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Venezuela Superthread- Merged

Why Washington Hates Hugo Chavez

In late November, Venezuela was hammered by torrential rains and flooding that left 35 people dead and roughly 130,000 homeless. If George Bush had been president, instead of Hugo Chavez, the displaced people would have been shunted off at gunpoint to makeshift prison camps--like the Superdome--as they were following Hurricane Katrina. But that's not the way Chavez works. The Venezuelan president quickly passed "enabling" laws which gave him special powers to provide emergency aid and housing to flood victims. Chavez then cleared out the presidential palace and turned it into living quarters for 60 people, which is the equivalent of turning the White House into a homeless shelter. The disaster victims are now being fed and taken care of by the state until they can get back on their feet and return to work.

The details of Chavez's efforts have been largely omitted in the US media where he is regularly demonized as a "leftist strongman" or a dictator. The media refuses to acknowledge that Chavez has narrowed the income gap, eliminated illiteracy, provided health care for all Venezuelans, reduced inequality, and raised living standards across he board. While Bush and Obama were expanding their foreign wars and pushing through tax cuts for the rich, Chavez was busy improving the lives of the poor and needy while fending off the latest wave of US aggression.

Washington despises Chavez because he is unwilling to hand over Venezuela's vast resources to corporate elites and bankers. That's why the Bush administration tried to depose Chavez in a failed coup attempt in 2002, and that's why the smooth-talking Obama continues to launch covert attacks on Chavez today. Washington wants regime change so it can install a puppet who will hand over Venezuela's reserves to big oil while making life hell for working people.

Recently released documents from Wikileaks show that the Obama administration has stepped up its meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs. Here's an excerpt from a recent post by attorney and author, Eva Golinger:

"In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the US Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other US embassies in the region, Kelly proposed "six main areas of action for the US government (USG) to limit Chavez's influence" and "reassert US leadership in the region".

Kelly, who played a primary role as "mediator" during last year's coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an "enemy" in his report.

"Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends...To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries". Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a "formidable foe", but, he adds, "he certainly can be taken". (Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela, Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution)

The State Department cables show that Washington has been funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pretend to be working for civil liberties, human rights or democracy promotion. These groups hide behind a facade of legitimacy, but their real purpose is to topple the democratically elected Chavez government. Obama supports this type of subversion just as enthusiastically as did Bush. The only difference is the Obama team is more discreet. Here's another clip from Golinger with some of the details on the money-trail:

"In Venezuela, the US has been supporting anti-Chavez groups for over 8 years, including those that executed the coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. Since then, the funding has increased substantially. A May 2010 report evaluating foreign assistance to political groups in Venezuela, commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy, revealed that more than $40 million USD annually is channeled to anti-Chavez groups, the majority from US agencies....

Venezuela stands out as the Latin American nation where NED has most invested funding in opposition groups during 2009, with $1,818,473 USD, more than double from the year before....Allen Weinstein, one of NED’s original founders, revealed once to the Washington Post, “What we do today was done clandestinely 25 years ago by the CIA…” (America's Covert "Civil Society Operations": US Interference in Venezuela Keeps Growing", Eva Golinger, Global Research)

On Monday, the Obama administration revoked the visa of Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington in retaliation for Chávez’s rejection of nominee Larry Palmer as American ambassador in Caracas. Palmer has been openly critical of Chavez saying there were clear ties between members of the Chavez administration and leftist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia. It's a roundabout way of accusing Chavez of terrorism. Even worse, Palmer's background and personal history suggest that his appointment might pose a threat to Venezuela's national security. Consider the comments of James Suggett of Venezuelanalysis on Axis of Logic:

"Take a look at Palmer's history, working with the U.S.-backed oligarchs in the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone, South Korea, Honduras, "promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)." Just as the U.S. ruling class appointed an African-American, Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush with everything else intact, Obama in turn, appoints Palmer to replace Patrick Duddy who was involved in the attempted coup against President Chávez in 2002 and an enemy of Venezuelans throughout his term as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela." (http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/printer_60511.shtml)

Venezuela is already crawling with US spies and saboteurs. They don't need any help from agents working inside the embassy. Chavez did the right thing by giving Palmer the thumbs down.

The Palmer nomination is just "more of the same"; more interference, more subversion, more trouble-making. The State Dept was largely responsible for all of the so-called color-coded revolutions in Ukraine, Lebanon, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan etc; all of which were cookie cutter, made-for-TV events that pitted the interests of wealthy capitalists against those of the elected government. Now Hillary's throng want to try the same strategy in Venezuela. It's up to Chavez to stop them, which is why he's pushed through laws that "regulate, control or prohibit foreign funding for political activities". It's the only way he can defend against US meddling and protect Venezuelan sovereignty.

Chavez is also using his new powers to reform the financial sector. Here's an excerpt from an article titled "Venezuelan National Assembly Passes Law Making Banking a “Public Service”:

"Venezuela's National Assembly on Friday approved new legislation that defines banking as an industry “of public service,” requiring banks in Venezuela to contribute more to social programs, housing construction efforts, and other social needs while making government intervention easier when banks fail to comply with national priorities."...

The new law protects bank customers’ assets in the event of irregularities on the part of owners... and stipulates that the Superintendent of Banking Institutions take into account the best interest of bank customers – and not only stockholders... when making any decisions that affect a bank’s operations."

So why isn't Obama doing the same thing? Is he too afraid of real change or is he just Wall Street's lackey? Here's more from the same article:

"In an attempt to control speculation, the law limits the amount of credit that can be made available to individuals or private entities by making 20% the maximum amount of capital a bank can have out as credit. The law also limits the formation of financial groups and prohibits banks from having an interest in brokerage firms and insurance companies.

The law also stipulates that 5% of pre-tax profits of all banks be dedicated solely to projects elaborated by communal councils. 10% of a bank´s capital must also be put into a fund to pay for wages and pensions in case of bankruptcy.

According to 2009 figures provided by Softline Consultores, 5% of pre-tax profits in Venezuela's banking industry last year would have meant an additional 314 million bolivars, or $73.1 million dollars, for social programs to attend the needs of Venezuela’s poor majority." http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/5880

"Control speculation"? Now there's a novel idea. Naturally, opposition leaders are calling the new laws "an attack on economic liberty", but that's pure baloney. Chavez is merely protecting the public from the predatory practices of bloodthirsty bankers. Most Americans wish that Obama would do the same thing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Chávez has threatened to expropriate large banks in the past if they don't increase loans to small-business owners and prospective home buyers, this time he is increasing the pressure publicly to show his concern for the lack of sufficient housing for Venezuela's 28 million people."

Caracas suffers from a massive housing shortage that's gotten much worse because of the flooding. Tens of thousands of people need shelter now, which is why Chavez is putting pressure on the banks to lend a hand. Of course, the banks don't want to help so they've slipped into crybaby mode. But Chavez has shrugged off their whining and put them "on notice". In fact, on Tuesday, he issued this terse warning:

"Any bank that slips up…I'm going to expropriate it, whether it's Banco Provincial, or Banesco or Banco Nacional de Crédito."

Bravo, Hugo. In Chavez's Venezuela the basic needs of ordinary working people take precedent over the profiteering of cutthroat banksters. Is it any wonder why Washington hates him?


We need more leaders like this.
No, we don't need a leader like Chavez, although there is a lot of truth to the article.

Chavez set his priorities as allowing the people of Venezuela to benefit from their oil wealth.  He failed to understand why when the country is so resource rich the country was so poor.  To that end, he launched a number of what were called "Bolivarian Missions" to improve the lot of Venezuela's population.  Many have been extremely successful - sending out teams of educators to eradicate illiteracy for example, setting up medical clinics (largely staffed by Cuban doctors who are traded by that country for Venezuelan oil).  Some have been largely failures, and some (like Mission Miranda, to basically created a well-armed militia) have been rather ludicrous and more a reflection of his paranoia it seems.

He seems to enjoy a lot of popular support, though not enough to get him the results in referenda allowing him to sidestep parliamentary authority, probably a good thing.

Interesting that article also refers to the coup in Honduras that got little attention the media in Canada, where the US essentially supported something that is to any read of the Honduran constitution, illegal.
Setting the Record Straight on Venezuela and Hugo Chavez

by Eva Golinger

Global Research, January 9, 2011

With so much misinformation circulating in different media outlets around the world about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez, it's time to set the record straight. Venezuela is not a dictatorship and President Chavez is no dictator. Just last evening the Venezuelan head of state participated in a meeting with a group of housing activists, who not only criticized - live on television - government policies and inaction on tenant and housing issues, but also proposed laws, regulations and projects that were received with open arms by Chavez himself. And last week, the Venezuelan President vetoed a law on higher education that had been approved by the prior year's majority pro-Chavez legislature, calling for more "open and wide" debate on the subject, to include critics and those who had protested the bill. That is not the behavior of a brutal dictator.

As someone who has been living on and off in Venezuela for over 17 years, I can testify to the extraordinary transformation the country has undertaken during the past decade since Chavez first was elected in 1998. He has been reelected by landslide majorities twice since then.

When I arrived to Venezuela for the first time in 1993, the country was in severe turmoil. Constitutional rights had been suspended and a nationwide curfew was imposed. Repression was widespread, the economy was in crisis, several newspapers, television and radio stations had been shut down or censored, and the government had imposed a forced military draft targeting young men from poor communities. There was an interim president in power, because the actual president, Carlos Andres Perez - hailed by Washington as an "outstanding democrat" - had just been impeached and imprisoned for corruption. Perez eventually escaped confinement and fled to Miami, where he resided until his death last month, living off the millions he stole from the Venezuelan people.

Even though a new president was elected in 1994, constitutional rights remained suspended on and off for years, until the elections in 1998 that brought Chavez to power. Since then, despite a short-lived coup d'etat in 2002, an economically-shattering sabotage of the oil industry in 2003 and multiple attempts against his government during the following years, President Chavez has never once limited constitutional rights nor imposed a curfew on the population. He hasn't ever ordered a state of emergency that would limit rights or shut down any media outlets. He even issued a general pardon in 2007 giving amnesty to all those involved in the 2002 coup, with the exception of individuals directly responsible for crimes against humanity or homicide.

Under the Chavez administration, poverty has been reduced in half, universal, quality free healthcare and education have been guaranteed for all Venezuelans, new industries have been created and more and more political power has been placed in the hands of "ordinary" people who were previously excluded by the elite that ruled the country throughout the twentieth century.

So why do so many newspapers and broadcast media classify him as a dictator?

You may not like Hugo Chavez's way of speaking, or the fact that he was born into poverty, comes from the military, is a leftist and doesn't fit the stereotypical image of a head of state. But that doesn't make him a dictator.

In Venezuela, more than 80% of television, radio and print media remain in the hands of private interests critical of the government. So, despite what some international press claim, there is no censorship or violation of free expression in Venezuela. Calls to overthrow the government or to incite the armed forces to rebel against the state, which would clearly be prohibited in most nations, are broadcast on opposition-controlled television channels with public concessions (open signals, not cable). Just last month, the head of the Venezuelan chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, gave a press conference broadcast live on television and radio stations, during which he called the armed forces "traitors" who would "pay the price" if they didn't disobey government orders and "obey" the dictates of business operators.

I can only imagine if a business leader in the United States were to go on television and call the US Army "traitors" if they didn't disobey the federal government. Secret Service would arrest the man immediately and the consequences would be severe. But something like that would never happen in the US, since no television station would ever broadcast anything that constituted a call to rebellion or disobedience against the government. That's illegal.

So, not only is there no censorship in Venezuela, there is an excess of "free" expression. One positive aspect of the permissive attitude assumed by the Chavez government with regards to media has been the proliferation of community and alternative media outlets throughout the nation, which have provided space and voice to those ignored by mainstream corporate media. During governments prior to the Chavez administration, community and alternative media were banned.

Recently, the Venezuelan legislature passed a law called the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Digital Media. The law does not censor internet or any other form of media. What it does do is disallow calls to assassinate the president or other individual, as well as prohibit incitement to crime, hate or violence on web sites operated from Venezuela. This is a standard in most democracies and is a sign of civility. The law also instills on media a responsibility to contribute to the education of citizens. Media have a huge power over society today. Why shouldn't they be responsible for their actions?

Another issue widely manipulated in mass media is the Enabling Act that was approved last month by the Venezuelan parliament. This law gives "decree" powers to the Executive to legislate on specific issues as stipulated in the bill. The Enabling Act does not usurp, inhibit or limit legislative functions of the National Assembly, nor is it unconstitutional or anti-democratic. The parliament can still debate and approve laws as usual within its authority. The Enabling law, which is permitted by the Constitution, was requested by President Chavez in order to provide rapid responses to a national emergency caused by torrential rainfall that devasted communities nationwide at the end of last year and left over 130,000 homeless. The law will not affect any constitutional rights nor impose a "dictatorship" on the country, it is merely a valid, legitimate response to an emergency situation that needs quick solutions.

And speaking of the Venezuelan legislature, there is a lot of deceitful information repeated and recycled in media worldwide about the composition of this year's new parliament. Venezuela had legislative elections in September 2010, and opposition - anti-Chavez - parties won 40% of the seats. Some say this is a majority, which is very strange. The pro-Chavez PSUV party won 60% of seats in the National Assembly, as the Venezuelan legislative body is called. That's 97 out of 165 seats, plus 1 more which was won by the pro-Chavez PCV party, for a total of 98.

On the other hand, the opposition bloc won 65 seats represented by 13 different political parties that don't necessarily agree on most issues. Two other seats were won by a third, independent party, PPT.  So, the PSUV party won 97 seats in parliament and the next party in line is Accion Democratica (AD) with 22 seats. Who has the majority?

In 2005, the opposition parties boycotted the electoral process, and lost the near 50% they had in parliament from the year 2000. Now, their bloc has been reduced to 40%, yet they claim to have "grown" in numbers. This perspective has been reiterated in mainstream media, despite its erroneous and manipulative nature.

The opposition bloc has already announced it will seek foreign intervention to help overthrow the government. Not only is this illegal, it's incredibly dangerous. Many of the candidates and most of the parties that conform the opposition in Venezuela have already been receiving millions of dollars annually in funding from several US and international agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), both financed with US taxpayer monies. The stated purpose of this funding has been to "promote democracy" in Venezuela and help build the opposition forces against Chavez. This is a clear violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and a waste of US taxpayer dollars. US citizens: Is this the way you want your hard-earned money to be spent?

This week, opposition leaders will meet with their counterparts in Washington. They have already said their mission is to seek more aid to help remove President Chavez from power. Unfortunately, their undemocratic actions have already been welcomed in the US Capitol. Representative Connie Mack (R-FL), now head of the House Sub-Committte on Foreign Relations for the Western Hemisphere, announced on the first day of Congress that his one goal this year is to place Venezuela on the list of "state sponors of terrorism". And Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), now head of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has backed that objective, even going as far as to publicly state she would welcome the "assassination of Fidel Castro or any other repressive leader" such as Hugo Chavez.

On January 1, President Chavez held a brief, informal and amicable encounter with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Brasilia, during the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's new president. No agreements were reached, but the exchange of hands and smiles stabilized an escalation in tensions between both nations, which had produced a diplomatic crisis at the end of last year. But upon her return to Washington, Clinton was severely criticized by media, particularly The Washington Post, which accused her of being too "soft" on Venezuela.

The Washington Post's calls for war against Venezuela are dangerous. Remember, conditioning of public opinion is necessary to justify aggression against another nation. The campaigns of demonization against Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Islam were essential to initiate the wars in the Middle East which have yet to cease. Is the public willing to be influenced by media that have a political (and economic) agenda that seeks to oust a democratically-elected and popularly supported government just because they don't like its policies?

With the recent tragic events in Arizona it should become even more evident that media have power and influence over individual actions. Hate speech, demonization campaigns, manipulative and deceitful information are dangerous and can lead to abominable consequences, including war.

It's time to stop the escalating aggression against Venezuela and accept the facts: Venezuela is not a dictatorship, and while many of you may not like Hugo Chavez, a majority of Venezuelans who voted for him do. And in this scenario, they're the ones who matter.

The new Axis of Evil?


Chavez Caught Red-Handed Sending Gasoline to Iran

Posted By Josh Shahryar On February 22, 2011 @ 4:34 pm In Latin America,Politics,US News,World News | 25 Comments

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has again frustrated the world’s attempt to derail Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Evidence now clearly shows that he’s been sending gasoline to Iran in defiance of U.S. sanctions that sought to deprive the regime of that commodity and bring them back to the negotiation table.

On July 1, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA). The act was a consequence of Iran’s continued defiance in the face of international pressure to halt its uranium enrichment activities and return to the negotiating table over its controversial nuclear program. One of the key components of CISADA was to penalize companies who export gasoline or provide Iran with capabilities to aid gasoline production.

Even though Iran is the world’s second largest oil producer, it currently does not have the capability to satisfy almost 40% [1] of its internal gasoline demands and is, thus, dependent on imports to satisfy those needs. The passage of the CISADA was hailed as a powerful measure to exert pressure on Iran. As a matter of fact, immediately after its passage, there were signs that it had indeed created significant problems [2] for the government of Iran and that its continued implementation would have very desirable effects.

Alas, after months of denial, we’ve now learned that one company has defied the act and has been secretly selling gasoline to Iran. That company is none other than Venezuelan government-owned petro-giant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). Documents obtained by credible sources close to the matter clearly show that as recently as last December, Venezuela was sending reformate to Iran’s government. Reformate is used in the production of very high-grade gasoline.

Document 1 [3]

Document 2 [4]

Document 3 [5]

Telltale signs had been around for months, but more credible reports of the deals emerged just this week about Tehran getting help from Caracas. On Wednesday, it was reported that the U.S. State Department is investigating information that Venezuela violated the sanctions that were intended to deter foreign companies from helping Iran quench its thirst for gasoline.

Radio Free Europe ran a report [6] quoting Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, who told a congressional panel that “we are looking at that issue” and “trying to determine if in fact there is a violation.” The RFE piece spoke of documents that showed PDVSA sending two shipments of gasoline to Iran within the last few months. Those documents are linked above.

The documents clearly show that Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s government-owned petroleum company, sold at least 600,000 barrels of reformate in two shipments of 300,000 barrels each to the National Iranian Oil Company — Iran’s government-owned petroleum company — that were later shipped out of Venezuela in late December 2010.

These documents clearly debunk the lies the Venezuelan government has been telling the world about how Iran has become self-sufficient and is producing its own gasoline.

Venezuela’s top oil officials have been saying repeatedly after CISADA was passed that the country is not selling gasoline to Iran. As the ships were making their way to Iran, the country’s oil minister, Rafael Ramirez, brazenly denied that its government is involved in helping Iran overcome its gasoline deficiency. In a press conference in January, Mr. Ramirez said that the cuts in gasoline subsidies in Iran had brought down Iranian internal consumption of the product and that Iran had apparently “solved its problem [7].”

What he failed to mention was the role Hugo Chavez’s government was playing in solving that problem. And it hardly comes as a surprise.

Venezuela’s Chavez and Iran’s Khamenei are kindred spirits. Both have severely restricted freedom of speech and curbed political opposition in their countries. What’s surprising is the extent to which the American government has ignored the reports about Venezuela’s involvement in helping Iran break sanctions, which could result in endangering every country in the Middle East if Iran obtains nuclear weapons.

But now, in the face of this new evidence, is the U.S. government going to take tough measures against PDVSA, or is it going to simply skirt around the issue as it has for months when reports kept streaming in about Venezuela’s covert help to Iran?

Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com

URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/pjm-exclusive-chavez-caught-red-handed-sending-gasoline-to-iran/

URLs in this post:

[1] almost 40%: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9ba5fd12-e9b2-11de-9f1f-00144feab49a.html

[2] significant problems: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/20/AR2010072005958.html

[3] Document 1: http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2011/02/1-15.jpg

[4] Document 2: http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2011/02/1-32.jpg

[5] Document 3: http://pajamasmedia.com/files/2011/02/1-41.jpg

[6] a report: http://www.rferl.org/content/iran_venezuela_gas_sanctions/2310812.html

[7] solved its problem: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9L672Q00.htm
Thucydides said:
From the PJM article:

Venezuela’s Chavez and Iran’s Khamenei are kindred spirits. Both have severely restricted freedom of speech and curbed political opposition in their countries. What’s surprising is the extent to which the American government has ignored the reports about Venezuela’s involvement in helping Iran break sanctions, which could result in endangering every country in the Middle East if Iran obtains nuclear weapons.

I wait excitedly to hear how gasoline imports are going to lead to Iran having nuclear weapons.

Sanctions, generally speaking, do nothing to change the course of country's government.  Take a look at Cuba and the embargo against it.  Or North Korea.  In fact, I would even make the argument that sanctions and isolation strengthen autocratic leaders, because they can spin them as foreign aggression they "defend" their people from.

Thucydides said:
But now, in the face of this new evidence, is the U.S. government going to take tough measures against PDVSA, or is it going to simply skirt around the issue as it has for months when reports kept streaming in about Venezuela’s covert help to Iran?

The short answer to this rhetorical question is "no".  Venezuelan crude oil is significant feedstock for US refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, and account for almost 10% of US imports.  PdVSA also owns refineries with a capacity of about three quarters of a billion barrels per day in the USA and has stakes in more refinery capacity.  (Source: US Dept of Energy - http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/Venezuela/Oil.html)

One of most interesting things PdVSA does to thumb their nose at the US Government is giving away heating oil to low income households in some 23 states  They run ads I see all the time on Boston TV, in fact, they feature Joe Kennedy (who organized the non-profit to which the oil was donated for distribution), thanking CITGO, PdVSA, and the Republic of Venezuela for their generosity.

Venezuela now seems to be trying to diversify its export customers though, so as not to be so firmly tied to the US market.
A look at how Chaves nas been using vote fraud to manipulate elections since at least 2004. This makes future elections in Venezuela problematic:


The Road to Serfdom in Venezuela
By JR Nyquist09/24/2012
For the past thirteen years Venezuela has been moving away from a market economy towards a socialist economy under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. And now the future of Venezuelan socialism hangs in the balance. Or does it? A few days ago I spoke with Eric Ekvall, an American political consultant who has lived and worked in Venezuela since that country’s 1982 presidential election. Ekvall has helped with the election campaigns of such notables as Venezuela’s Jaime Ramón Lusinchi in 1983, Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias in 1985, and Brazil’s Lula da Silva in 1993. I asked Ekvall about the ongoing re-election bid of Venezuela’s ailing Hugo Chavez, especially as President Chavez has been in power for thirteen years and continues to build socialism there. Given the downgrading of the country’s economy, how could Chavez possibly expect to win yet another election?

The answer, according to Ekvall, is that Chavez cheats. “The first election we know he fixed was in 2004.” Ekvall explained. “One fifth of the population basically signed a petition to put a recall referendum on the ballot. This was delayed and delayed and the government used all kinds of mechanisms to push this back long enough for them to be able to purchase millions of dollars of electronic voting machines which had never been used in Venezuela before; we [in Venezuela] have always done paper balloting like most countries in the world…”

The significance of the electronic voting machines will be apparent to any who remember Stalin’s words from 1923: “I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this – who will count the votes, and how.” The quote comes from The Memoirs of the Former Secretary of Stalin, written by Boris Bazhanov after his defection in 1928. It is one of the earliest accounts of Soviet-style political methods, showing how power may be consolidated by a dictator. According to Ekvall, Chavez’s government was also “told by their Cuban advisors to rush in a series of major welfare programs: free education programs, free food programs, appealing to lower income people to boost their sagging popularity ratings.” And how well did this work?

According to Ekvall, “Come August of 2004 the recall referendum took place … and about 75 percent of the registered voters turned out to vote and there was euphoria in the streets … that [President Chavez’s] mandate was going to be revoked …. Veteran political pollsters from the U.S. showed that the recall referendum passed 59 to 41, but to everybody’s surprise the government official figures came out 59 to 41 – but as a loss, and this raised a hue and cry among opposition politicians who basically called ‘fraud’ on the election process.” Over the years social scientists have studied the Venezuelan election of 2004, showing that 22.5 percent of the ballots had been modified. Last year six studies appeared in Statistical Science, confirming the earlier studies. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that Chavez has falsified the results of every Venezuelan election since 2004.

And now, eight years later, Chavez’s popularity has continued to fall. To counter this, an increasing number of Venezuelans have been put on the dole – to no avail. As Stalin also said, “Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.” Unfortunately for Chavez, the Venezuelan people are not dogs. “According to reliable polls,” noted Ekvall, “opposition candidate Henrique Capriles is ahead; so we have a very tense situation in Venezuela right now.” Capriles is an attractive, likable candidate – a political “rock star,” according to Ekvall. “Chavez is literally on the ropes.” – So how does Chavez get away with stealing the election this time? Will straightforward electronic vote fraud do the trick?

“This time, this year the government has come up with … a ‘hide in plain sight’ approach to vote fraud,” said Ekvall. “The vote fraud … is right in the polling booth. When you go in and vote in the elections this time, you are going to be confronted by an array of technology the likes of which no voter anywhere in the world has ever seen. First of all, you are going to have to punch into an interactive biometric apparatus, and punch in your national I.D. number, and then put your thumb print over a scanner … and your name will pop up … and you will be told that you can move two feet to the right, where there’s an electronic voting machine, and you can cast your vote with a touch-screen machine.”

And how does this translate into fraud? Ekvall replied: “The not-very-subtle aspect of this system is that the biometric system is visibly hooked up by a cable to the voting machine, giving rise to legitimate concerns that your vote is not going to be secret.”

The significance of secret balloting in a welfare state may be understood from recent Venezuelan history, Ekvall underscored. “During the petition drive in 2004 the government got the names of all five million people who signed the petition. They were immediately placed on a black list. “And five million people found themselves … at a disadvantage when it came to welfare credits, jobs from the government, when it came to loans, student loans, anything. If you had signed the petition to recall the president you were automatically a second class citizen. Some people have called this Venezuela’s ‘Political Apartheid.’”

Here is a slick way of intimidating voters. According to Ekvall, “People have every reason to fear….” Here is a country where the welfare state is used as a carrot, but only for those who consistently support the government. If readers wish to understand what socialism signifies, and whether socialism is consistent with liberty, they should study the Venezuelan election process. Not only have the socialists ruined Venezuela’s economy, the socialists have corrupted the voting system and the voters themselves.

Will Venezuela free itself from socialism in next month’s elections? Nobody knows for sure, but Ekvall is worried. And for the rest of us, Venezuela is not the only country on the road to serfdom.
Well, it looks like the end is not only near, but will also be ironically caused by the very Socialist system Chavez so enthusiastically promoted and forced on his own people:


Hugo Chavez Hit By Cuba's Surgical Strike

Posted 07:15 PM ET

Americas: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is dying of cancer in Havana, in a live demonstration of Cuba's vaunted socialized medical care. He went there instead of Brazil because he wanted to make a political statement. What irony.

As party cronies hover at his bedside, Cuban officials bark orders to the government in Caracas, and red-shirted Chavistas hold vigils, all signs are pointing to an imminent exit for the Venezuelan leader who controls a huge part of the world's oil.

He's going out exactly as he wouldn't have liked — helpless and at the mercy of doctors, a far cry from the blaze of heroic socialist glory he might have preferred.

Most galling for him: It didn't have to happen this way.

His expected demise will be entirely due to his gullibility to leftist propaganda and bad choices that came of it.

"In July 2011, during (a)... summit in Caracas, Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff, told a few of her colleagues — in private — that Chavez was likely to die as a result of 'his excessive paranoia rather than as a consequence of his serious — yet treatable — cancer,'" wrote Venezuelan consultant Pedro Burelli in a newsletter.

"What she meant to say," Burelli added, "was that by choosing secrecy in Cuba over medical competence at the Sirio-Libanese Hospital in Sao Paulo (where she had been treated successfully for lymphatic cancer) Chavez had condemned himself to a shorter life."

Burelli noted that it corresponded to his own sources, who told him that Chavez's chosen successor, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, flew to Brasilia to meet with Rousseff and her oncologist.

He presented the diagnoses from Caracas and Havana and the Brazilian specialist "considered it treatable under world-class protocols available in his center."

Maduro signaled interest. But the Chavista regime then demanded to pretty much take over the 400-bed hospital, which the Brazilians rejected. "From that moment on the patient was doomed," Burelli wrote.

According to a 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal, Chavez chose Cuban medical care over the world-class treatment in Brazil for "political" reasons.

"While Mr. Chavez often lauds Cuban doctors, switching from Cuban to Brazilian care would have suggested the Cubans aren't capable of world class care."

And that's pretty much the nub of it, the incredible desire of Chavez, common to all the left, to defend the myth of Cuba's top-down health care system as superior to health care in free markets.

Praising CastroCare was a prominent feature of Michael Moore's 2008 phony "documentary," "Sicko," which provided a shot in the arm for efforts to set up a socialized health care system in the U.S. — including the costly monstrosity known as ObamaCare.

President Obama's campaign website continues to feature events that were held "to provide us with the motivation to continue the fight for health insurance reform."

As Chavez suffers through four surgeries in Cuba, it's instructive to note it was the Brazilian hospital — a teaching institution with top-of-the-line tomotherapy equipment, 2,000 doctors, and a record of success for beating cancer — that cured Rousseff as well as then-President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay. But it gets no recognition from the likes of Moore, who still promotes CastroCare on his Web site, while ignoring the private U.S. hospitals the Brazilians model themselves after.

Who knows, had he done so, Chavez might have lived.

Cuba by contrast, remains substandard, with average Cubans forced to bring their own bandages, water and sheets to hospitals that haven't seen repairs in years.

Recent reports say Cuba cut medical spending from $209 million in 2009 to $190 million last year — "bending the cost curve" by giving less care. Sound familiar?

For wealthy foreigners like Chavez, Cuban officials often misstate their abilities to cure, according to Cuban dissident and top neurosurgeon Dr. Hilda Molina, while left-wing sites such as MRZine praise CastroCare because it doesn't invest in fancy equipment.

As Chavez dies, Cuba itself may go down too if Venezuela's energy subsidies end. Cuba's regime, ironically, might be the last victim of its own foul health system.
Call me a bad person, but I'm finding enjoyment at his experience in his departure (the irony of it all) and of course his imminent departure.
And things go from bad to worse according to this report which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

Venezuela devalues its currency by nearly half

Caracas — The Associated Press

Published Friday, Feb. 08 2013

V enezuela’s government announced Friday that is devaluing the country’s currency, a change expected to push up prices in the heavily import-reliant economy.

Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the U.S. dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.

The devaluation had been widely expected by analysts in recent months, though experts had been unsure whether the government would act while President Hugo Chavez remained out of sight in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery.

It was the first devaluation to be announced by Mr. Chavez’s government since 2010.

Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said the new rate will take effect Wednesday, after a two-day banking holiday. He said the old rate will still be allowed for some transactions that already were approved by the state currency agency.

Venezuela’s government has had strict currency exchange controls since 2003 and maintains a fixed, government-set exchange rate. Under the controls, people and businesses must apply to a government currency agency to receive dollars at the official rate to import goods, pay for travel or cover other obligations.

While those controls have restricted the amounts of dollars available at the official rate, a black market has flourished and the value of the bolivar has recently been eroding. In black market street trading, dollars have recently been selling for more than four times the official exchange rate of 4.30 bolivars to the dollar.

The devaluation brought down the official value of the bolivar by 46.5 per cent against the dollar.

The announcement came after the country’s Central Bank said annual inflation rose to 22.2 per cent in January, up from 20.1 per cent at the end of 2012.

The oil-exporting country, a member of OPEC, has consistently had Latin America’s highest officially acknowledged inflation rates in recent years. Spiraling prices have come amid worsening shortages of some staple foods, such as cornmeal, chicken and sugar.

Mr. Giordani said the government had also decided to do away with a second-tier rate of 5.30 bolivars to the dollar, through a bond market administered by the Central Bank. That rate had been granted to some businesses that hadn’t been able to obtain dollars at the official rate.

Venezuela ought to be, nominally, a prosperous country. That it is not is the result of bad political management which is endemic in latin America.

Venezuela is rich in ore, gold, oil, food (Not to mention stunning woman) but corruption is a ever tightening noose around it's neck. It was bad there in 1994 when I went to stay at my brothers mining camp and traveled the country. It has steadily gone downhill from an already low standard.
Colin P said:
Is he dead yet? Sigh the guy is like a slow moving zombie.

All things come to those who wait . . . .

Hugo Chavez dead after battle with cancer
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez, the fiery populist who declared a socialist revolution in Venezuela, crusaded against U.S. influence and championed a leftist revival across Latin America, died Tuesday at age 58 after a nearly two-year bout with cancer.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, surrounded by other government officials, announced the death in a national television broadcast. He said Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time.

. . .
Some news outlets are reporting that the Vice-President is claiming that the Americans infected Chavez with cancer.
Old Sweat said:
Some news outlets are reporting that the Vice-President is claiming that the Americans infected Chavez with cancer.

Harper did it in concert with the devil Bush. Why not......he gets the blame for everything anyways!!!