Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Chavez' Master Plan?

From Petroleumworld.com - speculation on what long-term goals Chavez might have:

Chavez's "Master Plan"

Hugo Chavez is winning the energy war in Latin America. His three goals are
very simple. He wants the following:

-- to drive Petrobras and Brazilian influence out of Bolivia;

-- to drive Occidential Petroleum and US influence out of Ecuador; and

-- finally, to convince China to displace the US as Venezuela's
primary energy partner

Complete article by Scott Sullivan here.

That first "objective" makes some sense.

Brazil through Petrobras - which is partially State-owned- has been a critical player in developing Bolivia's natural gas industry in the 90's. They funded a good chunk of the construction of the pipeline from Bolivia to Sao Paulo, a move that was controversial (in Brazil) at the time. The expense was justified by Brazil's long established plans to rely much more on natural gas, and wean itself off oil. It also served a foreign policy goal of assisting its neighbor Bolivia, hopefully stabilizing it. And it further reinforced the strategic partnership Bolivia had with Brazil, that had started in earnest under Banzer to the detriment of the Argentinians.

For Chavez, promoting instability in Bolivia, creates trouble for Brazil/Petrobras. Chavez suddenly has more leverage vis a vis Brazil through his close relationship with the "Social Movements" in Bolivia. But there probably is a less ideological or geo-political reason behind this. If Bolivia is too uncertain a supplier of natural gas, who better than Venezuela? After all the country is the holder of the largest gas reserves in the Continent, and is a neighbor.

Monday, August 29, 2005

OLE!!! Felicitaciones Oriol, First Win

The Catalonian Champ Car driver, pinch-hitting for the injured Bruno Junquiera in Newman Haas Racing, finally got that elusive first win at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal on Sunday. Oriol started second and fell to third, but after a restart he made a banzai move on Justin Wilson and took second. He then proceeded to run down German driver Timo Glock who made two blocking moves to hold off the hard-charging Spaniard. The race stewarts penalized Glock for the second move, and gave Oriol the position for the win.
Oriol is one of the nicest guys in the paddock, and deserves this win, not only for his persistence, but also for the sheer agression he showed on the track Sunday. Read the whole story, here, here, and here.

Photo by Michael Levitt, USA LAT Photographic

Photo by Michael Levitt, USA LAT Photographic

Friday, August 26, 2005

Duro! Daddy Yankee in New York Times

Alerted to this by Clemenseando

Reggaetón's Big Star Hits the Big Time

Published: August 25, 2005

Madison Square Garden isn't the biggest place Daddy Yankee has performed. He has already headlined soccer stadiums across Latin America. But his show on Saturday night at the Garden is to be a milestone both for Daddy Yankee and for the music he now dominates: reggaetón, the Puerto Rican hybrid of hip-hop, Jamaican dancehall and salsa, sung and rhymed in Spanish with a touch of Spanglish. Now Daddy Yankee is taking reggaetón on its first American arena tour.

It begins at the Garden and winds up, nine cities later, in San Jose, Calif. Reggaetón has conquered parties, clubs and lately radio; Daddy Yankee's hit "Gasolina" reached MTV and the playlists of many hip-hop stations, and he has a new hit, "Like You," with lyrics in English and Spanish. Both songs are from his 2004 album, "Barrio Fino" (VI/Universal), which has sold three million copies in the United States alone. Daddy Yankee guesses that at least half a million were sold to English-speaking fans who just liked the sound.

The Rest Here

Dang, Daddy Yankee hitting it big-time!

While some folks from the Spanish-speaking perspective might be getting sick of reggaetón, it comes as a fresh shot in the arm for hip-hop in general, which could use the infusion of energy and beats.

Through the years, the Latin audience in the United States has been divided by regional tastes. Mexican audiences favor Mexican styles, Puerto Ricans and Cubans prefer salsa, Dominicans support bachata and merengue. Latin pop has tried to pull together a pan-American audience with sentimental ballads and light rock. But musicians and fans have grown confident that reggaetón will be the street music that unites younger Latinos and reaches into the English-speaking mainstream.

I agree with that statement. Daddy Yankee's hard driving beats, and delivery appeal to the type of Latino kids who also listen to 50 Cent, Eminem, and Ludacris, no matter if they are in Chicago, New York or L.A. I was watching some show on Univision, and they talked about a largely Mexican-American crowd in L.A. going nuts, when the intro to Gasolina was played.

In a way DY's music reminds me of Naughty By Nature, streetwise, but able to come up with some catchy beats.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Wants To Take Out Hugo!!

Looks like there is a rift in the Flat-Earth society!!!

Pat Robertson, while not praying for the death of moderate Supreme Court Justices has now turned his attention to the Hugo Chavez regime, as you can read here. In terms kind of harsh, coming from a purported religious leader, he proposes to deal with the ruler in the following terms:

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Yikes, Chavez is still an elected leader, shouldn't be saying those things Pat.

Chavez of course, is given to saying a lot of nonesense publically, including how American invaders will be killed by his troops, and by his plans to scare Bush by going up behind him when he isn't looking.

the fact that the American Minister/politician/multi-millionaire, has wished Chavez dead just gives more ammo to the already paranoid megalomaniac in Caracas.

But it should make for interesting exchanges.

Boy, those two characters are truly a match made in Heaven.

Iraq: The Unseen War

From Salon.com, pictures the U.S. gov't and Fox News don't want you to see. As I have said before

War is ugly and brutal, when you send someone's 19 year child overseas, and spend billions of your taxpayers dollars, the public deserves (no actually needs)to see the full extent of what is going on in the theater of war, including pictures of innocent victims of your weaponry, and your own war dead.

Warning: graphic photos of dead civilians and combatants.

Link Here

Monday, August 22, 2005

Nicaragua: Lewitzes Gets Endorsement of Splinter Sandinista Party

Herty Lewitzes, the popular ex-Mayor of Managua, just got the endorsement of the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS), a breakaway faction of the FSLN (Sandinista Front), that also announced it was abandoning Convergencia Nacional, coalition it has with the Sandinistas since 2001. Stories in Spanish from the Nuevo Herald, here and here.

Lewitzes was expelled from the FSLN, for challenging Daniel Ortega and launching his candidacy for President, at a time when he was leading Ortega in national polls.

Lewitzes, was first oficially nominated by the Partido Alternativa Cristiana, a mostly evangelical party. He seems to be putting together a fairly broad-based coalition, and will certainly need the ex-Sandinista network at the grassroots to effectively challenge the FSLN and the liberals come election.

Sendero Luminoso Leader Goes on Trial

Abimael Guzman a/k/a Presidente Gonzalo, with 18 other individuals, is finally going to trial by a Civil Court (as in non-military)on charges of terrorism. Last time it came up, it ended with a mis-trial of sorts in November of 2004. And even before that, the original military case, was vacated due to a finding that the Military Court lacked jurisdiction over civilians. The Nuevo Herald has an article here.

Guzman is accused of instigating one of Latin America's bloodiest conflicts, which left around 70,000 dead from 1980 y el 2000.

The former phillosophy professor in Ayacucho, led a splinter faction that broke away from Peru's Maoist-line Communist Party. Starting with small cells - they had an estimated 12 to 50 members in the early 70's. At Guzman's direction, they began an underground study of the works of Peruvian intellectual Jose Carlos Mariategui, as well as the classics of Marxist-Leninist though such as Mao and Lenin with the object of producing a "Peruvian" type of Communism. It was Mariategui's phrase "Shining Path" that gave the group its name. As the nucleus of students and others grew, previous graduates went to work as rural teachers continuing their work with the students, while others started infiltrating labor and peasant groups in other regions of the country.

As the 70's went by, it increasingly became a cult of personality based around Guzman, whose orders were unquestionably followed, and he became known as "Presidente" Gonzalo. By the end of the decade they had decided the conditions were ripe for armed struggle, and Guzman's writings became increasingly apocalyptic in tone. He referred to the Senderistas as being the "few chosen" of the "many called", of them having a "pure light" in their "breasts and in their soul," and talked about how they would accomplish a cleansing of Peruvian Society, by removing the serpents and cancers.

When the actual armed struggle began, it started with relatively small scale actions, but quickly grew in scope and viciousness. The Peruvian military responded with brutality of its own to the threat and soon began sweeping the hills and jungles. Something about Sendero's millenarian language struck a chord with some Andean residents, which combined with the military's brutality led to some degree of support for the rebels. Their disciplined cadres soon exerted their puritanical control over chunks of Ayachucho, indoctrinating more young people. But their heavy hand was soon resented by many villagers, who began their own paramilitary organizations with the militaries help. This cycle of violence and revenge soon plunged parts of Peru into a horrific Civil War.

In this environment, Guzman himself endorsed some of his organizations bloodiest actions, which took place against villagers. In one such act of vengeance, Senderistas attacked the village of Lucanamara and murdered more than 70 unarmed men, women and children. Guzman himself referred to it as a "needed" "massive blow", against his opponents, although he cyncically did say that it was an "excess" for which he was not responsible, since he was hundreds of miles away. But then again, he also did say that it was an action planned by the Central Committee - which was essentially just him and a couple of his women.

A true evil mastermind, who might finally pay for his crimes.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Cuba: Castro And Ricemakers

Funny AP picture here.

Looks like the bearded one, in the middle of a great national drive to modernize Cuba's kitchen appliances, promised electric rice makers at a discounted price of around 6 bucks to the entire Cuban population in one of his blabathons. Nuevo Herald
article here.

But Fidel has been taught a lesson in Capitalism, since the Chinese manufacturers have demanded letters of credit, and in their absence have been slow in delivering the 3 million unit order. A first installment of 250,000 delivered to the Island, was held in a Habana warehouse, due to the vendors insistence on receiving a letter of credit before releasing them. To make matters worse, those 250,000 were delivered to mostly remote provinces, and people in La Havana still eagerly await their pressure cookers.

So now Cuban appartchiks are desperately soliciting quotes from potential suppliers closer to the Island - even in the U.S.

One Cuban housewife, quoted in the Herald, said "not even in a painting" had she seen the appliance, and thought the whole thing "a myth".

Hundreds of Cubans and Venezuelans "Lost In Paraguay"

File this one under "things that make me go hmmmmm" from the New Heraldo

The Paraguayan government is looking for 150 Cubans, 120 Venezuelans, and roughly the same number of Colombians who entered the country with 90 day tourist visas, and overstayed by two months. Local authorities want to see where they are living, what work they do, and why they continue to be in the country.

Some sources are claiming that this has something to do with Rumsfelds visit.

And the Cuban ambassador also said that the Cuban embassy is also investigating what her compatriots are doing here.

She also, helpfully pointed out that it costs a lot of money for Cubans to fly out of the country.

Yeah right!!!!

--- unless someone didn't get briefed....

I smell a rat, or at least 150 of them.

It might help if they look in Bolivia.

Could it be that some of those Colombians and Venezuelans are actually Cubans?

Whatever the speculation, one fact is crystal clear: it is extremely difficult for ordinary Cubans to get permission to leave the island, and to have that kind of money to leave the island. The ones who do travel freely, often have some sort of official capacity. That 150 of them, with tourist visas, arrive in Paraguay with its multiple borders is cause for concern.

And people get all riled up about 150 or so American troops there.

Nicaragua -- Human Rights Case Against Sandinistas + other nasty regimes in LA

Publius has posted a link to this AP article that appeared yesterday:

Miskito Indians Accuse Sandinistas of Crimes Against Humanity

By Filadelfo Aleman Associated Press Writer
Published: Aug 18, 2005

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) - Miskito Indian leaders on Thursday asked the independent Permanent Human Rights Commission to probe crimes against humanity they allege were committed against their people under Nicaragua's Sandinista government of the 1980s.

The leaders said at a news conference that they also would demand that government prosecutors take legal action against those who allegedly killed at least 150 of their people, burned houses, destroyed crops and slaughtered livestock.
One of those who filed the complaint, Mario Flores, said five of his relatives had been killed by the army around Christmas 1982.

The Miskito leaders denied political motivation and complained in a prepared statement that "no government to this point has decided to investigate these events and the local and international human rights groups have ignored us."

Tomas Borge replies:

Former Sandinista Foreign Minister Tomas Borge said the complaint had been inspired by the U.S. government as a way to denigrate the Sandinista party ahead of the 2006 presidential election. "Otherwise, why now after more than 20 years?" he said when contacted by telephone.

Borge said both sides had committed abuses and said he had punished Sandinista troops who committed them.

"Enano" Borge is a cynic, he was head of the State Security Aparatus for the regime, the one that was trained by the East German Stasi, and was crawling with Cuban advisors. Amazing how someone who was tortured -almost to death- became the head of such a feared (and brutally efficient) organization. That is the kind of contradictions you can live with, when you are that dedicated to Marxist-Leninism. Boy was he a piece of work! the guy had crosses on his office wall, no doubt impressing the many "Peace and Justice" types from U.S. churches.

I have heard first-hand accounts of summary executions taking place in the Costa that December and January. It was a culmination of Sandinista provocation, which had included the killing of several Miskitos at a religious service.

Over the next eight or so years, abuses were committed by both sides - and the Miskito's and Contras could be extremely brutal. While it is important for the State that governed to be held accountable for its brutality, I doubt it will happen due to the Sandinista/Liberal control of every major institution. But the very least that can happen is to have the truth revealed in detail.

Why After 20 Years Tomas?

Other repressive Latin America regimes are having their dirty secrets aired publically, even the relatively benign PRI, is being forced to confront its own past misdeeds. This next article points out how this trend is playing out in South America, particularly in Argentina and Chile:

Breaking free from a brutal past

Many countries once ruled by military governments finally throw off legal protections that had shielded regimes' officials


Knight Ridder News Service

SANTIAGO, Chile - From her house, María Valenzuela saw her country's presidential palace burning on the morning of Sept. 11, 1973, when military leaders toppled the government of President Salvador Allende, ushering in 17 years of dictatorship.

The Santiago resident also remembers the night in 1974 when soldiers raided her house, forcing her and her family to the floor while they searched for dissidents.

On a recent afternoon, while touring the grounds of Villa Grimaldi, a former detention camp for political dissidents on the outskirts of the Chilean capital, the 51-year-old woman said those days were part of her country's distant past, never to be repeated.

''Everything has changed now,'' she said. ''There is no torture now.'' Her brother, Osvaldo Valenzuela, strolling beside her, wasn't so sure.

''We hope it's over,'' he said.

Decades after the return of democracy, South American countries once ruled by military governments are finally throwing off their painful pasts. Like Villa Grimaldi, former torture centers are being opened to the public. Stories about recently identified victims of military violence regularly fill newspapers.

The rest here, and Beautiful Horizons has a good post about the right wing paramilitaries in Colombia, whose own legacy of brutality is up there with some of the worst atrocities seen in the Continent.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is Chavez, Fidel's New Sugar Daddy???

Gustavo Coronel seems to think so:

After leading a bloody but inept and unsuccessful coup in 1992, Hugo Chavez was sent to prison but after a few months he received a pardon from Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera. One of the things that he did after coming out of prison was to pay Fidel Castro the first of what would become a long string of more than 30 visits.........This modest investment by Castro in an obscure and ignorant Venezuelan demagogue paid handsomely. Today, Chavez .....is now paying back Castro’s hospitality with a largesse both beyond Castro’s imagination and disastrous for the Venezuelan nation.

Venezuela has become a political satellite of Cuba and the main contributor to the fragile Cuban economy. Venezuela represents today much or even more of what the Soviet Union was to Cuba during the early stages of the Castro dictatorship. Today, there are about 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela,

read the complete article at Petroleum World.

I disagree with Coronel, as far as Cuba increasingly running Venezuela, I characterize the relationship as more one of co-dependency. Chavez gets "street credibility" after all he was a high ranking Army officer with all the stigma attached to it in Latin America. Castro on the other hand gets reinvigorated by the injections of money, that allows him to relive his old glories by playing power politics outside of his failed utopia, and yanking the gringos chains. Fidel is getting too old to fully concentrate on these things, maybe his hyper child, Hugito gets to play lead as I said in another post.

Where the article gets cooking is when Coronel, with years of experience in the oil business, breaks down the deal for oil that Chavez and Fidel have:


Under the terms of an arbitrary oil supply agreement to Cuba, Chavez is giving Castro a subsidy of between $3 and $4 billion.

The main contribution Chavez is giving Castro is in the form of oil. In an agreement signed by the two heads of state in October 2000, without proper consultation with, and approval by the peoples of the two countries, 53000 barrels of Venezuelan oil per day started to be sent to Cuba. This agreement was for 15 years. The Cubans can pay 25% of the oil shipments over the 15 years of the agreement, at interest rates of 2% and 2 years of grace. Payment requires no international guarantees, as is the case in normal commercial transactions of the Venezuelan petroleum company. Since commercial rates that Petroleos de Venezuela pay international lenders are substantially greater, it is easy to conclude that much of the Venezuelan oil going to Cuba under the terms of this agreement represents a gift from Chavez to Castro. On the basis of what we know of the details of the agreement, its favorable economic terms and the fact that an important portion of the oil can be paid in services, it is possible to estimate that no less than 10-13,000 barrels of oil per day are being given to Castro for free. At the current prices of oil, this handout of Chavez to Castro is already of the order of $3 - 4 billion during the 15-year term of the agreement. This is a considerable amount of money, taken away from a country where poverty afflicts more than 80% of the population.


But, since early 2005 the situation is much worse!

Since early 2005 the handouts from Chavez to Castro have almost doubled! In December 2004, a new agreement was drawn up between Chavez and Castro, again without the Venezuelan people being consulted since they only found out the details after the fact. In the context of this broader agreement, it was announced that the supply of Venezuelan oil to Cuba had been increased from 53,000 barrels per day to 90,000 barrels per day. Since there is no detailed information on the conditions of this new arrangement, we have to presume that the conditions are the same ones as before. This means that the gift from Chavez to Castro for the next 15 years will now be in the order of $6 to $8 billion.


But wait…. there is more.

This unwarranted of Venezuelan oil and money to Castro has another probable and equally criminal component. According to Cuban official figures the domestic oil production in Cuba is already of the order of 80,000 barrels per day. This volume, claim the Cubans, is already sufficient to meet the industrial and electricity requirements for the island. Government and independent observers coincide in saying that the frequent power outages in the island are due to faulty maintenance of the electrical distribution system rather than to lack of domestic oil supplies. This means that the Venezuelan petroleum going into Cuba is only required for domestic transport. The Cuban government also claims that the oil consumption in Cuba is of about 160,000 barrels per day. Is this true?
If we accept that Cuba is consuming 160,000 barrels of oil per day this means that their consumption is of almost 15 barrels per day per 1000 inhabitants, consumption higher than Ecuador’s or Poland’s. It would represent consumption twice as large as Costa Rica’s or that of Egypt, Colombia, Peru or El Salvador and three times higher than that of Nicaragua, Bolivia or the Philippines. It would be six times higher than Nigeria’s and thirty times higher than Bangladesh’s. If this level of consumption were true it would also be higher than Norwegian or Irish or Puerto Rican oil consumption, all of which are countries with a considerably higher level of industrial and transport activity than Cuba. Cuban oil consumption, as claimed by the government, must therefore be highly doubted.

To judge by the level of transport in the island and by the general profile of the industrial and electrical consumption in a country where sugar production has declined to a third of what it used to be and where electrical supply is very erratic, it seems more likely to estimate oil consumption in no more than 120,000 barrels per day. If this estimate were close to being correct, it would mean that Castro could be re-exporting between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels of Venezuelan crude oil and products per day. In terms of additional income for Castro, at current prices, this would represent between $1.5 and $2 million per day, some $550-700 million per year.

In summary, therefore, the Venezuelan supply of oil to Cuba, under the terms of an illegal agreement that was never properly ratified by the nation, represents a total handout from Chavez to Castro of between $1.2 and $1.3 billion per year, for a total of some $18 to $20 billion during the 15 year duration of the agreement.

And those hypocritical hard-leftists who bitch and whine, about "the people" not having "a voice or were not consulted", in deals involving multinationals, now are silent.


Is just a plain dumbass.

ITS 2005!!!

Quit recycling old outdated garbage, there is no elusive "third way" you tools.

I am sick of these idiots, changing definitions, or hiding behind opposition to the bogeymen of "Neo-Liberalism", and "Globalization".

Listen Lemmings, the free market works, government control and planning of the economy at the macro scale DOES NOT WORK.

People should take a look at what happened in Eastern Block countries and Yugoslavia from the 60's to the 80's, all sorts of experiments in trying to find a 'third way' or to introduce 'market socialism'. IT DID NOT WORK!!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bolivia - May and June Rioting Negatively Impacted Economic Growth

More fallout from the collective meltdown.

A new study from the Centro Boliviano de Economía (Cebec-Cainco) finds that Bolivia's Gross domestic product (GDP) would have grown by 4.5% had it not been for the May and June blockades that affected the economy, and they are projecting a 3. % growth instead. According to Cainco, the losses attributed to the disturbances were around 100 million dollars, which represent 1.2 percent of the National GDP.

Story in Spanish from El Mundo here

Venezuela: Mas Babosadas De Chavez

More babes and political stupidity from Venezuela, as Harry Hutton describes the end of the Youth Council thingy in Caracas:

The Festival of the Easily-Duped ended last night. I can neither quantify nor isolate the stupidity I have seen this last week in Caracas. Chavez could break wind and stick his head in a bucket of porridge, and still they would cheer.

It was a laugh though. I haven’t had this much sex since I was a boy scout leader* The only thing that depressed me was the ceaseless chanting. Do not chant under any circumstances. It’s sub-human.

More of the hilarity that ensues when our Brit friend gets to the bottom of the conference here
Proper fan attire: its like wearing a Zeppelin shirt to an AC/DC concert!!

Now Thats More Like It!!!!

New Latina Author

Well not necesarilly new, but newly published.
Xenia Ruiz an Afro-Latina author from Chicago, just celebrated the publishing of her "debut" novel Choose Me" from Warner Books/Walk Worthy Press. Though considered to be in the "Christian" genre, the book has attracted good reviews from the mainstream press for its vivid portrayals of the two main characters, a Puertoriqueña and an Afro-American man. Was tipped off to this by Babalu . It looks like a good read, here is a sample chapter from the authors web page. I am also interested on her take on Chicago's N.W. side, Humbolt Park and Logan Square, an area I lived in for years.

One review from her blog:

“Narrated in the alternating voices of Adam and Eva, Ruiz's novel mixes a conversational tone with realistic, flawed characters to create a refreshing story of love and reaffirming faith.”

—Library Journal

Evo Wants To Nationalize Gas Industry and Industrialize

Evo, at the act celebrating Garcia Linera's nomination to be his VP candidate, gave some indications of what his policies would be if elected to the presidency. This is quoted in the Nuevo Herald.

He clearly said he would nationalize the gas industry, as well as all other natural resources, and all public services.

He also said that instead of exporting gas, it would be used to "industrialize" the country.

I'm, wondering if that neo-luddite Garcia Linera agrees with the "industrialization" part of the speech.

This is about the stupidest campaign platform coming out of Latin America in recent years.

Bolivia's gas industry expanded due to innovative private-public partnerships, which led to the discoveries of the 1990's. Evo's movement has succeeded in setting this industry back several years, if he is elected it will simply be the coup de grace.

Bolivia: Rummy Gets Tough With Chavez and Fidel On

Babalu gets props for pointing this one out.

Rummy in Paraguay is "concerned" about Fidehugo's activities in Bolivia.
Rumsfeld meets with Paraguayan president amid concerns over Cuba, Venezuela
ASUNCION (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived here for talks with Paraguay's President Nicanor Duarte Frutos amid concerns over what US officials see as a Cuban-Venezuelan campaign to subvert neighboring Bolivia.

"There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways," US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters as he flew here from Washington.

Rumsfeld declined to elaborate but senior defense officials traveling with him said a major purpose of the secretary's visit to Paraguay was to consult on Cuban and Venezuelan activities in the region.

The article quotes some DOD guys, who are probably reflecting Rumsfeld's thinking

First time admission that there are Special Ops guys on the ground

Paraguay, which borders Bolivia as well as Argentina and Brazil, has hosted a series of small scale US military exercises this year. Most involve peacekeeping training and medical readiness teams, but also US special operations forces.

Cuba Worming Its Way Back In?

The officials said Cuba, backed by Venezuelan money, has reactivated its underground networks throughout the region, particularly in Bolivia

"Very clearly in the past year we've seen a return of an aggressive Cuban foreign policy," said one US defense official, who spoke to reporters traveling with Rumsfeld on condition of anonymity.
"The Cubans are back with a big game," he said.

Cuban Activity In Bolivia?

"The evidence suggests that Bolivia really is more of a Cuban project so to speak," the official said.

The official said Cubans were providing political guidance, stimulating street violence and attempting to discredit the country's democratic institutions.

"To the degree that subversive activity is going on and they're trying to wield political influence, it is really the Cubans. Venezuela is certainly providing funding and some morale support," he said.

"It's a concern to all the neighbors. There is an enormous indigenous population that stretches all up the Andes -- Ecuador, Peru even in Paraguay," the official said.

How Farfetched is this whole Scenario?

I have previously wondered what was going on with Castro's vast intelligence network in South America. Anyone denying there was a massive Cuban intel presence in South America is blind, deluded, or just plain stupid. These folks were good, besides the usual suspects in local "open" communist parties, guerillas, and drug dealers, they had great sources within the military's of the region, the government and business.

My theory is that Venezuela has outsourced their intelligence networks, and "hired" the Cubans.

Fidel has a long history of messing with South American governments, specially the ones allied with the U.S. Chavez has been subsidizing him lately with a couple of billions of dollars a year in oil, so he might be flexing his muscles again. There are an estimated 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela, and odds are some of them are intel agents.

So how much of this meddling in Bolivia is Fidel's doing? I am not sure, we have to factor in how much it could annoy Brazil - the "quiet" (for now) giant in the area - and a country which is a trade partner to Cuba.
Fidel is also too much of a control freak; he needs a Marxist-Leninist base to stamp his imprint on it. Bolivia's chaotic New-Left - with all of its Andean babble - would not suit his tastes. Makes me wonder if he is in the drivers seat on this one, or is letting Chavez play lead, while he supplies the instruments.

As for Chavez, he has all the motivation in the world to destabilize Bolivia. Why? First because its fun. Helping overthrow a pro-U.S. government like Sanchez De Lozada's creates headaches for the U.S. and it comes cheap. It has the added benefit of messing with neighbors like Peru and Colombia, who are scared of this type of instability. Plus, the Colonel gets "evidence" for all the B.S. he talks about the failure of neo-liberalism - the big Chavez bogeyman. And it also plays to his messianic fantasies of being the new Bolivar, liberating South America from foreign intervention, and installing himself as the South American leader. From a purely strategic sense, it also constitutes a pro-Venezuela territory right smack in the middle of the continent, giving an outlet to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and Chile. A cynic might also say that by destabilizing Bolivia, it freezes the natural gas production of the nation with the second largest reserves in South America, that would benefit the country with the largest Venezuela.

Venezuela Policy Re-Apprised

A second defense official suggested Washington also has reappraised the challenge posed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a leftist populist who has gained clout from soaring oil income since surviving a referendum on his rule a year ago.

"A guy who seemed like a comical figure a year ago is turning into a real strategic menace," the official said, also speaking on condition he not be identified.

Washington initially took a wait-and-see approach after Chavez won a referendum on his rule last year, the official said.

"But then we saw within a period of months that he began moving out very aggressively, both internally and externally," he said.

"We see him trying to strangle pluralistic institutions of the country at home and then abroad, we see him moving aggressively in Bolivia, other places, with the Cubans," he said.

What is Hugo Problem???

Here is the issue withy Chavez, all his saber-rattling was bound to have an effect. No doubt the third world groupies will blame the U.S. for the crisis, but the bottom line is that the Bush administration has cut Chavez a lot of slack, rightfully so in my opinion. Basically, they let him run his mouth against Bush, and let him try to influence his neighbors, in return they bought his oil. HE PROVOKED THEM, by making all sorts of threats, buying weapons, bringing in Cuban advisors, and kicking out the DEA. The days of Social Democrats overthrown in U.S.-inspired coups in South America is over, and Chavez had enough room to be annoying so long as hge stayed in his playbox and wasn't too overt about things. At this stage, the U.S. reaction comes because Chavez basically asked for it.

It would not surprise me if this has the tacit agreement of not only Colombia and Paraguay, but of Brazil, which is extremely concerned with Chavez' activities. Chavez is projecting his power in South America, taking advantage of the vacuum that resulted when the U.S. got into the Iraq disaster. The resulting balance of power in the region is skewed towards Venezuela, it is time for someone to smack him down to size a little, and put the brakes on him.

Maradona Talk Show Host

Continuing on with the world of the weird, former Argentine Soccer super-star Diego Armando Maradona has a new career:

Fallen Soccer Icon Scores With TV Show
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Times Staff Writer

BUENOS AIRES — He crooned. He grew teary-eyed. He traded head passes with soccer great Pele.

He emoted a tango verse, danced a waltz with an Italian bombshell, hugged everyone in sight and declared more than once, "Que lindo" — How lovely.

Diego Armando Maradona, the stocky midfielder who led Argentina to the zenith of the soccer world two decades ago and then fell prey to drug addiction, obesity and celebrity malaise, made a glitzy comeback this week. His new incarnation: host of a weekly entertainment program, "La Noche del 10," or The Night of 10, a reference to the number that adorned his jersey.

Monday's much-anticipated late-night debut highlighted how Maradona, 44, was still revered here despite his tribulations with cocaine and corpulence, the latter resulting in stomach-stapling surgery that helped him lose more than 60 pounds.

The rest here

Sounds like a carnival sideshow - I am putting this on my list of "must see" TV.

Interesting that Pele shows up on his debut show, they feuded very publically some years ago, when FIFA had that poll for best player of the century.

Dieguito seems like a burned-out clown now, and he blabs a lot of silly rhetoric, but it is hard to forget his absolute genius as a player.

Wonder if Pinguino will be a guest, and if Telesur will pick up syndication rights.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pingüino Chronicles Part 4 Pinguino Strikes A Pose!!

Pingüino's full frontal as Irlandesa describes it!! The bird in all of its magnificence!

EDIT: For Subcommander Marcos' version of the creation of the world, click here

Bolivia: Evo To Introduce Garcia Linera As His VP Pick

Evo Morales' is presenting sociologist Alvaro Garci­a Linera as his running mate, purportedly to "balance" the ticket with someone from the "middle class" (read "White").

However, Garcia Linera, far from being a moderate, is considered one of the main theoreticians of the Bolivia new left, with its view of "different" Bolivian nations

Some of his writings reminds me of the silliness you read in left wing rags in college towns in the U.S - and more than one unreadable ethnic studies journal. But his views are a big influence on Evo Morales and Quispe, and on the Aymara and Cocalero movements.

Garcia Linera, claims that Bolivia's native people's have been trapped by the power structure, to the point where they unconsciously act to favor the oppressors. In his view they need to assert their "will to power" to assert their "sovereignty", and once this process started they would recreate Bolivia in a "new structure of state power" with its own kind of "politics" "institutions", and "economy", based on the Indians own traditions, which would displace the "liberal" platitudes of modern government. In his view, such things as electoral politics and balances of power do not apply to the Aymaras of Bolivia.

It goes without saying that he doesn't approve much of the modern economy. With pronounced scorn he once publically criticized Quiroga - and other young, educated, Bolivian technocrats - for the sin of studying business administration and even worse, being actual managers in corporations. !! Of course, recycling Foucalt, Fanon, and Mariategui is better preparation for the day-to-day grind of running a government than anything taught at such sites of evil as the Kellog School and Wharton!!!!

Nothing new with this this kind of recycled ideology. Variations of this have been played and replayed, not only in Bolivia, but also in other third world countries. Garcia Linera's views, like similar ones elsewhere, also embody acurious paradox: on the one hand suggesting that Bolivia's native people's by digging within their traditions have the tools available to create a fair and just society from the ground up, but on the other hand, he also seems to imply that native people's are somehow not up to the task of living in a modern representative democracy with a free market economy. It is ultimately the scorn with which he refers to democratic institutions - which never have been able to consolidate in Bolivia - that worry me the most about the guy. And also the fact that the multi-ethnic and multi-layered society he aims to create, seems to always come down to one 'led' and organized by one ethnic group - the native peoples. This is the type of theorizing that works great for undergrads wanting to annoy college administrators with, but in Andean contexts can end up with the Sendero Luminoso.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Mexico: Zapatista' s Attempt to Regain The Public Eye

The on-going saga of Subcommander Marcos (and Pinguino) continues, as the "sup" keeps on hammering away at Antonio Manuel Lopez Obrador, Sunday's Miami Herald, describes the revolutionary as "quarrelsome and pudgy", and quotes him as describing the Mexican left in the following terms:

Only tricks, lies, mockery and disdain were what we received from the political parties that now are competing for the presidency,'' said Marcos.

Flanked by rifle-bearing guards, Marcos said the upcoming nationwide tour by the Zapatistas will last months, if not years -- unlike the Zapatistas' weeks-long march to Mexico City in 2001.

''All these discussions are going to help decide what we are,'' Marcos said.

Marcos and the Zapatistas have carried around a big-time grudge with the Mexican left, that stems back to the 70's when some in Mexico's urban left began working on peasant and indian issues, helping to organize cooperatives and unions in and around the Chiapas area. According to Marcos, many of these movements "sold out" by working within the system, and were cooopted by the P.R.I. establishment. Maybe, the EZLN sees too many of the same people in the PRD, which ultimately a good number of
For a good discussion of that check out George Collier's book Basta! Land And The Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. Collier ultimately was way too optimistic on the ability of the Zapatistas to deliver what most of the rebels ultimately wanted - land. But as a chronicle of the history of protest movements in the region, with its complex dynamics, it is an invaluable book.

Venezuela: More Chavez Wackiness

This guy is really putting on a show. He got so ridiculous that he even was parodied on the Daily Show.

His rhetoric is straight out of the 70's Tercermundista playbook:

RE: the U.S. it is the "most savage, cruel and murderous empire that has existed in the history of the world."
"socialism is the only path,"

"a world threatened by the voracity of U.S. imperialism."

Harry Hutton has some pretty funny posts with pictures, here and here, talking about the 16th World Festival of Students and Youth, at the sideshow that Chavez put on in Caracas. Wonder what the prudish North Koreans thought of the scantily clad Venezuelan chicks?

I am on a "fact-finding" mission to the next one!!

Latin America: Champ Car International Coverage Gets Good Rating

From the official Champ Car Site

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 9, 2005) - The international flavor and diversity of the Champ Car World Series has never been as evident as it has been this season. Drivers from 13 different nations have competed in this year's Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, attracting strong interest from around the world as demonstrated by international television ratings at the midpoint of the 2005 season.

In Canada, where Champ Car has three broadcast partners in Global, RDS and TSN, the 20th running of the Molson Indy Toronto, earned a 6.6 share on Global. In addition, the French-language broadcast on RDS attracted another 2.2 share for the Toronto event. One week later, the inaugural West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton earned a combined share of 6.3 on Global and RDS. The result was that nearly a half-million households tuned in throughout Canada for the two events.

Television audience numbers in Mexico have been encouraging as well with live broadcasts as well as one-hour highlight versions of Champ Car races also airing on TV Azteca. The Champ Car broadcasts averaged nearly 250,000 households and over 1 million viewers per event on Azteca 7 through the first half of the season with the live races drawing nearly 1.5 million viewers per event.

That looks to be pretty good numbers for Mexico, especially when taking into account that Mario Dominguez was the only Mexican driver for most of the races, and that Michel Jourdain Jr. with the highest name recognition of active drivers after Fernandez, bailed to the Busch series. Not only that, but most of the big Mexican sponsors like: Grupo Herdez, Cervezeria Montezuma (Tecate), Tiendas Gigante, Nextel Mexico, are gone.

Those Azteca numbers probably owe a lot to the Roshfrans series sponsorship, as the official lubricant of the series. They are very committed to use motorsports as a vehicle for marketing their product in Mexico, and buy a substantial amount of advertising in Mexican media. There is the additional good news that Grupo Modelo, the makers of Corona Beer, have also come back two races ago, and are on the sidepods for Rodolfo Lavin's entry.

Things might be looking up for the rest of Latin America too. where Fox with little fanfare has been showing the races. Champ Car just hired Mark S. Reilly to be the VP for Broadcast Sales and Distribution. While at ESPN, Reilly presided over the very succesful distribution deals to Europe, Japan and Mexico. Many Latin American fans remember that as the golden days of CART/Champ Car broadcasts with on-air personalities like Jorge El Hermano Peruano Koechlin and Marcelo Vivo. Hopefully Reilly will be able to put together a quality package that is seen all over Latin America.

Colombia - Uribe Wants To Buy Coca Crop?

In an interesting twist on Coca erradication. Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, is proposing that the government directly buy the farmers' Coca crop, according to this Christian SArticlcience Monitor Article.

Naysayers contend that the government simply doesn't have the budget for such a proposal. One kilogram of cocaine base, according to the UN, went for $807 in 2004. With 80,000 hectares of coca plants in 2004, the program could potentially cost more than $64 million.

I am wondering how much the annual crop in El Chapare in Bolivia is worth, IIRC it was something like 11k hecares.

Maybe the U.S. should buy it, and I am being serious too. There obviously is a big demand for illegal growing, and the bottom line is you have many thousand farmers in the Chapare region who make a living off the crop, and won't quit anytime soon. Paying "market rate" for their entire crop might be a good way to get it off the market. And that would eliminate any excuse the Cocalero Unions have to make trouble in the country.

Nicaragua: Herty Lewitzes Nominated By Christian Party

Former Managua Mayor, and former Sandinista party member, Herty Lewitzes was officially selected as the presidential candidate of the Partido Alternativa Cristiana, whose base is evangelical protestants. Lewitzes, a Catholic of Jewish origins, feuded with Daniel Ortega and his supporters in the Sandinista party, who threaten to start parliamentary proceedings against him.

Lewitzes, who has good name recognition, is regarded as a pragmatist. In his campaign kickoff, he repeated his theme of including "all Nicaraguans" in his efforts, but warned against corruption. He said that helping the poor was a priority, and called for continued investment by private enterprise to strengthen the productive sectors of the economy.

Nicaraguan Boxer Wins Title, Dedicates Fight To Ortega, Don King Makes Money

Ricardo Mayorga, the 23 year-old Nicaraguan boxer won the World Boxing Council's Super Welterweight belt from Italian, Michele Piccirillo in Chicago's United Center.

He dedicated the fight to Daniel Ortega, and wore Red and Block shorts (Sandinista color). Ortega to great fanfare received the new champ at the airport.

Mayorga did say in La Prensa that his relationship with Ortega is simply that of a friend, and is non-political. Ortega is helping the boxer, who has a pending rape charge in Nicaragua.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Quiroga Criticizes Chavez; Evo in Venezuela

According to stories in La Razon and in theNuevo Herald
Bolivian presidential candidate Jorge Quiroga, issued some pretty harsh statements against Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez. Morales is in Caracas meeting with Venezuelan President for a couple of days, as is Felipe Quispe.

Quiroga accused Morales of being on a "pilgrimage" to Caracas, to visit Chavez whom he accuses of interfering in Bolivian internal politics. "So close to elections all the world knows that from Venezuela, they work and support...openly the MAS candidate, and projects for other groups." He said that Chavez is acting improperly as a "head of state", by his open endorsements of Evo Morales acting as a "campaign manager" for the candidate.

He further stated that "If the elections were in Venezuela they would do good, but the eleccions are in Bolivia." "We Bolivians have to decide our own future, we don't want owners or tricks from abroad."

Quiroga contrasted that interference with the Bolivian's ex-Presidents vocal support he gave Chavez, during the 2002 coup attempt, which the Venezuelan President publically thanked him. "[T]hat gives us the right as a country, and as a person to demand the same respect towards our democracy and we worry about what has been seen the last couple of months, open acts of support from a head of state...[for a candidate]."

Morales, in turn denied received money from Chavez, and said that he was a 'step' away from the presidency, but did admit he admired Chavez, for his part in the struggle against the United States:

."I am convinced that they [Chavez and Fidel Castro] are the commanders of the liberation forces of America. We the peasants want to join that anti-imperialist struggle"

Quiroga in turn said that Bolivians "don't want to be satellites of any foreign project"".

Quiroga also said that Chavez failed Bolivia, by first offering its support for Bolivia's longstanding demand for an outlet to the ocean from Chile, and then turned on the country by supporting the Chilean candidate for OAS boss, Chilean Foreign minister Insulza which Bolivia bitterly opposed.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bolivia: Investments in Oil Sector Reduced Dramatically

From Petroleum World

How can Bolivian and foreign leftists so callously ignore the consequences of their actions??? This is outrageous!!!!!

For the first semester of 2005, investment in the oil and gas industry only amounted to 65 million dollars in exploration and extraction, according to the head of the Bolivian Hydrocarbons Chamber of Commerce, Carlos Alberto López. This is only 10 percentof what was invested in the same period in 1998, when investments in the sector were $608 million dollars.

There is nothing natural or expected about such a precipitous drop, given the size of Bolivia's natural gas reserves, and relative lack of infraestructure. There were different projects from different companies that were set to start during the last three or four years, that never got off the ground. As the article states, when the Liquid Natural Gas project was proposed in 2001, Repsol-YPF estimated it was going to invest around 2 billion dollars in Bolivia to develop the plan. Petrobras had also made noise about building a second pipeline, and other improvements to increase production, which is still running under the levels envisioned in the contracts.

And now, we are stuck with just 65 millionJust as a point of comparison, Repsol-YPF alone, is investing 325 million dollars in one project in Peru, which has less proven reserves than Bolivia. That is about 5 times the amount ALL foreign oil companies invested in Bolivia - with the areas second largest reserves- from January to June.

This was lost through the collective idiocy that forced out two presidents, starting with the ouster of Goni which also meant the end of dreams of exporting LNG to California. And with this instability and the loony left's calls for nationalization it is no wonder that companies don't want to invest.

This is going on three years that the industry has been neglected. As I wrote earlier, proved reserves were down - as a result of lessened investment. There is a huge opportunity cost here, as potential customers are lost to competitors, established buyers are looking to other countries, and partners are looking elsewhere to invest their money. The lost direct foreign investment alone could be well over 3 billion dollars, without even taking into account any expectation damages due to lower sales volumes than predicted.
These losses can not be calculated by dollars alone, since most of this money was going to build up the infrastructure needed to modernize the industry. And this is Bolivian infraestructure, since the physical structures and production equipment are held by Companies half-owned by the Bolivian Pension System. Now, we might even be looking at a situation where needed improvements and routine maintenance end up neglected. Long term it sets the country back, possibly half a decade in terms of getting a viable industry off the ground.

And then again, for some of the lefties its all about power, screw the consequences. The whiny, indignant lefties in NGO's, can always leave the country feeling good about themselves, secure in the knowledge that they helped the 'cause', by pimping their outdated ideologies to their eager Bolivian pupils. No worry if the country loses money, and the very people they profess to help end up losing out in the end. Who cares about such things as investments and numbers so long as you are doing the right thing!!!!

Chile: Pinochet's Wife and Son Arrested

While seemingly evading prosecution for his brutality while ruling, Pinochet like Al Capone is getting drilled for some old-fashioned tax evasion. His wife and son were arrested and released as co-defendants, accused of aiding the Generals diversion of funds to secret bank accounts abroad, funds whose source is under investigation. The judge in the case estimates the total amount in those accounts is around $27 Million dollars, of which Pinochet would owe about 9 million in taxes.

Police in Chile Detain Pinochet's Wife and Son in Fraud Inquiry

Published: August 11, 2005

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 10 - The wife and younger son of Gen. Augusto Pinochet were in police custody in Santiago, Chile, on Wednesday after a judge ordered them detained in connection with a tax fraud investigation of secret bank accounts that General Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, opened in an American bank.

Lucía Hiriart de Pinochet and Marco Antonio Pinochet are charged with being General Pinochet's accomplices in a decade-long scheme to shift millions of dollars, whose origins are also being investigated, to safe havens abroad. In recognition of her fragile health, Mrs. Pinochet, 82, was being held in the Military Hospital in the Chilean capital, where her husband visited her on Wednesday afternoon.

The rest of that New York Times article HERE

Colombia 3: IRA guys Create Headaches For Everybody

Props to my old buddy and fellow Champ Car addict, SOD, for the link. The 3 IRA guys who were accused in Colombia of working with the narco-guerillas, and who have been con victed of carrying false passaports, jumped bail and appeared in the Irish Republic. Due to the Irish Republic's role in Northern Ireland's on-going peace negotiations, this comes at a particularly bad time for the Irish Republic to be dealing with this situation. Their was initial suspicion that this appearance, was due to a secret deal with the U.K. which was promptly denied. The B.B.C. talks about the tough time ahead, facing the government the next couple of months.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Pingüino Chronicles Part 3, Translation and Pics

Pingüino En Ingles!!

Today's Slogan:

Pingüino Ayer, Pingüino Hoy, Pingüino Siempre!!!!

My favorite revolutionaries thoughts, and my favorite revolutionary bird's stories are available in English to my delight. A blogger known as Irlandesa does an excellent job translating what seems to be most -if not all- of Marcos' writings as they appear on the FZLN site. Speaking of which, yesterdays post contains an intriguing reflection on the Subcommanders alleged weight gain:

"P.S PRETENDING TO JUSTIFY THAT "FEW KILOGRAMS MORE" We are seeing the pictures and reading, and I say 'Its just that in pictures and videos, one appears fatter than one is. The insurgent Erika looks at me and with that zapatista irony, tells me . 'Oí Sup, and they didn't even see you before the Red Alert' Didn't I tell you? Todays youngsters don't respect us.....us.....us....young 'mature' folks"

And, courtesy of Jeb Blog, an edited version of these last couple of communiques with all the Penguin material. I have taken the liberty of reprinting his edited version, including the bit I had translated earlier:

More Penguin Pictures!!

Marcos: A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona, Part 1
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona I/II

(The zapatista is just a little house, perhaps the smallest, on a street called “Mexico,” in a barrio called “Latin America,” in a city called the “World.”)

You’re not going to believe me, but there’s a penguin in the Ezeta Headquarters. You’ll say “Hey, Sup, what’s up? You already blew the fuses with the Red Alert,” but it’s true. In fact, while I’m writing this to you, he (the penguin) is right here next to me, eating the same hard, stale bread (it has so much mold that it’s just one degree away from being penicillin), which, along with coffee, were my rations for today. Yes, a penguin. But I’ll tell you more about this later, because first we must talk a bit about the Sixth Declaration.
(To be continued…)

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

Mexico, July of 2005.

He sets the hook, here is the second part:

Marcos: Part 2 of A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona
Originally published in Spanish by the EZLN
Translated by irlandesa

A Penguin in the Selva Lacandona II/II

Alright, a promise is a promise. At the beginning of this document I told you I was going to tell you about the penguin that’s here, in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, so here goes.

It took place in one of the insurgent barracks, a little more than a month ago, just before the Red Alert. I was on my way, heading towards the position that was to be the headquarters of the Comandancia General of the EZLN. I had to pick the insurgentes and insurgentas up there, the ones who were going to make up my unit during the Red Alert. The commander of the barracks, a Lieutenant Colonel Insurgente, was finishing up the dismantling of the camp and was making arrangements for moving the impedimenta. In order to lighten the burden of the support bases who were providing supplies for the insurgent troops, the soldiers in this unit had developed a few subsistence measures of their own: a vegetable garden and a farm. They decided they would take as many of the vegetables as they could, and the rest would be left to the hand of god. As for the chickens, hens and roosters, the alternative was to eat them or leave them. “Better we eat them than the federales,” the men and women (most of them young people under the age of 20) who were maintaining that position decided, not without reason. One by one, the animals ended up in the pot and, from there to the soldiers’ soup dishes. There weren’t very many animals either, so in a few days the poultry population had been reduced to two or three specimens.

When only one remained, on the precise day of departure, what happened happened…

The last chicken began walking upright, perhaps trying to be mistaken for one of us and to pass unnoticed with that posture. I don’t know much about zoology, but it does not appear that the anatomical makeup of chickens is made for walking upright, so, with the swaying produced by the effort of keeping itself upright, the chicken was teetering back and forth, without being able to come up with a precise course. It was then that someone said “it looks like a penguin.” The incident provoked laughter which resulted in sympathy. The chicken did, it’s true, look like a penguin, it was only missing the white bib. The fact is that the jokes ended up preventing the “penguin” from meeting the same fate as its compañeros from the farm.

The hour of departure arrived, and, while checking to be sure nothing was left, they realized that the “penguin” was still there, swaying from one side to another, but not returning to its natural position. “Let’s take it,” I said, and everyone looked at me to see if I were joking or serious. It was the insurgenta Toñita who offered to take it. It began raining, and she put it in her lap, under the heavy plastic cape which Toñita wore to protect her weapon and her rucksack from the water. We began the march in the rain.

The penguin arrived at the EZLN Headquarters and quickly adapted to the routines of the insurgent Red Alert. It often joined (never losing the posture of a penguin) the insurgents and insurgentas at cell time, the hour of political study. The theme during those days was the 13 zapatista demands, and the compañeros summed it up under the title “Why We Are Struggling.” Well, you’re not going to believe me, but when I went to the cell meeting, under the pretext of looking for hot coffee, I saw that it was the penguin who was paying the most attention. And, also, from time to time, it would peck at someone who was sleeping in the middle of the political talk, as if chiding him to pay attention.

There are no other animals in the barracks…I mean except for the snakes, the “chibo” tarantulas, two field rats, the crickets, ants, an indeterminate (but very large) number of mosquitoes and a cojolito who came to sing, probably because it felt called by the music – cumbias, rancheras, corridos, songs of love, of spite – which emanated from the small radio which is used to hear the morning news by Pascal Beltrán on Antena Radio and then “Plaza Pública” by Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa on Radio UNAM.

Well, I told you there weren’t any other animals, so it would seem normal that “penguin” would think that we were its kind and tend to behave as if it were one more of us. We hadn’t realized how far it had gone until one afternoon when it refused to eat in the corner it had been assigned, and it went over to the wooden table. Penguin made a racket, more chicken-like than penguin-like, until we understood that it wanted to eat with us. You should understand that Penguin’s new identity prevented the former chicken from flying the minimum necessary for getting up on the bench, and so it was insurgenta Erika who lifted it up and let it eat from her plate.

The insurgent captain in charge had told me that the chicken, I mean penguin, did not like to be alone at night, perhaps because it feared that the possums might confuse it with a chicken, and it protested until someone took it to their tarp. It wasn’t very long before Erika and Toñita made it a white bib out of fabric (they wanted to paint it [Penguin]with lime or house paint, but I managed to dissuade them…I think), so that there would be no doubt that it was a penguin, and no one would confuse it with a chicken.

You may be thinking that I am, or we are, delirious, but what I’m telling you is true. Meanwhile, Penguin has become part of the Comandancia General of the Ezeta, and perhaps those of you who come to the preparatory meetings for the “Other Campaign” might see it with your own eyes. It could also be expected that Penguin might be the mascot for the EZLN football team when it faces, soon, the Milan Internazionale. Someone might then perhaps take a picture for a souvenir. Perhaps, after a while and looking at the image, a girl or a boy might ask: “Mama, and who are those next to the Penguin?” (sigh)

Do you know what? It occurs to me now that we are like Penguin, trying very hard to be erect and to make ourselves a place in Mexico, in Latin America, in the World. Just as the trip we are about to take is not in our anatomy, we shall certainly go about swaying, unsteady and stupidly, provoking laughter and jokes. Although perhaps, also like Penguin, we might provoke some sympathy, and someone might, generously, protect us and help us, walking with us, to do what every man, woman or penguin should do, that is, to always try to be better in the only way possible, by struggling.

Vale. Salud and an embrace from Penguin (?)

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico, July of 2005

U.S. Plays Both Venezuela Sides

Interesting read in the Christian Science Monitor:

US plays both Venezuela sides
By Mike Ceaser |
Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
CARACAS, VENEZUELA – While the Bush administration engages in a war of words with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the US government has been giving permits to American arms dealers to sell weapons, tear gas, and other riot-control equipment to Venezuela.

At the same time, the US Congress has indirectly funded anti-Chávez pro-democracy groups.

"It's a bizarre working at cross- purposes," says Adam Isacson, who follows Venezuela for the left-leaning Center for International Policy in Washington. "You have bad relations with this government, and you're selling them the means to put down opposition protests."

I agree with the NGO dood, that is kind of wack. But then again doesn't the U.S. also fund the Palestinian Authority AND sell massive weapons to the Israelis? -

But lets clarify a little here, we are allowing private parties to sell some weapons and riot gear to what looks to be Venezuelan cops, theoritically it could be a municipal force buying the stuff.:

Defense and Commerce department records show that in 2002, Washington issued licenses to export to Venezuela more than 7,000 pistols and rifles and 22 million rounds of ammunition, as well as riot-control equipment and interrogator sets. In 2003, it issued licenses for $43 million in military equipment sales, including a million cartridges, 1,000 pistols, and ammunition. Last year it issued $24.6 million in licenses, including $425,000 in tear gas. This year, the US has approved export licenses for police gear, restraint devices such as leg irons, stun gun-type arms and chemical agents.

The Whole Article Here

Interesting that Brazil and Israel continue to sell weapons to the Colonel.

The bottom line here, and hardly mentioned in the article, is that Hugito has oil - gobs of it. He wants to buy all sorts of toys - and finds willing sellers. For the U.S. it is a matter of putting up with his annoyances as long as the oil flows continue.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Pingüino" Unmasked! Zapatista Penguin Photos!!!

This story absolutely rocks!!!

Zapatista Supremo, Sub-Commander Marcos is really into the whole Penguin thing - he actually dedicates a good chunk of a two-part communique to the subject, titling it UN PINGÜINO EN LA SELVA LACANDONA. or (A Penguin In The Lacandona Jungle), and posting it on the official Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional web-pagepart 1 and part 2.

He starts on a somewhat existential note: "Zapatistas are merely a house...in a street named Mexico, in a neighborhood called 'Latinamerica' in a city called 'world'", then he segues directly into the heartwarming saga of his fine feathered friend:

"You are not going to believe me, but [At EZLN] headquartes in Ezetaelene there is a Penguin, you will say 'Ah, the Sup (nickname), he just lost a fuse in the Red Alert', but it is the truth. Whats more while I write this, he (the penguin) is right next to me, eating the same hard and stale bread (it has so much mold that it is a step away from being penicillin), that with coffee was my ration for today.

After detouring through other random musings, he returns to explain the origin of this particular bird. At some base camp dep in the jungle, the fowl appeared pre-destined for Zapatista fried chicken, but his upright posture and strange walk reminded the insurgents of "a penguin." That caught the eye of Marcos who in a fit of revolutionary leniency, pardoned the bird from a sure death, and earned him a trip to insurgent headquarters. Now under the nom de guerre Pinguino, according to Marcos, he joins the rest of the cadres in their nightly cell discussions, "where he is the one who pays the most attention, and not only that, but he also pecks any [zapatista] who happens to be falling asleep in the middle of the political discussion."

Such revolutionary zeal has not gone unrewarded, as another paragraph translated in this August 2, 2005 CSM Story, quotes Marcos as giving the bird a rank in the EZLN:
"Penguin has become part of the General Command of the Zapatista army," wrote Marcos. "We are all like Penguin, forcing ourselves to rise up and make our way in Mexico, in Latin America and the world."

And for the first time, pictures of the new compañero appear on the web page for theFrente Zapatista De Liberacion Nacional (FZLN) - the civilian arm of the EZLN. Another picture of the creature is on the main site, while a cartoon graphic of a penguin permanently adorns the front of their web page.

PINGUINO!!!!!  Posted by Picasa
For you English speakers, the FZLN site does also have a somewhat sketchy translation of a recent communique:

Concerning How the Recurring PS, A.C. of C.V. Unlimited & Co., Continuing To Be Into Informing, Testifies As to the Latest Events Regarding the Alleged Penguin Allegedly Located In Allegedly Zapatista Lands, in the Selva Lacandona, Chiapas (or Some Distance From Antarctica). - Alright, then, I'm informing you that, following a scientific "penguinological" analysis, it has been determined, to an acceptable degree of certainty, that Penguin was a little rooster in his previous life. And so it might be expected that he would exhibit behaviors which might lead to confusing him with a rooster. This has, in fact, already occurred. :

This tale continues here, where our brave bird confronts some obviously mis-guided rooster.
No doubt this Zapatista sympathizer is impressed with Penguin!!! Web Sites all over Europe are abuzz with Marcos' recent pronouncements, no doubt more than one discussion is going on about trying to reconcile Gramisci with Antartic fauna. But European Subcomandante Marcos fans should not despair, Marcos informs us that he will most likely be the official mascot of the Zapatista team when they take on Serie A's giants Inter Milan.

Great Stuff, this story is fascinating, I am going to maintain regular updates on Pinguino, and on Marcos' pronouncements.

This is some serious Colonel Kurtz material!!!!

Chile -- New Charges Filed Against Secret Police Chief

As I have said before Pinochet's regime really creeps me out. I've heard accounts of some truly sinister things being done to human beings in Chilean dungeons after the coup, and during that regimes existence.

Yet only now are some Chileans are still coming to grips with this dark legacy, it took corruption charges against Pinochet to wake up those on the right.
As the B.B.C. reports, there are new charges against the Secret Police Chief:

A Chilean judge has laid new charges against General Pinochet's former secret police chief, Manuel Contreras.

They concern the 1974 disappearance of eight political prisoners at the Villa Grimaldi torture centre.

Court documents described barbaric detention facilities at the centre where some prisoners were held in small wooden boxes.

Contreras is already in prison, after being convicted over the 1975 disappearance of a left-wing activist.

Human rights groups have welcomed the sweeping resolution and say more charges should be laid as some 300 people disappeared at the centre.

Full Story Here

Bolivia: Evo Feels Abandoned

From the Nuevo Herald , it looks like Evo is feeling slighted by his buddies on the left, mainly La Paz mayor Juan Del Granado, and Rene Joaquino from Potosi, whom Del Granado is backing in the nationwide elections. According to the article, Local analysts see a Joaquino candidacy, siphoning off votes from MAS in the south and southeast Andean regions, and hindering a united left.
"I feel abandoned, I feel really hurt that they abandoned us, the peasants, the Indians, they should instead join the (movement) MAS to advance together, to guarantee change in Bolivia", said the Cocalero.

Morales further called upon them by name, imploring them to make common cause with MAS, "the political instrument of the poor...so that all of them....in a united manner, can confront these national elections on the behalf of poor people and marginalized people."

''Me siento abandonado, siento muchísimo que nos abandonen, a campesinos, a los indios. (Los presuntos disidentes) deberían sumarse (a su Movimiento Al Socialismo, MAS) para avanzar juntos, para garantizar el cambio en Bolivia'', deploró el cocalero.....

Sobre todo al doctor Juan del Granado, al compañero Joaquino, a sumarse a este Movimiento Al Socialismo, que es el instrumento político de los pobres ... para que todos, de manera conjunta, enfrentemos estas elecciones nacionales, para la gente empobrecida, la gente marginada''.

He also appealed to all the "social movements, to my brother Abel Manani" (neighborhood council activist in El Alto), to bolster his campaign. Lastly, Morales also called for help from "businessmen in solidarity with the poor of Bolivia," a couple of days before the main Union (COB) and the Indigenous Party MIP decide whom they will endorse for the presidency.

El líder cocalero y principal referente de la izquierda boliviana convocó ''a todas las fuerzas sociales, a mi hermano Abel Manani (dirigente de los vecinos de la combativa ciudad indígena de El Alto)'' a apuntalar su candidatura.

También llamó ''a empresarios solidarios con los pobres de Bolivia'', dos días antes que la Central Obrera Boliviana y el Movimiento Indigenista Pachacuti proclamen a sus respectivos candidatos presidenciales, en momentos en que se evidencia una fuerte división en la izquierda boliviana.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mexico: Zapatistas Going Mainstream? Marcos Unmasked? Penguins, AMLO Slammed, Chiapas Failures

Mexico's Zapatistas have decided to move out of their Chiapas hideouts, put down their weapons, and try to integrate themselves into Mexico's political life.

Zapatistas quit the jungle for soapbox

Subcomandante Marcos leaves four years' hiding to speak out

Giles Tremlett
Monday August 8, 2005
The Guardian

The masked revolutionary icon of Latin America, Subcomandante Marcos, emerged from the Mexican jungle for the first time for four years over the weekend as his Zapatista movement rebranded itself as a non-violent proponent of alternative politics.

Wearing his trademark military fatigues and sweat-provoking black ski mask, the rebel appeared to be kick-starting a recently declared shift towards political engagement by the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

The Rest Here

A Promising Start

It seems they got off to a good start - by upholding traditional Mexican political traditions- slamming PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopéz Obrador. As Marcos said: "They say, 'maybe Lopez Obrador doesn't steal'. But his team has shown its ability and appetite to do so,". The PRD in turn replied by not replying, indicating that they would only respond to candidates for the next elections.

Birds Of A Feather

In an intriguing blend of political theater and avian analogies, Marcos carried around a chicken - dressed up as that most Chiapan of birds - the penguin, explaining the creatures significance in the following terms:"Like penguins in the jungle, the Zapatistas will make an effort to stand upright and find a place for themselves in Mexico, Latin America and the world," Marcos explained in a recent missive quoted by Spain's El Periódico newspaper. "We are coming out, you might as well get used to the idea."

Marcos' identity solved?

Mexican officials have identified Marcos as the former university lecturer Rafael Sebastián Guillén. Marcos, who always denied being Guillén, was educated by Jesuit priests and got a masters degree in philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Guillén's family has also refused to say whether the pipe-smoking man in the ski mask is one of them, saying they lost contact with him long ago.

Troubles in Paradise?

Maybe this new strategy owes at least a little to the fact that according to conventional measures, Zapatista rule has done very little for the poverty-stricken areas they control. According to this L.A. Times Story reprinted in the July 17 edition of The Miami Herald many poor residents of Chiapas have left the region to the United States or to government-funded lands outside of rebel control.

Zapatistas' glow dimmed by unfulfilled promises


Los Angeles Times Service

MARQUES DE COMILLAS, Mexico - Like many of those living in grinding poverty deep in the rebel-controlled jungles of southern Mexico, Elías Guillén got tired of waiting for life to get better. So he voted with his feet.

A decade after the Zapatista movement took over swaths of Chiapas and shook Mexico's political establishment, life in Guillén's corner of the southern state has not improved. Public services there remain nonexistent. None of his nine children, ages 12 to 31, ever learned to read, partly because of a Zapatista decree banning government assistance in the area.

When the federal Agrarian Reform Ministry offered the poor people living in his hamlet the chance to relocate to this settlement with electricity, streets and a schoolhouse, 26 families, including Guillén's, jumped at the offer.


No big surprise here. The core of the Zapatista movement was transplanted highland residents and local indigenous peoples, who shared a history of mistreatment by landlords, inconsistent treatment from the PRI ruling party, as well as an independent streak. Even before the Zapatista's showed up, many had already joined religious or government-sponsored associations that were clamoring for change. Marcos' organizing skills, discipline, and media savvy, looked like the best bet in order to get attention from Mexico City.

The article points out that the Chiapas residents have a major issue with the collective farms, which the Zapatistas started and ran, on farms they had confiscated. They moved peasants to these so-called "new population centers", something anathema to these independent-minded farmers. A good number of these folks simply aspired to their own piece of individual land, or shared plots for their families, as well as access to basic services. Others wanted to continue to farm and work as hired labor and/or as merchants in their communities. The Zapatistas fundamental misunderstanding of this reality is causing this whole experiment to unravel.

Lecturing local leftists and their American and European brethren, sure seems like a better gig than trying to convince peasants to stay in communal farms under cult-like rule. Marcos already drives the lefties wild with the mask and the heavy rhetoric, throw in the Profesor de Filosofia thing, and that new penguin mascot and his stock will surely go up in foreign circles. Increasing the revolutionary consciousnessof Chiapas residents does not impress people in most parts, but is considered progress by NGO-types.

All kidding aside, if Marcos truly wants to go beyond being a side-show and transform the Zapatistas into a national political party, Mexican democracy can only be strengthened. Their failure to effectively govern Chiapas, will no doubt be brought up by political rivals, but that is the price you pay in a democracy. At the local level, electoral competition can only benefit the local population which is tired of the rhetoric, and wants its needs taken care of. The Zapatista's will be forced to accomodate these basic needs, or be replaced the now chastened 'big three' political parties.

Ultimately as far as Mexico is concerned, this Zapatista change in strategy is a good thing. Thirty years ago this whole Chiapas thing would have ended up in tragedy, the PRI was ruthless when it felt cornered. Mexico's past couple of governments, essentially struck a deal with the Zapatista's, leaving them in control of a good chunk of Chiapas. That allowed the local residents some degree of self-rule - well at least being ruled by a group that pretended to represent their interests. If Marcos really is going to carry out reforms, and allow the central government back in again, the local population only stands to gain.