Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
This Jimmy Carter is a really bad weed...
"Un exministro anuncia que "en el 2010 se planteará la iniciativa de referéndum constitucional para reconocerle al Corornel Chávez su derecho fundamental de postularse a la Presidencia de la República OTRA VEZ en el año 2012..."
Funny. A monarchic revolution, something never seen before...
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Monday, May 19, 2008
Good but failed attempt to dissociate Chavez from FARC computers...
Evidence of support for terrorism could carry Chávez to the pariah status he deserves.
Sunday, May 18, 2008; Page B06
THE CONFIRMATION by an international forensics team that laptops and hard drives captured by Colombia originated in a camp of FARC terrorists ought to open a new era in relations between the democratic world and Hugo Chávez's Venezuelan government. Whether it does will depend to a large extent on how Colombia and the United States handle a rich but tricky diplomatic opportunity.
The computers and drives contain a staggering 610 gigabytes of data, according to Interpol, including 983 encrypted files opened by its team. What is already known is enough to demonstrate that Mr. Chávez and senior members of his government, army and intelligence service had a far-reaching clandestine relationship with the FARC and that Venezuela offered the group weapons, money and harbor on its own territory. Ecuador, which under President Rafael Correa has become a Venezuelan satellite, had lesser but also incriminating ties to the group, which specializes in drug trafficking, kidnapping and massacres of civilians.
On its face the evidence is enough to convict Mr. Chávez and his collaborators of backing terrorism against a democratic government. If Venezuela were a European or Asian country, it would surely become an international pariah virtually overnight. But Venezuela is in Latin America -- where governments are reluctant to criticize their neighbors, terrorist groups professing a left-wing ideology have often won sympathy in Europe and the United States, and demagogues such as Mr. Chávez are able to turn hostility from Washington to their advantage. That of course is the Venezuelan strategy: Rather than even attempt to respond to the contents of the laptops, Mr. Chávez is describing them as a CIA plot and a pretext for a U.S. invasion.
Therein lies the best approach for Colombia and the United States. Since neither Mr. Chávez nor Mr. Correa has offered any credible or even serious response to the laptop material, they should be firmly, repeatedly and relentlessly confronted with the evidence and asked for answers. Colombia can do this by petitioning the Organization of American States to determine whether Venezuela and Ecuador have breached its charter; it could also ask the U.N. Security Council to judge whether the two governments violated Resolution 1373, passed in September 2001, which prohibits all states from providing financing or havens to terrorist organizations. President Álvaro Uribe should order that all of the captured material be posted on the Internet. This should at least expose Mr. Chávez's behavior to global scrutiny and make it more difficult for countries and political leaders who have tried to ignore or excuse it, ranging from neighbors such as Brazil to some U.S. Democrats.
Some in Congress are already calling for Venezuela to be placed on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. While the designation may be justified and even mandated by U.S. law, it could simply bolster Mr. Chávez's anti-American narrative. A better course would be to single out and sanction Venezuelan companies and individuals compromised by the laptop evidence, such as the generals who have been secretly meeting and doing business with FARC leaders. Punishment of Venezuelans as a whole would serve little purpose. After all, the country recently voted down Mr. Chávez's attempt to prolong and institutionalize his rule. If managed correctly, the laptop scandal will surely deepen the domestic political hole into which the would-be "Bolivarian" revolutionary is sinking.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
May 15th 2008, from The Economist
What connects the deputy-chairman of the Conservative Party with Hugo Chávez?
MICHAEL ASHCROFT is a powerful man. A former treasurer of the Conservative Party, he is now its deputy-chairman. He is also a very wealthy man—the 65th richest in
As well as being powerful and rich, Lord Ashcroft is elusive: he is the right-wing pimpernel of British politics, whose name is uttered with awe and terror by Labour MPs. The mystery partly emanates from Lord Ashcroft's association with
At issue—and now under dispute in assorted ongoing court cases—is a $10m transfer from
The UHS hospital is today a surprisingly modest building in a suburb of
By December 2004, says the Ministry of Finance, UHS owed Belize Bank Bz$29m ($14.5m, or £7.7m). The prime minister of
Further funds were advanced and UHS's debts continued to mount, to more than Bz$33m by March 2007, according to court submissions. A new agreement was reached on March 23rd 2007 in the form of a settlement deed and a loan note signed by Mr Musa and representatives of Belize Bank in the presence of Mr Fonseca. In it the government promised to repay UHS's existing obligations to the bank, beginning on April 23rd, and the former open-ended guarantee was discharged. Any disputes were to be resolved through arbitration in
The GDP of Belize is only $1.2 billion; many of its 300,000 inhabitants live in poverty. Illiteracy, shanty housing, gang crime and ill health are all sadly common (the annual budget of its health ministry is less than $40m). So you might think that there would be restraints on the government's ability to agree to what, in Belizean terms, was an enormous guarantee. In fact, there were: under section 7 of the Finance and Audit (Reform) Act of 2005, the government required the approval of the National Assembly.
What friends are for
The first was to ask for a hand-out from rich and friendly countries.
Unbeknownst to the public, however, another $10m pursued a more winding path from
While this aid was being wrung from public donors, a private-sector buyer for UHS was also sought. Dr Muthugounder Venugopal was the man eventually fixed upon. He and his associates ran the Loma Luz hospital in
This secret Venezuelan transfer was not made public—until Mr Musa, despite the hand-out, lost the election on February 7th: he is now threatened by a host of corruption allegations, including some involving dodgy loans by development agencies. The day after he was swept from power, the new rulers of
The government of
What is the truth of the matter? Philip Johnson, the chairman of Belize Bank, says in a letter to The Economist only that “a further settlement was reached which allowed monies to be made available for the purchase of the assets of UHS.” He insists that the guarantees were legal, and claims that Belize Bank in fact received less than it was entitled to. As to the transfer instructions from Venezuela specifying that the funds be paid to the government of Belize for housing, his bank “was not privy to the arrangements between the Governments of Belize and Venezuela” (though, as the deposit was made into Belize Bank's correspondent account in London, it seems odd that the bankers should have been unaware of Venezuela's instructions).
A different interpretation is summarised by Mark Espat, a minister under Mr Musa who lost his cabinet job for opposing the guarantee. Money, he says, was “diverted from its intended purpose to honour a debt that should never have been agreed in the first place”.
Lord Ashcroft's Belizean existence has caused him trouble before now. When he was ennobled in 2000, the Tories said he would assume permanent residence in
The Economist sought his comments on Belize Bank's involvement in the affair, but none has been forthcoming from him or from his aides. So Lord Ashcroft's own role in the matter, if any, remains unclear. But Belize Bank is owned by a holding company of which he is the majority shareholder and executive chairman. His son runs Belize Bank in the Turks and Caicos.
Meanwhile, Lord Ashcroft and his fortune continue to exert huge influence on British politics. Exploiting a clause in party-funding laws that allows unlimited campaign spending before an election period, he is funding aggressive campaigns by prospective Tory candidates in key marginal constituencies—a tactic that reaped big benefits at the 2005 election.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008