Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rosales apologises to Venezuela's Jewish Community

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 31.10.06 We were driving along Avenida Sucre in Catia -West Caracas- and the poster above caught my attention. The area has some Lebanese, Arab and Turkish businessmen -hence chavismo's decision to put many posters of Ahmadinejad and Chavez presumably in Arabic and not in Farsi- however it is difficult to imagine them supporting Iran's deranged president, a man that has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. And the picture came as a prelude to what will come later in the day; i.e. the meeting that presidential candidate Manuel Rosales had with a rather large representation of Venezuela's Jewish community. "I apologise today to all of you, to the people of Israel, on behalf of all Venezuelans, for the aggressions and verbal attacks that you have suffered from this government. We did not do it, Venezuela did not do it, Venezuelans aren't like that" stated Rosales.
Before Rosales made his appearance I heard one of the speakers say that Venezuela had been the only country in the world to have severed diplomatic ties with Israel in the aftermath of the conflict with Lebanon. Hugo Chavez has made a great effort in showing absolute support for Ahmadinejad and the Islamofundamentalist Iranian Mullahs. "He wants to be more fundamentalist than the real ones" remarked the speaker. In Caracas' Jewish circles this is perceived as a huge mistake that has had a tremendously negative impact for the image of the Bolivarian globetrotter. The regime, having realised the consequences of halting diplomatic relations with Israel, is in the process of sending a diplomatic envoy to Israel -whose name is still unknown- to mend the situation.
Venezuela's Jewish community is, understandably, very worried about Chavez's militaristic and totalitarian behaviour. Of great concern also is the presence of Hezbollah in Venezuela. Rosales was asked about this issue in the Q&A session. He relayed that the rumours about Hezbollah's penetration of certain indigenous communities of Zulia state are true, as far as intelligence reports furnished to him as Zulia's Governor go.
After a brief historic mention of how the first Jews came to Venezuela via Curaçao, Rosales delivered one of the best speeches I have heard of him for the last six weeks. He called upon the steadfast commitment to freedom that has characterised the Jewish community, asking for collaboration, advice, and help, "you have overcome greater enemies" he said. He addressed the crowd as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters of this country with the shared responsibility of saving its ailing democracy.

Venezuela's poorest turn out massively to support Rosales

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

El Mojan 29.10.06 "May I take pictures of your rancho Señora? Of course you can, do come here and I'll show how we live mijo." My first question to Maigualida was "but you're a Chavez supporter, aren't you?" Her reply shocked me as much as the abject poverty in which she and her family live "I was with Chavez, I voted for him, but no more, he has betrayed us all indigenous peoples, and god is my witness for in the presence of god one can't lie."
Maigualida lives in a rancho made of zinc sheets. Zinc sheets folks in a place with a daily average temperature of 40 degrees centigrade. But she's not alone, she's got 6 children. One of them was sleeping on the floor (see picture on the left) when I walked into the rancho. The rest of them were outside, in fact one of them brought me to the rancho after I saw him and asked him to take me to his house. This town is located in Mara district. "People here are the poorest not only of Venezuela but of Latin America" said to me earlier Moises Arevalo, who was referring to a study allegedly published a while ago. "There are government plans that have had some success. For instance there are soup kitchens that provide food to the needy. People in these districts (Mara and Paez) were profoundly chavistas. However after years of neglect and rampant corruption at the state-controlled coal mining industry Wayu and other indigenous groups have seen very little improvement. While a handful of chavistas get stinkingly rich, Guajiros -an all encompasing term used here to refer to different indigenous groups- are having it rough. The best example is the Mayor of Padilla, who was in opposition to Chavez and about a month ago jumped ship. Money is a very powerful bargaining tool around here" added Moises.
Maigualida and some family members
The kitchen is located outside the rancho, next to a pool of stagnant water. Decomposed rubbish everywhere...
Back in Maigualida's place I asked her in what ways had she benefited from Chavez's social programmes. She said with a bitter expression that the Wayu people, ethnic group to which she belongs, had been used by Chavez "he came around and made many promises, he promised he would take care of us, he said he would give us decent houses, but as you can see, nothing has been done." The life conditions of Maigualida are by no means an isolated case, as commented earlier even in Caracas one can see many people living in subhuman manner. But the thing that strikes me the most is that these people still have a positive disposition towards the future. They still smile, which baffles me. And guess what? Maigualida does not know how to read and write and only one of her children is attending school on a regular basis. I said to her that Chavez and his minions were boasting all around the world that Venezuela was an "illiteracy-free" country. She said that very few people in her community knew how to read and write and that most children aren't attending school. When I relied to her that Chavez was building houses in Cuba and sending resources that belong to all Venezuelans -but above all to indigenous peoples- to other countries she started cursing in Wayu.
Manuel Rosales visited El Mojan today. Despite the fact that the district is in the hands of chavistas Wayu people turned out massively to show support for Rosales' candidacy. As many Venezuelans all around the country, the revolutionary spell seems to have lost its appeal. Avalanches of hope are covering Venezuela. On Friday for instance we visited Bachaquero, Lagunillas, Ciudad Ojeda, Cabimas, Tia Juana, Santa Rita and Los Puertos de Altagracia on the Eastern side of Maracaibo lake. Although I am by no means an expert in calculating crowd numbers I would venture to say that the combined number of people that showed up was more than 150,000. That's one day. The next day Rosales went to Barcelona in Anzoategui state and the previous he visited Punto Fijo and Coro in Falcon state. The prospect of participating anonimously in political events demonstrates that, beyond fabricated polls whose results are marred by fear of reprisal, the majority of Venezuelans are in support of Rosales.

"We shall chose between freedom and dictatorship": Rosales present his program for Venezuela

**Written by Daniel Duquenal

This Wednesday as I was driving through Carabobo and Aragua I turned the radio on instead of my MP3 device. It was a good move as Rosales was announcing his program of government for the next few years, in case he manages to unseat Chavez. I was duly impressed, not by the populist content (you cannot win an election in Venezuela unless you promise lots of goodies, it is now in our genes, there is nothing we can do about unless we change our society dramatically), but by the rather convincing delivery and organization. I was left with the impression that Rosales actually means to fulfill as much as possible from his program. Once one ignores the costs of what such a program would entail, well, it is a doable program.
The economic program
So, since I mention the costs, let’s start there. In addition of the rather daunting bill that his social programs would represent, Rosales promised to remove sales tax from food items included in the basic food basket, and lower it on some other items. Now, this is a good move because chavismo still has us saddled with a 14% sales tax which hurts considerably lower classes when buying clothing or household items that are essential for everyday life. In addition high sales taxes promote the considerable tax evasion that the huge system of street vendors represents. It is a mystery to me why in 8 years Chavez has not cleared up sales tax on basic food items (at the production level they are included and even if some items are free, their final price is affected). Another mystery is why Chavez has not set a flat 10%, easy to understand, easier to handle, on items that affect the most the pockets of the lower economical sectors of the population. Then again we had to wait until this year to finally see the minimum wage of the countryside brought up to the one from the cities, one of the worst inequities in the Venezuelan social system that chavismo was unwilling to tackle until a presidential election year finally came around.
But according to Rosales, by eliminating all the subsidies that Chavez gives away to less needy countries it would be enough to cover all the new social expenses that he will undertake. Again, a shrewd move because at one single stroke he avoids discussing what he will do with the Misiones, letting people deduce that their funding will be basically maintained at least for those who do bring some result (Barrio Adentro, Mercal). If you have in mind the oil rebates for London buses or for New York heating in Harlem, it is only a part of the picture: the actual target is the scandalous subsidy that keeps Castro afloat at the expense of Venezuelan poor. People do understand that and it is clever to be able to imply a cut on Castro's alimony without having to name him. Rosales will be able to name Castro later, as needed, to stress his point later. He can also name Argentina who has obscenely benefited from the largesse of the regime in a bond scheme promoting Venezuelan internal corruption.
The implication of these different segments of Rosales program and speech is very simple: had we been better managed, less openhanded with our money, we could have done twice as much as what Chavez has done.
There were also some other economic announcements. For example Rosales would promote a more reliable judicial system to return confidence to foreign investors. He is clear that Venezuela cannot thrive unless foreign investment comes back to Venezuela, where these days it is basically only present in the oil industry. This will easily helped by defending private property and by restoring autonomy to the Central Bank. Attracting investment will be a priority, not scaring them away as the current regime manages.
The institutional program
The other aspect of the program that I liked very much is the total commitment of Rosales to decentralization of the government. And on this point, as a twice elected mayor of our second biggest city, and as the twice elected governor of our most populous state, I can believe and trust that Rosales will fulfill as much as he can on this promise, the single most important item that in my opinion Venezuela needs. After eight years of continuous re-centralization to Caracas, public services in the provinces are once again frayed, infrastructure crumbles, innovation and growth lags. The Venezuelan states and town halls need to manage again a significant share of resources AND responsibilities! The current program to go directly to the neighborhood from Caracas, bypassing the governor and town hall is a hoax, a move to increase the control on the people as only communities with chavista leadership will be able to access to the rather limited credits that will be handed out as a sophisticated dole system.
The other important point was the reestablishment of institutionalism by redrawing the separation of powers and changing the constitution to reduce the presidential term to 4 years with ONE single and immediate reelection. For this Rosales had a good phrase: "What you could not do in 8 years you will never do". He also announced that he wanted a new National Assembly, a given if he wins as the present one will lose any legitimacy it might have pretended to have. We can even count the return to the Andean Community as a desire to reinsert Venezuela in the concert of nations, and not anymore the troublemaker that Chavez has made of us.
The social program
If those are the two details most likely to appeal to people like me in the audience, Rosales also included items that appeals to other constituencies. He made sure to give a prominent role to crime and how little the present administration cares about (again, remember how "shocked" was Chavez when a Cuban medic was shot when dozens and dozens of Venezuelan youth are assassinated every weekend without nearly a tear shed from Chavez).
Main points were also touched, in particular education where Rosales would undo the ideological trend that has appeared in public education. That is any religion or ideology will be banned form school where we would get back to the three Rs. Other important points such as health or the release of political prisoners were in the speech, but experience tells us that if institutions work and if the economy goes on a better footing, social problems can be addressed better than when benefits are drawn for only one political monitory as it is the case now.
All in all it was a good program, making sure it was about Rosales proposals and not a simple minded attack on Chavez, a satisfactory contrast with chavismo campaign which has lowered to a set of negative campaign and vague "socialist" promises to hide the true unpalatable nature of the regime sought for by Chavez and the thugs who accompany him. Still, he managed an excellent barb when he said that he would deal with street kids because he "did not want to lose his name", in reference to a 1999 Chavez promise to change his name if street kids were not dealt with effectively. Any observer of Caracas streets, and even San Felipe one's, will be an eyewitness that there has never been as many street kids as today.
What is important to underline as a conclusion is that there is a way to effect at least a significant amount of the program, that Rosales has shown ability to fulfill electoral promises otherwise his Zulia career would not have been as successful. His vision is of a country where people at the local and regional level will have a real role, away of Caracas. This last one is for me the single most important item as it will bring back democratic stability to Venezuela and it is the only way to try to solve some of the problems that haunt Venezuela and the mess that Caracas has become.
I am starting to become a believer in Rosales. In August when Teodoro left I was slightly miffed but thought that Rosales could be OK. I am seeing now that he is not only more than OK, but that he might have been all along the best candidate the opposition could have come up with: a man of the province to free us from bureaucratic tyranny from Caracas.
Thus the phrase of Rosales “poor people deserve better, they deserve access to opportunities. […] A fair society must guarantee justice to all its members” for once does not sound as hollow as it sounds in other politicos around the world.

On Manuel Rosales v Hugo Chavez debate

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 24.10.06 To be frank I am astounded by the reaction that Rosales' invitation to debate Chavez has caused. We see how the Hero of the Military Museum -as historian Manuel Caballero aptly calls coward Hugo Chavez who hidden beneath a desk in Caracas' Military Museum 'commanded' the coup in 1992- recurs to a repertoire of pathetic excuses and condescending attitudes to debate not with the other presidential candidate. Therefore we see how the über warrior, the reincarnation of The Liberator and Che Guevara, the heir of Fidel, Thuggo Chavez [hat tip LGF], cowers before a politician, mocks his intelligence demonstrating yet again the utter disrespect he has for the less educated, argues that debating Rosales would be like debating a six year old from a Bolivarian school nonetheless and orders his horde of minions to insult his opponent. What a show folks. Fact is Thuggo Chavez lacks the capacity to maintain a coherent debate under strict time rules. For can anyone imagine the megalomanic caudillo giving a straight answer in 2 minutes about any topic?
The good thing is that the country is watching. On one side a purportedly challenged candidate wants to discuss real issues that affect Venezuelans with a gifted extraordinaire who is trying to avoid the debate even at the cost of his supermacho persona. The alleged challenged candidate has been announcing all sorts of plans to tackle poverty, crime, unemployment, housing, etc. Further tomorrow he will present his government plan. The other, Thuggo that is, is yet to present one credible proposal beyond the "vote against the devil" or "if you love me give me your vote" or "to win or to die" campaigns. An imbecile can probably come up with a better strategy.
Thuggo is not going to debate Rosales, that's for sure. As the coward he has always been he dreads public humiliation, which is exactly what he will suffer should he decide to face Rosales. Chavez has never confronted his enemies face to face, ever. In 1992 he duped a bunch of soldiers and directed the coup from the safety of the Military Museum. In 2002, ensconced in the presidential palace, he ordered deployment of tanks -i.e. Plan Avila- to stop innocent marchers to reach Miraflores. In the international front he always spews his nonsense from the safety of distance.
And at last a Venezuelan politico is addressing dictator Castro in appropriate fashion. "Fidel give Chavez permission to debate with me" Rosales demanded before the country yesterday. However the Cuban ruler is in no position to advice his protegé any longer and that explains the many chavista blunders of late. Rosales' request also portrays Chavez in correct dimension, as nothing more that an errand boy of Fidel.
Will Chavez take the bait? I'm taking bets...

Venezuela's presidential race: Rosales challenges Chavez to debate

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 23.10.06 Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales seems willing to take its campaign one notch higher for he is about to challenge Hugo Chavez to a televised debate, something the incumbent has never granted to any political foe. A while ago economist Gerver Torres asked Hugo Chavez to debate economic matters, but of course the great Messiah, who knows nothing about economic issues, declined. Now Chavez, instead of taking on the new challenge coming from someone he considers intellectually inferior and lacking oratory skills, is demonstrating how condescending and disrespectful he is towards his opponents.
"I come today, in the name of the Venezuelan people, to send a very clear message to the government's candidate to join me in a televised debate, so that we can discuss the many problems affecting this country. He has to explain to Venezuelans the more than 90.000 assassinations, the unemployment, the lack of investment, the poor services, the hunger, the poverty, the laughable number of housing units constructed, he has to explain what does he mean by XXI century socialism" thus started Manuel Rosales his press conference. "We want to know whether the government's candidate wants to model Venezuela's political system as the Castroite dictatorship of Cuba, we want to know whether he believes in democracy, in alternation in power, in accountability, in upholding the rule of law, in respecting contracts" added Rosales.
"Venezuela does not believe in hollow rhetoric, in empty promises, in violence, in warmongering... He must be asking Fidel Castro's advice... I demand that Fidel grants the candidate [Chavez] permission so that his protege agrees to debate with me... I will demonstrate to Venezuelans that the only thing Chavez is good at is at lying... brace yourself for I am waiting for you..." said Rosales.
Del Valle Canelon from Globovision just asked what was Rosales' opinion regarding Chavez's statements whereby he said that he won't debate Rosales whose intellect he mocked. Rosales said "if he's so good, so articulate, so incredibly gifted, why the fear? Why doesn't he want to debate? But not only does he not want to confront me, neither does he engage with many Venezuelans that have requested his attention over the years."
Daniel Castellanos from the official TV (VTV) asked Rosales whether he would debate some Bs.50 billion that allegedly went missing and also his participation in the 2002 coup. Rosales said that the central government wants to order Zulia's governorship how to spend allocated funds "as far as I know this is not a dictatorship and the central government has got nothing to do with discretionary decisions of regional administrations" stated Rosales. Concerning the coup, which Rosales refers to as power vacuum as sentenced by the Supreme Court, said that he is eager to discuss coup d'etats, especially the one led by Chavez in 1992, the orders he gave to the army to massacre innocent civilians in 2002, and the many victims whose families are yet to see justice be made.
Juan Carlos Aguirre from UNIONRADIO has brought the issue of polls, citing some figures. Rosales says that Chavez was pretty much on its own in the political scene and logically, when another candidate appears, a part of the electorate moves to the new option. "If I am doing so badly in the polls, why would they [the government] worry so much about poll results?" pondered Rosales.
Asked about his stance vis-a-vis Posada Carriles Rosales said that he has to be made accountable for his crimes. "If we are demanding justice to be made regarding crimes that have been committed by officialdom we must be as unforgiving towards others. Posada Carriles has to be brought to justice, wherever he is" concluded Rosales.
Jesus Hernandez from Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias cites a political analyst that maintains that the US is lobbying heavily countries around the world to hinder Venezuela's chances to get the UN Security Council seat. Rosales blames the terrible foreign policy of the current administration rather than US lobbying as the culprit for the result at the UN floor. "The diplomatic backlash is not against Venezuela but against the incumbent."

Venezuela: Rosales donates Bs.100 million to affected families

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Valencia 21.10.06 A type of torrential rain, locally referred to as vaguada, has caused the death of 4 people leaving more than 400 families homeless. It prompted presidential candidate Manuel Rosales to cancel an event today in Barquisimeto. In press conference he informed Venezuelan media that it would have been extremely disrespectful to have taken part in a massive party-like meeting when families in four states, including Lara where Barquisimeto is located, were deeply affected by the rains. Rosales also announced that a modest sum of Bs.100 million [$46.000] -taken from campaign funds- will be donated to affected families in the hope that the Chavez government copies the inititiave and allocates a large chunk of money to kickstart the construction of houses. He reminded the tragedy of Vargas when the government failed to act in responsible fashion, busy as it was celebrating an electoral victory.
The rain also caused some baseball games to be suspended. Venezuelans are deep into the sport. There are two teams that throughout history seem to have gathered the largests following; Leones from Caracas and Navegantes de Magallanes from Carabobo. Every game of these two teams is considered a not-to-be-missed kind of sporting event. Hugo Chavez is a known fan of Magallanes, however it's been a long time since he visited a baseball stadium last to root for his team. The reason? Baseball fans, from both sides, booed him so loudly that the game had to be stopped and he had to leave the premises. Rosales was meant to go to Friday's Leones-Magallanes game. When he was asked about it he said "I will continue going to baseball games. In fact I would like to see the other candidate [Chavez] go. We can meet in stadiums" he concluded sarcastically.

Venezuela: Manuel Rosales announces agricultural plan

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Acarigua 20.10.06 - Teodoro Petkoff has just finished introducing presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, who is meeting with producers from around Venezuela and is about to announce his agricultural plan from this city. Previous speakers criticised the current administration´s policy of favouring foreign producers at the detriment of the locals. One of them said that 600 million tonnes of corn are about to be harvested however uncertainty as to whether producers will succeed in placing their product in the market continues. The policy of heavily subsidised imports from other countries has got Venezuelan farmers up in arms. "This is a criminal act against us, against our economy, our effort and livelihood. A respected government should always put their own people first, which is not the case with the so called revolution” stated one farmer.
Rosales started by saying that he feels deeply towards the agricultural sector given his background. Born to a very poor family in farm lands located south of Maracaibo lake, Rosales speaks confidently about this economic activity, in which he has personally been involved. “This administration does not know that farmers have to keep rotating crops in order to maximize land productivity. Its inconsiderate attempt to force everyone into cooperatives with predetermined production and crop goals just does not work. The best experts in this field are campesinos and farmers, who through hard work acquire a wealth of knowledge that this government pretends to ignore. They know by doing and in my government I will give priority to them. We will change the land law and give property titles to campesinos” said Rosales, who added “this goes beyond mere transfer of land ownership, further we will provide subsidies, technical assistance and equipment, so that our farmers get a chance at meeting Venezuela´s agricultural needs. This business of favouring foreign farmers instead of local ones is to end.”
Rosales also criticized the Chavez regime´s absurd import policy. “How come this allegedly socialist revolution seeks to destroy local producers by heavily subsidizing rice, sugar, meat, milk, coffee and corn imports? How come tonnes of local produce get wasted in warehouses? In me you (campesinos and farmers) will have an ally, not an enemy."

Venezuela: Manuel Rosales to devolve autonomy to universities

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Valencia 19.10.06 Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales visited yesterday Mariara, San Joaquin, Guacara, Los Guayos, Guigue and concluded the tour in Carabobo state with an emotional speech in Hermandad Gallega, here in Valencia, where he promised to devolve autonomy to all universities and other higher education centres in Venezuela. Before the keynote speech, former dean of University of Carabobo Ricardo Maldonado exposed the many problems that that university is experiencing since the Chavez regime decided to exert absolute control of all aspects related to higher education. In his view the current administration has opted for indoctrination rather than research, education and the discussion of ideas, while he blasted the regime’s stance, adding that since Chavez got to power he has refused to meet with deans of universities. “Not even once he [Chavez] has had the decency of meeting with us despite the many communications requesting it. We hope that with Rosales this will change” concluded Mr. Maldonado. To the present students’ and professors’ delight Rosales announced that should he wins the presidential race he’ll meet with deans on 15 December.
Maldonado informed about university land having been expropriated, refusal from the central government to allocate budgets needed for the normal functioning of universities across the country and criticised the politization of education. Rosales, who quoted from Romulo Gallegos during his speech, stated that the youth, and more specifically university students, have always been at the forefront of democratic changes. “Temblad gobierno cuando despiertan las universidades. Temblad gobierno cuando despiertan los estudiantes” said Rosales to an enthusiastic crowd.
However not all was that nice. In Los Guayos I spent the good part of an hour trying to mediate between opposition folks and chavistas, both determined to not let the other claim supremacy. When people attending the rally finally passed Plaza Bolivar a chavista came with a pipe and smashed a chap wearing a t-shirt from the socialist party (MAS). Violence spread rapidly and the whole thing turned into a huge fight. Bottles, stones, chairs, tables, pipes and other objects were flying around. Some people got injured, including yours truly. I consider worth commenting two anecdotes. The first a Venezuelan freelance photographer, who said to me he was working for Bloomberg, was upset by my attitude. He said that preventing fights is not part of a journalist job. “Every time a fight is about to break you come and intervene. Would you do the same had you been assigned to cover the war in Iraq?” he asked. The second anecdote was equally shocking. A group of 5 police officers showed up in motorcycles when the fight was at its most violent stage to try to stop it. They had to run for cover and left the motorcycles in the middle of the street, some of them with the engines running. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any pictures of that for my camera got stolen in Mariara and I was the last person from the press group to leave the site.

Violence in Rosales' rally in Los Guayos, Carabobo, Venezuela

**Written by Miguel Octavio

Caracas 18.10.2006 Alek Boyd reports live from Los Guayos, Carabobo State near the city of Valencia, a very violent encounter between a group of Chavista supporters and Manuel Rosales’ rally. As the rally progressed through the Plaza Bolivar of Los Guayos, the group began attacking Rosales’ supporters using sticks, bottles and rocks. Despite efforts by participants and the police to stop the attack and the violence, it was simply impossible, as Alek said it was the most aggressive group they have met so far on the road with the opposition presidential candidate. Even the cops, who arrived in motorcycles to help stop the confrontation, had to drop them and leave them in the middle of the street in order to take cover from the stone attack. In fact, even a stand for one of Chavez’ misiones was the victim of the aggression by the Chavistas. Alek will try to find a connection at some point tonight and report directly and maybe post some pictures.

Manuel Rosales announces housing plan for Venezuela

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 17.10.06 [This is an ongoing report] Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales is about to start a press conference in Hotel Lido whereby announcements regarding a national housing plan will be made. Click F5 often to refresh the page...
Rosales has started by saying that the track record of the current administration is an absolute failure. Only 145.000 houses have been built in the last 8 years in spite of the huge windfall of oil profits. "Lousy management, lousy administration of public resources" are to be blamed for it. The poor, that are always in the first line of reasoning of the government, have not seen any benefits in terms of housing solutions.
"If we were to compare the number of houses built by this very rich administration with past ones, one can easily conclude that the discourse about caring for the poor is mere rethoric" remarked Rosales.
Descentralization is to play a fundamental role in the new plan, which will count with active participation of the private sector in order to boost construction and tackle in effective manner the huge deficit accumulated in past years. "We shall build 1.5 million new houses. Additionaly 600.000 ranchos will be modernised and built up to decent standards, as we have done in Zulia through a programme called "Vivienda Feliz." Another part of the plan shall be to provide direct funding to some 300.000 rancho dwellers so that they can rebuild their own stuff with the assistance of government agencies" added the candidate.
Other aspect of this plan will be to enhance roads and other access to barrios.
Bs.75 billions -some $34billions- will be destined by the Rosales government to fund this initiative.
The Q&A section has just started with questions from a journalist from Venezolana de Television (VTV) who, after nearly half an hour of housing talk, asked Rosales about polls and electoral conditions.
Elvia Gomez from El Universal has just asked what will be the timeframe of such a project, what will be the period of disboursement of funds and how does decentralization will impact the plan. Rosales said that he can only plan for a government period, which is currently 6 years and funds will be dispensed accordingly. Regarding decentralization he wondered why it was that the central government had to be involved in the construction of housing solutions around the country. In his opinion the task ought to be transfered to state and municipal authorities.
Del Valle Canelon from Globovision asked about the abusive manner in which the Chavez administration deals with poor citizens requesting help of housing solutions. Rosales considers disrespectful such behaviour adding that playing with people's misery is a most condemnable attitude that shows how little it cares about common problems.
"There are far too many laws in this country which only benefits corrupt civil servants that make nice out of the necessity of others. Not only in housing but in every aspect of the public administration" replied Rosales to another question pertaining the slow pace of delivering solutions.
"Governorhips and Mayorships around the country are not receiving what would normally be assigned to them simply because the government calculates the budget on a $20 p/b when in fact average price hovers around $60 p/b. This government uses the rest of the funds in discretionary fashion at the detriment of Venezuelan regions. We have said that we will fund a part of the housing plan through "Mi Negra" programme and we shall do so merely by budgeting correctly" stated Rosales.
The plan will generate 700.000 direct jobs

Manuel Rosales: "the world has given Hugo Chavez a democratic whipping"

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 16.10.06 Imagine abject poverty. Imagine people scavenging for food on stinking rubbish piles. Now try and imagine a very poor person in such a setting saying "and to top it all off he is losing the UN vote to Guatemala..." Such is the surreality of this country. Hugo Chavez lost the vote today, and as Manuel Rosales aptly said moments ago in Montalban (west Caracas) Venezuela did not lose anything, rather it was Hugo Chavez who received today a democratic whipping in spite of having wasted millions in lobbying and outright vote-buying.
The images above were taken today in La Vega, a densely populated barrio located in west Caracas. A bed turned upside down serves as a wall in the improvised rancho where the black woman seen scavenging for food lives. As seen her rancho is right next to a pile of rubbish. And yet deranged Hugo Chavez sees fit to devote his time to 'lead' international revolutions. And yet the galloping megalomaniac gives Venezuelan resources to other countries when his own countrymen/women live in subhuman conditions right here in Caracas. Manuel Rosales is right in referring to Chavez as "el tipo ese" or that fella, for La Vega is not the only place where one can see this. Barrios around the whole country are in similar situation. Worse still in small cities in the interior, to where misiones' monies never make it, poor people don't even have piles of rubbish to scavenge from.
Of course a visit to a Caracas barrio always comes seasoned with the presence of quick action chavista groups that refuse other political forces to walk around what they consider their turf. Los guerreros de La Vega -La Vega warriors- made their appearance at today's rally. As far as I know there were no violent incidents apart from the common obscenities that both groups shout at each other. However the shocking aspect of it all was comments from residents of La Vega, some of whom have realised how hypocritical the official stance is. To them it's increasingly difficult to reconcile the behaviour of Chavez with the horrendous misery that surrounds them. No one living in La Vega can miss the scene depicted above for those ranchos are located in Calle Real, which is the main street.
Quite frankly I find rather difficult to figure out why some Venezuelans support Chavez. Ignorance and emotions play an important role in this drama. A recurrent answer from them is that Chavez treats them with respect and has devolved dignity to the disenfranchised. However not even the most radical chavista would define the abode and life of the black woman as dignified. To see Venezuelans living in such conditions after nearly 8 years of a Chavez rule that has been blessed with the highest ever oil windfall is the best example of the enormous failure of his administration. Today the international community whipped Hugo Chavez. On 3 December Venezuelans will do the same.

On the campaign trail with Manuel Rosales

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 15.10.06 The first month on the campaign trail with Manuel Rosales has been intense. In the last 30 days I have followed him to barrios and cities in Caracas, Miranda, Guarico, Zulia, Yaracuy, Anzoategui, Monagas, Bolivar, Merida, Cojedes, Barinas, Aragua, Carabobo, Trujillo and Nueva Esparta, that is 15 states out Venezuela's 24. There are many things that have shocked me in a positive kind of way in the last month. Between a gathering of local producers in Valle de la Pascua three weeks ago and last week's health plan announcement in Caracas, Manuel Rosales' personality and confidence before the media has grown exponentially. Little is known about this guy's career outside Zulia state, but the more I travel and learn about past experiences the more I believe that chavismo has its days counted. Another aspect that I find fascinating is that Hugo Chavez is not calling the shots anymore and the reason is simple: he is facing a very shrewd politico for the first time. Manuel Rosales is a political animal. Born extremely poor he had to abandon school to sustain his family. At a very young age he chose the way of politics and started his career in the toughest political setting; Zulia state, which back in the days was under the absolute control of an assembly of adeco-caciques known as "Los Bachacos." Natural disposition was certainly not a welcomed gift for the establishment and Rosales was presented with formidable challenges, as running on its own for Maracaibo's mayorship, against the ruling party machine. More often than not Rosales came out unscathed and successful, against all odds. Something that I did not know until recently is that his political career in different positions spans 27 years. He started out as councilman in forgotten Sur del Lago making his way up to Zulia state's highest chair. Collaborators of many years are confident about the future, maintaining that Hugo Chavez simply does not know what's in store for him. Rosales' greatest asset appears to be to turn past enemies into loyal collaborators, and after 27 years in politics he has a few of those.
Politics has returned to the command of politicians. A unity candidate, something that was almost unthinkable until very recently, is but another result of Rosales' political maneuvering. He has the backing of nearly all Venezuelan true political parties, and I say true for those associated with Hugo Chavez are but one-man operations that seek to present a thriving democratic picture within chavismo. Nothing could be furthest from reality though. While the sleeping giant is throwing its weight behind Rosales after post-referendum lethargy Chavez finds himself pretty much on its own. The 'love campaign' being the perfect example to illustrate how utterly disconnected the deranged caudillo is from constituents.
There are other aspects that give Rosales an edge over Chavez. For instance he is a family man, happily married, loving husband and father, in a country whose society is devoid of a catalogue of such examples among the political class. He does not have resentment towards the rich, on the contrary his idea is to lay foundations so that all can have a go at it and "salir de abajo" as he repeats constantly. His permanent contact with the people allows him to address issues that affect them. That is to say he speaks about bread and butter issues while the incumbent keeps talking about asymmetric conflicts that exist only in his disturbed head. That is why Rosales said yesterday in Porlamar that he would debate with Chavez once he learns about Venezuela's situation for wars, international campaigns and other revolutionary dreams are totally irrelevant for Venezuelans. My impression is that Rosales' discourse in 2006 is strickingly similar to Chavez' 1998, he is just expressing the conventional wisdom held by many. Better yet he is not part of Caracas' political establishment but an outsider, which is why the typical echo chamber sort of BS is not being picked by him. He has single handedly recovered the political agenda that was in the hands of Chavez for far too long. Example of how deeply infected the establishment is with regards to Chavez's every utterance are the press conferences where media's representatives, instead of focusing on what's being announced, keep asking irrelevant questions about what Rosales' opinions are concerning the latest presidential stupidity. The guy stays on message and that in itself is a novelty.
Chavismo, being a military-like movement led by a failed coupster, has very few mechanisms to defend itself politically against Rosales. One of them has been the launch of smearing campaigns whereby it seeks to portray Rosales as a Bush puppet, an ally of Pedro Carmona and an utterly corrupt politician as opposed to an immaculate, 'loving' Chavez. To their disgrace every Venezuelan knows Chavez's past and the intellectual dishonesty of such an ill contrived campaign is backfiring spectacularly. In fact outside radical circles of chavismo the whole country is just laughing at its hypocrisy. In addition the idea of dressing Chavez in blue to ask people to vote for him -again out of love- denotes chavismo's debasement. The whole country is covered with red propaganda that calls to defend 'the revolution' by violent means. As I have seen in Maracay and Valera there's no love between chavistas and opposition after 8 years of hate-mongering instilled by Hugo Chavez.
Then there's the marked difference in the public administration performances of the two men. Awash in petrocash Chavez has failed where Rosales has succeeded with budgets that pale in comparison. Rosales maintains that he has kept his word and exceeded delivering solutions, in stark contrast with Chavez who, for instance, said upon being sworn in that he would change his name if in one year he did not rescue from misery and abandonement Venezuela's street children.
I have no doubts that Chavez will lose the election. Beyond Rosales' track record and hands on approach people in this country are just fed up with Chavez's poisonous attitude. Venezuelans are a peaceful people and no amount of official vitriol will change that. Chavez's first electoral victory was the result of the sheer disgust that Venezuelans had towards the old corrupt and inefficient establishment. 8 years have come to pass, Hugo Chavez is the embodiment of the old establishment, however it is his constant hatred-mongering that will cost him dearly.

Manuel Rosales to turn Venezuela into tourism mecca

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Porlamar 14.10.06 Choosing Venezuela's best known tourist destination Manuel Rosales gave a press conference to inform about his new tourism plan. The plan will be structured in four themes: Island tourism, Sea $ Beach, Rainforest $ Nature and Andean tourism. The first will develop infrastructure in Margarita, Coche, Cubagua, Los Roques, La Blanquilla, La Orchila and other minor islands. The second will develop Venezuela's extensive Caribbean coast, which goes from Falcon state in the west to Sucre state located in front of Trinidad. The third will offer nature lovers deals in Bolivar, Delta Amacuro and Amazonas states and the Andean states of Merida, Trujillo and Tachira form part of the fourth theme. In Rosales' opinion it is time that Venezuela starts developing its unmatched potential for tourism in order to become a tourism mecca.
The press conference was followed by a rally where Rosales repeated his plan. I asked Mayela Suarez what did she think about the announcements "he's going to fix this mess" she said. "This island used to have other sources of income. My family lived for very many years on fishing, but since Diosdado Cabello bought Eveba enterprises (Venezuela's main tuna and sardines buyer) it has become increasingly difficult to live on it. We have had to turn to tourism for our income and Rosales' plan sounds good" she added. To solve the lack of qualified professionals higher education centres to cater exclusively for the hospitality industry will be built.
To kickstart this project calls to private investors will be made for "our goal will be much easier to accomplish with the participation of private investors" added Rosales.
The presidential candidate addressed local concerns promising to build a huge desalinization plant and granting neccesary licenses to local operators to take part in the tourism industry. A journalist reminded him of the unreasonable position of the central government that has blocked the opening of an important port here in Margarita to which he replied by saying that he's a son of descentralization and in his government local issues, budgets, policies, etc. will be handled by local authorities, as opposed to the ominous control that Hugo Chavez has.

Venezuela: Manuel Rosales announces national health plan

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 15.10.06 Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales made various announcements this week. On Tuesday he presented to the press his national health plan, which is the replication of successful management models implemented in Zulia state. Hospital General del Sur in Maracaibo is one model Rosales wants to replicate all around Venezuela. Following the launch of official misiones, this hospital was starved of cash, operating with a monthly budget of Bs.40 million -a meagre $18,000. During his tenure Rosales has increased running costs to Bs.2 billion/month -just over $930,000. He then reproached the regime's stance vis-a-vis the health sector by criticising its irresponsible claim of free access to health for the first time in our history. "How can that felow (Hugo Chavez) claim that now Venezuelans have a free health care system when our people die for lack of resources in underfunded hospitals?"
Indeed Barrio Adentro, Chavez's flagship social programme, has had a positive impact among poor Venezuelans who can count now in the advice of Cuban doctors placed inside barrios. However beyond administrating generic aspirins Barrio Adentro doctors can seldom solve grave health issues which are common occurrences in places associated with rampant criminality. Rosales promised to incorporate the network of Barrio Adentro centres, which shall function as complimentary primary care centres, and not, as it happens now, in detriment to hospitals operating for the national health system. Particularly in Hospital General del Sur's case Rosales employed dismissed PDVSA staff to control losses of medical supplies due to theft and corruption practices. As a result patients now do not have to bring anything in order to get treated as it happens in many other hospitals. In Rosales' opinion the deviation of funds earmarked to hospitals for political gain is but one example of the lack of care of the incumbent.
Asked to provide budget estimates for the new plan Rosales said that it will be a priority of his government to find and allocate the neccesary funds to launch this plan. He also commented about the need to enter into agreements with private service providers. "The government's role is to manage and not to exercise control upon every single aspect. It just can't be expected that an utterly inefficient regime will successfully solve all problems related to the health sector. For that reason I will call upon private companies, contract their services and hold them accountable should anything go wrong. That's what responsible governments the world over do" said Rosales.

To vote or not to vote in the Venezuela Presidential election. Is that even a question?

**Written by Miguel Octavio

Caracas 14.10.06 I have been meaning to address the question of whether to vote or not in the upcoming presidential elections for quiet a while. Maybe I am still early in addressing it, but wanted to make sure I did, because there are lots of comments and emails on the subject.
First of all, recall that I am a firm believer that there was cheating in the 2004 recall referendum. From a statistical point of view, it is clear that the results were tampered with. Having said that, these studies can tell there was cheating, but they are not capable of saying by how much. Thus, when I say there was cheating, I can not guarantee that the opposition actually won, although the three exit polls do suggest we did.
As a result of the frustration derived from that result, the opposition basically demobilized itself, disappointed in the leadership from the opposition and believing that it would be hard or next to impossible to dislodge the autocrat. Despite this, the opposition actually voted in the October 2004 elections in numbers that do not reflect the intuition of most Venezuelans. Then came the 2005 parliamentary elections. A week before they were to take place, it was discovered that despite assurances that this could not happen, the voting machines kept the sequence of the vote, so that it would be easy to reconstruct who voted for which candidate.
The opposition pulled out after this. While there is a generalized perception that the conflict arose over the discovery of the possibility of the knowing the sequence led to the opposition abstaining, it was more complicated than that. In the end, it was the arrogant reaction of the CNE to the discovery that really complicated matters. Jorge Rodriguez began making offers to “solve” the problem which in the end did nothing but complicate matters. Basically, he offered to “protect” the identity of the voters suing technological solutions like erasing the disks that would not have erased it in the end. Between this and the disgust at the discovery, the opposition simply pulled out, despite an eleventh hour effort by the CNE which decided to withdraw the fingerprints machines as a gesture to bring the opposition back. Curiously, it was Manuel Rosales who pit the nail in the coffin, when he announced that his party was withdrawing.
In some sense, withdrawing from the 2005 elections has had a positive effect. In the absence of the opposition in the Parliament, Chavistas began fighting among themselves and whenever they grabbed the stage, they had nobody to snap at, since they were running the whole show. Since Chavismo ahs always appeared to be in the opposition rather than Government, this actually did not help. As an example, whenever an investigation was carried out by the national assembly, it was the discrepancies between the different chavistas groups which surfaced, rather than between chavistas and the opposition.
What Now?
What has changed now is that the opposition basically has had no leadership since the recall vote or a leadership that it had little trust in. In the absence of that Chávez was clearly in the lead and the group in between kept growing.
As expected, Teodoro Petkoff was his usual bad as a candidate, while Julio Borges could not wipe out his yuppie image (I am being benevolent in this assessment), so it came down to the experienced politician, Manuel Rosales, who actually jumped ahead in the polls without even bothering to declare that he was a candidate. This stopped the possibilities of the primaries as Petkoff never had more than 9% in any poll, while Rosales consistently got 11-15%. Borges showed some strength until Rosales name was included with him in a short list.
And this was the main reason while withdrawing since June or July made no sense. If you had no chance what was the sense of withdrawing? If the people are not mobilized, what was the sense of withdrawing? Chavez and his supporters would simply argue we withdraw because we do not want to lose.
Recall that Toledo in Peru went into an election almost certain that he would be cheated if he won. He won and was cheated, but the whole county and the international community were then convinced that there was cheating and the rest is history as Toledo became President of Peru exactly one year to the day, after Fujimori was sworn in as President.
The point is that it was actually the widespread belief that there was fraud that eventually led to Fujimori’s demise. That is precisely what we need to achieve, go to the election and either win, win or be cheated and fight or simply lose. The latter is one of the possibilities and if we do lose, we will have to accept it as a democratic outcome and bear with it.
But we can not be cheated. That is why the CNE should make the election completely transparent. If there is so much mistrust, why not count all the ballots, all the boxes, eliminate the fingerprint machines and audit everything? What are they afraid of? Why not prove Chavez is sooo popular? Easy, they are not sure, they want to have the option to twist the election at will if necessary. And that is why we have to go and try to win and if the election is stolen, be ready to prove it, show it and fight for it.
What then?
If there is one thing we have learned is that we are dealing with people with no scruples. Not even the biggest cynic in the old and now defunct Coordinadora Democratica ever thought the 128 audits the night of the RR would not take place, or the voting machines would transmit information before the vote was completed, or two of the Directors of the CNE would not be allowed to go into the computer room, or the random number generator would be an idiotic one provided by the CNE or Carter would give his Peanut Farmer seal of approval to the results without even inspecting anything.
Hopefully we have learned to be alert and ready for it and there will be no surprises on Dec. 3d. Personally, I give a lot of weight to eliminating the fingerprint machines because I truly think they instill fear in people. On those that support Chavez because they fear that if the vote blank or for the other candidate, they will lose their job, mission rights or they will be retribution. On those that oppose Chavez, because they think they may lose their jobs and be forever identified as the enemy.
I do think we have an edge. I actually believe that people are disillusioned and tired of Chavez. There is fear, so the solution is simply not to go vote. On the other hand those that oppose Chavez, if motivated, have little to lose, they have been blacklisted already and they want Chavez think we can have more abstention on the pro-Chavez side than the opposition, which would mean that even if Chavez “has” a majority we can win.
Chavez and his cohorts face a difficult decision. If they lose, the corruption and mismanagement will come to light and they could all be prosecuted for it. The level of corruption is such, that they could not hide everything. And therein lays our biggest danger. The instinct of self-preservation is simply too strong and they will try to win no matter what.
But in some sense, I feel that the best outcome is for us to win and have the Government cheat in a very obvious way. A Government like that will simply not last.
There is a plan. There is a very detailed plan to make sure that everything is done. There will be at least three Rosales people per booth, without counting those that support him that were randomly selected to run the polling stations. That is a difference between the RR and this, in this election candidates have rights and Rosales is getting ready for it. These three people will make sure that the official tally and the audit tally are sent out immediately. Any major difference would be evident. There are other plans to monitor irregularities, get the media and minimize a possible surprise by the people without scruples, etc.
Can they cheat? Of course, but there are plans to minimize it and if we can get our people mobilized, we could pull a big surprise. I used to know a well known pollster here in Venezuela; he used to tell me not to watch the levels, to watch the trends, the slopes. He is now dead, but he was around in the 1998 elections and when Chavez was still in second place he told me he could not lose; he had gone from 5% to 19% too fast. I wonder what he would say today about Rosales’ slope. After all, six weeks ago, we could not have envisioned the Avalancha, Rosales being such a good candidate, people being so motivated.
Thus, the question of whether to vote or not is to me irrelevant. I will go and vote as a first step to recover the rights we have lost and mobilize people against this autocracy once and for all. The rest, is a matter of fighting for our rights.

Manuel Rosales to seek frontier alliance with Colombia’s Uribe

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Machiques 12.10.06 Danilo Chourio was kidnapped on 26 November 2005 from his hacienda La Colonisa. Almost immediately the kidnappers communicated to his family the ransom wanted. Three days after, the Chourio family paid 80 million Bolivares [$37.000] not before demanding from the group that held Danilo a “fe de vida” in the form of a telephone conversation to check whether or not Danilo was still alive. Nearly a year has come to pass and the Chourio family still does not know the whereabouts of Danilo. Sadly they have not been able to find his body. No further communications took place following ransom payment.

Maria Rosario Chourio, one of Danilo’s daughters, said that they have pretty much exhausted all search methods in “Sector Medio Millon and La Pastora” in the Cachamana area. She said authorities have not done anything with regards to the case. Officials from CICPC, CUA, GAL, GN and the public prosecutor’s office have ignored their plights alleging lack of resources to mount an effort to find Danilo. Of special significance to Maria Rosario was the insulting treatment she and her family received from Carlos Luna, director of GAL. A man thought to be connected to the kidnap was arrested in Coro state, although she does not have any further information. Maria Rosario is convinced that her father is still alive. In light of the lack of communication with the kidnappers and the fact that it’s been nearly a year since he was taken away I asked her how could she be so certain about it. With tears in her eyes she replied “la esperanza es lo ultimo que se pierde.”
The kidnapping industry is flourishing in this border area. Narco guerrilla and Organized criminals have realized that the priorities of the Chavez regime lay somewhere in Bolivia, Cuba, Lebanon, Iran, etc., and the recent massacre in La Paragua –near the border with Brazil- where a military death squad robbed and killed in cold blood a group of miners comes to reinforce the conventional wisdom amongst outlaws that with Chavez criminals rule. A 426% increase of kidnappings has been reported. The surge can be explained by analyzing the lax policy that the current administration has vis-à-vis guerrilla groups that cross over from Colombia in the know that he who sits in Miraflores is a political ally. “We are at the mercy of criminals here, the army and the National Guard are but part of the problem” said one farmer in Villa del Rosario, who admitted that they have had to recourse to self defense methods to safeguard their lives and property. “We are determined to not walk” –kidnappers use the term “camine” (to walk) with victims about to be abducted. Some survive to tell the story and others get killed but all seem to have reached that fearless and resolute state out of principles. The expression “la palabra empeñada” or to keep one’s word is still a practice respected by most people around here. To them the word of criminals lacks value and for that reason they are not prepared to trade theirs, even if it means to lose their lives or that of loved ones.
Presidential candidate Manuel Rosales was asked to comment about this issue after an event with local farmers in Villa del Rosario. He said that one of the priorities of his government will be to forge an alliance with Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe and build upon successful models implemented in Colombia. “We will bring security to our common border. Colombia is a sister nation, we have a history together and I am determined to work shoulder to shoulder with President Uribe to put an end to the problem. This official leniency with criminals running from prosecution in Colombia, which allows them to establish operation bases on this side of the border is to end. As soon as I become president they will get from us the same treatment President Uribe’s administration gives them.”

No love for Rosales from Chavistas in Maracay, Aragua, Venezuela

**Written by Miguel Octavio

Caracas 11.10.06 About 50 Chavistas wearing red shirts showed up today in Avenida Bolívar of Maracay to attempt to show Rosales their new found love for Venezuelans by blocking the candidates path using violent means and stopping the rally. The group was clearly well organized and had planned its actions ahead of time. This was no spontaneous demonstration, but they failed to wear their newly found peaceful blue color, resorting instead to their customary and traditional brand new red t-shirts. Violence was averted thanks to the aid of the police and security forces as well as the pro-Rosales crowd, who not only refused to allow their rally to be interfered with, but were there in much larger numbers than the now "loving" but somewhat "squalid" group of Chavistas.
Later in the day, as Rosales was visiting the Barrio San Vicente of Maracay, the love attacks repeated themselves, this time by groups of pro-Chavez supporters, who now hid in the houses of the barrios and began throwing bottles and stones at the Rosales entourage and supporters. Definitely a loving day for the revolution.

Venezuela's presidential bout: Round 1 for Manuel Rosales

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 10.10.06 As Daniel rightly pointed out, in the first week of October unity candidate Manuel Rosales stroke thrice against Hugo Chavez, and the deranged caudillo appears to have adopted a self-defeating attitude. His idea of measuring forces in the wake of the very successful rally held by Rosales in Caracas on Saturday was a complete disaster. Sources within the regime informed last week that Chavez was hesitant about the time, venue and manner in which his Sunday rally would be held. Initially he had planned a rally in Avenida Bolivar, which he cancelled on Saturday, and changed instead to a pathetic caravan attended by very few people, considering past events.
Although chavistas are trying their hardest to downplay Rosales' rally fact is that, even in official media, everyone is talking about it. Based on a note sent out by Associated Press (AP) that put crowd numbers at "above 10.000" chavistas rejoiced and have been using AP's piece as the ultimate source of truth. However the original article in Spanish -penned by Elizabeth M. Nuñez- starts with the sentence "Decenas de miles de personas marcharon el sabado por las calles de Caracas..." i.e. "Tens of thousands of people marched on Saturday in Caracas' streets..." (AP's translation department in urgent need of thorough revision). Propaganda pamphlet Diario VEA had yesterday a front page headline about Rosales' event that figured more prominently than Chavez's own picture. Ultimas Noticias, official rag par excellence, published yesterday a note correcting the credit attributed to the picture published on Sunday stating that it was a Reuters picture and not an AP one as originally claimed.
And what to make about the Chavez - Morales military pact? See Miguel's take on this issue. My impression is that Rosales' tactics are contributing in no small part with Chavez's mistakes and although it would be foolish to think that recent official unhingement is due solely to Rosales the caudillo is revealing a rather uncharacteristic behaviour that benefits Rosales. Undecided voters and light chavistas have started pondering about the future under a man completely detached from their problems. A fascinating aspect of Chavez political persona is that people still think that he is not responsible for the chaotic situation of the country. That is to say people keep thinking that insecurity, poverty, unemployment and corruption are not of his making and while the president hovers around the 50% approval rate in polls the performance of his administration in the issues mentioned is condemned by nearly 80% of the population.
Rosales has already started putting the blame where it belongs. One issue that both chavistas and opponents of the regime have in common is the sheer discontentment with regards to the giving away of Venezuelan resources to other countries while people here struggle to survive. It's a binding factor that no one disputes and will determine the outcome of the election for Chavez can argue that his ministers, the police, congress, etc. are useless. What he can not do is to transfer the responsibility of giving the farm away to his lackeys for it is him and only him who takes those decisions. No minister promised money to Morales. No Congressman/woman approved the construction of houses in Cuba. No military pledged Venezuelan blood in other nation's conflicts. This is all Hugo Chavez and his galloping megalomania. Rosales only needs to stress upon the obvious to win the coming rounds.

Manuel Rosales strikes thrice against Hugo Chavez

**Written by Daniel Duquenal

09.10.06 In the afterglow of yesterday first Caracas test for Rosales, nothing is more telling than the BBC report where the journalist states that if Rosales keeps the pressure the December result is not anymore a foregone conclusion. Coming from the BBC who has been regularly accused of a pro Chavez bent, these words cannot but be a balm for the opposition in Venezuela who has felt abandoned and misunderstood by the democrats of the world. Because of course, the BBC is right: Rosales has handled three strong blows to Chavez ambitions this week, the more so that chavismo seems unable to reply.
But before I get into a brief summary on how the Venezuelan campaign effected a major shift this week, let me remind folks that Chavez is still not beaten, that Rosales is at best at 40% these days (though climbing) and that there are still almost two months of campaign left where anyone of Rosales or Chavez can commit major blunders. This being said...
Rosales this week has administered three psychological blows to the chavismo camp. And at least two shots in the arm for his followers.
First there was La Paragua visit. In this episode Rosales made it possible for all Venezuelans to question the commitment of Chavez to the people. That is, now everyone can wonder if Chavez likes the poor because they are poor or because they vote for him. Depending how the Chavez electorate responds this question Rosales will poach for votes on chavista grounds. Indeed, the lack of official response to the assassination by the army of humble miners in La Paragua is only aggravated by the late dispatch of a technocratic and wooded tongue commission, as a reaction to Rosales strong words “You have been abandoned; the government has sent nothing to help you”. And the bells tolled in the background welcoming Rosales. I doubt they did when Farias landed there yesterday.
Then Rosales went to Anzoategui state. It coincided with a failed visit of Chavez which exposed the division within chavismo by showing how many people were booing Tarek Williams, Chavez all but appointed governor, while cheering their great leader. The skilful timing of Rosales visit, where all opposition was united behind him, allowed for a dramatic contrast. Now it is chavismo who is fracturing and the opposition who is gaining a stronger unity in an quarter thought a difficult ground for Rosales. In other words, Chavez expected to get a cheap boost for his campaign by a visit to Anzoategui but the one that got the boost was Rosales.
There was also another benefit for Rosales followers. The progressive nature of his campaign had some worried, some who did not understand the strategy at hand of slowly building pressure on Chavez instead of the hurried and ill thoughts initiatives of 2002-2004. These expected that the Eastern part of the country would be difficult. Well, Rosales showed that all was fine, that he could campaign there effectively and that Oriente was not going to be a freebee for Chavez. Campaigns need these kind of shots in the arm to renew morale and energy. While at the same time worrying likely complacent local chavista apparatchiks.
And the third blow came yesterday when the provincial governor, who has never held any governmental job in Caracas, who cannot hide his Maracucho roots, was able to electrify a Caracas crowd, a crowd rent with divisions and insecurities, torn between abstention will and open rebellion. All now will start their gathering and healing around Rosales. Chavez now knows that he can lose Caracas just as he lost it on the Recall Election, fraud and all. Chavez knows also that any rally he organizes in Caracas will cost him a fortune. Not that he cares about spending taxpayer money for his campaign, but for the implication that he cannot succeed without doling out so much cash that people might finally notice.
Because this is the real secret of Rosales success: he is from the provinces, he is from the people, he goes to the people whereas Chavez, unbelievably, is becoming slowly but surely the candidate of the establishment, the distant candidate from Caracas, the candidate that has lost touch with the little people even in Barinas. That the establishment is composed self styled revolutionary pseudo-technocrats is irrelevant: Chavez has destroyed an establishment just to create another one just as resented by the people. The re-centralization that Chavez has sought so as to control all power in the country might be about to bite him in the ass.
The Venezuelan electoral campaign has dramatically shifted this week, even if the results might not be observable for a few more weeks. But the momentum has shifted camps. What was unthinkable 3 months ago has happened: for the first time in 8 years Chavez has lost the agenda. He might recover it still, but now we have a real race.

Venezuela: Open Letter to AP's Elizabeth Nuñez re Rosales' rally

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 08.10.06 To be frank I was bit upset due to the article sent out from Venezuela's Associated Press (AP) bureau regarding the number of people that attended yesterday's rally in Caracas in support of opposition candidate Manuel Rosales. This morning I called and spoke to Elizabeth Nuñez, who penned the article in question. The first thing I asked Ms. Nuñez was whether she had been to the march to which she said she had. I then asked why she had written "...but reporters on the scene estimated the turnout was above 10,000" (sic). Ms. Nuñez clarified the point by explaining that she is not in the business of guesstimating crowd numbers. Furthermore she did say that she laughed at the Metropolitan Police estimate of about 9.000 people. By chance someone draw my attention to AP's photographer before I made my way to my watch point, from where I took pictures of her. I completely agreed with Ms. Nuñez's opinion with respect to some numbers thrown out by opposition folks, however I did stress upon the fact that readers the world over can make their own minds should photographic evidence be presented to them.
Oddly enough even chavista rag Ultimas Noticias carries a front page article today entitled "Un gentio en la Avalancha de Rosales" (Huge crowd in Rosales's rally) which is complemented by a picture attributed to AP. Hell even BBC's Greg Morsbach did the job properly. I am not going to venture into the rather imprecise art of estimating crowd figures, rather I will leave it to readers, as Ms. Nuñez should have done.
The woman in the red circle is AP's photographer. From there she's facing the crowd.
Facing an upper platform from where Rosales addressed the rally.
Chavista helicopter filming the event. Every time it passed round Rosales asked people to wave at it saying "let them film, let them see the size of this avalanche." Will the regime publish that footage?

Caracas throws its weight behind Manuel Rosales

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 07.10.06 Just got back from the rally folks and believe you me it was huge. But before anything else let me start by saying that I was in a privileged position and as such what follows is an example of what the official TV channel, Venezolana de Television (VTV), ought to be doing instead of spreading lies and propaganda. It is hard to imagine who are they trying to dupe having seen, filmed and recorded -helicopter and all- the whole thing, but in any case I will happily engage in what I do best, which is to debunk the bullshit coming from the Chavez regime and set the record straight.
I was in a makeshift platform some 8 meters above the stage from where Rosales was going to address the crowd. To my right there was the camera of Globovision. To my left the one that was sending images to VTV. Pay special attention to the size of the crowd behind me and the angle of the camera on my left. This picture was taken well before Rosales started talking.
The reporter from VTV was on stage too -note how close he was to Rosales- could it be possible that he was seeing something different? When was the last time the caudillo allowed a reporter critical of his regime to get so close? Instead of doing what journalists are meant to do this chap, together with the cameraman, were filming Rosales from above -same angle as mine- focusing on notes that he had and criticising him for drinking gatorade. Needless to say that they refused to report accurately what was truly going on:
Last I saw a march this size the mood was somewhat sad. Not today though for Caraqueños came out in full force with a party-like attitude so I guess at this hour a group of people must be getting a bitching from one deranged fellow that believes that he is the only one capable of 'governing' this country. The regime had a rally planned for tomorrow in Avenida Bolivar, which is not far from where we were. The idea was to measure forces and crowds, however for some reason -could it be the size of Rosales' rally?- they have just decided to cancel the gig and postpone it for next Sunday. I guess the regime just can't materialise thousands of people on the streets of Caracas any longer...
Update @ 8:10pm: I have just been informed that Hugo has decided to have his march tomorrow. People are already concentrating in Puente Llaguno.

Manuel Rosales visits Eastern Venezuela

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Cantaura 06.10.06 "30% of Venezuela's gas and oil production comes from here. We have the 4 largest gas compression plants of Latin America yet blackouts and gas problems constantly affect us" said to me Felix Bellorin in Punta de Mata, Monagas state, who replied to my question about whether or not Hugo Chavez had visited "ese coño de su madre nunca ha venido p'aca." I will leave that untranslated. Further up the road where Rosales' concentration were to start Rafaela Maita and Yaditza Martinez expressed their discontentment at the way in which the misiones are working in this town "the government was meant to give us 160.000 Bolivares/month but in fact we see the money every 3 months or so and to top it all off we have to take a bus to go cash the checks in Maturin for we can't do it here. The government wants to force people into forming agricultural cooperatives, not realizing that since oil activities started here in earnest no one wants to work the land instead of taking on whatever jobs in the oil industry. They [the government] must think that we're stupid [pendejos]" added Yaditza, who wasted no time in criticising the nouveau riche behaviour of Mayor Angel Centeno who, in her opinion, has pocketed the monies that were meant to be destined to infrastucture and sanitation projects in barrio 19 de Abril and calles 8 and 9. "No han hecho un coño, se cogen los reales y andan en unas camionetotas con vidrios negros y que p'a que nadie los vea" she concluded.
A two day tour around Eastern Venezuela started in Punta de Mata, moving on to Maturin to end here in Cantaura with a speech in Avenida Bolivar. Today opposition candidate Manuel Rosales also visited San Tome, El Tigrito, El Tigre and Anaco. He addressed local issues stressing upon the sheer negligence of the Chavez regime that rather builds bridges in Jamaica and housing solutions in Cuba instead of caring for Venezuela's many problems. Earlier in the day I spoke with Carmen Villareal. She said that she had spent two months in Cuba with her brother who was to be operated as part of one of Chavez's misiones. The experience changed her life "all I tell people here is take 2 million Bolivares and go spend sometime in Cuba to see real misery and poverty. Go and see. We are nowhere near the conditions of Cubans who are malnourished, haven't got any money, can't leave the island, can't do whatever they want and live like beggars. There's not a chance in hell that Chavez will impose that over us, if he likes Fidel so much he can leave with all his cronies whenever. Esa gente no tiene vida chico." As we were talking Yenny Hernandez joined in. Until 21 January 2003 she was Information Superintendent of PDVSA's San Tome plant. Yenny is one of the 20.000 PDVSA employees sacked by Chavez. "I still have many friends there but I am not prepared to trade my dignity. Now the management forces them to wear red t-shirts every Friday and when there's a political event in the area they have to stop working to attend it. After having devoted nearly all my working life to PDVSA I can't even go visit for we aren't allowed in."
My impression is that both chavistas and opponents of Chavez have realized that the man has got his priorities completely messed up. He now pretends to sell a benign image of a man deeply preoccupied with this country's problems. However no one seems fooled by it, for after 8 years his administration has, apart from the misiones, very little to show for in spite of having received the largest ever stream of oil income. One has to see the poverty and life conditions of people to realise how unfeasible the project of imposing a Castroite regime is in Venezuela. Any person one asks wants an opportunity to get out poverty and the thinking seems to be that with Chavez there are limited chances at that. Rosales on the other hand keeps returning to his catalogue of successes as Mayor of Maracaibo and Governor of Zulia and reminds people that accountable and responsible civil servants do exist. His message of course is a welcomed novelty in a country where the president is convinced that he owns the farm and behaves as such. In one meeting Rosales was mocking Chavez stating "the other guy says he is a democrat, a democrat who has pledged to remain in power for 30 years, just like his idol. Some democrat eh? He's nothing but a puppet of Castro, he doesn't care for Venezuela and its citizens as you all have seen." These remarks strike a cord with audiences whether in Santa Cruz de Mora or El Tigre.
Growing crowds keep showing up at Rosales' rallies. A chavista, revealing how the regime operates, said to me the other day "they are bringing people from other places" to which I asked "do you think possible to bus thousands of people around the country so that they can show up in 5 or 6 different places in one day?" I guess I'm already getting used to the rational and straighforward thinking manner of chavistas...

Chavez vs. Rosales: the Dukakis syndrome?

**Written by Daniel Duquenal

04.10.06 I lived in the Boston area during the Bush versus Dukakis campaign. At the time I was rather hopeful of a Dukakis victory. He had been a good governor. He did manage to win very difficult primaries. Bush senior had chosen Dan Quayle as his V.P. The weather that September was beautiful.
Then Dukakis decided to play governor even though he was running for the presidency. And he played lousily at it. In a daring move Bush flew to Boston, embarked on a ship and toured Boston Harbor to complain about how polluted it was, how lousy had Dukakis been dealing with Federal resources to start working on the pollution of the harbor. (1)
Next day I was having a heated discussion with some of my Liberal colleagues arguing that Dukakis should have flown/driven back from Western Massachusetts to wait on the pier for Bush ship and force a debate right then and there. But no, Dukakis stuck to his governor tour and dismissed Bush. My friends agreed. Dukakis never recovered.
I was reminded of that today as Rosales in a daring move went to La Paragua, scene of military crime a few days ago (read a summary at Miguel's here and here; and read today’s report in English and also here and here).
Apparently since the crimes were perpetrated by some soldiers (murkiness is still around) no one from the high spheres has shown up to try to bring solace or even help. Not the ministers in charge (Baduel and Farias-2-) nor the Ombudsman (he only shows up to defend chavistas) and even less the general prosecutor (still searching for Anderson's assassination clues) and no point even in imagining Chavez there, who should have been the first one to land and investigate. But the glorious bolibanana revolution cannot be distracted by assassinated poor miners at home when it is saving Hezbolla from the Devil.
Thus Rosales went and Globovision showed the footage of a Rosales, on foot, no body guards, interacting with the small crowd of perhaps 200 people, but a small crowd that includes most of the people of the given village, and mostly a very symbolic crowd on how the little people are eventually abandoned by Caracas, by the egotistical revolution, by all, even after they have been promised all sorts of things to stop mining.
This was an inspired move by Rosales and the fact that at 8 PM there is still no reply from chavismo shows how unexpected, and unsettling, was that move. Is chavismo suffering of the Dukakis syndrome? That the election is won in advance and that there is no need to reply to accusations? I hope so!
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1) Not a great link but Internet was not as richly served these days.... I still remember vividly the Boston Globe picture of Bush in the Middle of the Harbour trashing Dukakis.
2) Jacqueline Farias has revealed herself to be quite an insensitive person over the years. She was the not too bad Public water system administrator (though not as good as the precedent one but since chavista public workers are so lousy, when one sorts of manages to hold the job soon enough people think of them wonders!). but in that job she admitted applying the Tascon list and since she ahs been promoted to the ministry of Natural resources she has been seen more often at political rallies than, say, examining the mining situation in Bolivar state.

Venezuela Prohibido Olvidar

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Manuel Rosales announces Arturo Uslar Pietri education programme

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 02.10.06 As I write these notes opposition candidate Manuel Rosales is giving a press conference, which has started with an announcement regarding education. Immediate attention will be dispensed to primary schools at a national level. Starting February 2007 all schools will receive from the central government books and all necessary materials needed, so that poor families won't have to fork out these costs. He speaks about 72% of families being in no position to feed their kids properly, which runs counter to attendance. For that reason he will implement a school lunch programme so that pupils will at least be fed while at school. Rosales argues that there are thousands of students that weren't able to access higher education due to rising cost. In Zulia up to 45.000 students have enrolled in programmes that the governorship has broke with private universities.
The programmes will be implemented at a national level in an attempt to replicate successful examples of Zulia. Questions are being asked about the budget that will be alocated to kickstart the programme to which Rosales replied that his government will fund and alocate whatever funds are needed.
Rosales critizised Hugo Chavez by reminding journalists that Chavez has said repeatedly that he plans to stay in power until the cows come home a la Fidel. He says that Venezuelans have a simple choice to make really; either communism or democracy
There's apprehension about security in the coming rally in Caracas this weekend. Rosales is mocking Chavez by saying that the current administration rather than getting on with the job of safeguarding the integrity and wellbeing of Venezuelans its leader keeps announcing unsubstantiated assassination plots.
The representative from Radio Nacional de España asked what does Rosales think about two ETA terrorists that work for the Chavez government. Further he said that Venezuela should not have terrorists in the public administration and these two individuals ought to be immediately dismissed and handed over to concerned authorities.
The massacre of La Paragua, where at least 6 miners were assassinated by the military, is also being touched upon. Rosales says that the armed forces have to be devolved to its institutional role which is to protect the country's sovereignty.
The issue of CITGO was also mentioned. No surprise there in Rosales' opinion for a government that does not respect contracts and private property can not pretend to be taken seriously by national and foreign investors.
The opposition candidate talked about the necessity of voting massively. He repeated that he has won in Zulia with the very same machines that the rest of the country are so afraid of. For that reason he invited all Venezuelans to participate without fear.
The journalist from the official channel Venezolana de Television is asking about security and education issues. He considers ambitious the 12 point security plan and wants to know how will he finance and implement such a plan. He is also asking about Henry Lopez Sisco, who acts as chief of security of the governorship of Zulia. Rosales replied quoting crime figures. Violence has been tackled effectively in that state, to the point of being the 23rd state in criminality percentages according to demographics. In terms of violent crimes Zulia ranks 6th nationally. "We have been successful with only one police force, but we can't fight the Colombian guerrilla, the drug trade and the kidnappings in the frontier. That's something the central government needs to tackle as state policy." Regarding Lopez Sisco Rosales is showing newspaper cuttings from 2002 of Lopez Sisco with high officials from the Chavez government, adding "how come 4 years ago he was good, and he was recommended by Chavez's crony Rodriguez Chacin, and now that he is with me he isn't good any longer?"
Jesus Hernandez from Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias asked about Rosales' take on neoliberalism and polls. Rosales says that he departs from neoliberalism "material things need to be related somewhat to the human aspect. A state needs to look after citizens and families. I believe in freedom and in democracy and I am totally opposed to totalitarian tendencies such as communism or the experiment that the incumbent wants to implements here with a one party state, one ideology, one voice of command." As to poll results Rosales said he is not worried by polls.
Rosales declined to comment on Lula's ticket or Brazil's elections. He said he respects the internal politics and sovereignty of other countries.
He affirmed his commitment to respect religious institutions that are involved in education. Citing conversations with Mother Francisca from school La Presentacion in Maracaibo Rosales expressed that successful examples are to be supported and promoted instead of being punished for ideological, religious or political reasons.

Venezuela's Presidential race heats up

**Written by Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 01.10.06 Well folks I'm back in Caracas after having visited Sabana de Mendoza, Arapuey, Caja Seca, Arenales, Tucani, El Vigia, Merida, Ejido, Lagunillas, Santa Cruz de Mora, Tovar, Bailadores, Zea, Valera (barrios Cantarana, Sin Techo, El Milagro), Isnotu (Jose Gregorio Hernandez's sanctuary) and San Felipe in Yaracuy state. As you can see there's a lot of travelling involved in a campaign. Few things shocked me in this trip. First is the pauperous state of most areas. Poverty in the barrios of Valera, for instance, is worse than in Caracas. One can see malnourished children with inflated bellies just as one would see in sub Saharan countries, it's a mind-boggling spectacle for, as we all know, Chavez would rather prop the political careers of Islamofundamentalists supporters such as Ken Livingstone than attend to the problems of the children of his own country.
The seed of hatred that Chavez has sown has infected some people. What I saw yesterday in barrio Cantarana in Valera was sheer hatred, Venezuelans pitted against each other because of politics. There's much anger, in both sides. But what has me pondering is why. I am yet to meet the poor chavista that can provide a coherent defense of the last 8 years of misadministration. There are some who still support Chavez but they have great difficulties explaining in what ways have their lives improved. Chavez's geniality lays in having made people feel empowered when in fact they are totally excluded from decision-making processes. Their opinions are worthless, of no interest whatsoever for Chavez, who keeps wanking with the dream of becoming the heir of Castro, Bolivar and Guevara, the great leader marked by destiny to become Latin America's Jesus Christ. Poor people represent nothing but cannon fodder for the revolution. The good thing is that only very few of them are prepared to lose their lives for some utopic goal that they don't even understand. In fact a clever chap told me the other day that Chavez is destroying the Cuban revolution, upon whose repressive apparatus he's basing his defence against democracy. The disintegration is of a cultural nature for Cubans sent over to Venezuela are free to spend, eat, read and do as they wish for the first time in their lives. They go back and tell stories, which are spreaded by word of mouth, each time adding new details product of people's imagination. Hence that many Cubans want to come here and will probably turn their backs on Chavez cum crunch time, as the military will do.
Poverty, misery and ignorance are Chavez's great allies. The policy of lying continues unabated though. Yesterday I saw a huge billboard that read "now all Venezuelans know how to write their names." What a load of bullshit. I can go and fill a stadium here in Caracas with slum dwellers that don't know how to read and write, let alone in the provinces. Chavez said yesterday or the day before that in 2007 his government will build some 120.000 houses, something he has not been able to do in 8 years. He said he was busy -for 8 years- laying the foundations of the XXI century socialism. The positive thing is that, contrary to what the Livingstones of this world have to say, poor Venezuelans are simply fed up, they can't stand Chavez any longer, his international credibility is near zero however his constituency -i.e. people that have suffered the consequences of his galloping magalomania- are in a state of total revulsion towards him. He knows it, his underlings and the military know it too. Proof of this is that Chavez doesn't walk among the people any longer. The dispossesed have realised that they are an accessory to be used and disposed off as Castro's poodle sees fit. Playing leftist icon, wasting the country's resources and travelling at our expense in spanking new jets is always more fashionable and cool than having to face dehumanizing conditions in poverty ridden Venezuela.
I have gathered that there are two marked realities in this country: namely the Caracas reality and the interior-of-the-country reality. In Caracas there's fear: fear to lose the handouts, the job, access to MERCAL, fear of governmental repression, fear of retaliation which translates into submission. But there's also hope, hope for change and for the prospects that a change of government could bring.
Outside Caracas there's much restlessness and lots of contained anger. Chavez choose to spend the bulk of the money of his misiones in the Metropolitan area, however very little trickled down beyond those limits. The regime forgot that there's a country out there that has needs and that, believe you me, has got them lot in a state of anger for they know that the caudillo has been pilferring our monies in his international adventures.
Rosales is doing one hell of a job. For the first time in years we see a politico that doesn't allow Chavez to set the agenda and takes his message to Chavez's purported territory. He will have a crucial role to play as a peace-maker and he should be well adviced in adopting Ghandian attitudes if he is to reconcile Venezuelans. One thing is certain though, the situation here will get nasty before the people impose its will over deceitful authoritarianism. Chavez won't go quiet, he's got much to lose and to be accountable for, but Venezuela is well prep and ready for the challenge.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Manuel Rosales: "Chavez admits we are tied"

London 14.09.06 | Opposition candidate Manuel Rosales declared satisfaction by Chavez's alleged admission that they were tied according to private polls conducted by the government. Rosales based his statement on information leaked from Chavez's campaign team "Comando Miranda."

Rosales commended the positive development by saying "at last the Venezuelan president is accepting reality and admitting before his team that we are tied. He deserves a congratulation" added Rosales, who included in his press release "all the polls analysed by us show deep discontentment towards the Chavez administration performance."

The opposition candidate declared that Chavez is right when he demands an extraordinary effort from his campaign team for the race is far from decided. On the contrary "I have no doubts that they must prepare for we will beat them" concluded Rosales.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hugo Chávez, Wake up and smell yourself, you reek of fear and failure!

Every once in a while we are offered the opportunity to see the clear contrast between the leading candidates for the presidency; one such situation arose today and I have been itching to get to my computer and share a few thoughts with my readers.

As you may know Hugo Chávez and Manuel Rosales were busy campaigning today, while the president chose Avenida Bolívar in Caracas as the venue for his campaign team swearing-in ceremony, Manuel Rosales’ campaign tour took him to south-western Táchira state where he addressed a massive crowd assembled to hear what he had to say (see picture in the upper left corner of this post), my post today will attempt to summarize what each candidate said. I believe their speeches were so transparent that any analysis on my part would only serve to state the obvious.

I took the liberty of paraphrasing excerpts from the candidates' speeches; notice the lack of quotation marks!

Manuel Rosales:

a) Terrorism & Crime

My government will be an enemy of terrorism; we respect life and will design and implement policies to counter crime, a government that does not guarantee the right to live is absolutely worthless.

Hugo Chávez gave away US$100 million to Bolivia so they can build military bases within their territory; in the meantime our police departments, National Guard and Army are not being taken care of, they lack adequate infrastructure, earn low salaries and operate with poorly designed logistics and worse equipment.

This regime is preparing for a war, which war? I wonder. We don’t want a war; they are spending our money on planes, machine guns and tanks, in the meantime no one has heard our president talk about the only war I would fight, the war on poverty, hunger and drugs.

Neither a single oil barrel nor a single dollar more will be given away to foreign nations once I am elected president!

b) Defense of the national industry (or what’s left of it)

They are importing subsidized beans, coffee, meat, milk, rice and sugar from foreign countries to gain their sympathy in detriment of our domestic farmers; this move has driven down the prices and has bankrupted our agricultural entrepreneurs. I will subsidize our own farmers and will not give away any more money to foreign nations.

My government will implement whatever subsidies are necessary to keep prices low because our farmers have the right to live well, work their farms and raise their cattle, to produce for Venezuela!

c) Fascism will be a thing of the past and the armed forces will be apolitical

We are not going to hold grudges against anyone; my government will be free of hatred, the current wave of persecution against people, including the military, for the crime of political dissension will be stopped.

The military will recover its dignifying institutional role and will defend our national sovereignty as it should have always been the case, they will once again be the paradigm of dignity and Venezolanism.

d) Debunking the myth of chavismo’s social programs and redefining social assistance

They speak of social programs that have always existed: PROAL has been renamed as MERCAL, the milk distribution program for children and pregnant women and food stamps are now misiones, these programs will be kept and improved upon.

We will further some key productive sectors within the economy that generate jobs and attract investments; this will empower families to raise their standard of living.

I am going to distribute one-fifth of our oil wealth among the population as unemployment insurance and other direct subsidies, we are going to dress and feed our people to get them back on their feet so they can get a job.

One of the dinosaurs within the chavista regime (Vice-president José Vicente Rangel) said that my social programs and wealth distribution schema through a debit card was populist, I guess it is OK to give this money away to foreign nations but it is wrong to invest the same money among the Venezuelan people.

e) Housing deficit

I will engage in a massive construction effort that will be implemented with the help of the domestic and foreign private sectors, I will open the doors to the foreign capitals so they invest in Venezuela, generate jobs and improve our productivity, at the same time all guarantees will be given to protect private property and offer judicial fairness.

Hugo Chávez:

a) Threats

If the oppositionist forces withdrew from the elections, cowardly saying that I am a tyrant and this is an illegitimate regime, I can’t be held responsible for what I will do.

You will regret it for as long as you live, I swear, you will regret it and so will your imperial overlords.

I am devoting my time to plan a counter-attack that will annihilate the oppositionist movement, I won’t have mercy.

You may take it as a warning, that permissive Hugo Chávez you have dealt with before is long gone.

b) A one-party revolution

All we need to complete our regeneration is unity, I insist comrades: we must seize this opportunity to further the idea of unity among our political parties, their electoral apparatuses and their militants.

I have always harbored the idea that we should walk toward a one-party structure within the frame of the Bolivarian revolution, the only party of all Venezuelans that will prevent the dispersion of forces.

c) Our true contender: The United States of America

We are not facing them (the oppositionist forces), don’t you forget it; this battle is against the North American empire, that’s out true contender.

I won’t allow that Venezuela becomes a North American colony once again, Venezuela freed herself. As it was written in our national anthem, we have broken the chains that made us a prisoner of the North American empire. Venezuela is and will always be free.