Sunday, July 29, 2007

(Marcel Granier, president of RCTV)

As promised, a look at the disappearing-reappearing-who-knows-what-next case of someone else!!!! Those cats over at are just quicker on the draw than myself...

By: Chris Carlson -

Mérida, July 25, 2007 (— Venezuela’s Telecommunications Commission stated this week that the private TV channel RCTV must continue to follow Venezuelan media regulations, even though its new headquarters are in Miami.

RCTV has argued that it is not subject to Venezuelan law now that the newly-returned channel is based out of Miami and claims to be an international channel. Meanwhile, RCTV was awarded a "freedom of the press" award on Tuesday by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), an association of private newspaper editors and directors.

The nation's oldest private channel came back on the air last week via cable and satellite, after going off the national airwaves on May 28th, when its broadcast license expired. After the Chavez government denied the channel a renewal of its license to broadcast on the nation's VHF spectrum, RCTV came back on Monday of last week as RCTV International on cable and satellite subscription television. Since then, the channel has claimed that it does not have to comply with mandatory government public service messages or play the national anthem twice daily, as is required of all national broadcasters by law.

"RCTV International has the same characteristics as other international channels in that is has international capital, mixed production, and broadcasts at an international level," said an official communication from the channel. For that reason, the channel claims that it should follow the rules that apply to other international channels, not the national ones.

"RCTV is an international channel with US stockholders that broadcasts in several Latin American countries," said Oswaldo Quintana, legal advisor to the channel. "Just like Telesur, Sony, Spanish Television, or CNN, [RCTV] cannot do national transmissions for any government in particular."

Venezuelan government representatives, however, insist that RCTV must follow Venezuelan law since its programming is made up of mostly national programming. According to President of the Venezuelan Chamber of Subscription Television, Mario Seijas, all channels with Venezuelan national production must follow the law regardless if its legal address is outside of the country.

"A national channel is understood to be national audiovisual production," said Seijas. "You can be registered as a business abroad, but your content, your personnel, your infrastructure, and your base of operations is in Venezuela and therefore it is mandatory to follow the parameters of the [Venezuelan] media responsibility law."

According to the Venezuelan government, the national media law applies to all national broadcasts whether they transmit through cable, satellite, or the VHS spectrum. In this case, RCTV would be required to respect the 2004 Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law and transmit all government public service messages.

"RCTV is required to respect the Radio and Television Social Responsibility Law, as is stated in Article 1, as a service of national audiovisual production broadcast by subscription, in this case DirecTV and Intercable," said Telecommunications Minister Jesse Chacon the week before RCTV returned to the air.

But RCTV has refused to broadcast the public service messages and did not comply with the first of these since its return to the air last Monday.

"Freedom of the press" Award for RCTV

Tuesday, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) awarded RCTV president Marcel Granier with the "Freedom of the Press" award. The association of private newspaper editors and directors gave the award to RCTV for "its tenacious fight for freedom of expression in the western hemisphere" and for "defining with courage and determination their right to keep their television channel concession." The association stated that RCTV had been "snatched away by the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez."

"They have prevented [the Venezuelan government] from silencing, for strictly political reasons, an independent and professional voice that has exercised freedom of expression in Venezuela for half a century," said Gustavo Mohme of the IAPA awards commission.

The association congratulated the channel for making "enormous efforts" to maintain the transmission by cable and satellite after their license for the VHF spectrum expired.

The Venezuelan government has previously often criticized IAPA for being an association that protects the interests of media owners, not of freedom of expression.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!

Sorry I've been out of it for so long...the self-imposed coma from Argentina's joke of a Copa América final against Brazil wore off just in time for some red-headed iguana rustler to kidnap my companion animal.

But I'm back now, the iguana's sunning, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research has just published a new paper on the state of the Venezuelan economy after 8 years of the red scourge that is Chavismo.


--despite what Alejandro "former president of Peru who at one point had a SINGLE DIGIT approval rating" Toledo might think, Venezuela is not riding a soon-to-pop oil bubble on the road to extinction;

--spending money on your population is a good thing (again, contra Toledo's sage advice on government stability, longevity, and efficacy);

--fiscal crises have been triggered NOT by Chávez's fiscal irresponsibility but have rather been the result of events such as the 2002 bosses' strike which, by design, brought Venezuela to such an economic standstill that it was actually IMPORTING oil from places like Saudi Arabia in order to meet its standing delivery orders (surprise, surprise).

--despite global capitalist hand-wringing about Chávez's supposed penchant for nationalization and the liquidation of all things capitalist, the private sector continues to control a larger share of the national economy than the state.

(This last point has controversially been brought home by Hugo, who emphasized on Aló Presidente last Sunday that neither he nor the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela is nor will be Marxist-Leninist. He went on to explain that among the key differences between himself, Marxist-Leninst ideology, and its adherents – at which point he specifically named Castro – perhaps the most important is the failure of the latter to update its focus on the industrial worker to the reality of today's economy, which thrives on immaterial labor activities such as information and communication technology.)

The press release, as well as link to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, follow:

New CEPR Paper Looks At Venezuela's Economy During the Chávez Years

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2007

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-293-5380 x104

Washington, DC: A new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research
looks at the Venezuelan economy during the last eight years and finds that
it does not fit the mold of an "oil boom headed for a bust," as is commonly

"There's no obvious end in sight for Venezuela's current economic
expansion," said economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for
Economic and Policy Research and lead author of the paper "The Venezuelan
Economy in the Chávez Years."

The paper notes that Venezuela's economy was wracked by political
instability for the first four years of President Hugo Chávez's tenure, but
has grown steadily and rapidly over the last four years, after political
stability returned to the country following the oil strike of December 2002
to February 2003.

Since the bottom of that downturn in the first quarter of 2003, Venezuela's
real GDP has grown by 76 percent.

Moreover, the private sector is still a larger share of the economy than it
was before President Chávez took office.

In real (inflation-adjusted) terms, social spending per person has increased
by 170 percent during the period 1998-2006. But this does not include the
state oil company PDVSA's social spending, which was 7.3 percent of GDP in
2006. With this included, social spending was at least 314 percent more in
2006 than in 1998 (in terms of real social spending per person). This has
brought about significant gains for the poor in health care, subsidized
food, and access to education, some of which are detailed in the paper.

The official poverty rate, which measures only cash income and does not
include such advances as increased access to health care and education, has
dropped by 31 percent from 1998 to the end of 2006 - from 43.9 percent of
households to 30.6 percent. Measured unemployment has dropped from 15
percent in June 1999 to 8.3 percent in June 2007.

The authors also look at fiscal, monetary, exchange rate and other
government policies, as well as investment and the sustainability of the
expansion. They note that the government faces significant challenges over
the intermediate run in controlling inflation and bringing Venezuela's
currency to a more competitive level. However, the country's declining
public debt (as a percentage of GDP), large current account surplus, and the
accumulation of reserves have given the government considerable insurance
against a decline in oil prices. This favorable macroeconomic situation has
also left the government with much flexibility in dealing with inflation and
the related imbalance in the exchange rate. The authors therefore conclude
that - contrary to popular belief -- there is no imminent threat to the
country's current economic expansion.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan
think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most
important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. CEPR's
Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow
and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard
University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for
Women and Work at Rutgers University.

And the report:

And Stay tuned!

Coming soon:
-the amazing disappearing-reappearing 'censored beacon of democracy and big tits' RCTV, no doubt to include snarky insights into why exactly they STILL think they don't have to follow the rules everyone else does.
-stories of work in Misión Ribas (which will most likely be snarky, but will have way less boobies).
-a look at the upcoming proposed changes to the constitution

...I'm still trying to figure out a way to adequately mock Primero Justicia's (perhaps the second largest opposition party, founded by the US National Endowment for Democracy) recent announcement that they are a party of the 'extreme center.'

...oh wait, I think i just did:
Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for Julio Borges, president of Primero Justicia (I hope no one is mid-drink of coffee):

I mean, really, how can I be more cruel, hilarious or cruelly hilarious than dude’s unibrow?

Monday, July 2, 2007

So That's how it is gonna be, eh?

The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday, that a judge is considering expropriating Citgo (the US oil company tied to Venezuelan state-owned PDVSA) property in the US in response to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhilips' stomping their feet out of concession negotiations with the Venezuelan government after holding their breath until they turned blue didn't work.

The kicker is that the US government is considering seizing the plants and giving it to Exxon and Conoco in exchange for their losses in the Orinco Delta.

I'm sorry, but is that REALLY how it works? Kinda smells like Guatemala, 1954.
I guess we'll file this one under "AH! so THAT'S Imperialism?!" and wait for the invasion.

In related news, after Chávez told Brazilian and MERCOSUR legislators to mind their own-goddamn business when it comes to RCTV (in the case of Brasil he said he didn't give a damn what the 'parrots' had to say, something he has reiterated with every statement of 'concern' coming from Spain, Mexico, and etc), Brazil is demanding the predictable apology, which will never come.
Roberto Lavagna, semi-Peronist Argentine presidential hopeful, is calling for Argentina and Brazil to 'reign in' and 'put limits on' Chávez, while Kircher is playing the wallflower as his wife prepares to run for his job in upcoming elections.
And finally, MERCOSUR is talking about reconsidering Venezuela's status in the trade bloc.

Chávez's response? Venezuela wouldn't want to be in MERCOSUR anyway, unless it undergoes some major reconstructive surgery.

This illuminates something I've been saying for quite a while: Argentina, Brazil and Chile suck.

Or at least their presidents do...some examples:
The MST (Movimento Sem Terra, Landless Peasant Movement) has all but declared war on Lula, pointing out that he is too concerned with convincing the world that he's not Chávez to actually do anything he's promised in the past.
Chile's Michelle Bachelet went out of her way to meet with the Venezuelan opposition during a recent ALBA (Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas -- the Chávez alternative to the Cold War era 'Aliance for Progress' and its offspring) meeting held here on the eve of RCTV's changeover to public hands. Not to mention that she's all but running on the Barak-Obama plan (i.e. cashing in political capital on her identity/past while saying and doing all but nothing of substance)
And Kirchner...well...he was never that great to begin with. His call to rebuild 'national capitalism' when he took office by the fluke of Menem's dropping out in 2003 was perhaps less than inspiring.