Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RCTV Down, Globovision Next? - Create custom images

Hugo Chavez has taken away from the people their most beloved television station amid protests from even his own supporters. He simply refused to renew the license. Now, in it's place, is another state-run station.

Now that RCTV is down he's threatening Globovision with a warning to: "slow down or he will slow them down". He's accusing Globovision, radio stations and newspapers of inciting unrest. Who's inciting unrest here, seriously? If you ask me the most outrageous player in the game today and every day is Hugo Chavez. The most immature, a name caller who makes threats, incites and allows violence, and divides the Venezuelan people, playing them against each other. He accuses all of the opposition media of trying to take his life. He even thinks the same way about CNN. Too bad he does not have the power to shut down CNN, huh?

Watching Hugo Chavez lie about people and terrorize his own law-abiding citizenry because he's angry he didn't grow up part of the oligarchy feels much like standing in my own yard watching the crazy neighbor scream at his dog, his kids, and his wife while they cower in fear. If that happened I could call the local police. Who do I call about this?

I used to think this guy had good intentions, even if some of them were misguided, and his execution of them was a disaster. Now I think he's just a power-hungry weakling trying to look arrogant enough to appear strong.

Where is the Venezuelan man who will reunite the country and bond them together with love and compassion and good will? The country really needs you.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The art form of making as many critical errors as possible:

When I look at news about Venezuela today it's kind of jaw-dropping.

It is difficult to find meat in Venezuela. The restaurants have supplies, but the grocers do not. Shortages didn't exist in the country until the price-fixing by the government. How has this helped people?

The opposition is protesting Chavez's refusal to renew the license for RCTV, possibly the most popular television channel in Venezuela. Since the station allows a lot of opposition fellows to voice their opinions, they are out for good. The station will now be taken over by the government. No surprises here people, move along. Because the opposition was protesting this unfair censorship yesterday, Chavez is blaming outside interests for causing the protest. Oh, if only you could see me rolling my eyes. Does he really think the only reason his people protest this censorship is because evil foreigners are spurring them on? Apparently the idea of freedom of speech falls between the cracks in his brain.

Next, because Danny Glover supports Chavez, the Venezuelan government is going to give him $20 Million for two films. Hello? Queen Elizabeth? Are you listening? Are you going to give Helen Mirren twenty million dollars? I think it would only be fair. Besides, don't you feel the need to keep up with the Chavezes?

Now, on to other types of leaders. Chavez is asking the Pope for an apology. He also blames the Pope for Catholicism losing followers. Don't worry Benedict XVI, you aren't the first Pope Chavez has shown disrespect. It's not personal. Chavez is very anti-Catholic.

The Venezuelan Bolivar, which exchanged at the rate of 682 per U.S. dollar on this day in the year 2000 currently trades at the official rate of 2,147 Bs = $1 USD. Since Chavez imposed and exchange control Jan 23rd, 2003, it's not possible for Venezuelans to convert their Bs to dollars to save themselves from inflation. The parallel market is the only place for most Venezuelans to get foreign currency of any kind. The parallel market (a polite name for the black market) price is even more unaffordable for Venezuelans. 4,200 Bs for one single USD. For a country which relies mostly on imports, I can't see how this has helped many Venezuelans, either.

Chavez carries out his land reform ideas by allowing squatters to go burn down fields of sugar can and threaten, hurt, or even kill land owners. His is not a peaceful government. He said one time his government would never fire upon the people. He broke that vow years ago. He has no problem at all with terrorizing people, and seems to feel wealthy people deserve to be terrorized. Unless, of course, they are newly wealthy friends of his. Their wealth is perfectly okay with him. For a man who hates wealth, he sure wears a fancy watch and writes with an expensive pen. He has great chefs and lovely suits. Maybe once he was genuinely not in love with money. Maybe once he hated corruption. They are no longer hated by him, but now embraced.

Will anyone come along and try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again? Will there be a legacy of love for Venezuela to replace this legacy of hatred?

Will little old ladies be allowed to bang on their pots and pans again? Will there be a President who doesn't fill people with hatred for college education? How far will it go? Will everyone (except his friends and family) have to be as poor as the squatters before he is happy?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What Is Happening To Venezuela's Oil Money?

I found this information today from Columbus Dispatch, but it's a story hot off the AP wire:

It says a few things I found surprising:

1. The long-term capacity of the U.S.'s No. 4 oil supplier to keep pumping crude is under threat because it is spending more on Chavez's ideological agenda than on badly needed investments, industry analysts say.

2. The company is borrowing billions from international lenders, while independent estimates show its output falling.

3. The health of the company's finances is a subject of debate, mainly because audited financial results have not been publicly released for the past two years.

4. A recent report by the Caracas-based economic institute CIECA estimated that Venezuela's oil company had a net loss of $3.7 billion in 2006, a year when most major oil companies posted record profits.

5.the company handed over about 70 percent of its gross revenue to the state, including $28.7 billion in taxes, royalties and dividends, and $9.9 billion for other social spending.

6. The oil company is also footing the bill for nationalizing power companies and buying majority stakes in oil projects in the Orinoco River region from BP PLC, ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA.

Considering the fact Chavez changed the way foreign oil companies did business in Venezuela so drastically in the last few years, and he himself admits foreign investment in the oil industry was down 55% last year, it is no surprise that now he's pushing for bonds to the tune of 5 billion dollars. This on top of a getting one billion dollar loan from a French bank and 3.5 billion dollars in advance from Japan.

Now, Rafael Ramirez, the oil minister, and Chavez appointed head of PDVSA, says everything is just fine financially. He claims the money is for expansion so they can reach a quota of 5.8 million barrels per day by 2012. The problem with that is they have, for years claimed substantially more output in barrels per day than either OPEC or IEA reports show. While the Venezuelan government has been claiming 3.3 billion barrels per day in output, OPEC and IEA claim it's never been higher than 2.7, and it's really around 2.4 billion barrels. That, to me, is a huge difference. That is 328.5 BILLION barrels a year difference! And it's a myth being perpetuated for years!

Ah, the goose that lays the golden egg is always, it seems, in peril.

Monday, April 2, 2007

There Will Be No Drinking This Holiday Week!

The latest instillation of "President Chavez Goes to Crazyland" is being brought to you by our friends at Polar. In case you didn't know it, Polar is the Venezuelan equivalent of Budweiser. It's the Venezuelan King of Beers.

Last year Hugo Chavez got disgusted at the sight of children unloading crates of beer from the beer trucks in slums. The beer was being sold right off the trucks in the streets. I am under the impression this was actually legal. (Think ice cream truck - without the ice cream.) Last October he ordered the beer trucks off the streets. This seems like a solid decision to me.

Here's where things get downright odd, though. Hugo Chavez is constantly at odds with everyone, thumbing his nose and hurling insults and anyone who questions his often peculiar decisions/mandates/rulings. He's got no respect for the prevalent religion of his country, which is mostly Catholic. When he doesn't like what the church has to say, he's quick to start hurling insults and calling names like the kid in the schoolyard everyone tries to ignore.

But for the upcoming Easter holiday, he's banned sales of alcohol. Is it really about Easter as a religious holiday? No, absolutely not. I don't think he even puts up such pretense. He says this week is a bad week for crime and auto accidents, and he hopes to put a dent in that statistic this year by banning alcohol sales. As of Friday, March 30th, alcohol can only be sold between 10AM and 5PM, throughout the holy week. Then, on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday there are to be no sales of alcohol at all.

I note in every article I've read there was absolutely no mention of Saturday. I find it odd. Can they spend Saturday partying like it's 1999?

So, I guess you're good this week if you don't have a job and you start drinking at 10AM. You can party until 5PM! This ban includes bars and restaurants, so dinner and a drink is out this whole week.

So far, it's hard for me to hate the guy for saying "You folks don't need to booze it up over the holiday week." Granted, it puts a damper on the kind of parties some people like to have. But there's a possibility to purchase it during the day, at least through Wednesday. There's no decree against drinking it during the times selling is banned.

What is his motivation, though? Is it to please his Iranian friends, who don't agree with alcohol consumption in the first place?

He has an eighteen month power to rule by decree, not that he really needed it since he holds the congress in his pocket. Now he has Carte Blanche. Something tells me this is not the last, but rather the first in a long line of rulings we will be hearing about in the coming months.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Valley of Caracas

This is a view of the Valley of Caracas. El Avila (the big moutiain) is to the north. It's like a big built in compass! What a beautiful place. Perfect weather all year long, big green beautiful moutain, beach on the other side of the mountain, amazing exotic animals like tree frogs, parrots and iguanas. Imagine never having to prepare for winter. Imagine never needing heat or insulation. I think this plays a large part in laid back attitude of the locals. It's also why so many can afford to live beneath what many societies see as 'our standards'. You can hang out in the hammock 365 days a year. It costs maybe two dollars to fill the tank with gasoline, fruits and vegetables grow all year long with the perpetual summer, and beaches are all around. What? Me, worry?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Photo Contest At Fuel My Blog

Fuel My Blog is having a photo contest, and this is my submission. We were leaving Caracas on the way to the airport and I looked out my window and saw this! Once the shock subsidesd enough, I was able to put the window down, grab my camera, and snap these photos as we drove. The first one is my submission to the photo contest.

Welcome to Fantasy Island!

I found this while surfing the net recently and couldn't resist sharing it here.

For those who don't know the characters: Meet Fidel Castro and His little friend, Hugo Chavez.

View Outside My Window

The view outside my window was ever-changing when I lived in Maracay. Especially since we did not have winter, spring, summer and fall, it was amazing to see so many varied views. Here are a few pictures from the apartment in our everlasting summer.

Here's a bird trying to get his lunch to submit, taken from my bedroom window:

Here is an iguana in the tree taken from the balcony off the bedroom:

Here is my daughter sitting on the balcony off the kitchen/dining room.

Same balcony, view from the other side, late in the afternoon:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Perception of Wealth: Now You See It, Now You Don't!

It is difficult to know where to begin when describing what I know about Venezuela. In order to paint as full a picture as is possible, I think it has to include what goes on in the country politically, economically, and socially. It has to include the beauty and riches. It has to include the ugly and the extreme poverty so many living in Venezuela endure. So, to make it easy on myself I'll take my first post from somewhere else: My very own (other) blog.

The first time I ever went to Caracas my plane arrived after dark. As we rode from the airport at the beach up to the valley of Caracas the mountainsides shimmered with lights. I imagined the glory that must be the homes residing on prime real estate. Wow... there must be so much wealth in the oil-rich country of Venezuela. We arrived in Caracas that night and dined on a rooftop patio at a romantic restaurant.
We stayed at a very nice hotel. For a few days I went to places around Caracas. The largest mall in South America, many nice restaurants, etc. When it was time to leave the ride back to the airport happened in the light of day. Prime real estate, indeed! Once the shock had worn off enough I was able to grab my camera, roll down my window, and take this picture from the car.