Monday, March 16, 2009

On Orchila...

I wonder if many independent reporters will get there? (More on 'the reporters' below) Hugo Chavez says the offer to Moscow for the use of an airfield off its Caribbean coast on the island La Orchila for Russian strategic long-range bombers as a permanent base were not true. He only said they were allowed to land their at any time if needed as part of their startegic aims. Oh, and the runway is being extended just in case the long range bombers need to take off fully-fueled. That's alright then.

More Chavez news: he has personally launched a new mobile telephone and at a cost of under US$14 the C366 "El Vergatario" is sure to be a hit; this, on top of his recently announced "Restaurantes Chavez" "Con velita y todo, te la pongo como quieras. Con vino, si quieres vino te pongo vino venezolano, o chileno o brasileño. ¡Eh! lo que quieras. Buena atención, atención esmerada, de lo mejor. Vista al río, vista al mar o en una colina"

"With a pretty candle and everything, I'll make it however you want. With wine, if you want wine, I'll provide wine: Venezuelan or Brazilian or Chilean. Hey! Whatever you want. With good service, attention to detail, the best. With river views, sea views or on a hill."

What a guy! I presume they'll be serving lots of rice, right? I'm also sure that the unveiling of a majestic revolutionary statue - or several - of the mighty Hugo can't be too far in the future (constructed at the request of the people, of course!)

He won't be impressed that today the the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa, Inc./ Inter American Press Association [SIP-IAPA] issued their biannual conclusions in Asuncion, Paraguay:

"Press freedom in the hemisphere worsened in the last six months as the longstanding violent enemies of free expression claimed new journalist victims while populist governments following the lead of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stepped up their campaigns of abuse and ridicule of news organizations and individual reporters."

That's not all they say: full press release HERE. I expect a full force rebuttal by Venezuelan Ministers and an insult-fest by Hugo himself within a day or two.

The other very important news is that the Venezuelan government are seriously considering raising the price of petrol, not before time: "El presidente Hugo Chávez anunció en su acostumbrado programa dominical que su gabinete está estudiando seriamente un ajuste a los precios de la gasolina, que se han mantenido durante los últimos diez años" Translated this says: "President Hugo Chávez announced in his usual Sunday broadcast that his Cabinet is seriously considering an adjustment to the prices of petrol, which have been maintained over the past ten years." Note he says prices as in plural, that could mean nothing but it could mean an intention to have a scale of prices depending on who you are - or put another way, how much money you have - why do I think this? Well, he went on to say:

"Porque la gente que consume mucha gasolina en esos carros de lujo no es justo que no paguen por la gasolina, no es justo que los ricos no paguen por la gasolina aquí, que es una de las más baratas del mundo (...) algún día habrá que ajustar esos precios. Nosotros prácticamente estamos regalando la gasolina"

Ows translated:
"Because it's not fair that the people who consume lots of petrol in their luxury cars do not pay for petrol, it is not fair that the rich do not pay for petrol here, which is one of the cheapest in the world (...) some day we will have to adjust those prices. We're practically giving it away."

Well he's certainly right about that; it is still around 5 US$ cents per litre (yes, that's more or less 4 Imperial or 5 US gallons pero dollar) the last time there was a major effort to raise the price of petrol, under President Carlos Andres Perez 20 years ago last month, there was a bit of a hiccough, or put another way, all shit broke lose, now known as the Caracazo. CAP wasn't the best President they could have had but what he did was part of a series of free-market reforms and in reality what the country needed. Anyway, it went pear-shaped and what began as peaceful student and worker protests against the petrol increase (many Venezuelans used bus transport and the fares increased) soon became rioting and, you guessed it, looting and violence. Serial looting of eveything that, after Police and National Guard failure to control it, finally had to be quelled with a harsh military clampdown and curfews. The ensuing instability led indirectly a few years later to two coups...and we all know who was involved with that!

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