Friday, October 31, 2008

Venezuela-Russia Military Drill in 2009

Venezuela and Russia will carry out joint air maneuvers in 2009, after the naval exercises scheduled next month, military authorities announced here.
Venezuelan Military Aviation Commander Luis Berroteran pointed out that the military drills scheduled for late November would basically involve the Navy, because Russia's air forces would not participate. "The air maneuvers between Venezuela and Russia are slated for next year. We could participate in November's exercises if a mock air attack were included, but it has not been stated yet," he said. The officer said in a news conference that the Venezuelan satellite launched on Tuesday is aimed at boosting social development in peacetime rather than having military ends. "Of course, we can benefit from some of its services, like audio, video and data transmissions, but in case of a military aggression we would have to resort to alternative resources," Berroteran noted. He confirmed that Venezuela and China have signed several military agreements, including acquisition of a fleet of K-8 planes and others to watch the country's air space, with support from ten radars bought recently. According to the Bolivarian News Agency (ABN), the first six of 24 K-8 planes that can intercept illegal flights are scheduled to arrive in Venezuela during the first semester of 2009.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's news and views from Venezuela -- October 31, 2008

60 tractors from Belarus have arrived in Puerto Cabello (Carabobo). Agriculture & Lands Minister, Elias Jaua was at the port to receive the tractors and head a showpiece cavalcade of tractors at the local naval base. The Minister repeats that the Josefa Camejo Socialist company is entrusted with distributing the tractors to several States for rice and other kinds of plantation. Specialized staff of the Venezuelan Agrarian Corporation (CVA) take care of red tape and the transfer of imported machinery to the Socialist company as well as monitor use of the tractors. Venezuela expects to set up an assembly tractor factory shortly with the aid of Belarus experts, Jaua reveals, adding that the money to pay for tractors and other agricultural implements comes from the Venezuelan-Chinese fund. The Ministry is currently negotiating the purchase of machinery from Brazil worth around $60 million to help recover and improve agricultural roads .

Communication & Information (MIJ) Minister, Andres Izarra says the network of the Real Venezuela project, which he will be implementing to offset what he calls private sector "media bombardment," must strengthen direct communication with communities to provide them with information to broadcast what is really happening in the country. The Minister maintains that the project is of great importance as international Capitalist structures collapse because of the world financial crisis. It will allow, Izarra contends, a new model to arise with greater force as well as schemes of social construction in Venezuela and the rest of the world. The Minister emphasizes that Venezuela is one of the points ushering the birth of a new world and the advance of a new civilization ... "heading the process of world change is the Venezuelan State and its leader, Hugo Chavez." The importance of the Real Venezuela project, Izarra continues, is to enlighten consciences about the importance of the continuity of the Bolivarian process. However, he did make it clear that the change envisioned has a lot to do with what will happen on November 23 when there will be regional elections. The first issue of a million leaflets has already been printed, outlining statistics and important information about growth and government achievements over the last 10 years. 14 documentaries will also be sent to local communities and alternative media for distribution through a network of video forums.

National Electoral Council president, Tibisay Lucena says voters will be able to use electoral guides or help cards when they come to vote on November 23. Lucena made the statement after meeting magistrates at the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (CNE). The CNE president states that the electoral timetable will e followed rigorously. The CNE is currently publishing leaflets to help voters understand how to vote in regional elections where they have more than one choice.

Conflict continues at the Sidor steel plant in southeastern Venezuela. Basic Industries & Mining Minister Rodolfo Sanz says there is no justification for workers belonging to private contractors preventing access to one of the factory gates and blocking vehicles from reaching other state companies in the Matanzas industrial zone in Cuidad Guayana. The Minister recalls that at a recent meeting in which Executive Vice President Ramon Carrizalez talked with representatives of people working for contractors, decisions were taken in favor of the protesters. There are currently five committees working to implement an agreement with workers regarding transport, canteens, and other conditions, Sanz slams protesters for organizing a new wildcat protest without any dialogue or warning and suggests that the motive behind the protest could be political. "They want to reverse the political effect of a mass rally that President Chavez held in Cuidad Bolivar last Wednesday." The Minister calls on protesters to return to work and not allow themselves to be manipulated politically.

Zulia State Governor, Manuel Rosales has risen to the challenge launched by the government to have him brought to trial proclaiming that he will go to the National Assembly (AN) to clarify charges against him but insisting that the hearing be made public. Rosales confirms that is ready to meet the AN comptroller committee next Tuesday. "I'm ready to go to any investigations to discuss all the lies that they have invented against me and the false documents which is nothing new." Commenting on the release of tapes supposedly incriminating himself, Rosales contends that they are tapes fabricated by Cubans working the security forces.

Telecommunications & Computer Minister, Socorro Hernandez has announced that a series of services generated by the Simon Bolivar satellite will start in the first quarter of 2009. During a ceremony to swear in the new board of the Mission Sucre educational foundation, Hernandez declares that among the services offered will be voice, video and data, digital and radio television signals and Internet. The Minister says a list of needs required by the different public organs as well as national cooperation agreement has been drawn up. At the moment, the Minister comments, the satellite is in a process of adjustment and antennae must be installed to be able to reach different sectors of the country before the services can be offered.

President Chavez has held an important meeting with disabled persons. Speaking at the closure of a meeting called an " integral study of persons with disabilities," the President listened to the final phase of a diagnosis undertaken by Mission Jose Gregorio Hernandez. An initial survey in several States reveals that there are 21,917 cases of disabled persons in Miranda State, 1,164 in Delta Amacuro, 33,119 in Zulia, 6,382 in Barinas and 4,256 in Vargas. The mission itself is was set up to give primary attention to people suffering from any kind of incapacity and to establish strategic programs to help them and their families.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue


Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.


Comptroller General points to property allegations against governor: Rosales seen facing ban

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian not entirely surprisingly said opposition Zulia state Governor Manuel Rosales could be banned from standing for mayor of Maracaibo if he had used public funds to buy property for himself.

Russian has banned 272 people from standing as candidates in next month's regional elections, and has stated he'd add more people to his list if he thought fit. Now, he's implied that Rosales – who can't run for a third consecutive term as governor – could be kicked out of the mayoral race in Maracaibo barely three weeks before the vote.

Zulia has come to be seen as a stronghold of opposition sentiment in the west of the country. The PSUV has made wresting control away from Rosales' party, Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT), almost an act of faith in the election campaign. However, signs are the PSUV has barely dented the opposition's strength in the state, and, if anything, may have seen its own position weaken. In contrast, Rosales' appeal appears to be holding.

An opinion poll by IVAD earlier this week put him well ahead in the contest for mayor, with 66.5 percent, a survey sample against 24 percent for Henry Ramírez, the candidate for the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The same survey showed that Pablo Perez of the UNT, the opposition unity candidate to succeed Rosales as governor, would beat PSUC contender Giancarlo Di Martino by 50.7 percent to 25.5 percent if the vote were held now. Di Martino is mayor of Maracaibo.

Russian's critics saw his remarks about Rosales perhaps being declared an inhabilitado disallowed from running for office as a tacit admission the governor was poised to inflict a stunning defeat on the government. Furthermore, the implied threat did little to bolster belief in Russián's repeated claims that he's only a conscientious public servant doing his job. Critics say the law stipulates that only people who've been convicted in court can be banned from standing for elected office.

People who have already been banned insist this doesn't actually apply to them. Russian's retort has been that they either face or are subject to "administrative procedures." Critics point out that this isn't the same as a court verdict and sentence, and accuse Russian of acting as judge and jury.

The National Assembly (AN) decided that its comptroller committee should call in Rosales to give testimony about a recording in which he supposedly talked about getting money to candidates. AN First Vice President Saul Ortega called on the National Electoral Council (CNE) to investigate UNT campaign finances. All this followed a formal denunciation on Tuesday by Di Martino at the State Prosecutors Office calling for pre-trial proceedings against Rosales in connection with his acquisition of properties.

On Thursday, Julio Montoya of UNT returned the compliment by formally denouncing alleged "administrative irregularities" during Di Martino's term as mayor. We've been bringing corruption cases against Di Martino for more than four years," Montoya said.

Chavez on a takeover trail ... the president eyes private company in labor dispute

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
Seven officers from the Lara state police force and two members of the National Guard (GN) are being held in custody in connection with the multiple murders of six people found dead in an isolated area called Chabasquen in Portuguesa state. Confirmation of the arrests came from Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El Aissami, who's under the gun to produce quick results in the investigation of a case that's hit the headlines even in a country all too well accustomed to senseless violence.

The reasons are not hard to find. Five of the victims were adolescents. The bodies were found in or near a ditch with their hands tied behind their backs. And not least of all, the discovery of their bodies quickly sparked allegations that up to 11 law enforcement officers from several different forces were involved.

El Aissami did not name the suspects, but said that the officers had been suspended from duty. In the circumstances, it would have been difficult to imagine them still doing the rounds. The minister said the officers would be held while it was established what part, if any, they might have played in what has quickly come to be known as the Chabasquen Massacre, and which is said to have been preceded by a wholesale kidnapping.

The investigation is being carried out by the scientific and investigative police, Cicpc. At least one of the suspects is said to belong to Cicpc.

The case has set alight anew the public's concern about police lawlessness, and suspicions that rogue officers all too readily take the law into their own hands, indiscriminately killing ordinary citizens who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as suspects and known criminals. A group representing relatives of people who've been killed or abused by the police is calling on the government to assume direct control of the Lara state police.

National Electoral Council (CNE) flinches at the first fence faced with a request that it should investigate President Hugo Chavez

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
The National Electoral Council (CNE) has flinched at the first fence faced with a request that it should investigate whether President Hugo Chavez has infringed the rules in the campaign for the state and municipal elections scheduled for Nov. 23.

The request was made by CNE Director Vicente Diaz, who’s developed a habit of insisting that rules are complied with -- and in the process set himself aside from his four fellow directors on the board, including CNE President Tibisay Lucena.

Chavez is alleged to have bent the rules by endorsing PSUV candidates for state governor (Mario Silva in Carabobo and Giancarlo Di Martino in Zulia) while attending public functions in his capacity as president. His attacks on opposition candidates Manuel Rosales and Pablo Perez in Zulia are also under question.

Little has been said since Diaz made his request public, making it plain that he felt an inquiry was a matter of urgency given the proximity of the vote.

Diaz has insisted three times that his colleagues inquire into the president’s behavior. No dice so far: his request has been shunted into next week, and there's no certainty it'll be on the agenda then. Instead, the majority on the CNE board chose to look into whether state channel VTV violated the norms on campaign coverage, and whether the on-off-on again government ally, Patria Para Todos (PPT), bent the rules in Guarico state.

Guarico poses plenty of potential for embarrassing the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and not least because the opposed sides in this dispute both hail from the pro-Chavez camp.

A complaint has been lodged against Lenny Manuitt, who's running for governor backed by PPT to succeed her incumbent father, who's been disowned by the PSUV. The complaint is that Manuitt, the daughter, used Chavez' image on poster campaigns without authorization.

Venezuelan Ingeolan is leader in the development of satellite equipment for civil and commercial use

Caracas Daily Journal (Luis Manuel Garcia): Ingeolan, a leading Venezuelan enterprise in the development of satellite equipment for civil and commercial use, have designed the first Venezuelan GPS configured to our country's specific characteristics. The name given to the dispositive is Ingeomaps, and it has been designed to make orientation and national route guiding processes easier.

In order to do so, the GPS dispositive contains more than 150,000 reference points such as schools, service stations, hotels, and parks besides countless buildings and public institutions.

"One of the most relevant characteristics of this software is that it was created to satisfy the needs of the Venezuelan market, which had been requiring for some time a dispositive that could show a more precise, and safer, route system, and most important, that it understands our own language," said engineer Alejandro Madrigal, the key man in the development of the dispositive, and the one who believes that the success this product has reached is precisely due to the advancements and advantages that it has over the ones manufactured outside the country. In this sense he adds that "one of the most relevant characteristics of this product is that it has been adapted to the popular system of routes and addresses used in Venezuela.

For example, in the United States the software inside GPS dispositives have a numerical base that makes it easier for them to locate a particular address.

In the case of Venezuela, due to its own idiosyncrasies and to language used popularly, the same system could not be applied. This was the reason to design and develop software with 'key words' that the user could easily identify.

This turns it into a unique navigational and route system if you look at it from the technological point of view, and this is mostly due to the complexity of its software, which has been personalized and adapted to the needs of Venezuelans. All you have to do is to connect and turn on the equipment, enter the address you're going to, and in seconds the simplified information appears on the screen."

The dispositive has a touch screen with a 2GB memory card, inside speaker with instructions in Spanish, as well as all Venezuelan maps and routes. Additionally, this GPS gadget can be used as an MP3 Player and it also plays videos in formats like MPEG, MPEG4, WMF and ASF. It can also be used as a navigational system outside of Venezuela.

In order to execute that function, the only thing one needs to do is to incorporate the digital maps of the county one is visiting, which can be acquired through Ingeolan. Other relevant characteristics of this Venezuelan GPS is that it is easy to use; thus being its learning curve is simpler than that of a cellular phone. It takes just 20 minutes of studying the product for the user to learn all the advantages offered by this satellite technology product made in Venezuela.

Trusting the data
Since the GPS system was originally designed for military applications and to keep watch over the United States, the civil use receptors that we find in the market nowadays have small mistakes that occur casually, and this is done to limit the exactness for those who may not want a specific use of the device.

To limit its exactness, mistakes that appear to occur casually were incorporated to signals of approximately 15 meters. This has been established and regulated by the United States DOD or what is also called Selective Availability (SA).

However, if the use that we have in mind for the device might require more precision, almost all manufacturers have optional DGPS dispositives (Differential Global Positioning System) that reduce the error margin from one to three meters. In order to do this monitoring and error differentiation, the first thing to do is to install a DGPS in a known locale and determining the mistake factors that each satellite sends. This information will be received and interpreted by the device in order to calculate the new position, thus eliminating the error factor more precisely.

Advertising’s new virtual highway ... it had to be part of the latest technological advances of the decade

Caracas Daily Journal (Luis M. Garcia A.):
From the beginnings of the primal language until the latter development of more direct and complex channels for mankind's expression such as the written press, radio and television, advertising has always been present as a faithful companion, and it has even gone along with the many changes that communications have undergone in history.

It had to be part of the latest technological advances of the decade.

A fine example of this is the birth of Internet and its digital spiderweb that has turned it into one of the most complete vehicles for communication and information in the latest years. It affects not only the way people communicate, but also marketing's methods and sales; thus creating, at the same time, new strategies of communications for the advertising business that were totally unthinkable two decades ago. One of the most used alternatives, within the so-called "new advertising", is the viral marketing.

It takes advantage of the communicational power of Internet's social networks to launch a message like an epidemic via e-mail. That is why it is called viral. In order to achieve its goal, the viral announcements use a specific user as a communications vector of a given message. It will then re-launch itself to other known users and, as a result, it would achieve the brand's recognition in a relatively short time.

Another advantage of this kind of advertising has to do with costs that, when compared to traditional advertising outlets, are substantially more economic for the client, who wants his/her product, brand or service positioned within the targeted market. But, what are the mechanisms used to undertake a successful viral campaign? In order to reach its goal, this type of marketing uses a series of options such as the bothersome chain messages or cockamamie stories which usually take the form of funny video clips, interactive flash, imagery, and even text, that rouse people to propagate the message among other users and send it to people on his or her contact list.

Likewise, the Instant Messaging and the use of mobile phones with Bluetooth technology have turned out to be great resources used by the viral advertising, and this is due to the great acceptance it has among the young public; and it consists on sending hyperlinks through Instant Messaging programs like Jabber, AIM, ICQ, MSN, Yahoo or Google Talk.

Another Internet option frequently used by new marketers is the so called newsletter, which, contrary to viral advertising, it does not need infected users to be disseminated; on the contrary, it makes use of a determined subscribers' pool and of a database to express a series of contents and related news to a group that shares a common interest by frequenting the same Web page.

The end purpose of the newsletter is to keep the subscribers' interests towards a determined page through the information that carries a common and specific interest, thus establishing an exchange of information and a contact as far as promotions, novelties and interesting gadgets among other things that indirectly obligates the reader to visit that page regularly. And the best part is that it is fast and it does not cost much.

Grupo Ghersy Comunicaciones Integradas: Advertising in the digital era

Caracas Daily Journal (Luis M. Garcia A.):
For Alfredo Ghersy, Executive President of the Grupo Ghersy Comunicaciones Integradas, one of the most respected advertising agencies in Venezuela, the main advantages of the digital media in relation to other media like radio, printed media, movies and television; is how the message is received.

It is due to the reciprocity and the interactivity that these media generate in the user; thus being the Internet one of its best proponents.

In this matter Ghersy comments: "in an interactive media like the Internet, you have the possibility to choose what, when and how you want to see it. That gives more power to choose to that user that reads that particular promotional message, which it did not occur in the well-known traditional mass media where the information is unidirectional, and where the audience takes on a passive role; quite different to the active character that assumes people when they peruse a digital media like this one."

As far as the expansion of the digital media as an advertising tool in Venezuela, the Internet is, without doubt, one of the promotional vehicles with the highest growth among the existing ones in the market, according to many specialists in the matter of comparative media rating. However, Alfredo Ghersy is of the opinion that, albeit its great popularity and advantages that the digital media offers within the advertising world in our country, it has been underutilized, and its true potential has not yet been maximized.

For this advertising world expert, one of the causes why the power of the Internet in the advertising world has been underestimated many times, it has more to do with a deficient management of the media as such, than to a problem of media efficiency. One of the great problems that the Internet has had is that it has not been fully utilized. Many use it to post pop-ups, among other elements, using the traditional criteria of uninterrupted advertising; thus believing that with that type of strategies they will wake up the web browser interest, and that is a mistake.

"The best way to maximize the efficiency of advertising within the so-called digital web can be achieved through the creation of communities, by investing in social networks or by placing contents to generate controversy within a virtual environment; thus generating an atmosphere of dialog and participation. These are some of the strategies that, at a marketing level, have shown to be successful within an interactive space such as the Internet," he concludes.

Even though the power and influence of digital media cannot be denied in the advertising environment in this country as in the rest of the world, it is also true that it still has a long way to go as far as maximizing the advantages it offers inside the virtual media.

Although in time we may see new strategies and methods aimed at extracting the maximum potential, what will always mark digital advertising will be its permanence for many years as an alternative media of infinite possibilities.

IESA Virtual to reach more people so that more quality educatio becomes available to the masses inside and outside Venezuela

Caracas Daily Journal (Luis M. Garcia A.):
The idea behind the IESA Virtual is to reach more people so that more of that quality education taught becomes available to the masses inside and outside Venezuela.

So this was one of the reasons why the IESA strengthened its portfolio of courses on the e-learning pensum; thus adding three new courses: Economic-financial analysis of accounting information, Global Marketing: strategies and practices for new markets, and Cost control and reduction.

These courses' length is of 16 and 32 academic hours, but the activities of IESA Virtual allow its participants the possibility to study from the comfort of their homes or offices.The classes have a schedule according to the students' daily activities and as such are divided into several work sessions. In order to get a dynamic work environment that promotes the student's participation, the platform offers tools that allow the developing of a variety of learning activities, such as forums, chats, videos, presentations, lectures, exercises, questionnaires and case studies to be worked in groups.

Other activities offered under this format are: Budgetary Formulation and Control, Productive Meetings for Managers, Finance for non-financial executives, Process Management, Integral Planning of a Project's duration, and Economic Financial Analysis of accounting information. The same academic team that teaches at IESA in person is in charge of teaching the above mentioned courses. This team has ample experience and has been groomed in the best local and international institutions of higher learning.

The IESA Virtual courses are developed over a free software platform, which allows the interaction in real time with the academic personnel and classmates. Moreover, the participant is able to download the course's material, and consult other resources that may be of help with just a click. At the end of the activity, the student receives a certificate of his completion of the course at IESA.

Technical requirements
The minimum technological requirements needed in order to have access to the IESA Virtual courses are: Computer with Windows XP, headphones or external speakers, a RAM memory of 256 MB, a monitor with a 800x600 resolution (recommended viewing at 1024x768), Microsoft Office, Acrobat Reader, Internet Explorer 6.0, and access to the Internet with a speed higher than 256 kbps (ideally DNS connection).

About IESA
Founded in 1965, IESA is a non-profit private academic center dedicated to the formation of socially responsible leaders in order to contribute to the success of public and private organizations as well as that of the so-called civil society. It serves the society and functions independently from political, religious, economic groups or governmental trends. There are IESA campuses in Caracas, Maracaibo and Valencia and in Panama City since 2007. IESA is the only Venezuelan institute with an accreditation from the U.S. Association for the Advancement of Management Schools (AACSB), the British Association of Masters in Business Administration (AMBA) and the European System for the Improvement of Quality (EQUIS).

The IESA Virtual courses are recognized as an investment in science, technology and innovation under the Article 42 of the Science and Technology Law (LOCTI).

For more information about courses' content and requirement contact IESA directly by phone (58 212) 555 4351 / 4254 / 4236 / 4459 / 4529 / 4461 or by e-mail and -- You can also visit its site by clicking where you will find more details about activities and costs.

Banesco Banco Universal processes seven million transactions per month to 1,417,292 clients through BanescOnline

Caracas Daily Journal (Maria Carolina Sanchez):
Between January and June, Banesco Banco Universal processed an average of 39, seven million transactions per month to 1,417,292 clients through BanescOnline. During the first semester Banesco's Telephone Banking registered an average of 1.9 million transactions per month. It also has 1,318 ATMs, 46,536 POS terminals, 316 self-service equipments and 282 checkbook dispensers.

Among the advantages of Banesco's Electronic Banking Service stands out the many ways a customer can finish his/her transaction (Internet, telephone banking). Banesco's Electronic Banking has incorporated services such as balance check through SMS, online pre-approval to the Internet CrediCarro (a car loan), balance check from CADIVI, services and credit card payments of their own and of a third party, and also the most traditional: electronic funds transfers to their own account or to a third party.

How the user's security is guaranteed and how is he/she protected from electronic fraud?
Nowadays, technology's accelerated evolution, the new schemes and modalities to commit fraud, the level of conformation and specialization of the theft organizations and the speed at which the laws and control mechanisms become obsolete, have caused the fall of ancient paradigms that established that all the systems and product's security offered to clients depend 100% on the institutions' protection capacity.

Nowadays definitely that's not the case, as a result of this new reality that has caused the security and control schemes to prevent fraud to depend more on the active participation of users and clients that take advantage of systems and of the electronic banking. In that sense, one of the main keys to succeed is the constant client education in terms of security, so as to encourage clients to develop a prevention mentality, and a familiarization with the use of electronic services and devices, such as virtual bank, cards, ATMs and POS terminals, among others. All this information is easily available through the website .
We are the only Internet bank in Venezuela with the "Hacker Safe" certificate, given by Mcafee to the sites with the highest security standards. The certificate is based on the fact that BanescOnline constantly monitors the new threats available in Internet, that affect the security of the transactions made through this service.

How does the new credit card law affect Internet banking?
The charge of finding the culprits of thefts, robberies, identity theft and falsification has always been in the hands of the security areas from the financial entities. In the case of Banesco, the card data is only used at the moment of service affiliation, and after that some stronger identification processes separated from the card product are unveiled. In case that a client has been a victim of any criminal abuse, the online banking service won't be affected, and it certainly won't put at risk the client's sensitive and confidential information.

Which innovations in security devices exist nowadays in Venezuela for ATMs?
We have been working in the ATMs security incorporating systems that allow the transactions from the ATM to the bank and from the bank to the ATM travel in a safe way, minimizing the possibility of an interruption and stealing of the data in the middle of that communication. Additionally, we have monitoring systems over the ATMs that can detect the possible use of these devices to obtain the client's cards data and commit fraud. Each day we are investigating during constant research of new technologies and procedures to improve security in electronic transactions and, therefore, in the ATMs.

What should a user do to be safe while doing an online transaction?
The most important thing is to use a safe computer. What is a safe computer? It is one that counts with an updated antivirus or an installed Firewall, and with the latest updated patches of the operating system and its explorer (Microsoft Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, among others) up-to-date. Many users pay special attention during the transaction process, but not before or after it. When a user is online, he or she opens the computer to the world, and because of that, it is important to be careful of not executing applications and programs of doubtless origin, and also never answer or pay attention to any e-mail that asks for an update of the sensitive bank data (users, card numbers, passwords). It is also important to be very careful with compact discs of illegal software that sometimes can contain spy programs that may put security at risk. And, at last, if you notice any suspicious activity, do not hesitate to call the bank and notify it. Banesco has published on its security section from the website some links with well-known security tools (some of them available for free) that exist on the market, which we recommend for a proactive use.


News & Views of Venezuela

Venezuela Newshour 12.30 p.m. Caracas

Still no verdict in Fla. cash suitcase trial

Jurors in Miami are still deliberating in the case of a wealthy Venezuelan accused of acting as an illegal foreign agent in the U.S. The 12-person federal jury deliberated all day Thursday in the case of 41-year-old Franklin Duran and will return Friday. They previously said they were deadlocked but were told to keep trying by Judge Joan Lenard. A continued impasse would result in a mistrial.
Duran and others are accused of coming to Miami to cover up the source and destination of a suitcase stuffed with $800,000 in cash. Prosecutors say it was a gift from Venezuela to the campaign of Argentina's new president. Duran claims he was set up by the FBI and wasn't acting as Venezuela's agent.

Venezuela Offers Orinoco Partnerships in Oil Auction (Update1)

Venezuela began inviting foreign energy companies to bid in the country's biggest-ever auction, offering partnerships in a pair of joint ventures that will pump a million barrels a day from the Orinoco Belt.

Winning bidders will become minority partners with Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company known as PDVSA, to produce, process and sell oil from areas known as Carabobo, Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said today at a ceremony attended by representatives of 47 oil companies in Caracas.

Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA stayed in Venezuela through tax and royalty increases and nationalizations of joint ventures by President Hugo Chavez in hopes of developing Orinoco oil. ``The international companies aren't replacing reserves,'' Carlos Rossi, a Caracas-based petroleum economist, said. ``If they can get access to the Orinoco Belt and put that on their books, they can have a much higher share value.''

The areas included in the auction have 61.9 billion barrels of oil in place, Ramirez said. Venezuela is requiring consortiums to plan on recovering at least 20 percent of that, or 12.5 billion barrels. The areas comprise about 1 percent of the oil reserves in the world. ``I think it will be successful,'' Wes Lohec, president of Chevron's Venezuela unit, said after Ramirez's presentation. ``It's very exciting. It's a good step.''

Others that may take part include state-controlled oil companies such as China National Petroleum Corp., Ecopetrol SA and Petroleo Brasileiro along with public companies such as BP Plc and StatoilHydro ASA, Ramirez said.

Company Hesitancy

Companies may hesitate to bid because of Chavez's history of changing contract terms, said Philip Weiss, an oil and gas analyst at Argus Research who covers companies including Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp. Investors won't be able to take the reserves at face value, he said.

``When looking at those reserves, I'd want to make an allocation against them because of the uncertainty,'' he said in a telephone interview. As an investment location, he said, while Venezuela beats out ``impossible'' countries like Saudi Arabia, ``it would be very, very low on my list. I don't know how you get assurances in a situation like that.''

Under Venezuelan law, winning companies will own as much as 40 percent of the new projects. They will have to share proprietary technology and pay royalties and taxes that consume at least 85 percent of their income. New contracts in Venezuela forbid international arbitration for disputes. PDVSA, which invests more in social programs than oilfields, will operate the projects and employ the laborers.

Changing Terms

The chance of changing terms over the life of the projects is another concern. Chavez has boosted royalties and taxes and unilaterally changed the terms of joint ventures with about 50 private oil companies, most of which stuck with their projects.

Chavez last year forced private partners to cede control over joint ventures in the Orinoco that produce about 600,000 barrels a day. Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips left the country and filed for arbitration. Companies with arbitration cases against Venezuela are banned from the new bidding process.

Winning companies will build special refineries, known as upgraders, to process the thick crude found in the region into free-flowing synthetic crude that can be exported to conventional refineries.

The country's most advanced upgrader, the Sincor project built by Total and StatoilHydro ASA, cost $4.2 billion, according to a 2003 briefing by Total. While steel prices have soared since then, prices may now come down again as oil development slows amid lower prices and limited financing, said Asdrubal Chavez, vice president of refining at PDVSA.

Ramirez said the two new projects have to produce 400,000 barrels a day of oil at least as clean and light as Sincor's. In addition, each of the joint ventures will be able to pump 100,000 barrels a day of tar-like crude that will be mixed with lighter grades, rather than refined, before being exported. Production cost will be about $4 a barrel, Ramirez said.

Venezuelan authorities to suspend outstanding dividend payment in Cemex

The government's transition committee responsible for negotiating the sale of the Mexican cement company Cemex said in a statement that it unanimously decided to suspend the payment of the outstanding dividends of the company.

According to the statement, last October 20th, the members of the committee decided to suspend the payment after examining the doubts raised by the Venezuelan National Securities Commission (CNV).

The Mexican subsidiary of the cement group agreed last May the payment of dividends and told shareholders who attended the assembly that the assets of the company in Panama, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and Guadeloupe had been disinvested.

But in June, the National Securities Commission (CNV) sent a communication to the cement company in which it requested a report with details of the decisions made at the meeting. Among the items to be explained by Cemex to the CNV was the decision to sell assets abroad.

The cement company also should report the percentage that such assets represent within the domestic assets of the company and the procedure used to calculate the value of such companies for the purpose of determining the selling price. The company is currently estimating with government officials the price of the shares.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Venezuela grants native Paraguayans USD 1 million

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez sent a USD 1 million donation to Paraguay
to help alleviate poverty among the indigenous people of the Chaco Boreal, a region in northwestern Paraguay that has been stricken by eight months of drought.

Camilo Soares, a leader of leftwing Partido para el Movimiento al Socialismo (P-Mas) and Minister for National Emergency, confirmed the report. 'We have already received Chávez's check,' he said, AP reported.

'The Chaco Boreal has been in state of emergency for a month and a half. We will use 50 percent of the donation to build a system to provide drinking water permanently. The other half will be used to strengthen public health among indigenous people,' Soares said in an interview with Ñandutí Radio, in Asunción.

There are more than 17 ethnic groups in Paraguay with a total population of 108,000 people, of whom 38,000 belong to eight ethnic groups living in the arid Chaco Boreal.

Venezuela prepares ships for maneuvers with Russian fleet

The Venezuelan Navy is getting ready to engage in joint high-seas maneuvers with a Russian fleet in the Caribbean by the end of November, in order to exchange experiences, reported on Thursday Jesús González, a Venezuelan top military officer.

The Russian fleet, comprising four warships, including the nuclear battle cruiser Peter the Great, set sail some weeks ago and it is expected to arrive in Venezuelan waters late November.

'Venezuela has gained a lot of experience with such exchanges. It is an extraordinary opportunity to gather information and improve technology,' González said in an interview with state-run channel Venezolana de Televisión (VTV).

He stressed that Russia has helped to strengthen Venezuela's defense and security technology. The government of President Hugo Chávez bought a number of Russian weapons, including Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets; helicopters; Kalashnikov rifles. In addition, there are plans for new purchases.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue's news and views from Venezuela -- October 30, 2008

Bolivian President, Evo Morales was a special guest of President Chavez yesterday to watch the launching of the Simon Bolivar satellite in China at noon Venezuelan time. Both presidents observed the launching from the Lupena tracking station in Venezuela's southeastern Bolivar State. Venezuela is the fourth Latin American country to have its own satellite and, Chavez proclaims, the satellite has given Venezuela a new leash of independence.

The opposition 24-hour TV news station, Globovision has been criticized for sidelining the launching of the satellite and giving greater prominence to the $800,000 briefcase trial in Miami. Government sources indicate that the scant coverage of the satellite launch coincides with Globovision's editorial line to downplay any government achievement and highlight all the negative aspects, big and small, that could embarrass the government. However, the main opposition newspapers, El Nacional and El Universal have given prominence to the satellite launching recognizing its news and historical value.

United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) communication & propaganda chief, Vanessa Davies has presented a help card of the party called the "Chavez key and lock." In order to vote for the PSUV, Davies points out, one must also vote for the key, that is Union of Electoral Victors (UVE) ... candidates to all posts are displayed on the help sheet. Davies admits that there was confusion last Sunday during an electoral rehearsal and that is the reason why the party has issued the guide. The party will distribute replicas of electoral cards to all sympathizers.

President Chavez says he will ask the National Assembly (AN) to prepare decrees to expropriate idle lands inside cities and towns, which could be used to build houses. Speaking in Bolivar State, the President announces that after November 23 Venezuela will embark on a new stage in its development and that changes will be deepened to solve problems that people are still suffering from. The President insists that such a policy will help lower costs of construction because instead of building houses outside of the cities and towns where infrastructure has to be installed, a major problem would be solved if abandoned sites in city areas are taken over.

The lawyer representing the Venezuela in legal proceedings to extradite Cuban terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles, Jose Pertierra argues that President Chavez is completely justified in not attending the Iberian-American summit in El Salvador. The lawyer, who has been working to get the terrorist extradited to Venezuela for the last three years, contends that terrorist groups linked to Posada Carriles in Miami are still operating in Central America. Six weeks ago, Posada Carriles gave a talk in the Club of Miami telling his audience to "sharpen machetes" to continue fighting against Cuba and Communists. Posadas Carriles, Pertierra continues, trained terrorists in El Salvador after escaping prison in Venezuela in 1985.

The jury at the $800,000 briefcase trial in Miami has failed to reach a verdict on whether Franklin Duran acted as an unregistered agent of the Venezuelan government. Duran is also accused of helping the Venezuelan government cover up the fact that money carried to Argentina was destined as funds for Cristina Fernandez' electoral campaign. Duran's lawyer, Edward Shohat has argued that Duran came to the US to help Guido Antonini and to defend mutual business interests. It seems clear from the trial that Antonini and others (Carlos Kauffmann, Moises Maionica and Rodolfo Wanseele Paciello), who all pleaded guilty, were connected to the FBI and set Duran up. Shohat agrees that the jury should continue deliberations rather than calling for a mistrial.

Patrick J. O'Donoghue


Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.


VHeadline Venezuela Newshour on the American Voice Radio Network (AVRN) -- Thursday, October 30, 2008

On today's (Thursday, October 30, 2008) VHeadline Venezuela Newshour broadcast on the American Voice Radio Network (AVRN), anchorman John Sanchez and editor Roy S. Carson speak with former Venezuelan UN Ambassador Milos Alcalay who has recently returned from a visit to Strasbourg in France where, last week, the European Parliament condemned the Venezuelan government for its illegal and anti-constitutional implementation of "exclusions" -- preventing several hundred, mainly opposition, candidates from tunning for public office in November 23 local and regional elections across Venezuela.

Ambassador Alcalay -- now strongly defined as "opposition" by the Chavez government says he wants to see sight of President Hugo Chavez Frias' much-proclaimed policy of inclusive and pluralist politics and more importantly that it should be put immediately into action in Venezuela to achieve true democracy.

Without that grassroots responde to political representation, many pundits see that there is little or no hope for President Hugo Chavez to retain much support past November 23.

What is the remedy? Ambassador Milos Alcalay presents his point-of-vew in conversation with John Sanchez and Roy S. Carson -- today!

is invited on call-in numbers
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The VHeadline Venezuela Newshour on AVRN

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VHeadline Venezuela News


Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.


West Fears Hezbollah Presence in Latin America

On August 27th, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported an unnamed Western anti-terrorism official expressing concern over Venezuela fostering the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon; by way of establishing a base for operations in Latin America.

The newspaper quoted the anonymous official, stating that Hezbollah may benefit from the close ties between Iran and Venezuela so as to move [quote] “people and things” into Latin America.
Iran-Venezuela affairs have strengthened since the 2006 bilateral trade agreements between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In May of this year, Tehran and Caracas announced the creation of a shared bank, and a month earlier, the two countries signed 15 cooperation agreements in the areas of energy, construction and agriculture.

But relations between both countries have also solidified through their shared antagonism toward the U.S.

Earlier this year, a US State Department report on terrorism said that Iran and Venezuela began weekly flights between their capitals, and the passengers were not subject to proper checks. Among the passengers was a suspect in the plot to bomb New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

On June 18th, the United States Treasury Department designated two individuals based in Venezuela as supporters of Hezbollah, and froze their U.S. assets. One of the individuals was said to have met with senior members of the Shiite militant group to discuss “operational issues, including possible kidnappings and terrorist attacks”.

The same unnamed source was quoted by the LA times as saying that the relationship between Iran and Venezuela “preserves the capability of Hezbollah and the [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard [Corps] to mount attacks inside Latin America” adding that “it’s becoming a strategic partnership”.

The daily also quoted an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, saying that Hezbollah “has long operated in the Lebanese communities of Latin America” and that besides receiving a multimillion-dollar boost from Iran, “it finances itself by soliciting or extorting money from the Lebanese diaspora and through rackets such as smuggling, fraud and the drug and diamond trade in South America and elsewhere.”

The U.S. accuses Iran of funding and arming the Lebanese militia group, but Tehran says its role in Lebanon is a positive one and that it provides only moral support for Hezbollah.

Venezuela heavy oil bid faces limited interest

Tumbling oil prices, a global credit crunch and political risk concerns will likely leave Venezuela struggling to attract investo
r interest in a bid process for three heavy oil blocks that opened on Thursday.

The government of socialist President Hugo Chavez is courting global oil companies to develop the tar-like reserves in the Orinoco belt a year after nationalizations that forced oil majors to rewrite contracts and pay higher taxes. But companies seeking to avoid risk amid falling crude prices and a possible global recession will likely shy away from the high-cost Orinoco development in favor of less expensive projects in more stable investment environments.

"I don't see anyone jumping on the bandwagon to get into Venezuela," said Jorge Pinon, an senior research associate with the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami. "In this environment you're going to see a run for areas where the risk is known and the risk is manageable."

Venezuela on Thursday invited companies to a ceremony to tender the blocks believed to contain billions of barrels of heavy oil, hoping to attract partners ranging from Chinese state-run firms to private majors such as Chevron.

The government notes it has done exploration in the Orinoco belt to certify the reserves, meaning companies face almost no risk of drilling wells that turn out to have no oil. And in contrast to Canadian tar sands, Orinoco oil flows through pipelines rather than having to be moved with bulldozers and later boiled to extract oil. But Pinon said Orinoco projects must compete for investment with less expensive regions such as Angola, which has higher quality oil and more consistent terms and conditions.

Oil blocks in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, where investors see clear conditions and little chance for regulatory changes, are also likely to appear more attractive as a global financial crisis threatens to weaken energy demand worldwide.

Many companies are likely to cautiously enter the bidding to maintain a foothold in Venezuela, which supplies about 10 percent of U.S. crude imports. And Venezuela may offer favorable terms to companies from China, which has lent the Chavez government billions of dollars this year in exchange for fuel shipments. But Orinoco projects are at a disadvantage to traditional oil fields because the crude must be "upgraded" into synthetic oil to be processed by traditional refineries.

This leaves the minimum price tag for a new project, including drilling operations and a special upgrading facility, at a hefty $8 billion -- a figure difficult to finance at a moment when credit markets are in turmoil. "We may well end up with a batch of mostly state-owned companies bidding for the fields but not doing much with them," said Patrick Esteruelas of the Eurasia Group in New York.

The seemingly unstoppable rise in oil prices for years left companies begging Caracas for access to the Orinoco belt, but as prices fall the risks of Venezuela's frequent shifting of terms and conditions may become a significant deterrent.

Chavez has raised taxes and royalties four times since 2004 -- including a windfall tax created this year to tap into soaring oil prices -- and ordered companies to give up operational control over projects.
Venezuela in 2006 launched a bidding round for offshore natural gas fields, but two years later decided to directly assign development rights to specific companies -- leaving many questioning the transparency of the bidding process. Oil giants Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips are currently suing Venezuela for expropriating their Orinoco holdings.

"You would expect fairly lukewarm interest, given the concerns about investment climate and issues about the economics of the projects, and also the credit crunch," said Antoine Halff of the brokerage Newedge in New York.

What this means for the rest of humanity is continued torment, humiliation and subordination to Washington ... and bankruptcy!

VHeadline's Washington DC-based commentarist Chris Herz writes:
The famous Middle-East correspondent for that fine old British newspaper, The Independent, Robert Fisk, said it best months ago: The only winner of the coming US election will be more violence and terror. This remains as true today as it was then.
  • Only from within the dying empire is it really possible to see the dimensions of the horrors that are being prepared for a world which threatens disobedience to the corporate masters of us all.
Were you are a Texan, watching the opening of the new biowar lab on the barrier islands outside of Galveston, one of the few places you could get a job doing something other than flipping burgers, you might understand me.

Then the citizens of my own hometown, Frederick, Maryland need only travel to the end of Seventh Street to see the Army home of the anthrax which was used to bring to heel the momentary hesitations of the US official opposition to the more insane of Bush's post 9-11 policies.

Ever wonder why the opposition in the US Congress were so spineless in the face of the military power-grab?

Imagine opening up a letter to have weaponized anthrax squirted into your face. That just might teach you obedience.

It is becoming quite likely that the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama may be elected in the coming election ... the polls show widely different numbers, dependent upon who commissions and executes them. But some suggest the margins may be so large that conservative control of the election machines and their programming may not suffice to keep him from office.

Obama will do well in large states such as New York or California, winning all of them except for Texas. And while the Republican, John McCain will enjoy up to a thirty percent advantage in such states as Idaho, these with their tiny populations and thus limited electoral vote will not prevent his defeat.

In the USA we do NOT elect the president or vice president by popular vote ... each state has electoral votes proportionate to their congressional representation ... thus it is quite possible that a candidate may win the popular vote as did Al Gore in election 2000 but still lose the race. But the lopsided vote for McCain in places like Idaho, Wyoming or the southern states of the old Confederacy will help boost his total popular vote to something resembling parity with Obama.

We will see a massive shift to Democrats in the Congress ... but those who have been vetted by the party poobahs for their new jobs are for the most part the most conservative candidates possible.

It is quite likely that the next Secretary of Defense will be the current incumbent, Robert Gates. Likewise there will be no change at the Federal Reserve; Mr Ben Bernanke will retain his job. And there is much talk that the Treasury Department likewise will remain in the hands of the Republican, Henry Paulson. The selection of the hard-liner, Joseph Biden for Vice-President indicates that nothing much can change for US foreign policy. The Federal judiciary is already more or less totally committed to Fascistic reaction.

Obama, already forced into acceptance of the conservative Biden as his vice is extremely vulnerable to the possibility of assassination ... this is already being plotted by many on the racist, Fascist right. It is quite possible, given the mentality prevalent within police organizations within the USA that Obama's guards may not be as diligent as they might.

The net effect of all this will be another nominally center-left regime similar to that of the Clintons which will be so weak as to be unable to actually govern outside of the long-established boundaries of the center-right. This must be familiar to Britons dealing with so-called "New Labour". Or perhaps it is more like Ramsey McDonald ruling at the sufferance of Stanley Baldwin.
  • Perhaps this might be seen as an improvement over the hard-right positions so evident in the earlier portion of the term of the present US regime, that of George W. Bush. But for most of us the practical effects will be the same.
Impartial observers such as myself, cannot help but note the contrast between the regime now taking shape and that of Mr Bush in 2000, likewise elected by the thinnest, perhaps even the most manipulated of margins.

The Bush government immediately were able to nominate and have appointed the most reactionary and even corrupt and incompetent of officials. They did not need to make to their Democrat rivals the slightest gesture of either respect or co-operation. No persons of influence either within the media or the business elite even suggested that they should be more graceful, considering the narrow and questionable results of the elections.
  • The incoming Obama administration, should he be elected, will not be granted this grace from the corrupted pundit-ocracy.
They will be compelled by threats from media, even from the Army, to accept their status as the reserve forces for the real rulers of the USA: The corporate and hereditary elites. Any risky attempts to actually honor their voters' concerns will die in the a-borning.

What this means for the rest of humanity is continued torment, humiliation and subordination to Washington ... and your own bankruptcy!

From the imperial capital

Chris Herz


Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.


Former Canadian Ambassador: Scoundrel governments (Venezuela?) are finding it much harder to ignore arbitration hearing awards

VHeadline commentarist Kenneth T. Tellis writes: Yves Fortier former Canadian Ambassador to the UN made the following statement to the Tampa business leaders in 1991, that Saddam Hussein has to go, and added that "Hussein believes in the law of the jungle, rather than the law of civilized nations."

Now Yves Fortier says "scoundrel governments (Venezuela?) are finding it much harder to ignore arbitration hearing awards."

Now let's think about both those statements alluded to by Yves Fortier and take them at face value.

The first statement on Saddam Hussein states that "Hussein believes in the law of the jungle, rather than the law of civilized nations." I now ask Monsieur Fortier whether he suffers from selective amnesia. Has he not overlooked something here? Of course he has. That in the very province that he hails from, Quebec believes in the very same law of the jungle, rather than the law of civilized nations.

But, I go a little further and quote the first paragraph of his article.

The first thing employees noticed when a stream of military vehicles pulled into a Venezuelan mining exploration camp in the late fall of 2001 were the automatic rifles carried by dozens of National Guard soldiers. The other was the government notice ordering everyone off the site. Perhaps Monsieur Fortier can give us a better explanation for the reasons why Quebec's Language Law Bill 101, is any different to both the above practices?

The Quebec Government sends its LANGUAGE INSPECTORS to charge and fine people for putting up signs in any language other than JOUAL (French patois). These Quebec Government LANGUAGE POLICEMEN arrive in force to uphold Quebec's Language Laws, which can rightly be considered the law of the jungle, rather than the law of a civilized nation, that he had the audacity of accusing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of practicing.

But being a quebecois, Monsieur Fortier forgot to tell us that Quebec's Language Bill 101, is already in violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was signed by Canadian Ambassador John Humphrey, on behalf of Canada on December 10, 1948 at the United Nations in New York, USA, in the presence of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt.

Thus whatever Monsieur Yves Fortier has penned earlier is certainly not worth the paper that it was written on.

Kenneth T. Tellis


Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.


Chavez’ style at issue: The president keeps accusing Rosales of financing terrorist groups

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
President Hugo Chavez' frequent resort to insults and epithets, unproven allegations and what his critics see as his disregard for electoral etiquette has finally become an issue as the campaign for the regional elections enters its final month. With the opposition on the warpath after a string of accusations against Zulia state Governor Manuel Rosales over the weekend, National Electoral Council (CNE) director Vicente Diaz announced Tuesday that he would press his colleagues for an "administrative" investigation into whether the president was behaving impartially.

Diaz is the CNE's resident stickler for the rules, and he noted that Article 210 of the Suffrage Law and Article 145 of the Constitution stipulated that the president, as a public official, was at the service of the state and not a political cause.

The moot point raised by Diaz is that Chavez isn't actually running for office himself. As a citizen, he has political rights, but not when acting in a public function.

On Saturday, at a public meeting of business executives in Zulia, Chavez had let rip by accusing Rosales of being the "link and financier of a group of Venezuelan military terrorists who are in Central America, protected by some governments and the CIA." These "lamentable groups" were operating out of Zulia, he claimed, in cohorts with Rosales. "He's trying to kill me," Chavez' extraordinary outburst continued. "I'm not going to kill him, I'm not killing anyone, but yes, I am the head of state. I have decided to make a prisoner of Manuel Rosales" – who's running for mayor of the Zulia state capital, Maracaibo.

The president called for action from the Attorney General and the Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ), and then added a long list of the governor's other alleged offenses including owning 11 properties, links with mafias and drug traffickers and possessing armories of weapons. On Monday, Rosales’, party, Un Nuevo Tiempo, announced that it intended to sue Chavez for defamation.

"You, the president, understands that neither the people of Zulia nor the Venezuelan people in any of the other states or municipalities where we will go up against each other on Nov. 23 is frightened of your blackmail," said UNT Secretary-General Gerardo Blyde.

The Chavez camp decided to get its retaliation in first. Giancarlo Di Martino, the candidate for Zulia governor nominated by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), on Tuesday went with a group of followers to the State Prosecutors Office to denounce Rosales with allegations about property ownership. By now, the number had gone up to 14 and involved the use of front men. Di Martino declared there were "reasons to investigate Rosales."

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz vowed there would be a rapid investigation of the governor. The question was whether this would pave the way for Comptroller General Clodosbaldo Russian to ban Rosales from running for elected office on the grounds that he now faced legal action, an argument Russián has used in proscribing 272 aspirants for office.

Cops getting away with it! Relatively few jailed for unlawful killing

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
A report at the State Prosecutors Office is reported to have concluded that of 6,885 officers from state security services who've been linked to unlawful killings between January 2000 and November last year, only 412 have ended up behind bars.

That amounts to under six percent of the total, and it's not clear how many of them have actually been brought to trial and convicted, and if so, what sort of sentences they're serving.

The largest number of denounced officers, 3,736 in all, hail from state police forces, unsurprising in itself given that state forces have more officers. More alarming, perhaps, is that another 1,325 accused officers belong to the scientific and investigative police, Cicpc, whose responsibilities almost exclusively include dealing with serious crime.

In contrast, Disip, the state security service – and Cicpc's great rival – chalked up 80 accusations against its officers.

A further 860 suspect officers hail from a myriad number of municipal forces, and 177 are in the ranks of the National Guard (GN). The report is also said to set out the details of several notorious cases of killings by security agents over the years, among them the infamous Kennedy case in which three students were killed by security officers.

Retired Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) director Domingo Maza Zavala trashes 2009 budget plan

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
The government and its pals in parliament may well rue the day they pushed Domingo Maza Zavala into retiring from his directorship at the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV). He was bad enough when he was on the board there, but now, if anything, he's even more outspoken. In remarks to the Union Radio website on Tuesday, Maza Zavala tore Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque's Budget Bill to shreds, starting with a vote at the National Assembly (AN) to approve big pay rises – 42 percent or more – for legislators and high officials.

"Where's the austerity so much urged by the president?" he asked out loud. "This is in the opposite direction," he answered himself, noting that this was a long way from better distribution of incomes and welfare. The increase, he continued unabashed, was for "a reduced number of the population, the privileged of the regime, on high executives supposedly adherent to the cause of Socialism of the 21st Century." The authorities had to ensure efficiency in governance, he argued.

Building new hospitals and schools wasn't such a priority; what was important was that existing hospitals functioned well, that doctors were well paid, and it was much the same at schools. That very same morning, teachers in Táchira state protested in demand of pension contributions due since January 2005.

Maza Zavala insisted that the budget had to be revised in response to the world financial crisis. The government had to show it was capable of reorganizing the national finances in the light of a crisis that was undoubtedly going to bring economic recession to countries like Venezuela.

Then he latched on to a miserly target of 12,500 new housing units this year. These, he claimed, would be "conditioned on the creation of socialist cities" -- an aim to which Chavez sometimes refers. Cities, he remarked, weren't actually socialist in themselves.

Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) cuts back: Refinery plans put on indefinite hold amid world financial upheaval

Caracas Daily Journal (Jeremy Morgan):
While Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque looks to Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to finance a large slice of increased state spending under his 2009 budget, signs are that a sense of austerity has broken through at the state oil corporation.

PDVSA has put on hold refinery plans in Nicaragua, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. In the process, PDVSA will avoid, at least for now, footing the bulk of a bill running into billions of dollars.

Officials at PDVSA say priority will instead go to refineries in Venezuela. This makes sense, given that, for all its oil wealth, Venezuela imports large quantities of petroleum products it doesn't produce.

The long shadow cast by global financial turmoil appears to have nudged PDVSA into an exercise in good housekeeping at a time of mounting uncertainty. Even as its earnings outlook dims with falling world oil prices, President Hugo Chavez will likely go on using PDVSA for off-budget funding of his pet welfare programs or "missions." Given that these are sacred cows, PDVSA had to look elsewhere to cut spending. The biggest casualty of the cuts seems to be Nicaragua, even though President Daniel Ortega is one of Chavez' closest chums in the region.

PDVSA was going to invest $4.419 billion on 'The Supreme Dream of Simon Bolivar' -- a refinery in Nicaragua to process 150,000 barrels a day (bpd) of oil supplied by Venezuela. The project was officially inaugurated by Chavez earlier this year but is now on indefinite hold.

So, too, is the Manabi project in Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa is also a Chavez ally. However, in this case, plans hadn't even got to feasibility studies -- a key stage in deciding how much, and if, PDVSA would invest.

Third on the hit list was a refinery acquired by the Dominican Republic from Shell, although talk was of bringing in PDVSA as part payment for that country's debts for low-cost oil imports from Venezuela under the Chavez-driven Petrocaribe accord.

Senior officials at PDVSA say no plans are afoot to cut deliveries to Petrocaribe countries, currently running at a modest 80,000 bpd, a little over the amount set when the agreement took effect in 2005. Petrocaribe is deemed to have saved customer countries $921 million on their oil imports. Total billing under the discount system up to June this year is put at $4.7 billion, of which around $2 billion is said to have been "financed" -- posing questions about the rest.

Hard-headedness at PDVSA doesn't apply to Cuba, where ailing Fidel Castro has looked for years like a mentor of father figure proportions for Chavez. The Cienfuegos plan for a refinery with capacity of 65,000 bpd rising to an eventual 150,000 ploughs on at a cost to PDVSA of $3.662 billion.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eighteen Latin American Countries Prefer Obama

One of a flood of new international polls on which U.S. candidate people prefer, is one by Latinobarometro.
According to the Chilean organization’s Web site, this annual survey involves some 19,000 interviews in 18 Latin American countries, representing more than 400 million inhabitants. Covering the results of the survey, this article from Uruguay’s Observa newspaper says in part: “Asked about which candidate would be more advantageous for Latin America, 29 percent prefer Democrat Barack Obama and only 8 percent Republican John McCain. Another 29 percent think it doesn’t matter, 31 percent don’t know and 2 percent didn’t respond. … As for the attention that the new U.S. president will pay to Latin America, the answers vary a lot, with 39 percent of Dominicans who think he will pay more attention, an opinion shared by 31 percent in Brazil and 29 percent in Costa Rica and Uruguay. “At the other extreme are Honduras, Bolivia and El Salvador, with only 14 percent who share that view, while in Guatemala and Panama, those who think he will pay more attention are at 15 percent, in Peru at 16 percent, in Chile and Ecuador at 19 percent, at 21 percent in Nicaragua, 24 percent in Argentina and Paraguay, 25 percent in Colombia and 27 percent in Venezuela and Mexico.

That's "Comrade Bush" According to Chavez

If Hugo Chavez, the Marxist president of Venezuela, has his way, the legacy of President George W. Bush will be that he brought America "surging" to the left of even the regime Chavez has established in Central America.

"Bush is to the left of me," Chavez said after the U.S. Congress approved and the president signed a bill to commit more than $700 billion to bail out mortgage companies and other financial institutions burdened with bad debt. Both presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama voted for the measure in the U.S. Senate.

With an obvious sense of irony, the Venezuelan president praised his U.S. detractor as "Comrade Bush" and noted the U.S. government's purchase of private bank stocks. The Bush administration has criticized the Chavez regime for nationalizing banks and other private institutions in Venezuela. Chavez, meanwhile, having already nationalized large sectors of the national economy, is in negotiations to take over a Spanish bank in Venezuela.

Some $250 billion in the "rescue" plan is being used by the Bush-Paulson Treasury Department to purchase equity in several large U.S. banks.

"Comrade Bush announced he will buy shares in private banks," said Chavez, who was reportedly smirking when he made his comments because the Bush administration has been promoting free market policies for Latin America, but has apparently abandoned them in the United States.

The Marxist president is now facetiously praising the titular head of the U.S. administration that reportedly tried to destabilize and possibly overthrow the Venezuelan government a few years ago.

Chavez has also offered a disparaging assessment of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, referring to the former Miss Wasilla and the runner-up in the Miss Alaska pageant as a "beauty queen" who is not up to speed on the issues facing the next president and vice president. Palin said in an interview with the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision that "through negotiations or sanctions, if necessary, we can pressure dictators like Hugo Chavez to make it clear that they cannot mess with the United States whenever they feel like it."

Chavez, responding while attending the inauguration of a nuclear plant said, "The poor thing, you have to feel sorry for her." The Venezuelan ruler called the vice-presidential candidate "a beauty queen that they've put in the role of a figurine."

He said as much about Bush, claiming the U.S. president is merely parroting the decisions of his handlers. "I am convinced he has got no idea what's going on," Chavez said.

Still, his praise of Bush must be a bitter irony when politicians in the United States, Republicans and Democrats alike, are doing their best to distance themselves from the increasingly unpopular president. Chavez has previously denounced Bush as a "drunkard" and even "the devil," when speaking at the United Nations. It may also be an embarrassment to Republican presidential candidate McCain, who while making as little as possible of his past ties to the Republican president, has been trying to paint his Democratic rival as a "socialist" because Obama told a questioner, now known as "Joe the plumber," that he wanted to "spread the wealth around."

Politicians and pundits are also noting the irony of recent actions by the administration to bail the nation out of the financial collapse caused by the crisis in the mortgage industry. Appearing on ABC's This Week program on October 26, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, said he opposed John Kerry for president in 2004 because he feared the Massachusetts Democrat would nationalize the banks and unleash a tidal wave of new spending. In fact, the national debt, now calculated at more than $10 trillion, has more than doubled during the eight years of the Bush administration, including six years with a Republican Congress.

"They came in as social conservatives, they're going out as conservative socialists," said commentator David Gergen.

It is another of the supreme ironies in a presidential election year in the United States that seems to be highlighting the words of wag long ago who said, "Satire doesn't stand a chance against reality anymore.