I can’t imagine two people who hate what one another stand for more completely than Hugo Chavez and Alvaro Uribe. And yet, here they are, meeting, signing accords in principle, and even joking about life and death matters.
The idea is, as I blogged yesterday, for Venezuela to export its gas through Colombia, which is sort of the portal between the Americas. And apparently, not only were the discussions positive, but Uribe was trying to out-Bolivarian Chavez, saying: “Any work we can think of doing today was already been done by the Liberator (Bolivar)… today, 200 years later, we are trying to make these things happen, so that history doesn’t pass us by.” He apparently said it was time to leave rhetoric behind and said Chavez was “talking and doing, taking advantage of his vigor and dynamism.”
(And I am still wondering why Uribe didn’t wait a month to see how the recall vote went…)
But wait — it gets even better!
Apparently in the press conference Uribe said he hoped that Spain would sell Colombia something more useful than tanks!
“I don’t want the tanks any more; I hope that with the government of President Zapatero we can make a deal where, instead of selling us these tanks, they can sell us something more useful.”
Chavez, no less magnanimous, said that that decision was up to sovereign Colombia and that he wasn’t going to let any speculation get out of control. Chavez said that there had been bad relations between Colombia and Venezuela, including war plans between them, but that what was really needed was “a joint war against poverty and underdevelopment.” Uribe then replied that there would “never be war” between the two countries.
And then it gets even more surreal. Uribe said he would miss not being able to learn how to drive a tank, and that he wished Chavez could teach him how: “The only thing I deplore is that I’ve lost the chance to have President Chavez as my teacher. How many tanks will you loan me, President Chavez? Please loan me some tanquecitos!”
I will be trying to figure out what the hell is going on over the next few days. This is all rather out of the ordinary.
But there are some things going on that are completely within the ordinary on the Venezuela front.
For your first example, a recent Wall Street Journal article (pointed out to me by fellow killingtrain blogger CP Pandya and reproduced in full below) says that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation is going to make it extra difficult for companies to invest in Venezuela, exacerbating capital flight and harming the economy. Why? This is rich. Because Venezuela apparently illegally expropriated assets belonging to Science Applications International Corporation. If you are doing a double-take at the name of the company, that’s probably because you know what Hector Mondragon pointed out about this set of gangsters last year. A quote from that article:
“But the real strength of the strike in Venezuela has been in the computers that control the giant and highly automated petroleum industry. Even though the PDV is nominally state-owned and run, the computer system is in the hands of the ‘mixed’ (public-private) enterprise Intesa. The party with the technical skill in the partnership is the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)-a transnational computing company. Among its directors: ex-US Secretaries of Defense William Perry and Melvin Laird; ex-directors of the CIA John Deutsch, Robert Gates; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman (ex-director of the National Security Agency); other retired military staff including Wayne Downing (former commander in chief of US Special Forces) and Jasper Welch (ex-coordinator of the National Security Council).
“The hold-up of the oil-tankers was directed from these computing centers. The hold-up was welcomed by various captains, but the tankers were forced to shore in any case: nothing moves without direction from the computers, which also stopped key operations in the refineries and the entry of vital gas for the iron and steel industries of eastern Venezuela. ‘Lungos’ from Guayana had to recover the gas.”
A lot of this is actually in the mainstream coverage, though the idea that these companies might have done something wrong by locking out local workers, trying to shut down an economy, and imposing massive suffering on a population in order to force a government that they don’t like (precisely because it is trying to alleviate the suffering of that population) out of power doesn’t seem to get across in these articles. If it did, perhaps that would make it more difficult for the same companies to be doing the exact same thing right now.
The WSJ story is below. But before the WSJ article, your second example. The Venezuelan ‘opposition’ has declared its ‘program’ for the Venezuelan people should Chavez be recalled on August 15 (Uribe doesn’t seem to think that will happen…). The ‘opposition’ got a lot of help with its ‘plan’ from the United States. See the article below the WSJ piece for details.
Allow me to sum up today’s Venezuela news:
1) Bizarre (Uribe’s visit and behaviour)
2) Predictably appalling part 1: Sanctioning Venezuela because US companies participated in the coup attempts of 2003
3) Predictably appalling part 2: The US-authored ‘plan’ for ‘transition’ after Chavez’s recall in August.
U.S. Ruling May Curb Investment to Venezuela
By DAVID LUHNOW
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
July 15, 2004; Page A9
In a further blow to Venezuela’s reputation among international investors, a U.S. government agency has ruled that Venezuela illegally expropriated a U.S. company’s assets — a move that could make it harder for U.S. companies to invest in the politically volatile Andean nation.
The United States Overseas Private Investment Corp., an agency that provides financing and insurance against political risk for American companies investing in the developing world, ruled this week that it would pay insurance compensation to a San Diego company, Science Applications International Corp., for having had its assets illegally seized in late 2002 by the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez. A spokesman for OPIC, as the agency is known, said the payout was roughly $6 million.
Science Applications, known as SAIC, ran a joint venture with Venezuela’s state-run oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, to provide information-technology services to the oil giant. SAIC says that when Mr. Chavez became president in 1998, its relations with the government soured. After both sides failed to resolve a dispute over continuing the joint venture, called Intesa, the company’s assets were taken over by Venezuela’s military during a general strike in late 2002. The company received no compensation, according to the company and OPIC.
The Venezuelan state oil company criticized the decision yesterday, saying it was based on politics — and the U.S. government’s dislike of Mr. Chavez –rather than the facts. PdVSA chief Ali Rodriguez said the company wouldn’t pay “money that is not lawfully due.” A fiery populist, President Chavez has presided over an increasingly volatile country and faces an Aug. 15 recall vote.
OPIC is seeking damages of $6 million from PdVSA through an independent arbitration panel for the case. If Venezuela doesn’t agree to arbitration, OPIC is “very unlikely” to support new investments in Venezuela, OPIC communications director Larry Spinelli said yesterday. OPIC has provided financing or insurance for more than $900 million in current foreign direct investment in Venezuela, he said. “We are generally a very important catalyst for investment…and a bellwether for political risk in a country.”
Published: Friday, July 09, 2004
Bylined to: Eva Golinger-Moncada
Venezuelan opposition’s new plan of government is “Made in the USA”
Venezuela Solidarity Committee (New York) Eva Golinger-Moncada writes:
The Venezuelan opposition has today announced their long-awaited “plan” for a post-Chavez government and society.
Denominated “Plan Consenso Pais” (Country Consensus Plan), this new agenda attempts to seek “reconciliation” and “reconstruction” in Venezuela and to bring “peace”, “reactivation of the economy” and the “creation of a social and educative political sphere that includes all citizens, without exception.”
* The proposed Plan was presented by Diego Bautista Urbaneja, Coordinator of the Committee for the Country Consensus Plan of the Democratic Coordinator, the opposition umbrella group.
At a press conference early Friday, Urbaneja explained that the Plan was the product of a process of consultations and consensus of 9 political parties, 26 social organizations from civil society, 27 labor and workforce organizations and 5 opinion groups.
The Consensus Plan is a pact amongst the opposition, who (allegedly) are committing to adopt such plan as the base of transitional government, post-Chavez. Urbaneja claims that the Plan will last from once President Chavez is recalled in a referendum to be held on August 15, 2004 until January 2007, the end of the constitutionally allotted presidential term.
The opposition has come under attack recently in the international press and by its own members for not offering any concrete alternatives to the Venezuelan people, but merely clamoring for the ouster of the current President. Many of the key political parties and members comprising the Democratic Coordinator umbrella group are members of former governments and of political parties, such as Accion Democratica (AD) and COPEI, which lost power based on their lack of policies to address the vast majority of poor and working class Venezuelans and their exclusionary politics that catered to Venezuela’s elite.
The new Consensus Plan offered today may, on its face, appear as a viable alternative, yet there exists one major fact that chips away its credibility: The Plan is a creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government entity that has been funneling in millions of dollars to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela to aid their coup and strike efforts back in 2002-3, and now to springboard the referendum campaign and this new transitional government “Plan.”
The National Endowment for Democracy awarded a grant of approximately US$300,000 in early 2003 to The Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a US-based entity and one of four core NED grantees, together with the Center for Dissemination of Economic Information (CEDICE), a Venezuelan organization. CEDICE is presided by Rocio Guijarra, one of the initial signors of the now infamous “Carmona Decree” enacted during the brief dictatorship that took control of Venezuela’s government during the 48-hour coup d’etat against President Chavez back in April 2002. The “Decree” authorized businessman Pedro Carmona as “President” and dissolved all of Venezuela’s democratic institutions, such as the National Assembly (and all its elected members), the Supreme Court, the Constitution, the General Attorney and the Public Defender’s office.
The CIPE-CEDICE grant was entitled “Project Consensus to Build a National Agenda” and featured prominent radical opposition leaders and coup participants as project committee members. Organizations comprising the “Project” included many of the same groups that led the coup efforts in April 2002 and the illegal strike in December 2003-February 2004 that crippled Venezuela’s economy, such as Gente de Petroleo, Fedecamaras, Alianza Bravo Pueblo, CTV, COPEI and the Democratic Coordinator, amongst others.
Another key organization figuring in the Consensus Plan Committee is Liderazgo y Vision, a direct NED grantee led by Oscar Garcia Mendoza, head of the Banco de Credito. Mr. Garcia Mendoza published an advertisement in Venezuela’s national newspapers during the April 2002 praising the coup for bringing back “liberty and democracy with solid institutions and respect for the Law.” Garcia Mendoza also signed a business announcement published in national press on April 13, 2002, recognizing and supporting the “transitional government” of Pedro Carmona … despite the fact that Carmona had taken power via an illegal coup and had unabashedly violated Venezuela’s Constitution.
In a March-May 2003 quarterly report by CEDICE to NED, the Consensus Plan Project is justified by comparing the Chavez administration to the German Nazi Party: “The one thing separating the country from full revolutionary control is the fact that the Chavez Government was the result of free elections (as was the Nazi regime in its inception) “
More than two years after the coup against President Chavez, the opposition has become increasingly dependent on the US government for economic help, political guidance and support.
The NED funds over nineteen (19) organizations operating in Venezuela — all on the anti-Chavez side, a fact which the NED themselves have admitted on various occasions. (Bart Jones, The National Catholic Reporter). Other financing sources, such as USAID, fund more than US$5 million annually to “democracy building” activities in Venezuela that are entirely within the realm of civil society and not government-based.
Now, the opposition’s one-time shot at offering a real alternative to Venezuelans dissatisfied with the current government is none other than a creation of the US government together with organizations and individuals who figured prominently in the April 2002 coup.
* The US government has chosen coup leaders and Constitutional violators to create an alternative agenda for a transitional government in Venezuela.
Will Venezuelans allow their futures to be placed in the hands of a foreign government that doesn’t have their best interests in mind?