Posts Tagged ‘Chavez’


Demolition in El Frío Ranch

It was seized by the government of President Hugo Chávez in March 2009 upon the grounds of environmental protection


The Páez House, the emblem and centerpiece of El Frío Ranch, before the seizure Dossier
The house that once belonged to General José Antonio Páez, a hero of the Venezuelan independence; the core of El Frío Ranch and preserved for almost 150 years, is nowadays dilapidated after its premises were seized by the government of President Hugo Chávez. The image of two times dramatically shows the mood of a revolution.


Located in western Apure state, El Frío was not only one of the major cattle raising centers in the country, with 20,000 heads of cattle, but also among the most specialized natural biodiversity reservoirs in the Western Hemisphere, as well as a research center into ecological cattle raising and a renowned conservation center both inside and outside Venezuela.


The Páez House was the main house in the ranch. It accommodated the corporate administrative and professional staff. It had two big dining rooms, two kitchens and two living rooms. The gardens of the house, nowadays unroofed and in ruins, are being used as parking lot for incoming and outgoing official vehicles. The former hustle and bustle of a productive business was replaced with military officers who guard the ranch with AK-103 slung across their backs and staff in red T-shirts attending the courses of political ideology given by Cubans.


Decree on expropriation
In March 2008, the National Lands Institute declared the exceptional recovery of the plot of land called El Frío Ranch. According to Desirée Rodríguez, the corporate legal counsel, the action started in the absence of the due administrative procedure concerning land recovery. The ranch of 64,000 hectares belonged for more than a century to the Maldonados; it was incorporated as Invega in 1948 and its ownership chain comes from colonial times.


In January 2005, the local chapter of the National Lands Institute in Apure state commenced an administrative proceeding for wastelands against El Frío. In early 2009, after a request made by folk music singer Cristóbal Jiménez in the Sunday TV and radio show Aló Presidente (Hello, President!), the government resumed the confiscatory process. On March 31, seizure was carried out.


The results
The government presently has the whole property of El Frío Ranch without having paid one single bolivar. It is known that part of the 20,000 animals that used to graze in the wetlands have been killed for provision of beef, but nobody knows about the recipient of the sale proceeds.


Rodríguez claimed that the reservation areas include Guariquito ravine, where fishing is banned, but practiced now. A river port was built there and vessels come to get fish.


In addition to cattle, the reservation is the refuge of 7,000 deers, thousand capybaras, the giant nutria, the anteater, the puma, the freshwater dolphin, anacondas and small alligators. One of the most noteworthy projects was preservation and reproduction of the endangered Orinoco caiman. The project started in 1996 and managed by the local biological station succeeded in the reproduction of 2,500 caimans that were released in Guairuito ravine. In 2008, the ranch had the third largest population of reptiles in the country, particularly in Macanillal ravine. In its wetlands cattle breeding remained low to favor the best environmental conditions.


Journalist Ramón Hernández tells in his book “Story of dispossession,” next to be released that each year, near 300 undergraduate and graduate students from all universities and colleges across the nation would visit the site to complete their studies in ecology, animal protection and environment. Also, Carolina Foundation and the Spanish government implemented a master course in Management of Biodiversity in the Tropic. Latin American students used to explore at El Frío Ranch environmentally friendly cattle breeding, reintroduction of endangered species and recovery of native horses.


Today, there is glaring abandonment of farms and biological stations. Attorney Rodríguez complained that high-ranking government officers and persons of the ruling party surreptitiously engage in illegal hunting there.


The agricultural failure
Not knowing about the issue, after the seizure of El Frío Ranch, President Chávez heralded at the seized premises that Apure state would become a rice-growing superpower. Taking issue with experts, who said that the soil is V and VI class with few nutrients and able for large-scale cattle breeding, Chinese and Vietnamese were brought there to sow rice. The crop was a total failure. The delusive estimates of Elías Jaua, then Minister of Agriculture and Lands, never accomplished. Today, Venezuela needs to import 450,000 tons of rice, accounting for 40 percent of the domestic consumption. To the contrary, until 2004, Venezuela had been self-sufficient in that item and exported 120,000 tons.


While no numbers on production and profitability are known of the ranch, now managed by the socialist company Marisela, the payroll rose by 234 versus 140 workers during the previous administration. Most of the payroll was dismissed shortly after the seizure. Workers are still waiting for collection of their severance payment. Interestingly, Hernández said: “In order to bolster self-government and people’s self-defense among workers and communities for food sovereignty and integral defense of the nation, the company (Marisela) trains 1,000 militiamen with the help of the armed forces.”
twitter:@folivares10

Translated by Conchita Delgado

Francisco Olivares
EL UNIVERSAL

Demolition in El Frío Ranch – Daily News – EL UNIVERSAL

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The Economist’s take on Venezuela’s legislative elections

The revolution checked

The opposition bounces back

AFTER five years in the wilderness, Venezuela’s opposition is back in parliament and in contention. By winning 65 seats in the 165-member, single-chamber National Assembly, in an election on September 26th, the Venezuela Unity coalition dealt a blow to the hopes of Hugo Chávez, the leftist president, of exercising indefinite hegemony. Even worse for the president and his claim to be leading a popular revolution was the fact that the overall vote of 5.4m for the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) and its communist allies, was just below that of their opponents (5.7m).

Only blatant gerrymandering of constituencies and an electoral reform that abolished proportional representation allowed Mr Chávez to keep control of the legislature. Even so, he failed to retain the two-thirds majority he had said was vital for his regime’s future. Without it, the government must negotiate appointments to key posts, such as supreme court justices and members of the electoral authority (the CNE). And it cannot pass, or amend, laws which affect constitutional rights. Particularly irksome will be the fact that it may not be able to muster the 99 deputies required to authorise Mr Chávez to rule by decree, as he has been wont to.

In his 11 years in power Mr Chávez has profited from the opposition’s mistakes, which have included an attempted coup in 2002 and an ill-judged boycott of the previous legislative election in 2005. Over that period he has won a dozen national votes (the only exception being a constitutional referendum in 2007). The opposition’s rehabilitation began with a strong showing in big cities in a regional vote two years ago. For the legislative election, its multitude of constituent groups managed to hammer out a united front. Their success increases the chance that they will unite behind a single candidate against Mr Chávez in the presidential election that is due in two years’ time.

Having campaigned as if the assembly election were a plebiscite on his rule, Mr Chavez this week said it was “not about me”. He claimed a “solid victory”, arguing that the 3.2% of the vote won by a party of moderate chavista dissidents (whom he had earlier denounced as “traitors”) should not be counted with the opposition. He promised to “end 2010 at a gallop” and to continue “building socialism”.

On paper, he has the means to press ahead. The outgoing assembly will have free rein to rewrite rules until the end of the year. Thereafter Mr Chávez will still control the courts, the armed forces, the all-important oil industry and other state bodies. If the new assembly becomes deadlocked—for example, over the appointment of new members to the CNE—he may use the supreme court to bypass it.

Will sticking to his course allow him to recover enough votes to win a third consecutive six-year term in December 2012? He will have his work cut out. He has lost ground in urban Venezuela. In some poorer districts that are traditional PSUV strongholds, it was hard to find a single chavista voter on election day. In greater Caracas, the opposition won over 860,000 votes to the PSUV’s 634,000.

Just 24 hours after the polls Mr Chávez announced a new billion-dollar fund to build houses in the capital. But the electorate has grown used to unfulfilled promises. The housing shortage has worsened every year since he took office in 1999. Crime is at record levels, the economy in recession and food prices are rising at over 40% a year. Public services such as water, electricity and health care are close to collapse in many areas.

The good news for Venezuela is that representative democracy—which Mr Chávez promised to replace with a “participatory” version—is still alive. Turnout was 66%, and there were few claims of irregularities. Although there was a delay of a few hours in announcing the results, when they came neither side challenged them. Those in the opposition who maintain that voting is a waste of time continue to mutter on the sidelines but these days fewer people are listening. Even the brazen use of government resources, voter intimidation and other dubious tactics failed to produce the result the president wanted.

Mr Chávez had called on his followers to “demolish” the opposition. Instead, it has emerged stronger than at any time in the past decade. Its next job will be to come up with a plausible presidential candidate, capable of communicating with ordinary Venezuelans. But with the country split down the middle, a pluralist parliament could promote the understanding and dialogue that Venezuela sorely needs. Whatever the president’s wishes, demolition seems to be off the agenda.

Venezuela’s legislative election: The revolution checked | The Economist

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September 18, 2010

Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together

CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela — The first scavengers one sees in Cambalache, a sprawling trash dump on this city’s edge, are the vultures. Hundreds drift through the veil of smoke that rises from the refuse each day at dawn.
The carrion birds vie with children and their parents for scraps of meat discarded by Ciudad Guayana’s more fortunate residents. Those toiling under the vultures’ wake mutter to one another in Warao, an indigenous language spoken in the nearby delta where the Orinoco, one of the world’s mightiest rivers, meets the Atlantic.
“I’m hungry, and my children are hungry,” said Raisa Beria, 25, a Warao who came here to scavenge for clothes and food.
In one outing this month, Ms. Beria found some rotting chicken still in the packaging from Arturo’s, a Venezuelan fast-food chain. Her daughter, Eugenia, 4, grasped a chicken wing. Flies circled around her small hand. “This is how we live,” Ms. Beria said in accented Spanish.
Such harrowing scenes of misery are supposed to be receding into Venezuela’s history. The country claims in figures it gives the United Nations that it vies with historically egalitarian Uruguay for Latin America’s most equitable income distribution, as a result of oil-financed social welfare programs.
Moreover, President Hugo Chávez has made empowerment of indigenous groups a pillar of his 12-year rule. He has financed indigenous health care projects, an indigenous university and a new ministry for indigenous peoples, who are estimated to number about half a million in Venezuela.
Officials said this year that Venezuela’s tribes had reasons to celebrate the “end of exclusion” because “equality, rights and peace now reign.” Still, if Cambalache’s squalor is any indication, some indigenous people still face a more vexing reality than his government’s words suggest.
Reflecting Venezuela’s political complexity, most of the Warao interviewed here expressed loyalty to Mr. Chávez, even as they ate out of Ciudad Guayana’s garbage. The people interviewed cited their access to some social programs, including literacy projects, as reasons for their allegiance, while others professed more visceral sentiments including pride that Mr. Chávez had affirmed that his own grandmother was a Pumé Indian.
Politics aside, about 300 Warao now live in shacks and tents on Cambalache’s edge, near the banks of the Orinoco. Most migrated from Delta Amacuro, an impoverished state of labyrinthine swamp forests that is home to thousands of Warao.
Scholars who study the Warao people say they put down stakes here around the early 1990s, when a cholera epidemic killed about 500 people in the delta. Many Warao there live in homes built on stilts and eat a diet based on a tuber called ure.
In the delta, oil drilling and demand for heart of palm, the vegetable harvested from the inner core of palm trees, put more pressure on Warao areas. Ciudad Guayana, a Brasília-like industrial city designed by planners from Harvard and M.I.T. in the 1960s, absorbed various Warao communities fleeing poverty.
Some Warao wander the broad avenues here, begging for food. Others sell wares like bracelets at intersections. Others subsist at Cambalache, located minutes from boutiques selling luxury goods and the headquarters of government factories adorned with huge photos of Mr. Chávez.
At Cambalache, the Warao scavenge for food, aluminum, copper wiring and clothing. The daily struggle they describe is a Hobbesian nightmare.
They say thieves prey on those who sell scrap metal to dealers. Some Warao women, they say, sell their bodies to outsiders, contributing to reports of H.I.V. infections in the community. Some perish under the trash-compacting trucks, including a 14-year-old boy who was crushed to death in July.
Faced with these conditions, the Warao here adapt. Adults carry knives tucked into their belts. They shrug at Cambalache’s stench and at the ash from its daily fires, which clogs the airways of those working at the dump.
Bands of Warao children sift through the piles of garbage. On a recent hazy morning, a girl plucked from the trash a half-consumed plastic bottle of Frescolita, a Venezuelan soft drink whose flavor resembles cream soda, and quenched her thirst with what remained inside.
Christian Sorhaug, a Norwegian anthropologist who has lived among the Warao, doing field work here during the past decade, said, “Cambalache is the worst place I have ever seen in my life.”
Entire families arrive at sunrise each day, chasing after trucks that unload fresh cargoes of trash. One truck that arrived at Cambalache this month had painted on its side the name José Ramon López, Ciudad Guayana’s mayor, under the words “Socialist Beautification Plan.”
The authorities know about the Warao who live at Cambalache. Their living conditions are a highly sensitive issue.
The mayor’s office, which refers to the area where the Warao live as “UD-500,” said in a statement that it was planning to build more homes for the indigenous families
Warao leaders and researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, informed federal health officials in 2008 of an outbreak of a rabieslike disease that killed dozens in Delta Amacuro, only to have the authorities refuse to see them, attack them in speeches, try to discredit their findings and open a criminal investigation into their report.
A Cuban doctor working for the government provides basic health care to residents, forwarding Warao with serious diseases like tuberculosis and measles to public hospitals. Wilhelmus van Zeeland, 69, a Dutch priest who works with the Warao at Cambalache, said health care programs had helped lower deaths from sanitation-related diseases since he arrived here in 1999. Corporación Venezolana de Guayana, a state-owned industrial conglomerate, recently donated 15 cinderblock houses to the Warao here.
Pedro La Rosa, 42, who is considered the leader of the Warao at Cambalache, said at least 30 more homes were needed. “We’re never going to leave this place,” he said in an interview. “We’ve claimed this land and made our life in this dump, and this is where our future rests.”
The Warao keep arriving at Cambalache, dividing themselves between squatters who stay and those who come for a few weeks to scavenge goods to sell back in the delta.
Sometimes it is hard to tell who belongs to which group.
As the smoke from Cambalache’s fires blew across the Orinoco, Ismenia La Rosa, 41 — unrelated to Pedro La Rosa — welcomed a visitor to her tent among those the Warao call “floaters,” for their urge to return home to the delta’s swamp forests.
She cradled her newborn son, merely six days old and still lacking a name. He was her fifth child, she said, with an exhausted expression that revealed neither happiness nor sorrow. “My son was born in Cambalache,” she said. “I think this is where he’ll stay.”

MasterBlog en Español: Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together: “and they still support their comandante!!! September 18, 2010 Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together By SIMON ROMERO CIUDA…”

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Published: Monday, September 20, 2010
Bylined to: Roger Noriega

‘The Only Option for Venezuela is to develop Nuclear Deterrence…’

Roger Noriega: It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would want a nuclear bomb. Although most observers would dismiss the notion of Chavez building such a weapon, a man who used to help build them for the United States didn’t think the idea was so crazy.

Last Friday, the FBI revealed the arrest and indictment of two US citizens accused of plotting to help Venezuela obtain a nuclear bomb. Accused nuclear scientist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, who was convinced that he was talking to a representative of the Chavez regime (rather than an FBI undercover agent), offers the following rationale for such a dangerous program:

A deterrence against the US based on conventional weapons is highly inadequate … Venezuela cannot develop deterrence against a US invasion using conventional weapons … The only option for Venezuela is to develop nuclear deterrence … Venezuela would show the world that [it] is a mature nuclear power able to deter a superpower … What we do when we are in Venezuela … is our business, not that of the US government.

Chavez could not have said it better himself.

The US federal indictment continues:

Defendant MASCHERONI discussed how in his program Venezuela would build and test nuclear bombs in secret and would have two nuclear reactors—one open, above ground reactor used for producing nuclear energy and the other, a secret underground nuclear reactor used for producing and enriching plutonium. In his program, Venezuela would build an above-ground micro-fusion facility for developing energy, and an underground micro-fission facility where Venezuela would conduct undetectable tests of ‘micro bombs.’

Justice Department officials have stated that there is no evidence that the Venezuelan government obtained any of the sensitive technology offered by Mascheroni and his co-indicted spouse.

However, those who are paying attention to the extraordinarily tight and secretive ties between Chavez and troublesome regimes in Iran, Cuba, Russia, and China might wonder if Mascheroni’s vision is being implemented by a band of rogues at work in the Western Hemisphere while Washington sleeps.

One can hope that the FBI is not the only US agency with its guard up when it comes to Chavez and the bomb.

As US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush, Ambassador Noriega was responsible for managing US foreign policy and promoting US regional interests

VHeadline.com – USA’s Roger Noriega: ‘The Only Option for Venezuela is to develop Nuclear Deterrence…’

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Scientist, Wife Charged With Offering to Sell Nuclear Secrets To Venezuela

September 17, 2010

US (ChattahBox U.S. News) – A scientist and his wife, both formerly employees at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, have been arrested for plotting to sell nuclear secrets to Venezuela.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni and Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni originally came to the attention of federal investigators in October of last year, when their home was searched and various items such as letters and computers were seized. They were not officially arrested and charged until this week.
According to the Telegraph, Mascheroni came in contact with agents pretending to be from the Venezuelan government. Using an email address specifically for the purpose and asking to be called ‘Luke’, he told the agents that he could get them nuclear capabilities within 10 years.
His proposal was a system of duel planets, one under ground to manufacture plutonium and one above ground to create nuclear energy. He allegedly said he was prepared to lead the project, and his wife is believed to have been prepared to aid it as well.
If the two are found guilty they can face life sentences for the 22 charges.

Scientist, Wife Charged With Offering to Sell Nuclear Secrets To Venezuela | ChattahBox News Blog

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Chavez?



Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’

By Jeffrey Goldberg
There were many odd things about my recent Havana stopover (apart from the dolphin show, which I’ll get to shortly), but one of the most unusual was Fidel Castro’s level of self-reflection. I only have limited experience with Communist autocrats (I have more experience with non-Communist autocrats) but it seemed truly striking that Castro was willing to admit that he misplayed his hand at a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis (you can read about what he said toward the end of my previous post – but he said, in so many words, that he regrets asking Khruschev to nuke the U.S.).

Even more striking was something he said at lunch on the day of our first meeting. We were seated around a smallish table; Castro, his wife, Dalia, his son; Antonio; Randy Alonso, a major figure in the government-run media; and Julia Sweig, the friend I brought with me to make sure, among other things, that I didn’t say anything too stupid (Julia is a leading Latin American scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations). I initially was mainly interested in watching Fidel eat – it was a combination of digestive problems that conspired to nearly kill him, and so I thought I would do a bit of gastrointestinal Kremlinology and keep a careful eye on what he took in (for the record, he ingested small amounts of fish and salad, and quite a bit of bread dipped in olive oil, as well as a glass of red wine). But during the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, “Never mind”?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, “He wasn’t rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”

Julia pointed out that one effect of such a sentiment might be to create space for his brother, Raul, who is now president, to enact the necessary reforms in the face of what will surely be push-back from orthodox communists within the Party and the bureaucracy. Raul Castro is already loosening the state’s hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy. In other words, Cuba is beginning to adopt the sort of economic ideas that America has long-demanded it adopt, but Americans are not allowed to participate in this free-market experiment because of our government’s hypocritical and stupidly self-defeating embargo policy. We’ll regret this, of course, when Cubans partner with Europeans and Brazilians to buy up all the best hotels).

But I digress. Toward the end of this long, relaxed lunch, Fidel proved to us that he was truly semi-retired. The next day was Monday, when maximum leaders are expected to be busy single-handedly managing their economies, throwing dissidents into prison, and the like. But Fidel’s calendar was open. He asked us, “Would you like to go the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. (This happened a number of times during my visit). “The dolphin show?”

“The dolphins are very intelligent animals,” Castro said.

I noted that we had a meeting scheduled for the next morning, with Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community.

“Bring her,” Fidel said.

Someone at the table mentioned that the aquarium was closed on Mondays. Fidel said, “It will be open tomorrow.”

And so it was.

Late the next morning, after collecting Adela at the synagogue, we met Fidel on the steps of the dolphin house. He kissed Dworin, not incidentally in front of the cameras (another message for Ahmadinejad, perhaps). We went together into a large, blue-lit room that faces a massive, glass-enclosed dolphin tank. Fidel explained, at length, that the Havana Aquarium’s dolphin show was the best dolphin show in the world, “completely unique,” in fact, because it is an underwater show. Three human divers enter the water, without breathing equipment, and perform intricate acrobatics with the dolphins. “Do you like dolphins?” Fidel asked me.

“I like dolphins a lot,” I said.

Fidel called over Guillermo Garcia, the director of the aquarium (every employee of the aquarium, of course, showed up for work — “voluntarily,” I was told) and told him to sit with us.

“Goldberg,” Fidel said, “ask him questions about dolphins.”

“What kind of questions?” I asked.

“You’re a journalist, ask good questions,” he said, and then interrupted himself. “He doesn’t know much about dolphins anyway,” he said, pointing to Garcia. He’s actually a nuclear physicist.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes,” Garcia said, somewhat apologetically.

“Why are you running the aquarium?” I asked.

“We put him here to keep him from building nuclear bombs!” Fidel said, and then cracked-up laughing.

“In Cuba, we would only use nuclear power for peaceful means,” Garcia said, earnestly.

“I didn’t think I was in Iran,” I answered.

Fidel pointed to the small rug under the special swivel chair his bodyguards bring along for him.

“It’s Persian!” he said, and laughed again. Then he said, “Goldberg, ask your questions about dolphins.”

Now on the spot, I turned to Garcia and asked, “How much do the dolphins weigh?”

They weigh between 100 and 150 kilograms, he said.

“How do you train the dolphins to do what they do?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” Fidel said.

Garcia called over one of the aquarium’s veterinarians to help answer the question. Her name was Celia. A few minutes later, Antonio Castro told me her last name: Guevara.

“You’re Che’s daughter?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And you’re a dolphin veterinarian?”

“I take care of all the inhabitants of the aquarium,” she said.

“Che liked animals very much,” Antonio Castro said.

It was time for the show to start. The lights dimmed, and the divers entered the water. Without describing it overly much, I will say that once again, and to my surprise, I found myself agreeing with Fidel: The aquarium in Havana puts on a fantastic dolphin show, the best I’ve ever seen, and as the father of three children, I’ve seen a lot of dolphin shows. I will also say this: I’ve never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.

In the next installment, I will deal with such issues as the American embargo, the status of religion in Cuba, the plight of political dissidents, and economic reform. For now, I leave you with this image from our day at the aquarium (I’m in the low chair; Che’s daughter is behind me, with the short, blondish hair; Fidel is the guy who looks like Fidel if Fidel shopped at L.L. Bean):

fidel and goldberg.jpg

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-cuban-model-doesnt-even-work-for-us-anymore/62602/

Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’ – International – The Atlantic

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