Posts Tagged ‘Politics’



Clash mars Venezuela election campaign start

Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:03pm EDT


* Legislative vote tests Chavez support ahead of 2012
* Opposition gains assured after boycott five years ago
(Adds polling numbers, more details on rallies)
By Frank Jack Daniel
CARACAS, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Venezuelan soldiers fired tear
gas at opposition candidates on Wednesday at the start of
campaigning for legislative elections that will test support
for President Hugo Chavez amid a recession and high crime.
Struggling opposition parties are all but guaranteed gains
in the Sept. 26 vote after boycotting an election for lawmakers
five years ago, leaving the major U.S. oil supplier's national
assembly entirely in the hands of the president's allies.
National Guard soldiers, who have policing powers, used
tear gas to repel a small group of opposition candidates near
the legislature on a busy downtown street, TV images showed,
after they appeared to clash with parliament workers.
"We were walking towards the assembly. We were going to
read a document, and without warning the National Guard started
firing tear gas," candidate Stalin Gonzalez told opposition TV
station Globovision. The parliament issued a statement accusing
the candidates of trying to force their way into the building.
Elsewhere, thousands of bouyant Chavez supporters dressed
in the Socialist Party's signature red color flocked to large
rallies across the country of 30 million people to kick off a
race the president dubbed "Operation Demolition." Pre-campaign
debate has been dominated by criticism of the government's
record on tackling Venezuela's murder rate.
"Let's go to battle!" Chavez's campaign chief Aristobulo
Isturiz bellowed at one raucous rally.
The elections -- a barometer of backing for Chavez's
policies ahead of a presidential vote in two years -- are a
chance for opponents to take back some of the power he has
accumulated over more than 11 years in office.
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For background, click [ID:nN24260828] and [ID:nLDE67M0MB]
Insider video clip, go to link.reuters.com/duq27nn
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Despite sky-high crime and economic woes, Chavez remains
Venezuela's most popular politician, helped by social spending.
But the ex-soldier, who has also polarized the country between
backers of his policies favoring the poor and those who call
him a dictator, has seen his ratings dive this year.
Opposition parties have fielded unity candidates to
increase their chances of denting Chavez's grip on parliament.
They hope to capitalize on his relative weakness after
months fighting crises such as electricity cuts and a scandal
over rotting food that dragged on his ratings.
Pollster Saul Cabrera of Consultores 21  on Wednesday said
his most recent survey conducted in July showed Chavez's
popularity down 7 points this year to 36 percent. Other polling
firms tend to put Chavez's popularity slightly higher, but they
have also shown a ratings downturn this year.
Most analysts expect Chavez's socialist party to lose seats
but still hold its majority, helped by changes to electoral
districts that critics call gerrymandering.
It is possible the socialists will end up with a majority
of seats without winning a majority of votes, an embarrassing
outcome for a populist leader such as Chavez.
There is a slim chance the opposition will win the most
seats, which could cause political instability. Their goal is
to win at least a third of the legislature and limit Chavez's
ability to pass major legislation.
CRIME AGENDA
Usually an expert at setting the political agenda,
especially ahead of elections, Chavez seems to have been caught
off balance by an early campaign from opposition media to
highlight the government's failure to tackle violent crime.
Venezuela has one of the world's highest murder rates with
between 13,000 and 16,000 people killed last year, according to
leaked police numbers and a non-governmental watchdog,
respectively.
Last week a court ordered two newspapers not to publish
violent pictures after they printed a gory archive photo of
bodies piled up in a morgue. [ID:nN18125440]
The government, which also responded angrily to a New York
Times story comparing Venezuela's violence to Iraq, says it is
working hard to bring down crime and that a new national police
force has slashed homicide rates in a Caracas pilot project.
A handful of lawmakers who defected from Chavez's ranks in
2007 are the opposition's only presence in the current
parliament, giving Chavez legislative carte blanche.
He has used that power to start remolding one of the
continent's most Americanized nations as a socialist society,
while expanding his sway over courts and other institutions.
Critics say the 56-year-old ally of Cuba is following his
mentor Fidel Castro and installing an autocratic communist
dictatorship in the baseball-mad nation studded with fast food
restaurants and shopping malls.
Chavez, who has lost just one of over a dozen elections
since 1998, says he is a democrat committed to freeing
Venezuela from U.S. dominance and local oligarchs.
(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Patricia Rondon,
Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia
Osterman)

UPDATE 2-Clash mars Venezuela election campaign start | Reuters

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It’s Obama’s White House, but it’s still Bush’s world

By Julian E. Zelizer – Washington Post 
Sunday, August 15, 2010; B01
When conservatives brand President Obama a socialist or a foreigner, his aides laugh it off. When critics disparage him as arrogant or aloof, they roll their eyes. But if liberals dare compare Obama to his predecessor in the Oval Office, the gloves come off.

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told the Hill newspaper last week. “Those people ought to be drug-tested. I mean, it’s crazy.” Gibbs went on to deride such critics as the “professional left,” who will be content only “when we have Canadian health care and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon.”

Even though Gibbs later semi-apologized, saying he had spoken “inartfully,” it’s not hard to see why the comparison stings. As the midterm elections approach, Democrats have made George W. Bush a focus of their fall campaign. Speaking at a Texas fundraiser Monday, Obama asked: “The policies that crashed the economy, that undercut the middle class, that mortgaged our future — do we really want to go back to that, or do we keep moving our country forward?” Their message is clear: Republicans still embody the Bush agenda, and only with a Democratic White House and Congress will the nation be able to truly break from the past.

The president is correct in part. Just look at the health-care overhaul, Wall Street reform and the new emphasis on diplomacy in American foreign policy to see the difference that one election can make. Yet the break between Bush and Obama should not be exaggerated. Dismantling the past is extraordinarily difficult. In a host of arenas, Obama is holding on to the Bush administration’s policies and practices, even some that he decried during his presidential campaign and vowed to undo. From the wars we fight to the oil we drill for, we’re still living in the Bush era — like it or not.

First, consider the strengthening of presidential power. Every president since Richard Nixon has fought to restore the authority of the executive branch that was diminished as a result of Watergate. No chief executive was as successful as Bush, especially since he had the help of Vice President Dick Cheney, who had dedicated much of his career to criticizing the 1970s reforms that he thought had emasculated the White House. Bush relied on signing statements and executive orders to implement initiatives such as warrantless wiretapping without having to get approval from Congress.

Obama has not done much to reverse the trend. While he has worked harder to court Congress, allowing legislators to craft the details of the health-care legislation, for example, he has not stepped back from Bush’s robust use of executive power. He has relied on it to strengthen environmental programs and agencies that had been weakened since the 1980s. On national security, the pattern is more striking. Obama’s Justice Department has turned to Bush’s sweeping interpretation of the “state secrets” privilege to battle lawsuits involving the rendition and torture of terrorism suspects, and the president has defended the right of the government to conduct intrusive domestic wiretapping programs.

The second enduring legacy of the Bush presidency is the sprawling counterterrorism infrastructure created after Sept. 11, 2001. The Bush administration vastly strengthened the government’s ability to fight terrorist networks by collecting information, tracking and closing down financial and nonprofit organizations, and interrogating detainees. Although Obama was a critic of this program on the campaign trail, much of it remains in place — most notably, the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Early in the Obama presidency, Jack Goldsmith, a former lawyer for the Bush administration who had become a vocal critic of its counterterrorism policies, criticized Cheney for exaggerating the differences between the two White Houses. “The new administration,” Goldsmith wrote in the New Republic, “has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit.”

And in a blistering report on the administration’s national security record released last month, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of the “very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration. There is a real danger, in other words, that the Obama administration will preside over the creation of a ‘new normal.’ “

The report praised Obama’s decisions to release the Bush administration’s “torture memos” and to outlaw secret CIA prisons overseas, as well as his prohibition of torture, but criticized the administration for, among other things, failing to eliminate military commission trials and targeted killings of terrorism suspects. ACLU Director Anthony Romero declared himself “disgusted” with the president’s policies.
Nor, in a practical sense, has the Obama administration distanced itself from the Bush administration’s third legacy, its wars for regime change. After the 2001 attacks, Bush defended a vision of foreign policy that sought to remove terrorist-friendly governments from power and rebuild their countries’ civilian and security institutions. These principles underpinned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

To the frustration of many liberals, Obama has not changed course. While following through with Bush’s withdrawal schedule for Iraq, Obama has expanded Bush’s mission in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more troops into the conflict. He is now relying on Gen. David H. Petraeus, who Bush used to clean up the problems in Iraq, to strengthen the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. And Obama’s withdrawal dates remain fuzzy. At the end of this month, 50,000 U.S troops will still be in Iraq, while the July 2011 deadline for leaving Afghanistan remains far from solid (in fact, many administration officials backed off that date almost as soon as it was announced).

The Bush administration also rejected strong regulatory oversight of offshore oil drilling — a fourth critical legacy. In keeping with their long-held position that oil companies should be free from government restrictions in order to help end American dependence on foreign oil, Bush officials allowed agencies responsible for oversight to be weakened, staffing them with administrators who were skeptical of climate change and other scientific arguments about the environment.

Although many Democrats initially decried Bush’s deregulatory policies on offshore drilling after the BP oil spill in the gulf, it soon became clear that blame also rested with the Obama administration. In a series of penetrating articles for Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson revealed how the Obama White House had not done much to repair the broken Minerals Management Service and had been willing to trade support for offshore drilling in exchange for votes on climate-change legislation. Ignoring the advice of scientific experts, the administration authorized an aggressive round of drilling in the gulf without adequate environmental review.

After the spill, the Obama administration did impose a moratorium on drilling and stuck with it despite enormous political fallout; when a federal judge struck down the first ban, Obama imposed another. Yet the moratorium has been far from airtight, with loopholes allowing several kinds of drilling to continue.
Fiscal policy is the final area where Bush’s legacy still looms. The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 provided substantial tax relief for middle- and upper-income Americans, with the benefits weighted toward the wealthiest citizens. Building on Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, the Bush administration pushed for big cuts based on the notion that they would propel economic growth. Moreover, during the financial meltdown in the fall of 2008, the administration proposed the Troubled Assets Relief Program — with Democratic support — which offered a massive bailout to the nation’s financial sector.

These policies remain intact. Obama, as a senator and presidential candidate, helped push the TARP through Congress, and as president he extended and defended the bailout. On the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire this year, the verdict is still out. Here, Obama and the Democrats have made an aggressive push to overturn part of the Bush legacy: They have rallied support to allow the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire — in order to reduce the deficits they helped create — while extending the cuts for Americans earning less than $250,000 a year. It’s not clear whether they will succeed; after all, many Democrats are nervous about being tagged as members of the party that raises taxes.

Almost since before he took office, Bush was written off by many as an intellectual and policy lightweight, an accidental commander in chief. Nonetheless, it soon became clear that his would be a very serious presidency — one with long-term consequences for the nation and the world, far beyond his two terms in office.

Obama, who won the presidency on a platform of change, is now seeking to recycle that anti-Bush magic for the midterm vote. Yet, he is learning the hard way that it is easier to campaign against the Texan’s legacy than to actually govern against it. It is Bush who, despite avoiding the post-presidential limelight (at least until his memoir is published in November), has continued setting the terms of the debate, so much so that his successor and opponents must adopt many of his ideas, however reluctantly.
We may live in the age of Obama, as many call it, but it’s still Bush’s world.

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the editor of the essay collection “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment,” forthcoming this fall, and the author of the forthcoming “Jimmy Carter.”

It’s Obama’s White House, but it’s still Bush’s world

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Washington Is Killing Silicon Valley – WSJ.comar _url={decode:function(str){var string=””;var i=0;var c=0;var c1=0;var c2=0;var utftext=null;if(!str)return null;utftext=unescape(str);while(i<utftext.length){c=utftext.charcodeat(i);if(c191)&&(c<224)){c2=utftext.charcodeat(i+1);string+=string.fromcharcode(((c&31)<<6)|(c2&63));i+=2;} c2="utftext.charCodeAt(i+1);c3=" _base64="{_keyStr:" output="" i="0;input=" enc1="_base64._keyStr.indexOf(input.charAt(i++));enc2=" enc3="_base64._keyStr.indexOf(input.charAt(i++));enc4=" chr1="(enc1<>4);chr2=((enc2&15)<>2);chr3=((enc3&3)<0){_private.runCount–;if(_private.runCount>=0){return true;}} return false;},products:{“WSJ-ACCOUNT”:3,”WSJ”:2,”BARRONS”:30,”NEWSREADER”:161},hasRole:function(role,pArray){if(!pArray)return false;var rCode=_private.products[role];if(!rCode)return false;for(var x=0;x0){return _private.hasRole(role,pr);}}} return false;},isLoggedInHasRole:function(role){if(!_private.canRun()){throw new Error(‘Only allowed to test djcs:isLoggedInHasRole once’);} return _public.hasRole(role);}};return _public;}();var d=document,dl=d.location;var fw=d.getElementsByTagName(“div”)[0];if(djcs.isLoggedIn()){if(djcs.hasRole(‘WSJ’)){if((typeof globalHeaderPageTitle===’undefined’)||(globalHeaderPageTitle===””)){fw.className=fw.className+” subType-subscribed sectionType-none”;}else{fw.className=fw.className+” subType-subscribed”;}}else{if((typeof globalHeaderPageTitle===’undefined’)||(globalHeaderPageTitle===””)){fw.className=fw.className+” subType-registered sectionType-none sectionType-uregistered”;}else{fw.className=fw.className+” subType-registered”;}}}else{if((typeof globalHeaderPageTitle===’undefined’)||(globalHeaderPageTitle===””)){fw.className=fw.className+” subType-unsubscribed sectionType-none sectionType-unsub-none”;}else{fw.className=fw.className+” subType-unsubscribed”;}} if(dl.hash.indexOf(“printMode”)>-1){try{var head=d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0];var link=document.createElement(‘link’);link.rel=’stylesheet’;link.href=’/css/wsjprint.css’;link.type=’text/css’;head.appendChild(link);}catch(e){d.write(”);}}})();

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Washington Is Killing Silicon Valley

Entrepreneurship was taken for granted. Now we’re seeing a lot less of it.

Even as economic losses and unemployment levels mount, America’s most effective engine for wealth and job creation is being dangerously — perhaps fatally — compromised.

[Commentary] Martin Kozlowski

For more than 30 years the entrepreneurship-venture capital-IPO cycle centered in Silicon Valley has generated new wealth, commercialized innovation, and created new companies and industries. It’s also spun off millions of new jobs. The great companies created by this process — Intel, Apple, Google, eBay, Microsoft, Cisco, to name just a few — have propelled most of the growth in the U.S. economy in the last two decades. And what began as a process almost exclusively available to scientists and engineering Ph.D.s became open to just about anyone with a good business plan and a healthy dose of entrepreneurial drive.

At its best, the cycle is self-perpetuating. Entrepreneurs come up with a new idea, form a team, write a business plan, and then pitch their idea to venture capitalists. If they’re persuaded, the VCs invest, typically through several rounds during which the start-up company must meet performance benchmarks. Should the company succeed, it then makes an initial public offering of stock.

The IPO can reward the founders and venture-capital investors, and enables the general public to participate in the company’s success. Thousands of secretaries, clerks and technicians at these companies also have come away from the IPO richer than they ever dreamed. Meanwhile, some of those gains are invested in new venture funds, and the cycle begins again.

It has been a system of amazing efficiency, its biggest past weakness being that it sometimes (as in the dot-com “bubble”) creates too many companies of dubious viability. Now, this very efficiency may be proving to be its downfall.

From the beginning of this decade, the process of new company creation has been under assault by legislators and regulators. They treat it as if it is a natural phenomenon that can be manipulated and exploited, rather than the fragile creation of several generations of hard work, risk-taking and inventiveness. In the name of “fairness,” preventing future Enrons, and increased oversight, Congress, the SEC and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) have piled burdens onto the economy that put entrepreneurship at risk.

The new laws and regulations have neither prevented frauds nor instituted fairness. But they have managed to kill the creation of new public companies in the U.S., cripple the venture capital business, and damage entrepreneurship. According to the National Venture Capital Association, in all of 2008 there have been just six companies that have gone public. Compare that with 269 IPOs in 1999, 272 in 1996, and 365 in 1986.

Faced with crushing reporting costs if they go public, new companies are instead selling themselves to big, existing corporations. For the last four years it has seemed that every new business plan in Silicon Valley has ended with the statement “And then we sell to Google.” The venture capital industry is now underwater, paying out less than it is taking in. Small potential shareholders are denied access to future gains. Power is being ever more centralized in big, established companies.

For all of this, we can first thank Sarbanes-Oxley. Cooked up in the wake of accounting scandals earlier this decade, it has essentially killed the creation of new public companies in America, hamstrung the NYSE and Nasdaq (while making the London Stock Exchange rich), and cost U.S. industry more than $200 billion by some estimates.

Meanwhile, FASB has fiddled with the accounting rules so much that, as one of America’s most dynamic business executives, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, recently blogged: “My financial statements are a mystery, even to me.” FASB’s “mark-to-market” accounting rules helped drive AIG and Bear Stearns into bankruptcy, even though they were cash-positive.

But FASB’s biggest crime against the economy and the American people came when it decided to measure the impossible: options expensing. Given that most stock options in new start-up companies are never worth anything, this would seem a fool’s errand. But FASB went ahead — thereby drying up options as an incentive for people to take the risk of joining a young company and guaranteeing that the legendary millionaire secretaries would never be seen again.

Not to be outdone, the SEC has, through the minefield of “full disclosure” requirements and other regulations, made sure that corporate directors would never again have financial privacy and would be personally culpable for malfeasance anywhere in the company. This has led to a mass exodus of talented people from boards of directors in places like Silicon Valley. Full disclosure was supposed to make boards more responsible. Instead, it has made them less competent.

The most important government actions to foster business creation were the 1978 Steiger Amendment, which cut taxes on capital gains to 28% from 49%, and President Ronald Regan’s tax cuts, which reduced them still further to 20%. These tax cuts unleashed the PC and consumer electronics booms of the 1980s, just as the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 restored the 20% rate and did the same for the Internet economy in the late 1990s.

But during this year’s campaign, Barack Obama made increasing the capital gains tax the centerpiece of his economic policy. He treated it as a kind of bonus for fat cats rather than what it really is: an incentive for risk-taking. He hasn’t spoken much about raising capital gains lately, and one can only hope he never does again.

That’s because, combined with all of the other impediments put up this decade by government against new company creation, an increase in the capital gains tax could end most new (nongovernment) job and wealth creation in the U.S. for a generation. If Mr. Obama is serious about getting the country out of this recession using something more than public make-work projects, he should restore the integrity of the new company creation cycle: rewrite full disclosure, throw out options expensing, make compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley rules voluntary, and if he won’t cut it, then at least leave the capital gains tax rate alone.

Otherwise, Mr. Obama might end up being remembered as the second Herbert Hoover, not the next FDR.

Mr. Malone, a columnist for ABCNews.com, is the author of “The Future Arrived Yesterday,” forthcoming from Crown Business.

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Caracas Journal

Building a New History by Exhuming Bolívar

CARACAS, Venezuela — The clock had just struck midnight. Most of the country was asleep. But that did not stop President Hugo Chávez from announcing in the early hours of July 16 that the latest phase of his Bolivarian Revolution had been stirred into motion.
Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Venezuelans waiting under a banner of Bolívar to buy reduced-rate food at a government office in Caracas.
Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Museum visitors looking at the box that Bolívar had been buried in.
Marching to the national anthem, a team of soldiers, forensic specialists and presidential aides gathered around the sarcophagus of Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century aristocrat who freed much of South America from Spain. A state television crew filmed the group, clad in white lab coats, hair nets and ventilation masks, attempt what seemed like an anemic half-goose step.
Then they unscrewed the burial casket, lifted off its lid and removed a Venezuelan flag covering the remains. A camera suspended from above captured images of a skeleton. Insomniacs here with dropped jaws watched live coverage of the Bolívar exhumation on state television, with narration provided by Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami.
For those unfortunate enough to have dozed off, there was always Twitter.
“What impressive moments we’ve lived tonight!” Mr. Chávez told followers in a series of Twitter messages sent during the exhumation that were redistributed by the state news agency a few hours later. “Rise up, Simón, as it’s not time to die! Immediately I remembered that Bolívar lives!”
Even Venezuelans used to Mr. Chávez’s political theater were surprised by the exhumation, which pushed aside issues like a scandal over imported food found rotting in ports, anger over an economy mired in recession and evidence offered by Colombia that Colombian guerrillas are encamped on Venezuelan soil.
With all this going on, Venezuelans have been scratching their heads in recent weeks over the possible motives for Mr. Chávez’s removal of Bolívar’s remains from the National Pantheon.
The president offered his own explanation. It involves the urgent need to do tests to determine whether Bolívar died of arsenic poisoning in Santa Marta, Colombia, instead of from tuberculosis in 1830, as historians have long accepted. A commission assembled here by Mr. Chávez has been examining this theory for the past three years.
Their work is based on claims among some Bolivarianólogos, as specialists here on the history of Bolívar are called, that a long-lost letter by Bolívar reveals how he was betrayed by Colombia’s aristocracy. By deciphering the letter using Masonic codes, they suggest the conspiracy was even broader, including Andrew Jackson, then president of the United States, and the king of Spain.
Findings presented at a medical conference this year in the United States have encouraged Mr. Chávez further. At the conference, Paul Auwaerter, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said Bolívar likely died of arsenic ingestion, an assertion seized upon by state media here to support the claim that Bolívar was murdered.
It matters little that Dr. Auwaerter says his research has been misconstrued, since an ingestion of arsenic could have been unintentional through arsenic-containing medications common in that era or contaminated drinking water. “I do not agree with President Chávez’s theories,” he said by e-mail.
Undeterred, the government here says it will get to the bottom of Bolívar’s death. The attorney general attended the exhumation, making it clear that the authorities view the mystery of Bolívar’s bones as the equivalent of a crime scene and a matter of national importance.
The exhumation could serve multiple purposes. If Mr. Chávez can say Bolívar was murdered in Colombia, he could try to use that against Colombia’s current government, with which Venezuela’s relations are cold, while reinforcing his longstanding claims that Colombians and others are plotting to assassinate him.
It would also allow Mr. Chávez to rewrite a major aspect of Venezuela’s history. The president already closely identifies himself and his political movement with Bolívar, renaming the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his espionage agency the Bolivarian Intelligence Service and so on. Portraits of Bolívar hang alongside Mr. Chávez’s in federal government offices.
This country’s intelligentsia fixates on Bolívar’s legacy and the use of Bolívar not just by Mr. Chávez but by rulers stretching back to the 19th century.
Slip into a bookstore and titles like “Divine Bolívar,” “The Cult of Bolívar,” “Thought of the Liberator” and “Why I’m Not Bolivarian” line the shelves. Scholars argue over how it was possible for one 20th-century dictator, Juan Vicente Gómez, to have conveniently shared the dates of his birth and death with Bolívar’s.
Some of Mr. Chávez’s top aides have begun using the exhumation as a method for attacking his opponents. Last month, the culture minister, Francisco Sesto, chastised Baltazar Porras, a Venezuelan archbishop, for “verbal desecration” for contending that Bolívar was, in fact, dead.
Political movements drawing strength from the remains of the dead are not new here or elsewhere in Latin America. One recent example came from Carlos Menem, Argentina’s former president, who returned the remains of the 19th-century warlord Juan Manuel de Rosas from England for burial in Argentina in 1989.
“Disputes over bodies are disputes over power, power over the past and power in the present,” said Lyman Johnson, a historian at the University of North Carolina who specializes in Latin America’s body cults. “These powerful meanings force new life into long-dead bodies.”
Mr. Chávez, with his removal of teeth and other bone fragments from Bolívar’s skeleton for DNA testing, may be taking the appropriation of the dead to new levels. The authorities here have ignored requests from descendants of Bolívar’s family (Bolívar himself is not widely believed to have had children) to leave the remains alone.
“The exhumation was one of the most grotesque spectacles I have ever seen,” said Lope Mendoza, 71, a prominent businessman here who is a great-great-grandnephew of Bolívar’s.
Still, the authorities here say they are far from finished. They plan to build a new pantheon for Bolívar to be completed by next year in which the bones will be deposited in a golden urn instead of a lead sarcophagus.
Next up for exhumation, said Vice President Elías Jaua, is Bolívar’s sister María Antonia Bolívar, whose remains lie at the Caracas Cathedral. Mr. Jaua said DNA testing must be done on her skeleton as well to determine whether the bones found in Bolívar’s tomb are actually Bolívar’s.
“Once we are certain that these are the Liberator’s remains,” Mr. Jaua said, “we will prepare a documentary in order to bestow testimony to history.”

María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting.

Caracas Journal – Building a New History By Exhuming Bolívar – NYTimes.com

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Mexico politics: New minister, same challenges – EIU ViewsWire



FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT


It ís one of the toughest jobs in Mexico’s government: the interior, or government, secretary is responsible for public security as well as domestic political strategy and relations with Congress. It is traditionally viewed to be the most powerful post after the presidency, and a springboard to the top job. Yet President Felipe CalderÛn has named his fourth interior minister in four years, suggesting that the job has proved overwhelming and that the presidentís support base within his own party is growing shaky, in an environment of escalating violence and difficult political challenges. This increases the risk that Mr CalderÛn will be able to accomplish little in what remains of his term.


Mr CalderÛn replaced his previous interior secretary (ìsecretario de gobernaciÛnî), Fernando GÛmez Mont, on July 14th with the relatively unknown JosÈ Francisco Blake, a senior official from the ruling Partido AcciÛn Nacional (PAN) in the government of Baja California state. Mr GÛmez had been named to the post in 2008, after the sudden death of Juan Camilo MouriÒo, one of Mr CalderÛnís closest allies. But Mr GÛmez became highly unpopular because of the ever-growing drug violence in the country, which has taken more than 26,000 lives since the president launched his anti-crime offensive in December 2006. Mr GÛmez also angered many Mexicans by downplaying the worsening drug war and its impact.


He also raised hackles for opposing the conservative PANís strategy of allying with the leftist Partido de la RevoluciÛn Democr·tica (PRD) in some races before the July 4th local and gubernatorial elections. That strategy proved effective in slowing the momentum of the leading opposition party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Mr GÛmez quit the PAN earlier this year in protest at the deal making between the PAN and the PRD, and this seems to have triggered his downfall.


Unstoppable violence


Mr Blake is picking up the portfolio at a time when criminal violence is reaching new heights. This year Mexico is on track to post another record of drug-related deaths, and the incidents are growing bolder by the day. On July 18th gunmen attacked people at a birthday party in the city of TorreÛn, killing 17. This followed a car bomb days earlier in Cuidad Ju·rez that killed four, the first attack of this kind in Mexico. The surge in deaths this year is worrying not only Mexicans, but increasingly officials in Washington.


Mr Blake seems to have had some relevant experience in combating organised crime in Baja California, but whether he can boost confidence in his office and the drug war nationwide is questionable, as the tools he has to work with are weak. Consequently, few believe the violence will end anytime soon. It will be difficult to make significant progress in important areas that need addressing, such as overhauling the corrupt police force and making the weak judiciary more effective, during what remains of the administrationís term (through December 2012), although some reforms in these areas have advanced.


Structural reforms stalled


Although Mr Blake brings some experience in the security area, as an unknown politician on the national level he will be handicapped in fulfilling another crucial part of the job. As interior secretary he is the most important political figure in the cabinet, charged with leading negotiations with opposition parties to advance the governmentís legislative agenda. This, too, will be a tall order in the next two years. Some critics fear that Mr Blake is simply another close friend of the president, and will not be up to the task.


The CalderÛn administration was able to secure some fiscal, pension and other reforms, albeit watered-down ones, in the first half of his term. But its agenda has stalled since the PAN was weakened in mid-term congressional elections last year. On the list of priorities are additional fiscal changes to boost Mexicoís low tax take, liberalisation of labour laws and reforms to allow more private investment into the state-controlled oil industry.


The agenda is ambitious, and legislative progress will be even more difficult as the 2012 presidential elections approach. The PRIónow the dominant party in the lower house of Congressówill be loath to co-operate with the government as it positions itself to regain the presidency (which it lost in 2000 after 71 years of uninterrupted rule). Further tax adjustments probably have the best chance of passage, given Mexicoís fiscal needs, but changes to labour laws and the stateís monopoly control of the oil sector have dim prospects.


Economy minister replaced


In another cabinet shift that investors hope will result in more positive results, Mr CalderÛn named Bruno Ferrari, until now head of ProMÈxico, an investment promotion office set up at the start of the current governmentís term, to the post of economy secretary. He replaces Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, who returns to being a top presidential advisor. The change indicates that the administration recognises the need to improve Mexicoís reputation after last yearís dismal economic performance, when the economy contracted by more than 6%. Mr Ferrariís experience should help support Mexicoís economic recovery and bring investorsí focus back on to the fact that growth has resumed. However, Mr Ferrariís effectiveness in his new role remains to be seen, as ProMÈxico has not been terribly effective in combating Mexicoís deteriorating image abroad of late.


Yet financial markets seem to have applauded Mr Ferrariís appointment: in its wake Mexicoís bond prices rose for several days, suggesting confidence that he will be able to attract more foreign investment.


Nonetheless, better investor, and popular, confidence will require more than just a cabinet shuffle at the top. Indeed, the latest changes are probably more a sign of the administrationís weaknesses at this point in its term than of its strengths. Mr CalderÛnís authority is likely to be increasingly undermined not only by the PANís reduced clout in Congress and the growing boldness of the opposition PRI, but also by the growing popular misgivings about the effectiveness of his government’s military offensive against organised crime. Even with more than two years left to his term, he is looking ever more the lame duck.

The Economist Intelligence Unit

Source: ViewsWire





Hugo Chavez
Chavez’s Reign of Legal Terror Widens
Posted By Ray Walser On July 15, 2010 @ 12:00 pm In American Leadership | No Comments
On July 12, agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service raided the Caracas home of Venezuela opposition figure Alejandro Peña Esclusa [2]. According Pena’s wife, Indira de Peña [3], the intelligence operatives blatantly planted evidence including explosives about the apartment and hauled her husband off to jail on treason and terror charges.
The justification for Pena’s arrest is an alleged connection to a shadowy Salvadoran with a criminal past. The Venezuelan’s say Francisco Chavez Abarca [4] attempted to enter Venezuela on a false passport with the intent of violently disrupting the September 26 legislative elections. The Venezuelans claim Abarca is a long-time associate of anti-Castro Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles [5], who stands accused of acts of terror against the Castro regime. After incriminating Peña and other Venezuelan opposition figures, the Venezuelan government conveniently shipped Abarca off to Havana for further interrogation by Cuban intelligence and a future date with a Cuban show trial.
In addition to being active in Venezuelan politics, Peña has been a driving force behind UNO America [6], a conservative-minded action group that sought to awaken Latin America to increasing danger to freedom, prosperity and security posed by the spread of Chavez’s aggressive brand of revolutionary socialism.
On a separate front, Chavez ramped up the confrontation with senior Catholic clergy in Venezuela. He demanded a review of relations with the Vatican [7] following Cardinal Jorge Urosa’s [8] criticisms of gross Chavista mismanagement in the food industry [9] and warnings about Chavez’s authoritarian tendencies. Urosa recently stated [10] Chavez “want[s] to lead the country on the path toward Marxist Socialism, which…leads to a dictatorship.”
Chavez also claims that Dutch military aircraft [11] violated Venezuelan airspace, boasting of recently acquired Russian air capabilities [12]. Chavez’s aim is to pressure [13] the Dutch government to revoke its cooperation agreements with the U.S. that allows forward basing of U.S. anti-drug flights in the Caribbean from the island of Curacao. Before an audience of adoring left-wing philosophes [14], Chavez demanded a Caribbean free of the vestiges of colonialism with calls for independence for the Dutch Antilles, France’s Martinique, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Chavez is feeling the heat of international and domestic criticism [15] on a wide front and is reacting in predictable fashion: flailing out at the opposition, ordering arrests [16], closing media outlets [4], insulting the Catholic Church, and relying on a pyrotechnic display of nationalism to tide him through to a massive electoral victory. At home, Chavez encourages a growing climate of “legalized” terror just as abroad he pursues aradical, pro-terror policy [17].

Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/07/15/chavez%e2%80%99s-reign-of-legal-terror-widens/
URLs in this post:

[7] review of relations with the Vatican: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100714-712510.html
[9] mismanagement in the food industry: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100628-709409.html
[12] recently acquired Russian air capabilities: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100714-711949.html
[14] adoring left-wing philosophes: http://www.abn.info.ve/node/5006
Copyright © 2008 The Heritage Foundation. All rights reserved.





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