May 9, 2008

"Broader and deeper"

Quico says: Hats off to José de Córdoba and Jay Solomon: their front-page investigative piece on the real extent of the Chávez-FARC nexus revealed by Raúl Reyes's laptops caused enough of a stir to actually move the bond market today, which has to be the ultimate measure of journalistic impact.

After studying over 100 documents from the laptops, they conclude that the Chávez-FARC relationship is broader and deeper than was previously known, and extended to micro-level operational cooperation over things like weapons procurement and training. The piece anonymously quotes a US official saying that "there is complete agreement in the intelligence community that these documents are what they purport to be." It's probably a good idea to read the whole thing.

A couple of things caught my eye here.

First off, the venue. Page A1 of the Wall Street Journal is widely considered the most intensively edited, fact-checked and coveted piece of journalistic real estate in the English language. Investigative pieces for the WSJ front page are especially serious business: often months in the making and obsessively checked and re-checked for accuracy. Think what you will of their lunatic OpEd page, but when it comes to investigative stuff, especially on the front page, these people don't fool around.

The second thing is a lovely little detail that goes by almost unnoticed in the piece: how does FARC go about publishing its comuniqués denying they cooperate with the Venezuelan government? They post them on the Venezuelan government's Ministry of Information's Website, bien sûr!

A debate about nothing

Quico says: There's a desperate, clawing pathos to it: the painfully fake debate Chávez made the A.N. hold over "Zulia secessionism" ended with parliamentarians approving a strongly worded motion against a movement that's so shadowy, so covert, that it has no known spokesmen, no advocates, no organization, no message, no ideology, no history, no funding, no platform and no plan.

They really are cunning, these CIA guys. They've found the ultimate way of making a movement literally impossible to root out: not existing. What will they think of next?

I think Chávez is really losing his touch here. He used to appreciate that for a smoke-screen to be effective it had to have at least some possibility of being believed, some baseline credibility that, once blown way out of proportion, retained some nub of potential to freak people out.

But Zulian separatism has always existed in the same Dave Barryesque space for dadaist humor as Vermont separatism. It's an expression of Springfield vs. Shelbyville style hometown chauvinism that manifests itself mostly in things like the visual gag in that "Zona en Reclamación" map. Good for guffaws, sure, and great for maracucho bonding...but an actual political project? It's just silly...

In my experience, Zulianos are some of the most patriotic Venezuelans out there. Granted, I've never lived out there (boy, that's one bullet dodged) but I've met a good number of them and I can honestly say I've never even heard of anyone who took the idea of Zulia secession as anything more than a punchline.

May 8, 2008

Dept. of Magical Language

Quico says: So speaking to reporters the other day, Planning Minister Haiman "Orwelito" El Troudi accepted that the last few rounds of sovereign bond issues have created an "implicit price" for the dollar that's above the official rate.

(Why? you can buy Bs.F 3.3(ish) worth of bonds and immediately resell them for $1. Every part of the transaction is legal. So, in effect, there's a second legal price for the bolivar that's higher than the official Bs.F2.15/$.)

"But," El Troudi quickly added, "that flexibilization will never derive into a differential system in any of its forms, such as a dual exchange rate. There shall be one exchange rate."

Which is a lot like saying that yes, admittedly, your sister does trade sex for money, but that will never derive into prostitution in any of its forms...

May 6, 2008

New template

Quico says: After a morning wasted fiddling around with the blog's software, I've now upgraded to one of Google's new style Blogger templates. It looks pretty much like the old template, but has all kinds of new little features - most of which, alas, make more of a difference to Katy and me than to readers.

Regrettably, I was unable to make the new template get along with the old commenting software, so all the old comments have been flushed down some cyberspatial memory hole. R.I.P.

May 5, 2008

Dept. of Luz Pa'la Calle

Quico says: Joy was uncontained in Venezuela today as the government announced that, thanks to the millions of dollars it has invested in the electric industry, there will no longer be any blackouts in.....Nicaragua!

In Venezuela, it's not so bad living under a bridge