US government], most of all because of Venezuela’s vast resources,” he said during a telephone call to state television. “Our task is to be alert to neutralise [any attempt at destabilisation],” he added, before promising a “knockout” election victory in October.

The information minister, the attorney-general, two prominent deputies in congress and a pundit on state television have all made similar warnings this week. On Wednesday, the pundit claimed on a prime-time programme that a puzzle in one of the country’s most widely circulated newspapers contained a hidden message instigating the assassination of the president’s older brother, Adán Chávez.

Speculation about the health of Mr Chávez has been mounting. He has been seen in public only once since mid-April, in a short address which ended with the leader in tears. Last week, he created a council of state, ostensibly charged with advising the president on policy issues. But some believe the agency is a transitional body intended to smooth the way towards a post-Chávez Venezuela. Venezuela’s sovereign debt has rallied on the speculation over Mr Chávez’s illness, as investors bet that a more market-friendly government may soon take power.

The contrasting versions of reality given by either side are also reflected in opinion polls. Jesse Chacón, a former minister turned pollster running Caracas-based GIS XXI, said on Wednesday that an April survey showed that 57 per cent intended to vote for Mr Chávez, compared with just 21 per cent for the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski.

That contrasts with the results released on Tuesday of a hitherto-unknown outfit called Encuestadora Nacional Predicmática which showed Mr Capriles beating the incumbent by eight percentage points. Venezuelans often joke that opinion polls can be found for all tastes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012