February 2, 2007

Datanalisis Poll Highlights

Quico says: Datanalisis' January poll gives us some idea of the state of public opinion with Chávez on full steam ahead mode.

The results are confounding. On the one hand, the idea that we are "losing our freedom" due to the government's fear strategy is not very widely shared:

At the same time, Chávez's plan for indefinite re-election does not enjoy wide consensus. NiNis disagree by a 3-to-1 margin:

And some of the more radical measures the government has been pushing are badly out of step with public opinion, even on the chavista side:

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February 1, 2007

Oscar the brave

Katy says: This note from Spain's EFE news service is sure to make some waves. Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias made an unusually bold, scathing assessment of Chávez, chavismo and the hemisphere's current ideological battles.

Here is the translation:
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said today that the new special powers given by the Venezuelan Congress (sic) to President Hugo Chavez constitute “a negation of democracy.”

“There is a simple difference between a dictator and a democrat: if the democrat has no opposition, it’s his job to create it, but the dream of the dictator is to eliminate all opposition”, said the Head of State and winner of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize in an interview with Costa Rican radio station Columbia.

Arias criticized that Chavez can now rule by decree for the next 18 months.

For a dictator, he said, “the most important thing is not to have opposition but to have absolute power. A democrat believes only power stops power and, therefore, believes there has to be a division of powers, because society works better with those checks and balances.”

Arias said that “we’ve had a revolt in South America in the last few years” because the continent is in a period where “the strongman system, caudillismo, and populism, Latin American diseases inherent to our culture, our history and our essence,” are “back in vogue.”

“The fundamental difference in Latin America is between governments that believe in the need to insert their small economies into the world and those that do not; the latter group can afford to be protectionist and do not believe you need to look for markets, preferring alliances of another sort, such as the alliances between Venezuela and Cuba or Nicaragua and Cuba, that are certainly not commercial in nature,” said the Costa Rican President.

“What can Nicaragua sell to Cuba? Nicaragua can sell much more to the United States, to China or the European Union. I don’t know what this bolivarian alliance is about other than the wish to remain in power permanently, for life if possible ,” said the Costa Rican President.

Arias emphasized that Latin America should follow the road paved by Chile, which has signed more than 50 free trade agreements with countries all over the world, allowing it to become the most developed country in the region.

Mr. Arias said he was not in favor of either the policies of Mr. Chávez nor US President George W. Bush, because his political “preferences” in the US “lie with the Democratic Party.”

“Bush is too much of a warmonger for my taste,” said the President.
Chávez will surely unleash all his verbal and diplomatic demons on the Costa Rican president, but fear not, for mild-mannered Arias has tackled worse thugs before. Arias is the first Latin American head of state to call Chávez a dictator, and for that we applaud him.

January 31, 2007

Censor the Beeb

Katy says: This fawning BBC photo essay about a Chávez-sponsored organic farm in the middle of Caracas is not to be missed.

Like any good Islington lefty, reporter Nathalie Malinarich and photographer Emma Lynch are just tickled pink to see newly empowered swarthy latin peasant types making organic - organic! - vegetables right in the middle of a big city. It's just so exotic!

Of course, it only takes about ten seconds of actual reasoning to realize that putting an organic farm in the middle of a crowded, congested city may be the dumbest urban-planning idea this side of... well, building another monstrous statue in honor of Simón Bolívar. Ten seconds of actually reasoning, though, seems more than these Beeb PSFs were capable of.

Lets walk them through it: it may shock you to learn that urban land is many, many times more expensive than rural land. The revenue you get from farming on urban land is much less than what you get if you use it for buildings. Which is just a jargony way of saying that putting a farm in the middle of a city is like using $20 worth of cloth to make a $10 shirt: it consumes more resources than it produces.

This little factlet is the reason behind a phenomenon you may or may not have noticed: cities are full of buildings, while the countryside is full of farms. Coincidence? I think not!

Caught up in the revolutionary fervor, Malinarich and Lynch don't stop to puzzle these things through. They don't wonder how many more organic farms the government could finance if it sold this plot of land and invested the proceeds in the countryside. They don't seem to grasp that resources run out, that the resources you use up on absurd projects are resources you can't use for sensible ones, and that, therefore, their adorable little organic farm is creating poverty, not reducing it.

Opportunity cost? Reactionary rhetoric!

Perhaps it would be too pesky to suggest that having a public park for everyone to enjoy, or some badly needed extra housing, would be a better use of scarce city space. Thing is, none of these questions seem pertinent when your perspective is clouded by a first world rebel-wannabe's crush on the Latin Revolutionary du Jour. Crikey!

I think the BBC should have its license revoked for putting out such biased reporting.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Complete Idiot's Monetary Policy

Quico says: Miguel wrote an excellent post on why inflation pressures are mounting in Venezuela. I liked it a lot, but it's a bit technical. Since a picture really is worth a thousand words, I tried to illustrate what's happening here...

...don't worry, you're not alone: your fellow Americans were kind enough to send $34.5 billion to Venezuela in this way in 2006...

So far, so good...

...this is why the opposition insists that when Chávez says "hand over the excess reserves" that's really just code for "print more bolivars"...

...as the ratio of circulating-bolivars-to-reserve-dollars rises, BCV realizes it has to do something to counter the trend...

...remember, CDs are just loans people give to the Central Bank. BCV has to pay them back, with interest. When it does, all those extra bolivars go right back into circulation...

...so Venezuela's rising inflation is not surprising: we have more and more bolivars chasing the same number of goods...

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January 30, 2007

National icon gangbang update...

Quico says: First Chávez banged the name of the country, slapping his political movement's buzzword on our passports. Then he moved on to the flag and the coat of arms, turning what had been symbols of national unity into divisive, partisan irritants. Recently, he talked about freelancing some extra lyrics for the national anthem.

Surely, with a track record like that, it was only a matter of time until he made a grab for the last of our national icons:

It is un'friggin' believable, and all too believable at the same time: at Chávez's request, Carabobo governor Acosta Carlés is making a grab for control of the most popular team playing the most popular sport in the country. I know that reads like a send-up, but it's true.

You have to understand, Magallanes is to Venezuela what the Yankees are to the US - a National team with a passionate National fan base. It's just their luck that that fan base includes El Supremo. Guess Hugo didn't take it so well when the Tigres de Aragua kicked Magallanes's butt in the finals just the other day.

It might all be funny, if it wasn't so damn creepy. For years now, I've argued that it's wrong to describe chavismo as "totalitarian" because the hallmark of totalitarian regimes is seeking control over areas of social life that have nothing to do with politics. Things like, y'know, pro baseball teams.

Doesn't take much to paraphrase Hannah Arendt on this one:
If totalitarianism takes its own claim seriously, it must finish once and for all with 'the neutrality of baseball,' that is, with the autonomous existence of any activity whatsoever. From the point of view of totalitarian rulers, a society devoted to baseball for the sake of baseball is only in degree different and less dangerous than a class of farmers for the sake of farming.

January 29, 2007

Snapshot from Beirut

Quico says: Sadly Hugo has not yet presented me with the opportunity to add Nasrallah to my right hand column, but that isn't stopping Hizbullah supporters in Beirut from making the connection.