Free Markets, Free People
Hugo Chavez and his socialist government have handled everything so well that they’ve decided to go green and show the world how it is done:
Turn out the lights, shorten the shower to three minutes, buy a portable generator.
That is President Hugo Chávez’s message to the citizens of energy-rich Venezuela, where the “socialist revolution” has brought power cuts, water shortages and collapsing public services.
Heh … Chavez actually did try to push the green theme in his radio address discussing showering and turning off the lights. But it was a facade designed to hide the fact that the infrastructure is collapsing. As you might imagine, that’s sparking more than a little unrest:
“We’re accused of wasting electricity, but the fact is the government didn’t plan, didn’t invest and didn’t carry out maintenance,” Aixa Lopez, president of the Committee of Blackout Victims, told the TV news channel Globovisión.
In fact, as with all marginal leaders, Chavez blames all of his problems on others:
In early 2007, after winning re-election, Chávez decreed the nationalization of those parts of the electricity industry still in private hands — notably the Caracas power company EDC. Since then, there have been seven national power outages. In most parts of the country, weary consumers have grown used to frequent, unscheduled blackouts lasting hours.
This month, the president admitted there was a crisis in both the power and water industries. This came on the heels of a similar admission regarding healthcare. He put the blame mainly on the El Niño phenomenon for producing drought — Venezuela is 70 percent dependent on hydro power for its electricity — and on consumers for their wasteful habits.
Much of his ire was aimed at shopping malls because, he said, they foment capitalist values. “They’re going to have to buy their own generators,” he threatened, “or I’ll cut off their electricity.”
Ordinary Venezuelans have been urged to use less water and turn off the lights. “Some people sing in the bath for half an hour,” Chávez told a recent cabinet session, broadcast live. “What kind of communism is that? Three minutes is more than enough!”
Formal water rationing has now been introduced, government departments have been told to reduce their electricity consumption by a fifth, and the president has created a new Electricity Ministry in a tacit admission that the state has failed to manage the power industry correctly.
In fact, both the Water and Electricity Ministry are in a shambles:
According to Víctor Poleo, who was deputy minister for electricity at the beginning of the Chávez era, despite huge sums of money allocated, little has actually been done.
“My guess is that of every $100 pumped into [electricity] generation and transmission since 2003, $75 has been stolen by the politicians,” Poleo said.
Venezuela is a oil rich state from which 90% of its foreign earning are garnered. Chavez called his socialist economy “bulletproof”. However, it is now deep in recession:
Worse still, its shrinking economy has done little to blunt inflation, which is running at close to 30 percent a year — around three times the regional average. And the economic downturn is having a predictable effect on the government’s popularity, just as it gears up to fight crucial legislative elections next year.
The latest data from polling company Datanálisis shows voters evenly split, for the first time since mid-2004, over whether the president has been good or bad for “national wellbeing.” Only 17.2 percent say they would vote for him if the presidential election were imminent — down from over 31 percent in September.
Of course, as the article points out, the opposition is “incoherent” and unable to provide unified opposition at this point. But those sorts of things have a way of rectifying themselves if the economic and infrastructure problems continue. Chavez may have figured out how to position himself to be president for life on paper, but remaining president for life with the problems Venezuela is now beginning to face (and may see compounding) may be tougher then he thought.
A lot is happening, not that you’d know it unless you’re paying attention.
The North Koreans are happily enriching uranium again, as are the Iranians. We’re in the middle of completely screwing over Honduras while ignoring what Venezuela is in the middle of doing.
And what is that you ask? Well the Washington Post fills us in:
But Mr. Chavez has clearly forged a bond with one leader who is as reckless and ambitious as he is: Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The growing fruits of this relationship, and its potential consequences for U.S. security, have not gotten as much attention as they deserve.
Mr. Chávez was in Tehran again this week and offered his full support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line faction. As usual, the caudillo made clear that he shares Iran’s view of Israel, which he called “a genocidal state.” He endorsed Iran’s nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran’s assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own. He also announced that his government would begin supplying Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day — a deal that could directly undercut a possible U.S. effort to curtail Iran’s gasoline imports.
Such collaboration is far from new for Venezuela and Iran. In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, who has been investigating the arrangements, says he believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions. He also points out that Iranian factories have been located “in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela” that lack infrastructure but that could be “ideal . . . for the illicit production of weapons.”
“The opening of Venezuela’s banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles,” Mr. Morgenthau said in a briefing this week in Washington at the Brookings Institution. “The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.”
Big deal. I mean, look at what Honduras has done.
Mr. Morgenthau’s report was brushed off by the State Department, which is deeply invested in the Chávez-is-no-threat theory. State “will look into” Mr. Morgenthau’s allegations, spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez is off to Moscow, where, according to the Russian press, he plans to increase the $4 billion he has already spent on weapons by another $500 million or so. Mr. Chávez recently promised to buy “several battalions” of Russian tanks. Not a threat? Give him time.
And, of course, as a little jab at the US, Chavez recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia and buying tanks in Russia.
North Korea, as mentioned, is back to building nuclear bombs. But don’t worry, all the signs are present that they’re willing, once again, to do a little bartering. They’ve announced they’re open to two-party talks with the US. That means, they’ll talk and the US will pay for them to quit making bombs. And they’ll agree until the next time they need a little cash.
But don’t worry – Honduras is going to pay the price for their constitutional misbehavior. And besides, our president gets to play “King of the World” in a couple of weeks might even have the chance to give Moammar Qaddafi a hug while he is at it.
Yup – it’s looking good out there.
As you recall when Honduras invoked its Constitution and kicked out its sitting president for violating it, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica stepped forward and volunteered to act as an intermediary to help settle the “crisis”.
It was, apparently, only a “crisis” to those outside Honduras and now we’re beginning to understand why. It seems Arias wasn’t at all the honest broker everyone thought he was. Cato@Liberty reports:
President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica has joined the trend in Latin America of calling for a new constitution that would expand executive powers and get rid of “unnecessary checks” on the president’s authority. Although Arias has less than 9 months left in office and can’t run for reelection, his brother and current minister of the presidency — a primer minister of sorts — has openly said he’s interested in running for president in 2014. A new constitution with expanded executive powers would fit him just fine.
But Arias is also apparently at war with the media which to this point is still free and able to oppose the changes for which Arias is calling. The Arias argument against the media sound very familiar:
However, the most disturbing aspect of Arias’ call was his harsh criticism of the media. Borrowing from the script of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Arias described news outlets as “corporations interested in making a profit” that don’t necessarily pursue the “public good.” He asked the media to “tone down” its criticism of government officials, and said that journalists “should understand their role within a higher framework.” He complained that news outlets claim to represent the public interest, without any control or accountability.
This is precisely the formula followed by the new leftist despots in Central and South America. Use the system to subvert the system and expand the executive’s power to a defacto dictatorship. The first step, of course, is to rewrite the country’s constitution to abet their grab for power. And, of course, along the way it is critical that they silence and then control the media.
This formula isn’t a hard one to discern, and the the result is obvious. Despotic governments imposing ruinous socialism while a muted press is powerless to do anything about it.
And where is the US is all of this? Busily engaged in undermining the one government, Honduras, which has actually stepped up to thwart the formula and enforce its constitution.
The US should be on the side of self-determination and the rule of law. Instead, we’ve ended up on the side of power-grabbing future despots and potential ruling cliques of nepotism. How did this happen, and why hasn’t the national media shined its light on Arias’ interests in this dispute? Could it be that it would make Obama look like a bumbling fool on the international stage — or worse?
Good questions with no easy answers. However, one has to wonder why the media hasn’t gotten into the details of what is happening in Honduras and why it is so heavily opposed by the players in the region, such as Chavez, Ortega and Correa. There’s an unacknowledged revolution going on which is neither good for the people of the region nor good for the US and we seem to be not only blind to the fact, but implicitly and perhaps unknowingly aiding it. And now we find Arias too is a player.
Honduras is the only country in the region saying “no” to the trend and they’re under increasingly heavy fire to give in. In fact reports now say the Obama administration is contemplating cutting off foreign aid to Honduras unless they reinstall Mel Zelaya in the presidency. The willing ignorance the US is displaying concerning the problem in Honduras cannot be seen as anything but pandering to the likes of Chavez, Correa and Castro. It certainly isn’t based in respect for a nation’s laws and their right to self-determination – and that certainly makes the Obama administration look foolish on the international stage.
OK, not precisely, but you could infer that from remarks made by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez:
“President Obama is lost in the Andromeda Nebula, he has lost his bearings, he doesn’t get it,” he said.
His remarks were apparently a reaction to something Obama said about the situation in Honduras as well as Latin America as a whole:
Last week Obama said critics of U.S. involvement in Latin America who are now asking Washington to do more to restore the ousted president of Honduras “can’t have it both ways.”
Saying you can’t ask for help on the one hand and then demand the US get out of Latin America on the other apparently makes you a space cadet lost in “the Andromeda Nebula”.
“We are not asking you to intervene in Honduras, Obama. On the contrary, we are asking that “the empire” get its hands off Honduras and get its claws out of Latin America,” Chavez said in a rambling weekly television and radio show.
Well so far so good on improving relations in Latin America. Of course, if you read the article, you’ll see that Reuters goes out of its way to make the case that this is all a side-show and in fact, Chavez thinks Obama is ok. I guess, like the reporting on the economy in which the media finds negative numbers that aren’t as negative as expected to be good news, this somehow qualifies as good news on the foreign relations front.
At least in Venezuela. Apparently the game of golf is the latest thing under assault in the socialist paradise Hugo Chavez is fashioning:
After a brief tirade against the sport by the president on national television last month, pro-Chávez officials have moved in recent weeks to shut down two of the country’s best-known golf courses, in Maracay, a city of military garrisons near here, and in the coastal city of Caraballeda.
“Let’s leave this clear,” Mr. Chávez said during a live broadcast of his Sunday television program. “Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.
Meanwhile, the rubber-stamp National Assembly passed a bill that will broaden the state’s control of what is taught in schools:
The bill would order schools to base curricula on what it calls “the Bolivarian Doctrine” — a vague reference to ideals espoused by 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar, such as national self-determination and Latin American unity.
Or, more simply said – socialism. Unsurprisingly, it has generated protests a colleges and universities – not that Chavez cares.
Meanwhile, as the economy continues to tank, Chavez is using the dictator’s normal first choice to divert attention from economic problems – claiming there is an external threat.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday raised tensions with Colombia over a U.S. troop plan, accusing his neighbor of sending an army patrol over their Orinoco River border and ending a Colombian gasoline subsidy.
Chavez made his remarks on the eve of a regional summit in Ecuador, where the persistent Washington critic will try to fuel opposition to a Colombian plan to allow U.S. troops more access to seven of its military bases.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch U.S. ally, says the troop plan is necessary to fight drug traffickers. But Chavez claims a greater U.S. presence in the region is a direct threat to him and risks sparking war in South America.
Where have we seen all of his before? And how predictable is this as well?
Poor Venezuela – they’ve got a tiger by the tail and they’re in for an awful ride. They’ve allowed this goon Chavez to manipulate the democratic process into autocratic rule and he’s now developed into not just a threat to the freedom and liberty of his own citizens, but a threat to other nations.
Anyone can see this isn’t going to end well. I feel for the people of Venezuela.
That’s Glenn Garvin of the Maimi Herald’s question:
For weeks, Zelaya — an erratic leftist who styles himself after his good pal Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — has been engaged in a naked and illegal power grab, trying to rewrite the Honduran constitution to allow him to run for reelection in November.
First Zelaya scheduled a national vote on a constitutional convention. After the Honduran supreme court ruled that only the country’s congress could call such an election, Zelaya ordered the army to help him stage it anyway. (It would be ”non-binding,” he said.) When the head of the armed forces, acting on orders from the supreme court, refused, Zelaya fired him, then led a mob to break into a military base where the ballots were stored.
His actions have been repudiated by the country’s supreme court, its congress, its attorney-general, its chief human-rights advocate, all its major churches, its main business association, his own political party (which recently began debating an inquiry into Zelaya’s sanity) and most Hondurans: Recent polls have shown his approval rating down below 30 percent.
In fact, about the only people who didn’t condemn Zelaya’s political gangsterism were the foreign leaders and diplomats who now primly lecture Hondurans about the importance of constitutional law. They’re also strangely silent about the vicious stream of threats against Honduras spewing from Chávez since Zelaya was deposed.
Warning that he’s already put his military on alert, Chávez on Monday flat-out threatened war against Honduras if Roberto Micheletti, named by the country’s congress as interim president until elections in November, takes office.
I think Garvin’s question is a good one. If you have someone who continues to pursue activities which are clearly not constitutional, and instead is doing everything within his power to subvert said constitution, what do you do?
Well perhaps have the military arrest him and throw him out of the country is not the first action which comes to mind, granted. However, in Honduras, unlike here, the military does have a law enforcement function. That may not be ideal (because of exactly the perception it leaves) but that’s the case. Perhaps, in retrospect, the best thing that could have been done is have civilian law enforcement arrest Zelaya, keep him in the country and put him on trial. Bottom line – it seems his removal was justified based on his actions.
What the world seems to be objecting too most is the method of his removal while ignoring the reasons.
And then, as Garvin points out, we have the thug in Venezuela threatening Honduras while everyone remains silent:
”If they swear him in we’ll overthrow him,” Chávez blustered. “Mark my words. Thugetti — as I’m going to refer to him from now on — you better pack your bags, because you’re either going to jail or you’re going into exile.”
No one denouncing the coup seems to be bothered by Chavez’s threats. In fact, it could be argued that the reaction of the US has green-lighted Chavez and his followers to intervene in some way, to include militarily. Not that Chavez or the Venezuelan military are competent enough to actually do that, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me now if they tried.
Zelaya was trying to follow Chavez’s template and somehow manage a constitutional change to a permanent presidency through bypassing the constitutionally mandated process and claiming a popular mandate instead. Even his own party didn’t support his attempt and the congress, dominated by that party, passed a law making what Zelaya was attempting illegal. Zelaya attempted it anyway, making what Zelaya was doing a criminal offense. The Supreme Court of Honduras ruled against Zelaya. The Attorney General apparently enforced the law.
Here, we’d call that the “checks and balances” working. There, the result is apparently a “coup”.
The point? In reality, this is not at all a cut-and-dried “military coup” as it is being portrayed. It wasn’t a disgruntled group of military officers who decided to take the law into their own hands and to change the government because they don’t like the form or direction in which it was heading. Instead a rather broad based coalition of politicians, to include those in his party, and other institutions such as the congress (legislative branch) and Supreme Court (judicial branch), found his criminal behavior to be unacceptable and decided to take what they considered to be legal action to prevent a rogue politician from any further attempts at violating the law.
They removed him from office.
And, unlike its reaction to the brutality on display in Iran, the world had an immediate knee-jerk fit.
We now have Venezuela threatening Honduras without a peep from the OAS or the US. We have the OAS now giving Honduras 3 days to reinstall Zelaya or else (what the “else” is is anyone’s guess). We have the president of Argentina sticking her nose into the affair. And we have the showdown tomorrow as Zelaya, in the company of the UN, OAS and Argentine president, reentering Honduras in a bid to retake office. Honduras has said Zelaya will be arrested if he reenters.
Why was there such a rush on the part of the US to denounce this? If sitting back for 10 days and assessing the situation in Iran before speaking was such a good idea as the administration claims, why wasn’t the same true in Honduras? As the facts come out, it seems that it isn’t what it is being characterized as.
If all of the world’s concern is focused on the “democratic process”, where was that concern last week as the now ex leader of Honduras tried to subvert the constitution and claim a mandate by means it prohibited?
Nowhere to be heard. The world was quite content, it seems, to let another declared leftist permanently install himself as a virtual dictator in a Latin American country. But let that country try to enforce it’s constitution, and all hell breaks loose.
It seems what has happened in Honduras is being characterized by most as a “military coup”. However Fausta, who has been following it all very closely, seems not to be sure that is the case. Instead she and some others are characterizing it as the military enforcing the orders of the Supreme Court and Congress.
Not being a Honduran constitutional expert or even really knowing whether that is legally permissible under their constitution, I’ll leave it to others to decide what the action really is. However, from Fausta, some background info that will get you into the picture. It is all about a referendum which President Manuel Zelaya wanted to hold concerning his term in office which is constitutionally limited to one term. Zelaya wanted to be able to serve another and decided a referendum would do to make that happen. The Supreme Court of Honduras declared such a referendum illegal. Zelaya essentially told them to pound sand (a very Jacksonian reaction):
Background on the referendum, which Zelaya insisted on in spite of it having been declared unlawful:
* When the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and the defense minister, the head of the army and the air force resigned in protest.
* Yesterday the Supreme Court ordered by a 5-0 vote that Vásquez be reinstated.
* Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal ordered authorities to pick up all the ballots and electoral material, which were held by the country’s air force.
* The country’s Attorney General requested yesterday that Congress oust Zelaya.
* The courts have declared the referendum unlawful. Last Tuesday the Congress passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections. Congress has also named a commission to investigate Zelaya.
This is the first coup in Honduras since 1982 when a democratically elected civilian government came to power .
So the question remains, was the military acting on its own or under the orders of some other constitutional body that had the legal right to order the removal of the president? It may turn out that both sides acted unconstitutionally and illegally. However it should be noted that the Honduran Attorney General had weighed in on the situation:
The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out.
So it is conceivable that the military was acting under the AG’s orders.
What Zelaya was trying to bypass is this provision in the Honduran Constitution:
Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions.
Apparently, at the moment, all is calm and quiet in Honduras. The Congress has accepted a “letter of resignation” from Zelaya which Zelaya (who is in Costa Rica) says he didn’t write. The Congress has also voted to make their head the new president.
Reaction has been swift and negative. The OAS said it would refuse to recognize the new government. President Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on Hondurans “to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic charter”, whatever that means.
It certainly seems that at least one party was trying to circumvent the “rule of law” in this case. Whether the others who removed him were remains to be seen. But the Obama administration is sticking by its one-note foreign policy song:
“We think this can be resolved through dialogue,” said the senior administration official.
Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez, with all his new Russian military equipment is rattling sabers in Venezuela as he sees a part of his Bolivarian Socialist revolution go astray. Of course the first knee-jerk reaction is to blame it on the US. In fact the Obama administration claims to have tried to stop the “coup” when it learned about it (some might see that as “meddling” in the “internal affairs of another country”).
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, blamed “the Yankee empire”, and threatened military action should the Venezuelan ambassador to Honduras be attacked; President Evo Morales of Bolivia described Mr Zelaya’s removal as “an assault on democracy”.
Of course both Chavez and Morales have stagemanaged similar assaults on their own Constitutions and managed to pull them off to their advantage.
As Drudge would say – developing …
A very interesting piece in the LA Times about some European muslims who failed at the job of “holy warrior – or did they?
Pakistan is discovering that their unwelcome guests in the Swat Valley are harder to get rid of than cockroaches.
Apparently Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.), the outspoken Democratic chairman of the Agriculture panel, isn’t happy with the Waxman/Markey Cap-and-Trade bill and is promising trouble.
It seems even the NY Times is catching on to the Obama rhetorical devices. Helene Cooper points out that some of Obama’s “enemies” are “straw men” and Sheryl Gay Stolberg notes that many of Obama’s “nuanced” positions would be flip-flops if it was anyone else. Of course both articles were published in the Saturday NY Times, so its not like they’re really calling Obama to task.
The Washington Post, examining Venezuela strong man Hugo Chavez’s latest attempt to destroy any domestic opposition, wonders if the Obama administration’s silence on the matter constitutes sanction by silence. Well if that’s the case, what does Nancy Peolsi’s silence about the use of waterboarding constitute?
A porn star is considering a run for the US Senate from Louisiana. Given the fact that she’s only worked in a different type of porn than what goes on in the US Senate, she ought to fit right in.
The NY “bomb plot” has apparently degenerated into an “aspirational” one.
And finally, it looks like Brits are finally fed up. According to reports, a big “vote the bums out” movement is taking shape in the UK. We should be so lucky.
Hugo Chávez is in the news again, appropriating and nationalizing more of the oil industry in his country.
That sort of move by him has become so routine that it almost isn’t news anymore. But this particular sentence caught my eye and reminded me of what we’ve seen here as well:
This move forms part of a broader assault against the private sector, which Mr Chávez has increasingly blamed as Venezuela slides into recession.
Vilification is a political tactic in use by a certain type of politician, and anyone paying attention to what has been going on in this country has seen it deployed in earnest against the wealthy and certain industry sectors in the US in the last few months. The health care industry is next. And, as in Venezuela, the government is being offered as the best alternative. Yet watching Venezuela, most understand the ramifications of moves such as Chavez is making on the long-term viability of Venezuela’s economy:
But analysts say that by shifting its problems onto its suppliers, PDVSA is storing up even bigger problems for the future. Not only does it lack the ability to operate as efficiently as the service providers, but it sends a grim signal to companies considering investing in Venezuela. Consequently, future oil production is under threat.
While the moves taking place here aren’t as drastic as those in Venezuela, they’re just as problematic. Government appointed board members on auto company boards and government calling the shots in the financial sector aren’t direct takeovers, but they portend a level of government meddling unseen here before. And health care and energy are next.
The key word in the quoted paragraph above is “investing”. Investors are very wary about both the auto and financial industries at this point. They’re wary of the auto industry because government is essentially throwing the bankruptcy procedures out of the window and those investors which should be guaranteed the first seat at the table for the recovery of their investment are now being vilified as “greedy” and pushed to the side. Any reason they or any other investor should take a monetary stake in either of the government controlled auto companies again? And given the experience with autos, don’t you suppose investors in the financial sector are having second thoughts?
Investment is the road to recovery in recessionary times. The moves Hugo Chávez is making in Venezuela are exactly the wrong moves in terms of economic recovery (not to mention being a complete violation of property rights). While not as drastic as Chávez, the moves the Obama administration have made are sending a similar signal to investors. And that doesn’t bode well for a swift economic recovery.
Health care and energy are next.