July 1, 2004

Another courtroom thriller moment: You can't handle the truth!

"What do you mean I'm out of order?
You're out of order,
this whole courtroom is out of order!"

Litigation, litigation, litigation

Scott kindly provided us with the translated transcript of the proceedings:

Judge-"Mr. Saddam, the court would like to know more about the chemical agents. You know, the ones that you used to get your hair to look so...presidential, today."

Hussein-"First, let me thank the Coalition Provisional Authority for sponsoring my wardrobe, a nice Armani suit from Jordan. It's necessary to understand that ties are no longer needed in situations especially no longer with white dress shirts, as used to be the acceptance"

Judge-"The chemical agents, sir. We asked you about the products you are using"

Hussein-"It's a styling gel, a generic, that is provided in a little plastic bottle in all of the Coalition Provisional Authorities hotel rooms...I mean, cells. But they also have conditioners and these little soaps that have "C.P.A." embossed on them. And they smell like almonds. My skin has really improved as of late."

Judge-"Can you tell us whether you are dying your hair?"

Hussein-"I am the President of Iraq! You tell ME if YOU are dying your hair."

Judge-"You are out of order..."

Hussein-"No, you are...this whole court is out of order. Who would ASK such a question of me? Of ME? You, you who wear a simple $6 dollar crew cut...what did they use, a bowl around your head, boy?"

That's all the transcript I have so far...

That's Scott's transcript. Thanks again, Scott.

June 30, 2004

More stuff on National Prizes

There's more National Prize turmoil: Architect Oscar Tenreiro (not to be confused with his brother Architect Jesus Tenreiro), who was awarded the National Prize for Architecture released this article today on El Nacional:

Reflections on an award.
by Oscar Tenreiro

I think a National Prize, more than one of those recognitions that, in Venezuela, are like a forced exile, is a chance to communicate to others beyond the boundaries of what is routine. So, when gossip brought me the news that my name had been mentioned by the jury of any given year, I thought that whatever the political circumstances of the moment, I would accept it as a special moment to say things.

That's why, when at the end of February, a member of the jury called me up and told me: "Oscar, we awarded you the National Prize, we want to know if you'll accept it", I accepted, letting him know of my wish to say a few words at the award ceremony.

I had to wait for a returned call. There was a 2003 rule that did not allow prize winners to speak (¿?). I thought it was unusual that an awarded honor established that limitation, but I understood it better when a month later, I received, at home, an acceptance affidavit, which I had to sign, and which contained a paragraph that stated "I formally commit to appear at the award ceremony (...) on the date set by the CONAC." As I modified the paragraph with my own handwriting, I wondered why these days, being awarded a National Prize is equivalent to being summoned by a judge.

I had to look for a way to fulfill my wish to say things.

In the time since my signature of the affidavit until today, almost four months ago, the CONAC never officially acknowledged that the prize was awarded, something without precedent; and when I started doubting that the whole thing was even true, they called me on the 23rd for some information and on the 25th they left me a message saying that the prize would be awarded on the 30th of June.

The conditions to the outer limits of the law were going to be fulfilled, as lawyers say, so it was my turn for the wished-for communication.

And I decided to do it in two ways: One through this article, which I dedicate to personal aspects that I think are key; and another one through an interview that should be published today, or one of these days, in which I deal only with architectural themes and architects.

Oscar Tenreiro Degwitz


In the personal realm, I begin by saying that the recently appointed Minister of State for Culture was my professional partner until the end of the 90's, when he opted for other spaces. We were not only partners, but close friends.

We shared educational efforts at the UCV that some consider laudable. The family world of each other was present, as was the confidence, the sweet and the sour, even the sharing of a regrettable accident that almost compromised my life.

Tenreiro-Sesto almost became a composed name.

Political hopes also united us, mine derived of an early political activism rooted in a Christian vision, and in the tensions and grave omissions of a Venezuela post-Perez-Jimenez; his were related to the drama of the bloody Spanish polarization, a rationalized atheism that I always doubted and a form of Marxism that wanted to be democratic. This allowed us to share expectations: we believed, I thought, in a democracy that was perfectible, deep, and rooted in society as a mechanism of change.

We were on the same side.

Thus transpired our relationship of more than two decades.

Architecture was the background of many efforts generally interrupted by the highs and lows in the search of the goddess architecture in a pre-architectonic country . Many were his contributions, as an architect and as a human being, which I would have liked to do and have achieved half-way. That's why this prize is also, in great measure, his, and his name must, without a doubt, be present in whatever reflection of what I did as an architect since the mid-seventies until the early nineties. And what has been my educational career until my recent retirement. I hereby bear witness and pay tribute to his professional and human dedication, always generous and sacrificed, and only on occasion plagued by mixed-up encounters.


But today the situation has changed.

The Revolutionary myth, embodied by the official rhetoric and maneuvering, is descending upon Venezuela. And we know that the Myth, by definition, dominates the spirits. Everything is surrendered to him and is sacrificed for him. It matters little that it is only a mirage, as all of us who are on this side of Power know (Power blinds, of course). As any person with common sense, not possessed by the Myth, knows.

Myth has become reality in the psyche of many that were once friends or that I once admired. Holding the hand of a military caudillo from the worst of our nineteenth century, people whose elevated sights we never doubted and of whose honesty we once bore witness, have decided to sit at the table with all sorts of opportunists, with mediocre people who feel that their day has come, and the worst aspect of all, an army of assaulters of the public treasure, who act, as were denounced by Fermin Toro in the Valencia Convention of long ago, "as hungry dogs" attacking their prey. And all of it seasoned with the most authentic style and fascist execution that cuts across a militaristic, antidemocratic scene, well illustrated by the gorillas of the regime.

What can one think then?

What to say?

I say, after all possible reflection that I can muster, that I do not count myself amongst those who worship friendship despite all differences. I think there are differences that end a friendship, like that, plainly and with all it implies. And I say too, that those who in this moment of my country cannot distance themselves from the caudillo, reveal deficiencies that I can comprehend, but are placed on a riverbank where I have no friends.

Chapeau, Mr. Tenreiro, Chapeau.

P.S.: Thanks Sydney, for the translation tweaking!

June 29, 2004

Latest news from Plaza Venezuela...

Something very weird is cooking, guys. I don´t know if you remember my text about the "Defensores de la Patria" and the taken buildings in Plaza Venezuela and the mural. Well, Jazmín Manuitt, the woman who was the frontspiece of the whole show was taken to jail yesterday. Today, the mural with the weapons and the skull was overpainted... in white! My suspicions are: 1) the buildings are still invaded; 2) Eliécer Otayza, former coup monger and stripper, is behind these guys. Something is cooking up there, I can feel it!

June 28, 2004

Some strategical hints...

Our dear Tuti is worried (really worried) about the strategies the CD should undertake to effectively get to the undecided citizens. Today, I saw twice the piece the Comando por el sí is airing ("Yo te propongo", using a very well know song as leit motiv, is a call for reconciliation and inclusion), and I think that they are on the right track.
You all know I´m more than a little bit crazy, so bear with me...

Yesterday, after talking to Tuti, just by chance I watched "The Lion King" on TV. Besides noticing this Disneyesque interpretation on Hamlet (for that is what it all boils to, dear CC bloggers), there is a magnificent scene. Pumba, Timon and Simba are lying on their back, looking at the stars, and Timon asks: "What do you think those lights up there are?". His own answer is a very shortsighted one: "Those are fireflies which stuck to that blue-black thing up there" (let´s say that as a naturalistic thinker, he uses his knowledge to explain something through his perceptions and experiences, and obviously gets it wrong). Then Pumba says: "I think those lights are great masses of burning gas" (which is the scientifical truth, isn´t it, Tuti?). He gets at it intuitively, and Timon starts laughing and tell Pumba that with him everything has to do with gas... Then Simba remembers his father, and tells them that those lights up there are the spirits of dead kings watching still over the world. Timon laughs, big time, and they go on with the story.
You´re surely thinking I finally went over the bend and someone better tell the asylum to get me to the paddled cell ASP, but let me explain myself.
The word "consider", ethymologically speaking, comes from "cum sider", "sider" being the same root of "sideral". To consider, to be considerate, is to take the "stars" on account,that is, to give a mythological dimension to events and images. What I´m trying to convey to you, and the reason I think the "Yo te propongo" side of the campaign is effective is because it touches an AFFECTIVE spot, just as Simba´s story about the stars. Pumba´s scientific explanations won´t do (sorry, Tuti, but I think that´s why I really laughed yesterday watching the Lion King after talking to you, so scientifically prone as you are), Timon interpratation (so similar, by the way, to what Chávez will use: "You are poor because someone is rich", the uncultured man using just his senses to interpret a very complicated issue) falls quite short: what the opposition needs is a way to relate affectively to the voters, showing them what Chávez´s rhetoric has endangered, if not destroyed. The end of the piece: "Let´s be Venezuela again", is exactly what I think everyone feels, that the country has changed for the worse. I expect Calvin goes into a rage and calls me a Fascist and other pretty things, but if Chávez uses Venezuelan myths and images to manipulate the voters, I don´t see why the opposition shouldn´t. I would "rescue" Bolívar, pounding on his civilian side (yes, guys, he had one, he wasn´t only a hero, he was also a citizen), and will also use other civilian "forefathers", like José María Vargas, Francisco de Miranda and Roscio for starters. That is on the "positive", "flower eating" hand.
On the other hand, let´s call it the black and dirty hand, I would again go to my hobby horse: The Lord of the Rings. There is a moment, in the novel (not in the awful movie someone should burn and erase from my memory) when Gandalf faces Saruman (remember Saruman´s power is in the voice, that is, his power is rhetorical), which should serve the CD as an example. Gandalf is not the first to speak, he lets Saruman do his "trick". Then he laughs and rejects his proposal, and so Saruman proceeds to speak to Théoden King, who also rejects him. So, little by little, Saruman´s tricks are exposed, not by denouncing them rationally or scientifically (sorry, Tuti), but by letting them expose themselves as "tricks" (remember the old sayings: "no tiene culpa la estaca si el sapo salta y se ensarta", or "por la boca muere el pez"). So, I think the "dirty" hand should be to confront Chávez´s discourse with its own inconsistency, showing its contradictions... For instance, a short spot with Chávez speaking about the abusive luxury of Pdvsa airplanes, but showing images of the airbus he bought for his personal use (which makes the other planes look like carritos por puesto); or for instance show him in two contradictory moods, like a lamb calling for peace and fraternity and then calling every citizen to arms. I think that that part, which some people call "Chávez versus Chávez", is very easy, and combined with messages of reconciliation like the "Yo te propongo" piece, ans stressing every second that this time it is a personal and indivudual responsibility (that is, making the voters feel responsible for their own destiny as citizens), it surely would prove effective.
(This message was posted just to start the discussion, guys. If you want to shoot the messenger, please use toy weapons).

June 27, 2004

The political prisoners of the Revolution: Capriles Radonski in the Helicoide

There is a direct proportion between the numbers of political prisoners of the Chavez Revolution, and the revolution's need to boost its image at the expense of victims it has designated for revenge.

Among the more illustrious members of this Club of Prisoners is Henrique Capriles (Radonski), mayor of the municipality of Baruta. Capriles is imprisoned in the Helicoide by the Chavez regime, using trumped up accusations. (*)

And to think that it was only in February 2003 that chavista propagandists, living comfortably abroad, were weaving spider webs, such as "there are no political prisoners in Venezuela" [María Páez-Victor (PhD., Sociology), "Why Canada Should Support Chávez" (CERLAC Bulletin 2.1). Uhh-huhh. Of course Páez-Victor's comment, which was offered on a silver platter to innocents at York University-Toronto, was rebutted when a member of the audience (moi) asked her if the name of General Alfonso Martínez meant anything to her. It did not as, beyond the torch she then carried for Chavez, Páez-Victor had lived outside the Venezuelan reality for a number of years. And so the rebuttal continued, mentioning that this General of the National Guard was under house arrest for several weeks, in spite of there being no charges laid against him, and in spite of his having a habeas corpus in his favor. Páez-Victor then obfuscated the issue, skipping merrily along to the next point in her marketing agenda.

Fast forward 16 months. The international brigade of apparatchiks has become more aggressive in its propagandizing of the Chavez regime. And members wait - always so comfortably outside the Venezuelan reality. For what? For the Second Coming that would be the crystallization of their verbal revolutionary dreams. While the regime, more threatened than ever by disfavorable international opinion, slithers, squid-like, squirting greater amounts of black ink to muddy the waters, to confuse, and to hide. Hence the snowballing of political prisoners. And the open joke that has become the rule of law in the regime of Hugo Chavez, now into its sixth year of incompetence and corruption.

Where is María Páez-Victor today? I suspect she's gone quiet in her defense of the revolution to foreign groups of innocents. But other delusional servants continue to parry and thrust. You can find some by lifting the rocks in haunts such as Venezuelanalysis.com or Le Monde Diplomatique. How about the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)? Or a host of freelancers, such as filmmakers from Ireland, Donnacha O'Briain and Kim Bartley? And how can we forget a whole slew of 'caimanes' - alligators, if you will, among loyalists of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Marta Harnecker comes to mind. These are the technicolor dreamers of a bygone era, the verbal mercenaries of packaged promises, the neo-imperialists of hidden agendas. They are all are marked by a common denominator: an inability, or unwillingness, to conduct solid, quantititative analysis to support their ideals. And so these princes and princesses of the proletariat market and sell their flim-flam dreams from far away, with no concept of practical realities inherent in an economy they completely disregard. While the poor, whose numbers have escalated in the past five years of the Chavez administration, are left with no option but to buy in, in exchange for dole. And tears when hunger is at the doorstep.

It could have worked out differently. And the majority of Venezuelans thought that this might be the case when Chavez was first elected on a very different platform than the one he changed after his investiture. No one disputes that a change was vastly necessary.

But this?

Just think what might have been: a partnership between government largesse and business efficiency - each keeping an eye on one another for the good the whole, working together to provide jobs and a measure of independent dignity to a far greater number than are the beneficiaries today.

But that was not the Chavez strategy from the get-go. Instead, the deliberate tactic was to polarize, slowly and inexorably. For what better way is there to divide and render submissive for conquering, a significant voice, which is the private sector in Venezuela? That is, a private sector significant only in voice and know-how, but puny financially, when compared to government coffers.

But I digress. Here then is the truthful account of Father Sirico, following which I have added news items relating to the trumped up accusations against Mayor Capriles.


A Caracas Mayor Pays
Dearly for Opposing Chavez

June 25, 2004; Page A11
The Wall Street Journal


Pastoral work has taken me to many prisons over the years. But none has left an impression quite like the one I visited here on June 13.

Residents call it the Helicoide, or the Helix in English, because of its twisting, maze-like structure. It looks like New York's Guggenheim Museum but more brittle and fractured. Filled with criminals and political prisoners, and serving as the headquarters of the secret police, it is located in the center of the capital, in the Libertador district of Caracas, an urban jungle with five mayors for its 5 million residents.

One of those mayors, Henrique Capriles, is currently serving time here for "public intimidation," "abuse of power," and other such trumped up political accusations following a protest in front of the Cuban Embassy in 2002. He has not been charged with a crime, and has been denied bail. A kept court upheld his detention last month.

Everyone here, however, understands that Mr. Capriles is being jailed for political reasons. He is a well-known opponent of President Hugo Chavez and his regime, which is notorious throughout the region for its dangerous blend of political populism, domestic socialism, and protectionist and nationalist foreign relations. To defend it all Mr. Chavez has militarized the civilian government.

Because I was here to address a conference on globalization, and Mr. Capriles' case interests me, I was hopeful of visiting him. In a Catholic country where the Church is still held in high esteem, in part for its heroic resistance to the Chavez regime, it may have been my Roman collar that gained me entrance. Deep within the Helicoide, I found a pleasant, intelligent and affable young man who emanates a sense of inner strength.

These days Mr. Capriles sports a beard, which symbolizes his protest of the detention. He is the youngest man ever to be elected to Venezuela's Congress, and his political experience, including a stint as speaker of the House, predates the present regime of Castro-wannabe Chavez. Mr. Capriles was active in the formation of a new party, Primero Justicia (Justice First), which is trying to form a new political consensus here. He describes himself as a moderate and jokes that his friends say that he is sometimes too progressive.

Neither Mr. Capriles, who holds two law degrees, nor his lawyers fully understand the detention order against him. The authorities claim that he was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Fidel Castro. The incident at the root of this claim is caught on film. It shows the mayor calming an agitated crowd that had surrounded the Cuban Embassy, located in his district, to protest against Cuba's influence in Venezuela. At the time, the Cuban ambassador thanked Mr. Capriles on television for his efforts. Nevertheless, the videotape showing the protest is the main evidence against him.

Sitting in a small visiting room on a ripped car seat that serves as a couch, one of my companions examines the walls and furnishings and Mr. Capriles gives a wide grin and says, yes, there are microphones everywhere. This should come as no surprise in a building built in the 1950s by dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez and now home to the secret police.

Mr. Chavez paints Mr. Capriles as a radical oligarch who "works for the empire." Such rhetoric is in style these days. Returning from the prison, we listened to Mr. Chavez booming on the radio. Like his idol Castro, he is given to marathon speech making. Attacking the upcoming referendum on his rule, he asserts that the battle is not against the "white oligarchy" of Venezuela. Instead it is against one enemy alone: George W. Bush! Thunderous applause follows.

If Mr. Chavez thought Mr. Capriles would retreat, he was mistaken; the prisoner remains optimistic both for his case and for his country. When I ask what sustains him, Mr. Capriles, whose grandmother was Jewish, fingers the rosary he wears around his neck and says, "You know, I am a third generation immigrant. My grandmother spent 26 months in the Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis. I have only been here 33 days. By comparison, this is nothing."

The real issue, he says, is judicial power. Without a strong and independent judiciary, there can be no freedom or stable democracy. Indeed, Human Rights Watch recently issued a 24-page report highlighting recent attempts to stack Venezuela's Supreme Court in anticipation of a referendum loss by the government.

This is my third visit to Venezuela, the first under Mr. Chavez. The change is notable. The streets are more violent and the entire atmosphere is politically charged -- with neighborhoods maintaining their own independent police forces. The government news channel broadcasts Cuban cartoons telling stories about what happens to those who betray the Revolution. As in Nicaragua, the literacy programs organized by Cuban "advisers" are thoroughly politicized.

In my conversations with a wide variety of Venezuelans -- priests and porters, blue-collar workers and journalists
-- it appears that everyone's focus is on the Aug. 15 recall referendum. There is a general sense that Mr. Chavez will try anything to remain in power, including imposing martial law to prevent the referendum. Another concern is the vulnerability of voting machines to tampering. (The company that has the service contract for them is partly owned by the Chavez government.)

A venerable former government minister, the oldest living member of Venezuela's first democratic government, told me that fraud is the main concern. Unless international organizations are watchful, it is likely Mr. Chavez will steal the referendum votes, and there is already talk from Chavistas of banning international observers.

In many ways, the case of Henrique Capriles symbolizes both the sadness and the hope that is Venezuela's. The sadness is that the best and brightest people in this nation should find themselves in this situation. The hope is that even people like Henrique Capriles are optimistic for the future of their country.

Father Sirico is president of the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.



On June 26, 2004, Union Radio reports that Deputy Gerardo Blyde of the First Justice party (Primero Justicia) indicated that the Nation's Public Defender, Isaías Rodríguez, is the "author of the represssion of the chavist regime and is to blame for the deprivation of civic liberty of Henrique Capriles Radonski, mayor of the Baruta municipality".

He (Blyde) criticized one of six crimes attributed to the mayor of Baruta as that of "ommission of action, based on the report from the Defender that Henrique had to stop the events that were occurring outside the Cuban Embassy the 12th of April (2002). That obligation does not involve municipal powers."

"The Vienna Convention, to which Venezuela is a signatory, establishes that State matters refer to National Public Powers, and in this manner, the representatives of this regime reflect an immense ignorance of this sense", said Blyde.

He asserted that nowhere in the world do "municipal police provide custody to diplomatic entities". Otherwise, he (Blyde) commented that in "the police record there is no proof that would compromise the mayor of Baruta".

The El Universal newspaper furthered those arguments, whereby the First Justice party (PJ) blames the Public Defender for Capriles' illegitimate imprisonment on account of the events in front of the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002.

Deputy Gerardo Blyde (PJ) noted that Capriles is imprisoned for being "a successful mayor", for belonging to an opposition party and because "Julián Isaías Rodríguez should never have been the Public Defender" because he has put the Public Ministry "at the service of his party and political convictions".

"Beyond laying the blame on secondary players such as (Danilo) Anderson, the head is called Isaías Rodríguez, who orders his subordinates to maintain the illegitimate deprivation of freedom of Henrique Capriles Radonski".
(Blyde) was more precise in that the accusation presented yesterday to the second tribunal of the metropolitan area accuses teh mayor of ommission of action, in that according to Anderson, Capriles had the obligation to act to avoid the violent acts that were occurring outside the Cuban Embassy on April 12, 2002, a function which does not correspond to the municipality.

Blyde explained that this function of protection of embassies corresponds to the National Public Power, according to the Vienna Convention as invoked by the Public Ministry.

The legal defender, Juan Martín Echeverría, noted that in the accusation, no mention was made of the video taken by Televen during the mayor's entry to the Cuban Embassy, a copy of which was sent a month ago to Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations.

This fact was not even mentioned in the accusation when the Penal Code requires to take into account, not only the proofs that favor but also those that implicate the one charged.


As The Revolution Turns. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Posted by Sydney Hedderich, courtesy José R. Mora.