Tag Archives: Chavez

Chavistas: They Think They Are Free

One of the best books about the Third Reich, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, is “They Thought They Were Free – the Germans 1933-45” by Milton Mayer (1955). Using some enlightening excerpts I will compare Nazi Germany to Bolivarian Venezuela; the political strategy of Adolf Hitler to that of Hugo Chávez.

A philologist who lived through Nazi Germany recollects in the book: “You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote.” These are things that the citizenry of Bolivarian Venezuela are all too familiar with. Chávez constantly repeats that it is democratic socialism, popular democracy. And voting, yes, they can vote. If they vote wrong he will let them vote again until they vote right. And if that is not possible, as in the last parliamentary elections, he uses a crisis as an excuse to create an enabling act so he doesn’t depend on the parliament. Just like Hitler.

The book continues: “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security.” Chávez has for long governed by surprise, taken decisions himself (God knows how), and presented them on live TV, to the surprise not only of the citizenry, but also of his own cabinet.

Further: “And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.” Replace Hitler with Chávez and it is equally applicable.

The excerpt continues: “This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.” It’s chilling reading if you have followed the recent events in Venezuela.

Jumping a bit now: “The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway.” Hitler did not have TV, so he couldn’t have done what Chávez is doing: An hour-long political entertainment TV shows every Sunday, Aló Presidente. In it, the president is diverting the audience with political rhetoric of the populist kind, giving them a feeling that they are part of the government process. It is all about diverting, of course. In reality they are further and further from it, just like the Germans.

The following longer excerpt is worth reading slowly, over and over again, especially for all Venezuelans:

To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late.

Resist the beginning. Consider the end. Venezuela, it is not too late! But in a week it may be…

Chávez has confiscated businesses, industries, farms, without any uprising. But the past weekend something went wrong. At the farm El Peonío the workers threw out the military and the action failed. That gave time for a popular resistance to form. Since Chávez was at the same time attacking on many fronts (to hurry up and finish his consolidation of power in the lame duck session), too many Venezuelans were angered at the same time. This is a decisive moment. This is an historic opportunity to throw out the golpista Hugo Chávez.

However, out of respect for democracy and the rule of law, it has to be done constitutionally correct. Just like Manuel Zelaya, ex president of Honduras, was deposed in a constitutional way last year, for doing much the same things as Zelaya has done in Venezuela.

So is there a constitutional way to depose Hugo? I’m not a legal scholar, but I can read, and it seems to me that a case can be made.

What would be the strategy?

Step 1 is for people to take to the streets, do the cacerolazo at night, paint slogans on cars, and similar actions. The purpose of this is not to make Chávez change his mind; he won’t. The purpose is to show those having the power to depose Chávez that they have popular support. This step is crucial! If you want Hugo gone, you MUST show up in overwhelming force on the streets!

Step 2 is to surround the government with unarmed, peaceful civil disobedience, demanding Chávez’ resignation. He won’t resign, but that’s not the point. You will win if you just don’t give up – ever. Keep this principle in mind and you will win:

Things aren’t always what they seem to be.
You just have to keep doing the right thing,
and the circumstances will change before your eyes.

Weak Chávez Retreats Tail Between Legs

The standoff at the farm El Peonío, Zulia state, Venezuela, between some farmers and Chávez military, ended with Chávez sending an envoy to offer a huge payoff. Given the rumors that the military had to be led by Cubans since the Venezuelan officers refused to use military force to confiscate the land from a farmer in their own country, and the rumors that FARC terrorists were also leading the confiscations at many of the other 46 farms, the logical conclusion is that Hugo Chávez is standing increasingly alone.

Cacerolazo in Caracas.
Cacerolazo in Caracas.

After the election loss he is using the lame duck session to introduce full-fledged totalitarian rule, another clear sign of weakness.

Persistent rumors have it that a large majority of the Venezuelan military is against him. His use of Cubans in the recent actions suggests that he really is afraid that they might disobey him. Perhaps even rebel against him.

In this situation Venezuelans have banged pots this evening (twitter hashtag #cacerolazo is leading in Venezuela now), as a signal to judge how widespread the wish for a regime-change is. The same method was used in Iran and there it lead to the overthrow of the Shah.

Chávez has clearly demonstrated that he is not willing to accept democracy. He is not respecting the results. He is using every dirty trick in the book, and some not yet in the book, to sabotage the fundamental principles of democracy, including that of free speech. He has turned himself into a full-fledged dictator – and the courageous people of Venezuela are responding to the provocation by organizing a forceful defense of democracy and the rule of law.

El Peonío was not the end of this fight. It was not even the beginning of the end. It was just the end of the beginning – as Churchill might have put it. Tomorrow new actions are planned.

Media: SvD (Swedish)

Uprising Spreads in Venezuela

Here I will report new developments in Venezuela as I hear about them. If not stated, times are in Eastern Time (GMT -5; Venezuela is GMT -4.5). Read the earlier blog posts for the background.

Riots in Caracas earlier today.
Riots in Caracas Monday December 20, 2010.

18:00 ET: The calm has returned to Caracas, after the riots on the Nueva Granada Avenue earlier today (photos above, below). From the farm El Peonio, it was reported 18:45 local time that the militaries were leaving.

At 17:35 ET, tweets speak of a helicopter overflying the finca El Peonio, and the gendarmes trying to enter wherever they can. This means that the Venezuelan government broke their own word in an agreement entered into at 09:00 today, see below. As general Angel Vivas wrote, one cannot negotiate with those people because they don’t have any principles, no honor, no values.

Riot police have just been sent out in Caracas.
Riot police have just been sent out in Caracas.

14:45 ET: Students have taken to the streets in Venezuela’s capital Caracas, according to tweets. Chavez responds to the opposition with words of civil war: “rifle against rifle” (fusil contra fusil).

Farmers' meeting in Santa Barbara, Zulia, Venezuela (Asamblea de ganaderos de Santa Barbara), 2010-12-20
Farmers' meeting in Santa Barbara, Zulia, Venezuela (Asamblea de ganaderos de Santa Barbara), 2010-12-20

13:30 ET: Live video from an ongoing meeting of the farmers. The farmers demand that all confiscated farms are returned to their rightful owners. They also denounce that the resources that are now used to confiscate the properties, including many helicopters, should have been used to save people from the recent inundations, but they weren’t.

12:00 ET: The newly created Zulian Front for the Defense of the Constitution (Frente Zuliano en Defensa de la Constitucion) has held a press conference. They say that the confiscation of the 47 farms has nothing to do with food production, but is only a way to undermine the social fabric in the state of Zulia, the social network of farmers that can be a counter-force. This, in my opinion, is precisely the reason why Stalin killed the farmers of Ukraine, which provoked the infamous starvation in 1933.

09:00 ET: The deal is, according to Globovision, that starting at 10:00 local time, the agricultural institute INTI will start to inspect that the farm is producing. The reason given by Chavez for the confiscation (what he erroneously calls “expropriation”) was that the farms were not in production.

08:30 ET: New twitter handle to look for, #mollejero, a local word in Venezuela, originating from Zulia and the “guajiros”, that means both ‘fight’ and some complicated mess. Pretty appropriate for this day, with military confiscation attempts of a huge dairy farm at 6 o’clock, with farmers meeting to plan actions at 8 o’clock, with an announcement of a front for democracy in the state capital of Maracaibo at 11 o’clock, and is if that is not enough, new heavy rains that have again made several bridges impassable. Un verdadero mollejero.

Globovicion, the last surviving regime-critical TV channel in Venezuela, has been in the farm since early in the morning. General Estrada and a colonel entered the farm to speak with the owner, Jesus “Chucho” Melean. Reportedly they negotiated that the military is shown around to see that it is in production. Personally, I see this as a way for the military to scout out the area to plan for actions. As general Angel Vivas wrote, one should not negotiate with communists; chances are production is not the real reason for the confiscation.

At 06:22 local time they called from the farm that army had arrived, and shortly after the following tweet came from congressman Juan Romero, “JuanBRomero”: “Inicia la toma de la finca 2 El Peonio de Chcho Hernandez en #surdellago, 20 vehiculos oficiales intentan con personal armado ingresar” (The overtaking of the finca 2 El Peonio of Chcho Hernandez in #surdellago starts, 20 official vehicles with armed personnel try to enter)

Entries 2010-12-19:

On the way to the standoff, evening of 2010-12-19
On the way to the standoff, evening of 2010-12-19

22:40 General Angel Vivas tweets that the operation will start within hours, and that they have already set up roadblocks to prevent help or media from arriving to the finca.

At 22.20 the farm called for URGENT help and for media. Media tried to get there but were blocked. Critical events unfolding but little or no information is getting out. (Source TiaPanaYo)

Around 22:10 ET, more vehicles arrived and continued directly, tweeted TiaPanaYo. The photo above was taken of one of them.

Image taken Sur del Lago, 2010:12:19 13:50 local time.
Photo of anti-riot vehicle taken in Sur del Lago, 2010-12-19 13:50 local time.

Around 20:30, @TiaPanaYo tweeted “Me acaban de informar que 2 Jeeps mas 1 tanqueta estan llegando. Pero si van a El Peonio, deben pasar a 100 mts de mi casa. Saliendo!” (I was just informed that 2 jeeps and one armored personnel vehicle are arriving. But if they are going to El Peonio, they have to pass within 100 m from my house. They are leaving!” A few minutes later, General Angel Vivas (who has sought direct message contact with TiaPanaYo, I assume since she is on location and he cannot get there with his knowledge from Caracas) tweeted, “Recomiendo a los ciudadanos no se emocionen demasiado, todavía,… recuerden que el comunismo es mentiroso,cobarde y traidor ¡TRIUNFAREMOS!” (I recommend the citizens to not get too emotional yet… remember that communism is lying, coward, and treasonous. WE WILL WIN!)

At 18:15 or so, the following was tweeted by Jose Meza: “El frente Zulianos por la Constitución presentará mañana un documento a las 11:00 am en el Colegio de Abogados de Maracaibo”, i.e., “The Zulian Front for the Constitution will present a document tomorrow at 11:00 AM in the Colegio de Abogados in Maracaibo [lawyer’s association]”.

Around 18:00 ET the following tweets were sent by “@josegremeza Jose Meza”: “En El Peonío no hubo tiros ni palos. Sí, toque de tambores. Representantes del Inti o de la GN no han vuelto (vía @TiaPanaYo)”, “Más de 100 personas de diferentes ámbitos se reunieron en Maracaibo para crear un frente de defensa de la Constitución”, “En Maracaibo mañana a las 11:00 am se presentará oficialmente el frente de defensa de la Constitución #surdellago #Mollejero”. In translation, “In the Peonío there were neither shots nor sticks. Yes, drums playing. Representatives of INTI [the agricultural department] or of the National Gendarmes have not returned”, “More than 100 persons from different walks of life got together in Maracaibo to create a front for the defense of the Constitution”, and “In Maracaibo at 11 AM tomorrow the front for the defense of the Constitution will be officially presented.”

At 15:12 ET this tweet reply was written by “@AngieRod Angie Rodríguez” to the question what is going on in #surdellago: “@marialuisarios hay presencia militar y concentraciones pero ningún enfrentamiento” (“there is a military presence and gatherings [of people] but no clashes”).

This blog post by Daniel at 15:00 explains, or at least highlights, why you don’t find anything about this ongoing crisis if you Google news from Venezuela.

Tweet from josegremeza Jose Meza ca 14:03 ET: “Mañana asamblea de productores agropecuarios a las 8:00 am en Santa Bárbara para determinar acciones” (“Tomorrow meeting of farmers at 8 AM in Santa Barbara to decide on actions.”)

Tweet from josegremeza Jose Meza ca 14:00 ET: “En Maracaibo se reúnen a esta hora representantes de diversos sectores para crear un frente de defensa democrático” (“In Maracaibo representatives of diverse sectors are gathering at this time to create a democratic front of defense”).

Tweet from General Angel Vivas at 13:00 ca: “Solicito apoyo aéreo para trasladarme al sur del lago y unirme a quienes defienden la comida de Venezuela. Por tierra no me dejarían pasar.” In translation: “I am asking for help with air transport to south of the lake to join those who defend the food of Venezuela. They will not allow me to pass by land.”

Flyers are distributed today distributed calling for a general meeting Monday at 10:30 (10:00 ET) in Huasipungo.

Media Links: DN (Swedish)

Budkaveln går i Venezuela

Man vet aldrig när Historien börjar. Kanske den börjar i det område som i Venezuela kallas Sur del Lago, söder om sjön (Maracaibosjön), och kanske tidpunkten är just nu. Idag på morgonen lokal tid bestämdes sig invånarna i Santa Barbara för att gå ut i civil olydnad. Bakgrunden är den breda attack mot demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter som president Hugo Chávez påbörjade i förra veckan. Droppen som fick bägaren att rinna över var konfiskationen av tjogtals mjölkgårdar i det nämnda området igår. Endast en stod emot, då de hundratals anställda kastade ut militären och polisen.

Flyer distributed in Sur del Lago, Venezuela, 2010-12-19
Flygblad som distribueras i området kallat Sur del Lago, Venezuela, idag 2010-12-19

Flygbladet säger bland annat: “…vi får inte tillåta att åratals arbete och uppoffringar under generationer förstörs…” och slutar med uppmaning till “allmän kamp” för att för att försvara framtiden för “Sur del Lago”.

Bakgrunden är att Chávez politiska allians förlorade parlamentsvalen nyligen, och den 5 januari tillträder det nya parlamentet. I samband med en svår översvämning som just passerat tog Chávez chansen att låta det utgående parlamentet ge honom 18 månaders rätt att styra med dekret, för att därigenom göra parlamentet maktlöst. Samtidigt togs översvämningen som ursäkt för att konfiskera stora landområden.

Alltså, istället för att hjälpa de drabbade bönderna konfiskerar Chávez deras mark för att de “inte brukar den”. Bönderna svarar att de brukade marken fram till översvämningen, och ber om hjälp istället för att bli utkastade av militärer från sina gårdar.

Tidigare konfiskerade gårdar har i stor utsträckning förfallit och ligger nu i träda. Det handlar ofta om jord som är olämplig för jordbruk, och som därför använts för boskapsuppfödning och och mjölkproduktion. På de igår konfiskerade egendomarna finns tusentals mjölkkor, vilka – om mönstret fortsätter – till stor del säkert kommer att slaktas och gå ur produktion.

Hur var det skämtet gick? “Kommunism: Du har två kor. Staten tar bägge, slaktar den ena, mjölkar den andra, och häller bort mjölken.” Månne Chávez trott att det är så det skall gå till? Månne han har uppfattat Stalins folkmord på bönder i Ukraina som ett revolutionens framsteg? Har han inte hört om de miljontals människor som svalt ihjäl, eller bryr han sig inte om hans landsmän svälter?

Media: DN

Chavez is creating Stalin style starvation

The uprising that started yesterday in western Venezuela, Zulia state south of Lake Maracaibo, was in reaction to the confiscation of large areas of agricultural land. The Chavez regime has during the last few years confiscated a large amount of agricultural and producing land. A significant amount of that has now been abandoned, leading to fears of lack of food, or even starvation.

Abandoned confiscated land in Venezuela.
Abandoned confiscated land in Venezuela.

This is of course precisely what happened when Stalin eliminated the farmers of Ukraine, the main grain-producing area of Europe; starvation in the entire Soviet Union. My grandfather was there as a visitor just after the confiscation, and understood that there were no farmers on the farm. They didn’t even know how to use a plow! A similar destiny can come to Venezuela if the people don’t rise up. Luckily, they are aware of the risk, and they are rising up for precisely that reason, as this article explains.

After Chavez confiscated grain-producing farms in western Venezuela yesterday, the farmers blocked roads. Tanks were called in to clear the roads, but more people joined the rebellion, Twitter being used for the rallying calls. Tweets this morning say that the authorities claim to have cleared the road, but the farmers are in a meeting as I type this, planning for new actions to retake the farms and avoid a starvation disaster in Venezuela.

It seems that this is a moment of truth for Venezuela. The number of people that take to the streets, and the success of a general strike called tomorrow, may determine the future of the country. This reminds me of the general strike in Finland, then part of Russia, in 1905. The whites and reds joined forces against a very repressive Russian regime – and managed to get democracy back. In fact, Finland became the first place where women could both vote and be elected to public office. Perhaps not entirely immaterial is the fact that someone murdered Bobrikov, a much hated governor sent by the Tsar of Russia. But I am digressing; the point is that when the people unites, not even the Tsar of Russia can stand up to it. And in Finland, unlike in Russia, they saved democracy – to this day. There is hope for Venezuela, but it requires that people take to the streets, peacefully.

If Chavez kills innocent people who refuse to move, he loses. If he doesn’t, they don’t move. That is the strategy.

Hacienda La Carolina a month before the government attacked.
Hacienda La Carolina a month before the government attacked.

Links: La Verdad (interview with a 94-year old farmer whose workers threw out the military, plus accounts of the thousands of cattle and hectares seized yesterday on dairy farms). La Nacion (“protests continue”). El Nacional (“protests continue”). Video of the minister of agriculture, pistol in belt, firing up the military and the mob before they went, allegedly assisted by the narco-terrorists in FARC, to expel Venezuelan farmers from their inherited lands.

Knark-kommunisternas planer avslöjade: 15-års “Reich”

Ett dokument som påstås vara upprättat vid ett besök i Nicaragua av Venezuelas president Hugo Chávez (spanska, engelska) lägger fram hela den välgenomtänkta planen för hur Latinamerikanska länder skall tas över, köpta för en miljard dollar per land och år av Venezuela. Vare sig dokumentet är äkta eller förfalskat så är det intressant, för hela strategin som presenteras har redan implementerats i ett eller flera länder. Min egen reflektion då jag läste det var att Chávez verkar ha studerat hur nationalsocialisterna kom till makten i Tyskland, för likheterna i strategin är slående.

Pepe Lobo och Mel Zelaya är inte bara kompisar, de verkar också ha liknande intressen.
Pepe Lobo och Mel Zelaya är inte bara kompisar, de verkar också ha liknande intressen. Lobo har nu startat en process för att ändra grundlagen så att en konstituerande grundlagsförsamling kan hållas - just det projekt som fick Mel att förlora presidentposten den 28 juni, 2009. Projektet är i grund och botten knark-kommunism.

En artikel om dokumentet har även publicerats på Huffington Post, vilket är anmärkningsvärt eftersom det är en blogg på vänsterkanten som tills nyligen varit ensidigt Chávez-vänlig. Detta betyder att vinden kanske har vänt, så Honduras inte längre behöver stå ensamt i kampen mot detta hot mot frihet och demokrati i Amerika. Ojala.

Notera att dokumentet, upprättat i januari 2009 enligt vad källan påstår, säger att Zelaya skall återväljas i november 2009 (presidentval hölls den 29 november). Problemet är att en president inte kan återväljas i Honduras. Därför skulle grundlagen ändras, det är en av punkterna i programmet. I mars 2009 utlyste Zelaya mycket riktigt en folkomröstning den 28 juni, om att hålla en folkomröstning den 29 november, om att tillsätta en konstituerande grundlagsförsamling. Han påstod att han själv inte skulle kunna väljas om, officiellt, men sanningen läckte ändå ut. Ledande personer i Honduras kände till planen redan före den 28 juni.

Planen var att folkomröstningen skulle riggas (Zelaya vann), han skulle på natten förklara att resultatet var så överväldigande att han bestämt sig för att utlysa grundlagsförsamlingen meddetsamma (massvis med Chávez-media var där och nyheten var redan skriven), han skulle så utse sig själv till ordförande för den, skriva om grundlagen så att han kunde bli omvald, och kasta ut resultatet av de redan hållna primärvalen genom fönstret. Det faktum att han inte anslagit några medel till de ordinarie valen visar tydligt att han inte avsåg att de skulle hållas.

Riksåklagaren hade väckt åtal för detta försök till att hålla en grundlagsvidrig folkomröstning, och högsta domstolen hade utfärdad ett direkt förbud mot alla i landet att på något sätt delta i den. De krävde också att presidenten rapporterade senast den 25 juni om deras order att stoppa planerna. Då han inte lämnade någon sådan rapport utfärdades en arresteringsorder för honom. Militären förstod att fienden hade förberett ett motdrag om presidenten arresterades, i form av ett väpnat upplopp lett av beväpnade infiltratörer, stormtrupper, från Venezuela. Därför sändes presidenten istället utomlands, och gränserna stängdes, med hänvisning till nationellt nödvärn. De agerade som om rikets säkerhet var hotat av en irreguljär attack. Dokumentet från Nicaragua stödjer deras hotbild.

Vad dokumentet inte nämner är den starka kopplingen mellan vänstergerillor och knarksmugglare i Sydamerika. Knarksmugglingen är dock inte så omfattande i Nicaragua, där säkerhetsstyrkorna har lyckats bekämpa den rätt effektivt. Honduras däremot fungerar sedan några år som landningsbana för hundratals eller till och med tusentals knarkflygningar varje år. Omkring 150 ton kokain passerar landet, uppskattas det. Medan Nicaragua knappt har några landningsbanor (vilket kunde slutat illa för mig men det är en annan historia) har Honduras massvis eftersom en stor del av landet är väglöst.

Värdet av det kokain som smugglas genom Honduras varje år är mer än dubbelt så stort som landets bruttonationalprodukt, vilket jag skrev om på Newsmill igår. Det är en Davids kamp mot Goliath som det lilla landet som kunde utkämpar. Men en dag, det är jag säker på, kommer de att få erkännande för att ha stått upp för fred, frihet, lag och rätt, den dag de avsatte Zelaya och de 7 månader de, under Micheletti, vägrade vika en tum för omvärldens påtryckningar. Om det finns någon rättvisa i världen så kommer de att hyllas en dag.

PS. Sverige kan ta åt sig en del av äran för att de stått upp för dessa höga värderingar, för vårt land har under flera år hjälp till att bygga upp kompetens inom demokrati, och den institution som även i Honduras kallas “ombudsman” för mänskliga rättigheter.

Publicerat 09:28 ET, sist uppdaterat 17:06 ET.

Why the Dems may lose Miami -> Florida -> USA

This year Florida will elect a new senator, in a three-way race between the Democrat Kendrick Meek, the Independent Charlie Crist, and the Republican Marco Rubio. Chances are slim that Meek will win. This is usually attributed to Democratic voters voting for “anybody who can beat Rubio,” but there may be another factor that the pundits have missed.

It is the traditional Achilles heel of the Democrats: Softness on foreign policy. The one causing the dissatisfaction was not Meek, but president Obama, secretary of state Clinton, and Senate foreign relations committee chairman Kerry. And the constituency group that this particularly affects are the Latinos.

Keep in mind that Miami is a Latino city, predominantly. And that Miami is big enough to flip the vote in all of Florida one way or the other. And that Florida is big enough to flip the national vote of president one way or the other – but I’m sure nobody will ever forget that.

Obama did get a significant support by Latinos in 2008, but that support has completely dissipated by now. There may be several reasons, but it seems to me that one reason in particular has not been getting the attention it deserves: Obama’s Latin America policy.

The crucial issue is Honduras

Actually, Honduras is just the tip of the iceberg, the overall issue being the spread of communism in Latin America, which the Democrats seem to do nothing to stop. In fact, it appears to many as though they actually like this change. And that is a sure way to lose voters in Miami…

The different perspective does not come from a difference in world view, but in a difference in information. Latinos typically watch Spanish-language news, the biggest of which is of course Univisión. These networks cover Latin America closely, while English-language networks give about the same amount of coverage to Latin America as they give to Mozambique, or Mongolia, or the Moon for that matter. When it comes to foreign countries about 99% of their coverage has been devoted to Iraq and Afghanistan the last few years.

When the president of Honduras was deposed on June 28, 2009, it therefore came as lightning from a clear sky, for the English-speakers in the U.S. Naturally, they believed the network when they said it was a military coup. They had no reason to think otherwise. English-speaking Democrats either agreed with Obama’s policy, or thought he didn’t go far enough.

Latinos (and others who prefer Spanish-language news due to it having higher quality), on the other hand, knew that a severe political crisis was playing out in Honduras. They knew that the president was openly defying the Supreme Court, the popularly elected Congress, all other institutions of government, and that he was leading a mob against his own military. They had heard over and over that he was suspected of carrying out an auto-golpe, and they knew that he was ignoring the checks and balances of the constitution. They also knew that several other presidents in Latin America had done the same thing in recent years, and that nobody had stopped them: Chávez, Correa, Morales.

When Honduras stopped Zelaya, many, if not most, Latinos in Miami considered it an anti-coup rather than a coup. Honduras became “the little country that could.” Virtually overnight, Obama-stickers disappeared from almost all cars in Miami.

When it comes to Latin America, Washington is rather ignorant. It is clear that at least some of them believe the outrageous lies and spin, no matter how lunatic it really is, that is being prepared by Hugo Chávez and signed by Mel Zelaya. Perhaps they haven’t realized that Mel sold his soul to Chávez to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Or perhaps they don’t understand what Chávez is up to. Or else, perhaps they haven’t been able to come up with a counter-strategy, so they just stall for time. Who knows.

Meanwhile, unless Obama clearly changes policy visavi Honduras within the next two weeks, my prediction is that Miami will vote for Charlie Crist. Marco Rubio is probably too extreme for the majority (“miamians” may be fiscally conservative, but they are socially progressive), so in an effort to make sure that he won’t win, I figure that many Dems will vote for Crist.

If Obama’s present policy continues for two more years, chances are it will be his last in the White House.

The option

What option does Obama have visavi Honduras? First and foremost, he must clearly distance himself from the outrageous lies that Zelaya is spreading. Secondly, he must make it clear that he understands that,

  1. the Supreme Court of Honduras had the legal authority to issue an arrest order for the president,
  2. there was due cause for the Supreme Court to issue that arrest warrant on June 26,
  3. that the military in Honduras is constitutionally authorized to carry out tasks only done by the police in most other nations (and that it was Zelaya who started using the military for police work on a systematic scale),
  4. that the expatriating of Zelaya was a crime, but that the expatriating of Zelaya does not in any way relieve Zelaya from responsibility for the crimes he carried out before being expatriated,
  5. that the behavior of the security forces during and after the expatriation of Zelaya has been the target of systematic demonization by a deliberately executed and very refined propaganda apparatus, directed by Venezuela’s ruler Hugo Chávez,
  6. that the interim president Micheletti did all that was in his power to maintain public order and security, and to safeguard human rights, in spite of an onslaught of attack by foreign agents, paid demonstrators, and vilification in international media,
  7. that the Attorney General did prosecute the military for the expatriation of Zelaya, and that the Supreme Court did take up the case, but dismissed charges, and
  8. that the Supreme Court of Justice, democratically and constitutionally selected, is the highest legal authority in the country, which means that their rulings are the final word in the matter, as regards the sovereign Republic of Honduras.

A speech to this effect would serve several important purposes: First, it would win back at least a part of the lost support among Latinos who don’t want to see communism take over their native countries. Second, it would assure Hondurans in Honduras that the world has not gone completely mad, and that the rule of law still is the principle upon which civilization is built. Third, it would send a message to president Ortega in Nicaragua that USA has not thrown in the towel to Chávez, so he better stop his plans for an auto-golpe.

Finally, and most importantly, it would set a firm base of law for negotiating a new social pact in Honduras. The spread of popular tyranny in Latin America can be stopped by making it clear that a “constituyente” (i.e., overthrowing the constitution and letting a few more or less self-appointed persons write a new one without democratic input) is totally unacceptable, and that stopping a constituyente by any legal means possible is not just acceptable, but the duty of all who have sworn an oath of office to defend the constitution.

Whatever Obama does, he has to evaluate the strategy carefully, as a seasoned chess player would. Unless he recognizes that Chávez is actively waging a cold war against him, he will stand no chance. Nor will the position of the United States of America in the World.

EU Parliament Condemns Chávez’s words

Earlier this month the European Parliament adopted a statement regarding Venezuela, and in particular the case of judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who has spent the last 7 months in jail totally against the law.

The statement, available in all EU languages, is largely devoted to the case of judge Afiuni, who was imprisoned just because Chávez said so, in his TV program. He made it clear that he wanted her in jail for 30 years, and that he wanted the Congress to retroactively change the law so she could be convicted to a longer penalty. The fact that no evidence has been found for her alleged crime has not motivated her release.

The European Parliament made it clear that they consider the rule of law in Venezuela to be suspended, and goes as far as to use the word condemn. The parliament “Condemns the public statements made by [Hugo Chávez], insulting and denigrating the judge, demanding a maximum sentence and requesting a modification of the law to enable a more severe penalty to be imposed; considers that these statements are aggravating the circumstances of her detention and constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary by the President of a nation, who should be its first guarantor”.

In the statement the body also “Calls on the Venezuelan Government, with a view to the parliamentary elections on 26 September, to respect the rules of democracy and the principles of freedom of expression, assembly, association and election, as well as to invite the European Union and international bodies to observe these elections.”

It is not likely Hugo will comply. Just four days later, July 12, Chávez sent a, shall we say, diplomatic signal back to the EU, by having his political police arrest a man who has been his political opponent ever since Chávez was released from prison after his failed military coup in 1992: Alejandro Peña Esclusa.

Perhaps the neo-communists thought Mr Peña would be an easy target, given how he has been the victim of a slander campaign by communists for years. However, his arrest may have backfired, giving much increased global publicity about the true nature of the regime.

One year ago, when president Zelaya was deposed in Honduras, the star of Chávez was still high in Europe. Europeans in general (including media) did not believe the statements from Honduras that Chávez was behind the illegal plans of Zelaya, which is what caused the Supreme Court to order the arrest of the latter.

However, on July 26, 2009, I published an article on this blog that, it appears, brought a news story from Colombia to the attention of media in Sweden. The Swedish title of the article was, in translation, Chávez’s generals gave Swedish anti-tank weapons to terrorists. It was based on an article in Semana that cited facts found on the infamous FARC computer, and verified with the Swedish authorities, proving that weapons type AT-4 sold from Sweden to Venezuela had ended up in the hands of FARC, by the help of Venezuelan generals.

My modest contribution was simply to put this explosive news (pardon the pun) under the nose of the Swedish editors. Within hours all media had the story, and before lunch the government had taken the decision to stop indefinitely the export of Swedish weapons to Venezuela.

Today the star of Chávez in Sweden is decidedly much closer to the ground, if not already below it. The politically motivated arrest of judge Afiuni and Mr Peña Esclusa are perhaps the most visible cases, but they are just two out of many political prisoners in Venezuela today. Another problem is that the “arbitrary confiscation and expropriation, involving more than 760 enterprises since 2005 … undermine the basic social and economic rights of citizens” as the EU parliament put it.

Alejandro Peña Esclusa has argued since last year that the Venezuelans should learn from Honduras, that it is possible to peacefully stop a developing dictatorship by applying the laws and follow the constitution. Indira Ramirez de Peña has said in the TV program LA NOCHE in Colombia, after her husband’s arrest, that the example of Honduras scares Chávez, and that this is the reason her husband was arrested; to stop him from spreading the knowledge to the Venezuelan people of how they can defeat Chávez peacefully. Personally I would suggest that they also study and learn from how the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania made themselves free from the Soviet Union in the so-called singing revolution.

Venezuela is increasingly developing into a totalitarian state. Although it is not there yet, the developments and signals this summer have been very worrisome. If Chávez looses control over the parliament on September 26, he will no longer be able to rule as a dictator. There is nothing that indicates that he is prepared to take that risk. He is refusing to allow election observers from Chile, for instance. He has made it clear that he intends to exercise control over the only remaining opposition TV news channel, Globovision. Furthermore, even if the opposition wins, Chávez has already prepared to castrate the parliament by not giving them budget responsibility.

There is thus not much that speaks for Venezuela being a democracy today.

As if all this is not enough, Colombia has now presented evidence for large guerilla bases in Venezuela, belonging to FARC and ELN, organizations that are classified as terrorist groups by the EU and US, and which are major players in the smuggling of cocaine to Europe and North America. Chávez reacted with fury to the news, rather than – as a democratic leader would have done – promise to rout them out. This shows that beyond reasonable doubt Chávez is in cohorts with those narco-terrorists. In other words, Venezuela is a state sponsor of terrorism.

It would not surprise me if those who defended Chávez in relation to the crisis in Honduras last year are now mighty red-faced. Unless, of course, they already were red… If you go back and read comments on this blog, you may get a good laugh.

Chávez’s Dictatorship is Consolidated

Venezuela’s president, or dictator – depending on whom you ask – Hugo Chávez Frías, has declared that according to him, the government now owns a minority stake of 25.8% in Globovisión, and insists that he has the right to appoint a director. The person he has in mind is Mario Silva, a talk show host on state TV who is using his platform to vilify Globovisión.

The majority owner of Globovisión, Guillermo Zuloaga, says to Miami Herald that the claim is “absurd” and that Chávez has his facts wrong.

Last month an arrest warrant was issued for Mr. Zuloaga and his son, who fled the country and are now, reportedly, considering seeking political asylum in the US.

Globovisión is the last TV-network critical of Chávez that remains in Venezuela. They reach 42% of the population with 24-hour news that has a critical angle to the regime.

On September 26 parliamentary elections will be held. If Chávez follows through on his intentions, there will be no free and fair elections, since free and fair elections requires a free debate, which requires that there is more than one voice in media.

Judging from the acts of Chávez this year, he is getting increasingly desperate in his efforts to remain in power. The last parliamentary elections 5 years ago the opposition unwisely boycotted, giving him an easy victory. This time they are instead united behind a single candidate in each precinct.

In February Chávez had the judge María Lourdes Afiuni imprisoned for setting a person free after three years without trial. He was released since the prosecutor consistently failed to show up at scheduled trials. Although the law says he couldn’t be held for more than two years, his release caused Chávez to get furious on TV, and order her incarceration. This caused the European Parliament to issue a condemnation of Venezuela on July 8, 2010 and calling for them to be invited to monitor the elections September 26. To which as we have seen, Chávez responded by figuratively giving them the finger, arresting his outspoken political opponent Alejandro Peña Esclusa on patently false charges, on July 12.

In March one of Chávez’s judges had an opposition politician imprisoned just for demanding an investigation (on Globovisión) of the accusations made by a Spanish judge regarding possible contacts between the Venezuelan government and drug-smuggling and terrorist organizations such as FARC and ETA.

Unless very drastic measures, and extreme pressure is put on Venezuela now, there seems to be no hope for democracy this year. There must be a free opposition media, and there must be independent election observers, both during the election campaign and the actual election and vote counting. However, remember Stalin’s words, “it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.” Venezuela uses its own, state-controlled electronic voting machines.

It may be that the only way the Venezuelan people can get rid of Chávez is through a legal process that does not involve elections. The fact that such a process can work, peacefully, has been demonstrated many times the last 20 odd years, from East Germany to Honduras. There is no reason why it would not work also in Venezuela.

Character-Assassination of Political Prisoner on Wikipedia

Last edited 11:10, created 10:08 – Three days ago, the Italian Wikipedia article about Alejandro Peña Esclusa consisted almost entirely of clearly libelous and false claims. Over a period of 3 days the editors have refused to remove the libelous claims, blocked attempts by other users both to remove the libel, and efforts to introduce Peña’s self-confessed political opinions as a balance.

As reported the other day (English, Swedish), Alejandro Peña Esclusa is an anti-communist politician and activist imprisoned by Hugo Chavez on July 12, 2010, on manufactured and laughable terrorist charges, and held by a kangaroo court. The Wikipedia article about him in Italian was a pure hit-job, accusing him of attempted murder, for being a coupster, fascist, anti-semite, racist; most either without source, or sourced to statements by political enemies. A big effort yesterday to incorporate well sourced and NPOV (neutral point of view) material from the English Wikipedia article immediately got deleted. For good measure, the user got blocked from doing further edits. Another user re-inserted it and it again got deleted. The libelous text was reinserted. Little does it help that it was flagged as biased and lacking credible sources, when some of it was patently false and libelous.

Here is an example of the reinserted text, as it stands at 10:24 today: “Nel suo programma politico attuale propugna oggi il rovesciamento violento dei governi di centro-sinistra latinoamericani e il ritorno di dittature militari.” In translation, “In his present political program he is advocating the violent overthrowing of the center-left governments of Latin America and the return of military dictatorships.” No source is provided. In spite of repeatedly providing quotes from Peña, video-recordings where he himself states that he opposes violence, to the editors, they let the libelous statement stand, and delete the refutations. The quoted text mentions “center-left governments,” which should have been a warning flag for the editors, being the terminology of Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian Revolution” and “Socialism in the XXI Century.” Neutral observers rarely consider governments that socialize companies “center”.

A link to a video where Peña Esclusa himself declares that he denounces violence as a political method was provided, but rejected by the editors. Here is a quote from another website under his control: “the Venezuelans ought to become inspired by the Honduran model, and strive for a change of government as soon as possible, through pacific, democratic, and constitutional means–and not just electoral–to avoid a national tragedy” (my emphasis). To allow the unsourced claim to stand, in complete contradiction to his own clearly stated and sourced political ideology (in the translated article), is beyond incompetence. It is either deliberate libel, or libel through gross negligence, since the concerns had been clearly pointed out in the discussion page.

The history of the increasingly frustrating efforts to make the administrators (admin for short, i.e., the Wikipedia term for editors) agree to remove the libelous claims can be read on the discussion page and the history page on Italian Wikipedia.

The first mentioning of the problem was made on the discussion page 2010-07-17 18:01 CEST, with the following message: “This page appears to contain potentially libelous claims without source, that should be removed immediately – this needs to be addressed by an editor in Italian wikipedia.” The rules for articles on living persons in English Wikipedia (there is no Italian translation) clearly states that one should delete such text immediately, but out of courtesy a chance was given to the Italian users to correct the page first. When after 4 hours nothing had happened, all libelous and unsourced claims were removed. That only left one sentence in the article – which goes a long way to show how biased it was.

This delete was undone within 5 minutes by user L736E, an admin who in the discussion kept insisting that Italian Wikipedia had different rules than English Wikipedia, although he never managed to provide a link to the rules. This is his reply: “Sorry guy but in Wikipedia in italian there’s no such rule that “libelous claim should be deleted IMMEDIATELY”.” He later edited his reply to, “Sorry guy but “libelous claim should be demonstrated and presented as such.”

Among the libelous claims that he re-instated was this: “On April 12, 2002, Peña Esclusa participated in the failed coup d’état in Venezuela.” No source for this statement was given. The fact is that he was arrested and promptly set free. The judicial principles are that if the prosecution of a person is dropped, then he is to be regarded innocent, just as if he been declared innocent by a court of law. This sentence in the article was thus demonstrably libelous. Being from the person’s ideological enemies, the communists, it was also communist propaganda. There was thus every reason to either remove it, or rephrase the text to state that it is an accusation from his political enemies. But it had to be done immediately, not “mañana”.

However, when the communist propaganda-nature of the libelous statements was pointed out to admin L726E, he took the argument as a personal attack against him(!). As a result, another admin, calling himself Vito Giulio-Claudio at the time, blocked not just further edits but also all discussion and messages.

These admins claim that the Italian version of Wikipedia entirely lacks rules for protecting innocent persons against libelous attacks with unsourced statements the way the English one does. In their words, the English rules do not apply to them. But on the English page on Biographies of living persons, it says, “This page documents an English Wikipedia policy, a widely accepted standard that all editors should normally follow” (my emphasis). Their word normally links to a common sense clause, which instructs the editors to use common sense, based on the “Ignore all rules-rule,” which says, “If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it.”

The Italian admins thus have all the clout they need to stop the libelous attacks on Alejandro Peña Esclusa, but instead they chose to use their clout to keep the libel in place by avoiding fundamental changes.

The Wikipedia Foundation would be well advised to permanently block those irresponsible administrators who let libel stand, especially in a case like this, when the person’s life quite literally is in the balance–and just might depend on the veracity of that information.

Footnote: Wikipedia in June announced that they would open up some 2000 hitherto locked articles to make editing easier, including many biographies of living persons (source DN).

Example of Chávez’s propaganda, added 11:10: The new house organ of Hugo Chávez from 2009, Correo del Orinoco, has published an article in which they discuss a video of Alejandro Peña Esclusa talking in a church in 2007. In effect, what he is saying is calling for the congregation to follow the constitution and to protest peacefully. This is their way of demonstrating that Peña is a dangerous terrorist(!). If this is the most incriminating evidence they have, they have nothing. In other words, what the propaganda outlet suggests between the lines, is that to even be opposed to Chávez’s socialist revolution legally and peacefully is unacceptable, and deserves to lend a person in jail.