Ahmadinejad to Chavez: ‘We’re going to be together until the end’

Ahmadinejad to Chavez: ‘We’re going to be together until the end’

Nov. 26, 2009
Jpost.com staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST

“We feel at home here and among our brothers … we’re going to be together until the end,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez during a visit to Latin America on Wednesday.

Both leaders roundly denounced US “imperialism,” and Chavez also called Israel “a murderous arm of the Yankee empire.”

Chavez said he had just returned from an unannounced visit to Cuba, where he met with his mentor Fidel Castro as well as President Raul Castro. “They asked me to give you a hug for them,” he told Ahmadinejad.

Also during Ahmadinejad’s visit, the two leaders agreed on the inception of a direct flight route between Teheran and Caracas, according to a report by AFP.

Murder Capital of the World

Murder Capital of the World

By David Paulin
FrontPageMagazine.com | 10/2/2008

Caracas now ranks as the world’s No. 1 murder capital, according to Foreign Policy magazine. It’s an assessment that will surprise few credible Venezuela watchers. During President Hugo Chávez’s tumultuous ten-year rule, Venezuela’s quality-of-life indices have been in an ongoing tailspin – thanks to epic levels of corruption and mismanagement; not to mention El Presidente‘s increasing concentration of power in his own hands.

When I was a Caracas-based journalist in the 1990s, Colombia’s Bogotá was the world’s No. 1 murder capital. But in the years before Chávez’s election, high-crime Venezuela was catching up, boasting South America’s “fastest-growing” murder rate. Now, it has replaced Bogotá as the No. 1 murder capital — thanks to Chávez’s vision of “21st Century socialism.” The city of 3.2 million is plagued as well by food shortages (unprecedented during an oil boom) and increasing numbers of human rights abuses.

Violent crime has been a No. 1 concern of Venezuelans for years. Under Chávez, however, “Venezuela’s official homicide rate has climbed 67 percent — mostly due to increased drug and gang violence,” noted Foreign Policy. Venezuela’s “official” murder rate is 130 per 100,000 residents, but “some speculate” it’s actually closer to 160 per 100,000, according to Foreign Policy, for as the magazine explained,

…(O)fficial homicide statistics likely fall short of the mark because they omit prison-related murders as well as deaths that the state never gets around to properly “categorizing.” The numbers also don’t count those who died while “resisting arrest,” suggesting that Caracas’s cops—already known for their brutality against student protesters—might be cooking the books.

All in all, Caracas has resembled a war zone in recent years, and that raises an interesting question: How might Venezuela’s murder rate compare to the rate of violent deaths in Iraq? Indeed, as Iraq’s violence soared in 2006, Venezuela was itself a combat zone with 12,557 reported murders. That amounted to 34 murders per day – or the rough equivalent of the lives snuffed out by a typical suicide bombing in Iraq; its population is about the same size as Venezuela’s 27 million.

During 2006, plenty of naysaying journalists and pundits were on the Iraq death watch, pronouncing it a hopelessly “failed state.” Yet none were rushing to make similarly pessimistic pronouncements about Chávez’s worker’s paradise.

According to Foreign Policy‘s reckoning, Venezuela’s murder rate is well ahead of four other top murder capitals that (in order of those boasting the worst rates) are: Cape Town, South Africa; New Orleans; Moscow; and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

In mid-September, Venezuela got another black eye when New-York based Human Rights Watch issued a a 230-page report: “A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela.” Rights abuses under Chávez’s reign had “undercut journalists’ freedom of expression, workers’ freedom of association, and civil society’s ability to promote human rights in Venezuela,” the report explained. The rights group’s director for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, observed:

Ten years ago, Chávez promoted a new constitution that could have significantly improved human rights in Venezuela. But rather than advancing rights protections, his government has since moved in the opposite direction, sacrificing basic guarantees in pursuit of its own political agenda.

Vivanco and fellow deputy director Daniel Wilkinson got more than they bargained for when perhaps somewhat foolishly (or as a testament to their intestinal fortitude), they released the report at a Caracas news conference. According to a statement from the rights group,

Vivanco and Wilkinson were intercepted on the night of September 18 at their hotel in Caracas and handed a letter accusing them of anti-state activities. Their cell phones were confiscated and their requests to be allowed to contact their embassies were denied. They were put into cars, taken to the airport and put on a plane to Sao Paulo, Brazil…

Yet despite such thuggish behavior, Chávez remains an admired figure among fashionable liberal elites, with celebrities such as Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte and Naomi Campbell beating a path to Caracas, heaping praise upon El Presidente and his socialist paradise.


David Paulin, an Austin, TX-based free-lance journalist, is a former Caracas-based foreign correspondent.

Sarah Palin Defends Experience, Takes Hard Line Approach on National Security

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=5778018&page=1

Notice the sponsor of ABC”s report The company is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.  Hugo Chaves

http://www.citgo.com/AboutCITGO.jsp

The Final Curtain in Venezuela?

The Final Curtain in Venezuela?

By Gustavo Coronel
HumanEvents.com | 8/13/2008

The mood that permeates Venezuela today is one that seems to signal impending doom for autocratic Hugo Chavez. The lyrics of Paul Anka’s “My Way” seem to float in the Caracas air: “And now, the end is near… ”.

Three moves by Chavez, all taken during the last month, comprise his attempt to maintain control over an increasingly frustrated country. The first one is the passing, on the very last day of the period of legislative power granted to him by the National Assembly, of 26 decree-laws that will give him most of the powers that he tried to get, unsuccessfully, through the December 2007 Constitutional referendum.

Defeated by the voters in the referendum, he is now using this blunt force to obtain what the popular vote denied him. No one in the country, except those who drew up the over 2000 articles of the new decrees, knew about them in advance or had a chance to discuss them. In another major move, Chavez used his General Comptroller and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to ban 260 Venezuelans from running for office in the November regional elections. Not surprisingly, several of the best candidates of the opposition, favored to win by all polls, are included in the ban, which openly violates articles 42 and 65 of the current Venezuelan Constitution.

The third move has been his takeover of Banco de Venezuela, the third largest private bank in the country, owned by Spanish Bank of Santander. Chavez characteristically announced this move during one of his TV shows, without any notice made to the owners. Chavez had been in Spain only days before, trying to mend his relationship with the King, but did not disclose his intentions.

Although these moves would seem to indicate overwhelming power and complete political control of the country, a more careful reading suggests them to be attempts at asserting authority by a weakening leader facing increasing opposition from Venezuelan civil society. The ban on opposition leaders is being challenged in the streets, giving rise to popular protests in which the students are once more leading the way. A delegation of MERCOSUR, the free trade organization from the southern cone, has visited Caracas to investigate the ban and finds it undemocratic, which will prevent Chavez from joining the organization.

Public opinion in the U.S. and Europe is beginning to see Mr. Chavez’s tactics in the same category with Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. The reaction against the decree-laws is starting to unfold and could develop into open civil rebellion.

One of the new decrees would give Chavez the rank of four-star general, not currently existing, and the pompous title of “Generalissimo” in the same level with dictators like Tito, Franco, and Chiang Kai-Sheck. Another decree will convert the state-owned petroleum company, PDVSA, into an agricultural and industrial conglomerate, and still a third would create a new army, loyal to Chavez and not to the nation.

Leaders of the opposition, including industrialist Rafael Alfonzo and recent Milton Friedman award winner and student leader Jon Goicochea, are calling for a popular rebellion, including, if need be, a general strike against the Chavez regime, while members of his own political coalition are speaking in open disagreement with the measures. The takeover of Banco de Venezuela has pushed the country risk of Venezuela to record highs, now 679 points — highest in the hemisphere. The fear of private investors is turning into terror as some of the decrees, especially one on “food sovereignty,” could justify the takeover of important privately-owned food companies.

Once again, Hugo Chavez has brought Venezuela to the brink of open social conflict. He now seems determined to become an absolute ruler. He is forcing a showdown with the Venezuelan people that he has little chance of winning, given the mood of the country. This time he cannnot expect much solidarity from his allies in the hemisphere since Morales, Kirchner, Ortega, and the Castro dynasty are experiencing similar — if not even worse — problems. As the Venezuelan private sector, the Catholic church, the student movement, the opposition parties, civil society in general and many of the members of his own political coalition take the media and the streets against him, Chavez will be fighting for his political life, weighed down by the burden of ridicule and possibly facing the final curtain. He could probably claim he did it “his way,” but history will say that his way was not the people’s way.


Gustavo Coronel is a petroleum geologist, author and public policy expert, who was elected to the Venezuelan Congress in 1998 before it was dissolved in 1999 following the election of Hugo Chavez as president. Coronel is currently designated as an “enemy” of the Chavez regime.

Treasury Dep’t: Chavez’s government is funding and assisting Hezbollah

Chavez Threatens Colombia With War Over U.S. Base

Terrorists, Marxists, Leftists and the Democrats

Terrorists, Marxists, Leftists and the Democrats

By Lance Fairchok

Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez is rattling his sword, deploying troops, and hoping to distract his increasingly agitated populace from the domestic policies that are dragging Venezuela deeper into the poverty and dysfunction of socialism. It is inevitable that as the economy declines, shortages spread, food become scarce, and crime skyrockets, a foreign enemy will be found to blame for the woes Chavez’ absurd policies cause.

Chavez is angry because some Marxist terrorists he was fond of died in a Colombian raid. You see, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) provided money to the tune of 150,000 dollars to Chavez while he was imprisoned after a failed coup attempt in the early 90’s. Their relationship is a cozy one, and now that he has power, he has become their benefactor, earning the affectionate code name of “angel,” and funneling millions of oil dollars into their revolutionary coffers.
Colombia, a nation long suffering the depredations of this vicious Marxist narco-terrorist gang, struck out successfully at some of its leaders, harbored in neighboring Ecuador. They were able to kill Raul Reyes, the number two military commander of FARC, a man with the blood of an untold number of innocents on his hands.
Reyes was not a nice man.  His resume includes the kidnapping hundreds of civilians, including tourists, participation in village massacres and terror bombings.  Many of his victims were executed after they were kidnapped.  Some were killed to prevent their rescue by security forces.  Some where tortured.  Reyes was sentenced in absentia for a long list of brutal crimes: the deaths of 13 policemen and 18 soldiers, the murder of a judge, a physician, three judicial officials, the ex-minister of Culture Consuelo Araújo, congressman Diego Turbay and his mother, catholic monsignor Isaías Duarte, Governor of Antioquia Guillermo Gaviria, former minister Gilberto Echeverri, and a dozen members of the Valle del Cauca Assembly. He was behind a nightclub bombing that killed 36 people in Bogotá. The list of victims that lay uncounted and unrequited in jungle graves will certainly be just as long.  By every definition of justice and every concept of decency, Reyes should have been killed long ago.
The FARC is not a liberation movement, nor are they “Freedom Fighters.” They are nothing more than smugglers, bandits and thieves whose modus operandi uses bombings, assassination, cocaine trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, hijacking and terror. FARC has its ideological roots in the Marxist revolutions that gave us the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Sendero Luminoso in Chile and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. To understand the meaning of the word evil, merely glance at the history of these groups.
With the help of Chavez, FARC is attempting to legitimize and mainstream itself, much as the genocidal PLO transformed, with the aid of useful idiots like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, from criminal terrorists to pseudo-statesmen. Democrats in Congress, succumbing to lobbying from FARC sympathizers and Marxist apologists, are stalling military aid and a free trade agreement. Undermining a close ally, in a despicable attempt to undermine President Bush and any success he might claim in South America. The Colombian people be damned, and the consequences, well, when are they ever a concern? The long view is an anathema to the left.
Chavez, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa demand the UN sanction Colombia for attacking its mortal enemy, calling it “fascist” and “criminal.” Chavez described the raid as “cowardly murder, all of it coldly calculated.” United by their populist Marxist ideology, and having made the pilgrimage to Havana to receive the blessing of Castro, all three leaders provide material support to the terrorists of FARC, actively undermining the safety and security of the Democratic nation of Colombia who is a major trading partner of all three.
The Venezuelan government has funneled support to radical groups in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. A sizable weapons shipment from Venezuela was recently uncovered in Veracruz, likely en route to leftist Mexican guerrillas. South America’s axis of evil seeks out the like minded, reaching out to Syria and Iran, and letting Hezbollah operate freely in their countries. Flush with renewed ideological vigor, Venezuelan oil revenues and the drug activity Chavez coordinates the new Socialist hegemony will likely plunge South America into decades of violence and upheaval.
Chavez has purchased 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Russia, the modernized AK-103 as well as the license to produce the rifle and its ammunition in Venezuela. It will only be a matter of months before terrorists, rebels and drug gangs all over the region have the new fully automatic Kalashnikovs or Venezuelan surplus weapons. Soon after will come explosives and rocket propelled grenades.
A member of the cult of Che Guevara, Hugo Chávez’ revolutionary ideology will inevitably spread from the barrel of a gun, and before he topples, the destruction and misery he causes will condemn much of South America to economic and social ruin. The American left, blind as always to the horrors visited upon the world by this misbegotten ideology, will enable and support the death of not one, but several democracies.
Found on a laptop in the terrorist camp and released by Colombian security services, a series of letters between FARC hierarchies confirms the substantial support of FARC by Hugo Chavez. A passage from one letter is particularly troubling:
“The gringos will ask for an appointment with the minister to solicit him to communicate to us his interest in discussing these topics. They say that the new president of their country will be Obama and that they are interested in your compatriots. Obama will not support “Plan Colombia” nor will he sign the TLC (Colombian Free Trade agreement). Here we responded that we are interested in relations with all governments in equality of conditions and that in the case of the US it is required a public pronouncement expressing their interest in talking with the FARC given their eternal war against us.” Raul Reyes, FARC Terrorist Commander
Some very foolish and self-important persons feel they can represent themselves as emissaries of a new US administration to the despots and terrorist groups in South America. They may or may not have been speaking with Obama’s blessing. That they talked to FARC at all, and it is not loudly condemned, is chilling. The US has had several congressional delegations visit the region recently. Who was on them? The arrogance and stupidity of so undermining our elected government boggles the mind. Whether it is visiting terror states with American blood on their hands or treating with murderers who currently hold American hostages, it is the sheerest folly and must be denounced and brought into the light of day.
Colombia’s president, Alvaro Uribe, is a determined and capable leader. He has done much to rebuild his war torn nation. His approval rating is an unheard of 80%. He has taken the countryside from guerillas and drug traffickers; the murder rate is less than half that of a decade ago, kidnapping is becoming rare and brutal thugs, from both sides of the political spectrum are brought to justice. He has demobilized 30,000 militia members. The economy is booming. FARC is loosing ground, attacked by police, citizens outraged by their cruelty and a reformed and capable military. Their safe havens are no longer safe. Mr. Uribe is a defender of freedom and democracy that deserves our profound respect, our support and most of all, our loyalty.
Facing imminent defeat, the Marxist killers are using other tactics, the tactics of deceit and disinformation. They are tapping into the gullible left in the United States to influence policy. Using their own words to charm the vain and muddled leadership of the Democrats and appealing to their various ideologies, FARC has succeeded in straining US-Colombian relations and undermining US support for the Colombian Free Trade agreement and military aid. Singing in harmony with the activists of the lefts largest causes such as unions, the MoveOn.Org/Clinton/Soros alliance and everyone else from enviro-fanatics, the NAACP, and Code Pink, they have played Pelosi’s party for the fools that they are.
Colombia will survive. They have been born of the fiery crucible of South American nationhood, uniting as few nations do behind a capable and enlightened leader, a leader that does not promise utopia, but actual prosperity and security. They get it.
If we let the Democrats undermine our alliance with Colombia to appease the far left, no international agreement is safe. Foreign policy becomes just another political tool and our alliances merely matters of political convenience. If we abandon Colombia, as we abandoned Vietnam, we simply will not be trusted. But then, if you believe Hugo Chavez is good for Venezuela you should not be trusted with running a boy scout troop. If you think talking to FARC will get hostages released and atrocities stopped, you are a fool.

Chávez, the FARC, and Threats of War

Chávez, the FARC, and Threats of War

By Ray Walser
The Heritage Foundation | 3/6/2008

On March 1, Raúl Reyes, the nom de guerre of Luis Édgar Devia Silva, a senior leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), died as he had lived–violently–on the borderland between Colombia and Venezuela. A commander of the FARC’s Southern Bloc, Reyes stood in line for a top leadership position in the narco-terrorist group. In the eyes of Colombian law, the 59-year-old, avuncular-looking Reyes was a natural-born killer with more than 121 legal cases opened against him, 57 of them for homicide and acts of terrorism, and 14 convictions.

At the time of his death, there was a $5 million reward for information leading to Reyes’ arrest and/or conviction, offered by the U.S. government. The Colombian Minister of Defense called Reyes’ death a major setback for the terrorist guerrilla organization.

The engagement that killed Reyes and 16 other FARC insurgents occurred on the Ecuador side of the border and appears to have involved possible violations of Ecuadorian sovereignty. The reaction of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to a bilateral incident and his order to militarize the Colombia-Venezuela frontier threaten to escalate the incident into a full-blown regional crisis. This is an opportunity for the Organization of American States (OAS) and regional leaders to play a stronger role in crisis management and addressing threats to hemispheric security.

Sovereignty vs. Safe Havens

Many details about the operation remain sketchy and conflicting. It is unclear whether the Colombian military located Reyes by tracking his satellite phone or by getting information from an informant. The Colombians say they were fired upon and returned fire in self-defense. Ecuadorians say Reyes and his troops were camped for the night on Ecuadorian territory and were not in a fighting posture.

Nonetheless, it is clear that Colombia launched a joint air-land operation against a FARC encampment that crossed into Ecuador. The distance of the incursion remains in dispute. While Colombian President Alvaro Uribe apparently briefed President Rafael Correa of Ecuador on the operation hours after the attack, Correa now claims he was misled and misinformed by his Colombian counterpart and has denounced Reyes’ death as “the worst aggression suffered by Ecuador at the hands of Colombia.” The details of the operation will be disputed and investigated in the weeks ahead.

On March 2, the Colombian military reported that it had recovered “revealing” information from computers captured in Reyes’ effects, including records of contacts with senior security officials in Ecuador who were reportedly interested in “formalizing a relationship with the FARC.” Authorities in Quito denied any links between the FARC and officials in Ecuador.

The situation surrounding Reyes’ death demands further objective investigation. Furthermore, governments and citizens must recognize that terrorists and insurgents, be they narco-terrorists in the FARC, al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan, or Kurdish terrorists in Iraq, show no respect for frontiers and national sovereignty.

“A Good Revolutionary”

In his Sunday address to the nation on March 2, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez eulogized Reyes as “a good revolutionary” and called the Colombian operation “a cowardly assassination.”

By once more defending the FARC, Chávez showed his troublesome and increasingly strident interventionist streak in Colombia. The most recent crisis can be traced back to Chávez’s August 2007 involvement as a “mediator” in a humanitarian effort to obtain the release of kidnap victims held by the FARC. The number of hostages held by the FARC is estimated to run into the hundreds and includes former presidential candidate and French-Colombian citizen Ingrid Betancourt and three American contractors.

In November 2007, following unauthorized direct contact between Chávez and the Colombian military, President Uribe told Chávez to stand down in his efforts, provoking a vehement reaction by Chávez. In early 2008, Chávez, with assistance from the Red Cross and others, succeeded in obtaining the release of two female political hostages. Another four political hostages were released on February 28.

On January 11, 2008, still riding high after the first release, Chávez applauded the FARC’s release of hostages and urged Europeans and others to remove the FARC from the ranks of international terrorist organizations. The FARC, Chávez announced, was a genuine army, occupying territory and fighting for the Bolivarian cause. Although the FARC has been spurned by responsible leaders and the Colombian people, Chávez has attempted to grant new legitimacy to the discredited narco-terrorists.

Chávez’s support for the FARC provoked an outpouring of public opposition to the FARC and its violent ways, culminating in massive street rallies in Colombia on February 4 that were echoed by smaller events around the world.

In early February, Wilber Varela, aka “Soap,” a leader of Colombia’s violent North Valley cartel, was murdered on Venezuelan soil. The episode raised troubling questions about links between drug lords and Venezuelan authorities. Investigative journalists in Colombia have also raised questions regarding the secretive activities of General Hugo Armando Carvajal, Chávez’s chief of military intelligence, citing anonymous witnesses who were present at repeated meetings between the general and FARC leaders.

On the Alert

In response to the Ecuador incident, Chávez issued maneuver orders on March 2: “Move 10 battalions to the Colombian frontier immediately, tank battalions, military aviation!” Chávez announced he was closing Venezuela’s embassy in Bogota and said that he would strike Colombia if its military forces made a similar incursion into Venezuela.

This response illustrates Chávez’s increasing bellicosity. Two weeks ago, following the filing of a massive suit against Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PdVSA, Chávez threatened to cut off oil shipments to the U.S. if the suit harmed Venezuela, a statement he later modified to mean if attacked by the U.S.

At home, Chávez faces mounting inflation, food shortages caused by his anti-market economics, and soaring crime rates. The current crisis also gives Chávez a chance to call attention to the package of military hardware that includes Russian-made helicopters and 24 new Su-30MK2 multi-role fighters.

Conclusion

Venezuela’s escalation of the border incident between Colombia and Ecuador is an unwelcome step toward the abyss. While war may not be imminent, Chávez’s truculent and trigger-happy approach to the diplomatic crisis has set alarm bells ringing throughout the hemisphere.

The heightened risk of conflict between Venezuela and Colombia requires immediate action by the Hemisphere’s regional body. The Organization of American States (OAS), now on the verge of celebrating its 60th anniversary, has an excellent opportunity to act. OAS Secretary General Miguel Insulza has a number of tools available to facilitate a calming of emotions and a more impartial approach to crisis management. Yet he will face opposition from Chávez and his supporters, who will attempt to scapegoat the U.S. for the death of a convicted murderer and terrorists. Regrettably, the U.S. Congress has yet to confirm the U.S. ambassador to the OAS.

The crisis is also an opportunity for a regional leader like Brazil to adopt a more proactive stance on hemispheric security threats and to insert itself into a spiraling contest that pits Chávez and his bloc of allies against the elected and legitimate government of Colombia. While the threat of a war between states may diminish in the days ahead, the triangular struggle between President Uribe of Colombia, the FARC, and its increasingly vocal supporters in Presidents Chávez and Correa will require ongoing efforts at crisis management in an increasingly dangerous part of the world.


Ray Walser is Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

Venezuelan Revolt

Venezuelan Revolt

A.M. Mora y Leon
Venezuela is on fire. Triggered by a media shutdown over the weekend, tens of thousands of students from virtually every university, ranging from trade schools to military colleges to the most prestigious universities, and now high schools, are protesting in the streets of Caracas. It’s Venezuela’s longest nonstop street strike since March 2004.
It doesn’t seem entirely peaceful this time. Most of the past ones were peaceful. This one is different. Sure, there were some agents provocateurs, but it looks like more than that. It’s street rage in spontaneous combustion. Over 100 kids, some hurling rocks and bottles, have been arrested, and others have been tear-gassed, and shot at with rubber and real bullets. As motorcycle cops swirl, the streets are becoming burning barricades, with many roadblocked by cops. Gangs of young men on the Chavista side bunch in alleys and doorways, as anti-Chavez others roam around menacingly. It makes downtown Caracas resemble a scene from Blade Runner.   Blogger Miguel, at the epicenter of it, says it took him eleven miles of weaving to get what’s normally three miles home from work yesterday.

Despite these conditions, the protests aren’t stopping. Cops are scattering kids with tear gas and those who are there say they just keep coming back in human waves. More ominous, the protests show no sign of burning out. They now have spread to outer cities like Valencia and Maracaibo.  A huge new protest is scheduled for Friday.
At issue is Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez’s arbitrary shutdown of the nationwide television network RCTV, which commands a 40% market share. It was not only big, the equivalent of CBS in the states, it was more popular. But unlike CBS, it was outspokenly anti-Chavez in its coverage, and unlike other Venezuelan TV stations, like Televen and Venevision, it refused to soften its coverage even under Chavista pressure. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Chavez’s rage at RCTV’s coverage is why he shut the station by pulling its permit. He did so by decree, because he could never do an act like that in a democracy where 80% of the public loves the station. 
No one saw this coming. In Caracas, observers are stunned at the youthful age of the kids in the streets, teenagers who can remember only Chavez as their president over the last eight years. Clearly, they haven’t been remade in his new socialist model at all, but are rejecting it intensely. But there is bafflement over the flaming street rage over this. After all, Chavez has already stolen everything that hasn’t been nailed down – oil companies, farms, hospitals, golf courses, apartment buildings by Marxist expropriation. This doesn’t even count what’s ripped off by corruption. Why the intensity of emotion on the shutdown of RCTV?
Protest signs give an important clue – most say ‘Freedom’ – not even press freedom, just plain freedom. Students feel that this expropriation is a theft of their freedom and they want it back. They recognize the simple principle that if even the biggest, richest critic of the regime can be destroyed by a vengeful dictator, what hope does a little individual voicing a mild criticism have to defend himself?  They also love the station, with its criticism of Chavismo appealing to some, and its soap operas and Wheel of Fortune show appealing to others. In other words, the station represents choice, as well as sort of a dual ownership of the enterprise, of TV producers and TV watchers. To take the shows away doesn’t just punish RCTV, it punishes the public which loves its product. And significantly, in a city with many poor people, television is the only entertainment they can afford. Now it’s gone.
Attitudes are changing very rapidly about Hugo Chavez, even in poor areas. People are despairing of ever getting their own way while Hugo Chavez is around. Meanwhile, the wildcat character of the strikes has a very different feel from the Gandhi and Martin Luther King peaceful protests as a means of effecting political change. They can, but only in a democracy. And Venezuelans are rapidly realizing they are not in a democracy.
The ruling Chavistas are in a panic. They do not know what to do. Chavez himself mocked the protestors Tuesday and implied they were CIA agents – but Venezuelans noticed that he spoke from the naval airport near Caracas, a place from where dictators are known to flee the country. Venezuelans wondered if he was really that scared because it was an odd location. Meanwhile, other Chavistas have bared their fangs at other TV stations, vowing to shut them – Globovision, the last Venezuelan dissident station, a very tiny one that takes subscriptions and commands only a 5% market share, and CNN, whose fearless Kitty Pilgrim and others have done award-worthy reporting exposing the reality of Chavez’s Venezuela for the past few years. Chavez has loudly cursed that reporting.
Venezuelans think that those stations will be shut soon. They don’t want any more coverage of the protests that are engulfing Caracas. In their minds, shutting the stations will make information much harder to get. But there’s too much momentum to really stop it – Caracas will just become a city of added tropical intrigue with people acting on rumors.
Even the most informed players in Caracas have absolutely no idea where this is going. It’s not like the other blowups in the past few years. The rage is out of control and the protestors already know that Chavez and his men will get very violent and it doesn’t seem to be deterring them. It probably won’t dislodge the dictatorship, so far as is known now, but one wonders if this is the beginning of the end for Hugo Chavez.

Chavez Approves Anti-Biofuels Campaign

Chavez Approves Anti-Biofuels Campaign

Venezuela’s leftwing, populist dictator, Hugo Chavez, has personally approved funding for a covert propaganda campaign against alternative fuels, including ethanol and bodiesel. The money will be diverted from Venezuela’s oil revenues; and there is reason to believe Chavez may have sought financial support for the project from Iran, after successfully persuading Cuba’s Communist dictator, Fidel Castro, to condemn biofuels as “capitalist genocide.”

With or without Tehran’s aid, the Crackpot of Caracas aims to discredit the biofuels industry by subsidizing the production and placement of a series of negative articles, essays and TV programs promoting claims that it robs the poor of productive agricultural land, drives up the price of food for humans and animals alike and actually consumes more energy than it produces.

The brunt of the campaign will be directed at Brazil’s thriving ethanol industry. But biodiesel will also be a target. Sources in Venezuela’s capital say Chavez insists that the renewable fuel, which is made from virgin or used (recycled) vegetable oils, be branded “deforestation diesel” because of alleged environmental abuses by the palm oil industry.

The anti-biofuels campaign will naturally ignore the promise of cellulosic ethanol, made from trees and switchgrass, as well as biodiesel produced from Jatropha–a perenneial plant that grows in arid wasteland–and algae. Hydroponic, hothouse cultivation of the latter feedstock could yield thousands of gallons of oil per acre.