The opposition in Venezuela won the Congressional midterm elections in Venezuela yesterday. That is no surprise as the government of Nicolas Maduro has overseen an economy that has to be compared to North Korea in terms of folly. At the beginning of this year the Catholic bishops of Venezuela released a document, read it here, that described the appalling state of their country. That the government of Venezuela admitted losing the elections does surprise me:
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday called on followers to “peacefully” accept a dramatic defeat in this weekend’s critical legislative race and vowed to learn from the rare electoral setback.
The opposition coalition won 99 seats in the National Assembly versus the ruling party’s 46, the National Electoral Council announced early Monday. Some 19 deputy slots and three seats reserved for indigenous members were too close to call.
The result is seen as a major blow to the country’s socialist administration, which has controlled all branches of government for more than 15 years.
In a speech before cabinet ministers, Maduro said he was more committed than ever to the “Bolivarian Revolution” first launched by late President Hugo Chávez when he first took office in 1999.
“This isn’t time to cry, it’s time to fight,” Maduro said, “and reinvent ourselves — to recognize our errors and find solutions…It’s time for a rebirth from our difficulties.”
Fireworks went off in eastern Caracas as the results were announced. The head of the coalition, Jesús Torrealba, reassured government sympathizers that the opposition wasn’t going to dismantle social programs or seek revenge.
Venezuela “can rest assured that we’ll know how to manage this victory,” he said. “It’s a victory that belongs to everyone.”
As the economic situation in Venezuela goes into freefall, and the comic opera Marxist government continues to show itself clueless, the Bishops of Venezuela have released a letter which should be mandatory reading for every Catholic. Here is an informal google translation:
Pastoral exhortation ethical and spiritual renewal tackle the crisis
ETHICS AND SPIRITUAL RENEWAL IN THE CRISIS
1. With deep and renewed hope in God, at the beginning of this year 2015 the Bishops of Venezuela salute all Venezuelans, and lift our prayers to God for the welfare and peace of the country. In the midst of the problems that beset us, we have seen in Christmas light of Jesus, our Divine Savior (Luke 2: 9), who encourages us to go forward, faithful to his word, to build a better world. Trusting again we share with our people some concerns about the current situation, to help resolve the crisis we face.
IN THE MIDST OF A GENERAL CRISIS
2. The first part of 2014 was marked by strong political and social upheaval. At this time the bishops strongly express our rejection of all violence, whatever its origin and authors, as she was a balance of 43 dead and many injured, which we deplore without distinction of social or political groups; denounce the excessive use of force in the suppression of protests and the detention of thousands of people, many of them still in prison or subject to filing criminal courts or other restrictive measures of liberty; and we express our condolences and solidarity with the victims and their families. There are numerous reports of human rights violations including torture of detainees, which must be addressed and punished the perpetrators of these crimes.
3. That grave crisis raised the need for dialogue between government leaders, opposition and other sectors. Thanks, among other things, called the Pope Francis and participation of the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop. Aldo Giordano, he began a dialogue which unfortunately was not the first meetings.
4. This situation has been joined in recent months generalized anxiety of the people by the economic crisis that we suffer, as is subjected unseen difficulties to access basic necessities. A huge external debt, which jeopardizes the future of Venezuelans, the unbridled inflation, devaluation of our currency, smuggling mining and commodity shortages have led to the increasing impoverishment of large sectors of the population, particularly those with fewer resources economic. This crisis is compounded by administrative corruption, centralism, looting the treasury currency, the recent decline in oil prices, and the ineffectiveness of the measures and plans being implemented by the Government to address it.
5. We also have a situation of worsening social violence. Offensive language, the systematic exclusion to any contrary opinion, incite fanaticism and irrationality. The crisis of public insecurity is intolerable. Unfortunately the efforts and programs developed by the government to control this scourge have failed. To this add serious problems in the health field, such as viral epidemics unaddressed efficiently, lack of medicines, medical supplies and equipment throughout the country. Moreover, the death of over forty inmates in the prison of Uribana reveals a tragic situation in our prison system should be reformed completely.
A WRONG WAY
6. The greatest problem and the cause of the general crisis, as we have noted elsewhere, it is the decision of the national government and other public bodies to impose a political–economic system of socialist Marxist or communist. This system is totalitarian and centralist, establishes state control over all aspects of life of citizens and public and private institutions. Also threaten freedom and rights of individuals and associations and has led to oppression and ruin to all countries that have applied.
During the Cold War there was a joke that made the rounds: What would happen if the Soviet Union took over the Sahara Desert? Nothing for fifty years and then there would be a shortage of sand. The Venezuelan government is underlining the punch line in that joke:
Venezuela has already run short of milk, sugar, and even toilet paper, and now supplies of drinking water have fallen dangerously low. Drought and poor infrastructure are the usual culprits, but the socialist paradise also owed tens of billions to international bondholders, and the Chávistas couldn’t afford to finance their debts and also import bottled water. So which did they choose? Venezuela, fearful that foreign creditors would seize its oil shipments, elected to pay $2.8 billion dollars in interest on foreign debt.
Blaming a drought caused by El Niño, the state-owned water company, Hidrocapital, began rationing tap water in Caracas in May. The Table of Democratic Unity (MUD) opposition party was having none of it, noting “the lack of responsibility and improvisation with which the government acts, postponing investments, maintenance, and opportune decisions.” Continue reading
The current condition of Venezuela is symbolized by Stefanía Fernández, Miss Universe 2009, in a stunning photograph symbolizing her as her beloved country as it struggles to regain its freedom:
President Nicolás Maduro on Thursday said he was willing to sit down with the opposition under the watch of an outside observer. He floated the name of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who served as the Holy See’s ambassador to Venezuela before being called to Rome last year.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told The Associated Press Friday the Holy See and Parolin were “certainly willing and desirous to do whatever is possible for the good and serenity of the country.” He said Parolin, in particular, “knows and loves” Venezuela. But he added that the Vatican needed to understand the expectations of its intervention and whether it could bring about a “desired outcome.”
Mediation I think would be would be worse than useless in this case. You have a murderous regime intent on using any means to hold on to power, confronting a fed up populace that has had enough as they have seen their liberties taken away and their economy destroyed: Continue reading
Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. Marco Rubio (R.Fla.) had been listening to Tom Harkin (D.Ia.), pro-abort “Catholic”, give a speech about his trip to Cuba in which he managed to completely ignore Communist oppression, and Rubio decided to reply. It is a keeper. Here is the text of the speech:
A few moments ago, the body was treated to a report from the senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. Sounded like he had a wonderful trip visiting, what he described as, a real paradise. He bragged about a number of things that he learned on his trip to Cuba that I’d like to address briefly. He bragged about their health care system, medical school is free, doctors are free, clinics are free, their infant mortality rate may be even lower than ours. I wonder if the senator, however, was informed, number one, that the infant mortality rate of Cuba is completely calculated on figures provided by the Cuban government. And, by the way, totalitarian communist regimes don’t have the best history of accurately reporting things. I wonder if he was informed that before Castro, Cuba, by the way, was 13th in the whole world in infant mortality. I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they’re not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore don’t count against the mortality rate.
I wonder if our visitors to Cuba were informed that in Cuba, any time there is any sort of problem with the child in utero they are strongly encouraged to undergo abortions, and that’s why they have an abortion rate that skyrockets, and some say, is perhaps the highest the world. I heard him also talk about these great doctors that they have in Cuba. I have no doubt they’re very talented. I’ve met a bunch of them. You know where I met them? In the United States because they defected. Because in Cuba, doctors would rather drive a taxi cab or work in a hotel than be a doctor. I wonder if they spoke to him about the outbreak of cholera that they’ve been unable to control, or about the three-tiered system of health care that exists where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than that that’s available to the general population.
I also heard him speak about baseball and I know that Cubans love baseball, since my parents were from there and I grew up in a community surrounded by it. He talked about these great baseball players that are coming from Cuba — and they are. But I wonder if they informed him — in fact, I bet you they didn’t talk about those players to him because every single one of those guys playing in the Major Leagues defected. They left Cuba to play here.
He also talked about how people would come up to him in the streets and not a single person said anything negative about America. Nobody came up to him wagging their fingers saying, ‘You Americans and your embargo is hurting us.’ I’m glad to hear that. Because everyone who wants to lift the embargo is constantly telling us that the Castros use that to turn the people against us. So obviously, that’s not true. So I’m glad to hear confirmation of what I already knew to be true. I heard about their wonderful literacy rate, how everyone in Cuba knows how to read. That’s fantastic. Here’s the problem: they can only read censored stuff. They’re not allowed access to the Internet. The only newspapers they’re allowed to read are Granma or the ones produced by the government.
I wish that someone on that trip would have asked the average Cuban, ‘With your wonderful literacy skills, are you allowed to read The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or any blog, for that matter?’ Because the answer’s, ‘No.’ So it’s great to have literacy, but if you don’t have access to the information, what’s the point of it? So I wish somebody would have asked about that on that trip. We heard about Mr. Gross, who is not in jail. He’s not a prisoner. He is a hostage. He is a hostage. And in the speech I heard a moment ago, I heard allusions to the idea that maybe we should — he didn’t say it, but I know the language, I know the code in this — that maybe there should be a spy swap. Here’s the problem: Mr. Gross was not a spy. You know what his crime was, if that’s what you can call it? He went to Cuba to hand out satellite radios to the Jewish community. But, we’re glad to hear that the Cubans are so nice to him that they let him walk 10,000 steps a day and do pull-ups and they let him build a necklace out of bottle cap tops. Very nice of them to allow him to do those things. How generous.
I wonder if anybody asked about terrorism, because Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism. I wonder if anybody asked about the fact that, just a few months ago, a North Korean ship going from Cuba to North Korea was stopped in the Panama Canal and it contained items in violation of international sanctions against a government in North Korea that, a report just came out confirming what we already knew, has death camps and prison camps. And the Cubans are allowing them to evade these sanctions. Did that come up in any of the wonderful conversations in this socialist paradise in the Caribbean? I bet you it didn’t.
Let me tell you what the Cubans are really good at, because they don’t know how to run their economy, they don’t know how to build, they don’t know how to govern a people. What they are really good at is repression. What they are really good at is shutting off information to the Internet and to radio and television and social media. That’s what they’re really good at. And they’re not just good at it domestically, they’re good exporters of these things. And you want to see exhibit A, B, C and D? I’m going to show them to you right now. They have exported repression in real-time, in our hemisphere, right now.
Let me show you the first slide here. This gentleman here is the former mayor of a municipality in Caracas. His name is Leopoldo Lopez. And this is the National Guard of Venezuela pulling him into an armored truck last week. You know why? Because he’s protesting against the government. He’s protesting against the government of Venezuela, which are puppets of Havana, completely infiltrated by Cubans and agents from Havana. Not agents, openly, foreign military affairs officials involved in Venezuela. You know why? Because the Venezuela government is giving them cheap oil and free oil, in exchange for help during these sorts of repressions. So here he is, he’s sitting in jail right now because he’s protesting against the government. He’s sitting in jail right now.
So here’s the next slide. This is Genesis Carmona. She’s a beauty queen and a student in a city called Valencia. She’s on that motorcycle because the government in Venezuela and the thug, these so-called civilian groups that they’ve armed — another export from Cuba, a model the Cubans follow — they shot her in the head. She died last week. This is the government that the Cubans support. Not just verbally, not just emotionally, but with training and tactics. This is who they export — this is what they do. And she’s dead. And this is her being taken on a motorcycle to the hospital where they were unable to save her life because she was shot in the head by Venezuelan security forces. Continue reading
It is painful to see a venerable superstition dying a hard death. I am of course referring to the superstition of socialism. Since the 19th century socialism has had an iron hold of the mentalities of many elites, and would be elites, in most nations around the globe. Wherever it has been tried it has proved damaging to economies and where its attempts have been extreme enough the socialist economies prove to be productive only in producing mass poverty. The latest example of this is in Venezuela, currently undergoing riots, as Maduro, Chavez’s successor, oversees an economy in free fall and desperate protestors take to the streets at the risk of murderous repression at the hands of Maduro’s thugs. Richard Fernandez at PJ Media tells us how bad the economy has become in Venezuela:
The suddenness of Venezuela’s collapse should have come as no surprise because downfalls are inherently abrupt. Collapse is a phase change. One moment something is sailing along fat, dumb and happy and the next moment it is sinking beneath the waves. The change from two to one is a loss of 50%; but the change from one to zero is binary.
So it was in Venezuela. Imagine waiting two years to buy a car and finding just when you thought you finally buy one that there are no cars for sale at all.
Leonardo Hernandez had hoped to buy a new car this year, ending nearly two years of waiting on various lists at different dealerships throughout the country.
Those hopes were dashed last week when Toyota Motor Co. said it would shut down its assembly operations in Venezuela due to the government’s foreign exchange controls that have crippled imports and made it impossible to bring in parts needed to build its vehicles.
The country’s other car manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford, haven’t even started operations this year, while waiting for needed parts to arrive.
Think of not being able to buy soap, rice or toilet paper or order a cup of coffee, where even the rich are feeling poor. “In the serene private clubs of Caracas, there is no milk, and the hiss of the cappuccino machine has fallen silent. In the slums, the lights go out every few days, or the water stops running. In the grocery stores, both state-run shops and expensive delicatessens, customers barter information: I saw soap here, that store has rice today. The oil engineers have emigrated to Calgary, the soap opera stars fled to Mexico and Colombia. And in the beauty parlours of this nation obsessed with elaborate grooming, women both rich and poor have cut back to just one blow-dry or manicure each week.”
Imagine there’s no money to keep up the sovereign bond payments, the only source of money to keep power plants going. Continue reading
Surely every parent has moments when he or she think that the toy obsession at Christmas has got far out of control. Some turn to religion, seeking to “put the Christ back in Christmas”, but that big, cuddly man of the people Hugo Chavez has a better idea:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called for an end of Christmas “consumption insanity” and replace presents for children with stories about national independence hero Simon Bolivar, local media reported.
“For the love of God, let’s halt this, let’s put the brakes on this consumerist, capitalist insanity, that leads us to lose our spiritual values,” said Chavez.
Chavez suggested to stop buying toys “that as mothers and fathers we are practically forced” to buy. He also said that there is little sense in buying new clothes each December before Christmas Eve as these sales do not benefit the small merchants, but “their owners, the wealthy, the big distributors that make a bundle squeezing people.”
“Let’s sit with the children and tell them stories of Bolivar, of the motherland,” the Venezuelan President said, adding that he makes this appeal from his heart “to put aside these vices.”
Somehow, I’m not sure that “Bolivar and the motherland are the reason for the season” has quite the same ring to it. But surely Chavez’s heart is in the right place.
Have a happy Boxing Day/St. Steven’s Day/ Second Day of Bolivar!
Should Chavez be taken seriously? Yes, says Maruja Tarre, former international relations professor with a degree from Harvard Kennedy School and now a Caracas-based consultant to multinational firms.
With his revolution losing popularity amid rising inflation, rampant crime, a stagnant economy, and frequent water shortages and power outages, Chavez needs a galvanizing event, she says. A border skirmish, if not a full-fledged war, would solidify his support base ahead of next year’s legislative elections and give his Bolivarian Revolution the heroic episode that it lacks.
Tarre was interviewed Tuesday at her home in Caracas.
Verbal assaults by Chavez are nothing new. People usually react by saying it’s all talk. Should his threats be taken any more seriously this time?
The Venezuelan ambassador to Bogota, Gustavo Marquez, said that the seriousness of the situation could not be overstated and that “there is a pre-war situation in the entire region”.
Diplomatic relations between the South American neighbours are frozen and on Saturday President Chavez escalated the war of words with President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia by saying there was no chance of dialogue.
While those who are committed Chavez fans, convinced that he wants only what is best for his people and the region, may accept his claim that this escalation is necessary because Columbia has invited the US to set up military bases in their country, which Chavez sees as presaging a US invasion of Venezuela, most will see this as evidence that Chavez is seeking to establish a national enemy in order to distract his people’s attention from the economic problems the Chavez regime has inflicted on them. His ability to use Venezuelan oil revenues to buy support at home and abroad is suffering because his government-run oil companies have failed to invest in infrastructure and thus have experienced declining output over the last several years. Continue reading