Posts filed under Abroad

Bolivarian Process (Cont’d)

Shared Article from The Japan Times

Maduro-backing militias storm Caracas congress, rough up opposit…

Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress on Wednesday, attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session c…

japantimes.co.jp


CARACAS – Pro-government militias wielding wooden sticks and metal bars stormed congress on Wednesday, attacking opposition lawmakers during a special session coinciding with Venezuela’s independence day.

Four lawmakers were injured and blood was splattered on the neoclassical legislature’s white walls. One of them, Americo de Grazia, had to be removed in a stretcher while suffering from convulsions.

“This doesn’t hurt as much as watching how every day how we lose a little bit more of our country,” Armando Arias said from inside an ambulance as he was being treated for head wounds that spilled blood across his clothes.

The unprecedented attack, in plain view of national guardsmen assigned to protect the legislature, comes amid three months of often-violent confrontations between security forces and protesters who accuse the government of trying to establish a dictatorship by jailing foes, pushing aside the opposition-controlled legislature and rewriting the constitution to avoid fair elections.

. . . Later Maduro condemned the violence, but complained that the opposition doesn’t do enough to control “terrorist attacks” committed against security forces by anti-government protesters.

— Maduro-backed militias storm Caracas congress, rough up opposition lawmakers
The Japan Times (July 6, 2017)

Shared Article from Reuters

Brazil bans tear gas exports to Venezuela due to violence: sourc…

Brazil's government has halted exports of tear gas for use in Venezuela due to violent repression of protests there, two sources familiar with the dec…

reuters.com


Brazil’s government has halted exports of tear gas for use in Venezuela due to violent repression of protests there, two sources familiar with the decision said on Monday, a move that added to the diplomatic isolation of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro.

Brazil’s Defense Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Relations made the joint decision in response to appeals by the Venezuelan opposition, the sources said.

The Defense Ministry said on Friday that Rio de Janeiro-based Condor Tecnologias Não-Letais had not shipped tear gas canisters to Venezuela’s armed forces as negotiated in April, without giving a reason.

Condor confirmed on Friday that it had two active contracts in Venezuela, but declined to comment on specific shipments.

The company and ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

The involvement of the Ministry of Foreign Relations underscores the role of diplomacy in the decision, as Brazil’s armed forces usually take responsibility for licensing the export of “controlled products” such as the stun grenades, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas made by Condor.

“The (Brazilian) government decided to accept the opposition’s request because there’s a massacre in Venezuela,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity to speak freely. The other source, a senior government official, said export of other crowd control equipment would also be denied.

— Brazil bans tear gas exports to Venezuela due to violence: sources
Reuters (June 19, 2017)

See also.

Oops, Our Bad

Shared Article from The Independent

The CIA destroyed a copy of a torture report 'by accident'

The CIA inspector general’s office has said it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a comprehensive Senate torture report, despite lawyers fo…

independent.co.uk


CIA ‘mistakenly’ destroys copy of 6,700-page US torture report

The CIA inspector general’s office has said it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a comprehensive Senate torture report, despite lawyers for the Justice Department assuring a federal judge that copies of the documents were being preserved.

The erasure of the document by the spy agency’s internal watchdog was deemed an “inadvertent” foul-up by the inspector general, according to Yahoo News.

One intelligence community source told Yahoo News, which first reported the development, that last summer CIA inspector general officials deleted an uploaded computer file with the report and then accidentally destroyed a disk that also contained the document.

–Sadie Levy Gale, CIA ‘mistakenly’ destroys copy of 6,700-page US torture report
The Independent (17 May 2016)

Sometimes bad things happen, and it’s just nobody’s fault, really. Sometimes accidents happen or mistakes are made, and everything just happens to come up CIA. Whoops, there it goes. Oh, there goes the disk too.

Here’s a bit more on the oopsie.

The 6,700-page report contains thousands of secret files about the CIA’s use of “enhanced” interrogation methods, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other aggressive interrogation techniques at “black site” prisons overseas.

. . . Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr opposed the publication of the report in 2014. Since taking power he has attempted to recover copies of the report that were distributed throughout the Obama administration.

–Sadie Levy Gale, CIA ‘mistakenly’ destroys copy of 6,700-page US torture report
The Independent (17 May 2016)

State of Emergency

Following up on my post from Friday, I find this reported earlier today from Agence France Press:

Shared Article from Agence France Presse

Maduro in crackdown under Venezuela emergency decree

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a sweeping crackdown Saturday under a new emergency decree, ordering the seizure of paralyzed factories,…

Valentina OROPEZA @ msn.com


Notice, in particular:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a sweeping crackdown Saturday under a new emergency decree, ordering the seizure of paralyzed factories, the arrest of their owners and military exercises to counter alleged foreign threats. . . . Addressing his supporters at a rally in central Caracas on Saturday, Maduro announced some of the actions to be taken under the decree, which has not yet been published.

. . . Maduro’s decree expanded an “economic emergency” declared in January to a full-blown state of emergency.

The extent of the decree was unclear, but political analysts said it could be used to limit the right to protest, authorize preventive arrests and allow police raids without a warrant.

Maduro said the measures, which initially apply for three months, will likely be extended through 2017.

–Valentina Oropeza, Maduro in crackdown under Venezuela emergency decree
Agence France Presse (15 May 2016)

This seems unlikely to end well.

See also.

Bolivarian Process

State socialism is the cooptation and consumption of popular energy and liberation movements into a brutal and exploitative structure of party control, self-feeding state structures and authortarian power politics. It is the graveyard of social change, and the human costs that it exacts range from waste and malinvestment to degenerative, systemic social and economic collapse. What has happened in Venezuela is a long, slow-motion horror show illustrating how state socialism feeds on itself, and eventually subdues any aspiration of popular empowerment under the weight of a brutal, desperately feeding vampire of bureaucratic state-capitalism.

Venezuela’s epic shortages are nothing new at this point. No diapers or car parts or aspirin — it’s all been well documented. But now the country is at risk of running out of money itself.

In a tale that highlights the chaos of unbridled inflation, Venezuela is scrambling to print new bills fast enough to keep up with the torrid pace of price increases. Most of the cash, like nearly everything else in the oil-exporting country, is imported. And with hard currency reserves sinking to critically low levels, the central bank is doling out payments so slowly to foreign providers that they are foregoing further business.

Venezuela, in other words, is now so broke that it may not have enough money to pay for its money.

. . . Last month, De La Rue, the world’s largest currency maker, sent a letter to the central bank complaining that it was owed $71 million and would inform its shareholders if the money were not forthcoming. The letter was leaked to a Venezuelan news website and confirmed by Bloomberg News.

It’s an unprecedented case in history that a country with such high inflation cannot get new bills, said Jose Guerra, an opposition law maker and former director of economic research at the central bank. Late last year, the central bank ordered more than 10 billion bank notes, surpassing the 7.6 billion the U.S. Federal Reserve requested this year for an economy many times the size of Venezuela’s.

–Andrew Rosati, Venezuela Doesn’t Have Enough Money to Pay for Its Money
Bloomberg (27 April 2016)

The Venezuelan Boli-Bureaucracy survives by feeding off oil revenues and redistributing part of the take to popular subsidy programs for basic goods (especially food and gasoline). But as they’ve become increasingly unable to find the money to keep those programs functioning, they’ve responded by escalating state confiscation of businesses and inflating the currency to pay off looming bills. As the value of the bolivar has cratered, prices on those basic goods have skyrocketed; since the legitimacy of the Boli-Bureaucracy depends on keeping basic goods affordable to the poor, they responded by blaming greedy merchants and instituted rigid price controls on food, medicine, batteries, deodorant, diapers, etc. etc. etc. Predictably, the effect of price controls in the midst of sky-high inflation was that people rushed to buy everything they could before their wages became even more worthless, and stores sold what they had but couldn’t afford to import any more.[1] So now the government inflicts massive shortages on the people it claims to be aiding, and it responds by enacting increasingly draconian efforts to force more goods to be brought to market and to monitor shopping and limit the quantities that people can buy. The degenerative process has gotten so bad that even the government’s ability to pay for its own inflation is breaking down. The spiraling, swallowed-the-goat-to-catch-the-cat, swallowed-the-cat-to-catch-the-bird process of complete systemic breakdown would be comical, if its human costs weren’t so grimly, horribly real. From a recent overview article in The Atlantic, whose contents are as horrifying as they are predictable to anyone who has been following the situation over the last few years:

Shared Article from The Atlantic

Venezuela Is Falling Apart

Scenes from daily life in a failing state

theatlantic.com


… In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

But why? It’s not that the country lacked money. Sitting atop the world’s largest reserves of oil at the tail end of a frenzied oil boom, the government led first by Chavez and, since 2013, by Maduro, received over a trillion dollars in oil revenues over the last 17 years. It faced virtually no institutional constraints on how to spend that unprecedented bonanza. It’s true that oil prices have since fallen—a risk many people foresaw, and one that the government made no provision for—but that can hardly explain what’s happened: Venezuela’s garish implosion began well before the price of oil plummeted. Back in 2014, when oil was still trading north of $100 per barrel, Venezuelans were already facing acute shortages of basic things like bread or toiletries.

The real culprit is chavismo, the ruling philosophy named for Chavez and carried forward by Maduro, and its truly breathtaking propensity for mismanagement (the government plowed state money arbitrarily into foolish investments); institutional destruction (as Chavez and then Maduro became more authoritarian and crippled the country’s democratic institutions); nonsense policy-making (like price and currency controls); and plain thievery (as corruption has proliferated among unaccountable officials and their friends and families).

A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

When a state is in the process of collapse, dimensions of decay feed back on each other in an intractable cycle. Populist giveaways, for example, have fed the country’s ruinous flirtation with hyperinflation; the International Monetary Fund now projects that prices will rise by 720 percent this year and 2,200 percent in 2017. The government virtually gives away gasoline for free, even after having raised the price earlier this year. As a result of this and similar policies, the state is chronically short of funds, forced to print ever more money to finance its spending. Consumers, flush with cash and chasing a dwindling supply of goods, are caught in an inflationary spiral.

There are many theories about the deeper forces that have destroyed Venezuela’s economy, torn apart its society and devastated its institutions, but their result is ultimately a human tragedy representing one of the most severe humanitarian crises facing the Western hemisphere. . . .

–Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro, Venezuela Is Falling Apart: Scenes from daily life in the failing state
The Atlantic (May 2016)

Under the name and banner of a socialist and revolutionary movement, the emerging Boli-bureaucracy has used subsidy, co-optation, conversion, and violent repression to devour any and every independent project or association, whenever, wherever, and however it could get them into its ravenous maw. All too many Potemkin-tour Progressives and authoritarian Leftists deluded themselves into believing that this process of the endlessly self-aggrandizing State bureaucracy engorging itself on the living remains of industrial and civil society, was something that Leftist, grassroots, and populist tendencies ought for some reason to support. For years the discourse on the Left has responded to Anarchistic voices criticizing the Bolivarian regime by trying to bully them out of the conversation with charges of neo-liberalism and golpismo. But it is too obvious at this point to be worth continuing the debate on terms like these. Bolivarian government has produced nothing more than a grotesque, slow-motion train wreck that keeps happening and happening.

Government! Ah! we shall still have enough of it, and to spare. Know well that there is nothing more counter-revolutionary than the Government. Whatever liberalism it pretends, whatever name it assumes, the Revolution repudiates it: its fate is to be absorbed in the industrial organization.

–Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Reaction Causes Revolution
From General Idea of the Revolution in the XIXth Century (1851).

The promise of revolutionary government is nothing but a mirage; and the problem is not with the revolution, but with the government. In Anarchy there is another way. Que se vayan tod@s.

See also.

  1. [1]Almost the entire consumer economy in Venezuela is now import-dependent, because the economic chaos makes it impossible to produce almost anything domestically.

Translation of “One comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh I’ve got the desire” (Viento sin Fronteras, in EL LIBERTARIO)

Here is another translation from Venezuela, once again of a one-compa-sounds-off article, this time from Viento sin Fronteras (Wind without Borders) in a rural area of Mérida, a state in western Venezuela. The article was reprinted by the Venezuelan anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a nervous translator trying to keep up with a lot of regional references that I don’t always know, and moving through a lot of material coming out more quickly than I can translate it; this is a working draft; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here. Again, there are lots of different Anarchists in Venezuela, and this is one compa’s view; there are many with different views about the attitude that Anarchists should take towards the protest. (See, for example, this previous translation of a commentary by Victor Camacho. Viento sin Fronteras is, let’s say, significantly more hands-on.)

A comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh, I’ve got the desire

Viento sin Fronteras

This is a little chronicle many are certainly familiar with. Yesterday I got up at 6 a.m. so I could get ready to go to work. I arrived at work around 7:30 am and I spent the whole day over there. At 7pm I went back to my house. When I got home I had to go down to the nearest bodega (I live in a rural area) to buy stuff for making dinner or lunch in the coming days. Well O.K., so a purchase that consists of some three potatoes, two cans of sardines, three tomatoes, an onion, laundry soap,[1] a box of cigarettes and a few cookies, comes out to 170 bolivars [≈ US $27]. Up to this point everything seems normal but it isn’t. My daily salary is 200 bolivars [≈ US $32].

Clearly, they are 200 bolivars and this leaves me only just 30 bolivars [≈ US $5] to save for paying the rest of my expenses, like the rent for example. Or the fare for public transport, if I weren’t walking to work I’d have to take 10 bolivars off these 30 that are supposed to be left over for me.

Besides this, I remembered that the last time that I went without natural gas nearly a month passed before that commodity came back to my house. And I my house, of course, a little house of 38 square meters [≈ 409 sq. ft.] where the water shuts off every day for an hour or two, with a rent that’s equivalent to nearly half the minimum wage I work for. It brings to mind that house from the housing project[2] that that the showboat[3] of the Communal Council[4] built (great affiliate of PSUV[5] certainly and an ideological reference for many here) and which was empty until two weeks ago, which he managed to sell, for no less than the discreet sum of 700,000 bolivars [≈ US $ 111,250].

Something comes into my mind, and my nerves get hotter. I spent 10 years of my life in college. I have an undergraduate degree, a master’s, and I left my doctoral thesis half done when I lost interest. And O.K., it’s not that I believe that I deserve a Ministry salary, but for some reason, and this reason for some other reason always ends up being my fault; it has been impossible for me to find a job that, without being exactly the thing for which I supposedly studied at least would permit me (and that’s what college is supposedly about) to give back to society or to whoever, a little bit of that intellectual or technical material that I supposedly acquired in those years. At times, they then give me some moments of clarity and I say: clearly, it’s that to get hooked up you have to know whose balls to yank.[6] Or I think and I swear[7] about how to set up that writing project with the ever sacrosanct words: Eternal Commander, Fellow Comrade, the Little Bird, Our Process, the Economic War, the Eternal Giant, the Legacy.[8] All this without a doubt adds to the degree of a feeling of frustration that’s growing.

And with that, what comes into my head are the contracts for the Guasare coal, the Deltana Plate, the three billion dollars that Chevron loaned us, the concessions to Chinese timber companies in the high Caroní, the death of the Sabinos, the criminalization of the Wayuu, the Red Fascist wall shooting dissident unionists, the armed forces of the government holding old women with their pans at gunpoint, ordering them to be quiet, the dead of Uribana, the 400 dying every year in prison, the intellectual authors of the massacre of El Amparo placed in the government designing the anti-terrorism laws. And so on. And so I think that late or early, me, and many people who aren’t identified one bit with the spokespeople of the opposition parties, including folks who come from the Chavista movement, are getting out into the streets to protest. And I’ll be over there, if country life lets me, handing out pamphlets to anyone who has eyes to read them. Without falling into naivete, I know that there will be plenty of imbecile fanatics for Pérez Jiménez[9] or Leopoldo Lopez[10] there with their slogans and believe me that I’ll fight them right there. Right there I’ll show that they’re the same as the others.

Oh, I’ve got the desire[11] to go out hurling stones when the police car crosses my path. Because they are some thugs and some cheerleaders.[12] Oh, I’ve got the desire to take all the trash that they aren’t capable of managing and set it all on fire in the doorway of the Mérida state government. Oh, I’ve got the desire to smash the windows of the supermarket and leave all those products tossed on the floor that I have to wait in line for on my weekend days. Oh, I’ve got the desire to catch an ATM[13] alone and try once and for all to see how the fuck you can withdraw all the money with a sledgehammer.

I’ve got the desire to give thanks in person to the folks who set SEBIN’s trucks on fire[14] because they’re a murdering intelligence agency that tortures and persecutes political dissidents. I’ve got the desire to go up to that student leader, who’s really an ally of PJ,[15] and tell her to shut her mouth, that she’s a wanker,[16] that it’s her fault (and that of those mamelotracios[17] that she obeys) that the protest — which could have been a good way to lock up the pigs[18] and a place where we’d all recognize that all these demands are the vindication urgent for EVERYONE — was converted instead into a slogan, pretty much belonging to their own partisan interests.

The year is just beginning and it doesn’t promise to be a year for calm ones. Well, let the storm come.

— Ganas no me faltan (21 Feb. 2014). Very imperfectly translated by Charles W. Johnson

  1. [1]Lit. jabón azul, a specialized kind of soap used especially for laundry (although it can also be used for household cleaning or for personal hygiene).
  2. [2]misión vivienda, a huge public housing construction project launched as part of the Bolivarian Missions sponsored by the government, and administered through government-approved community councils.
  3. [3]Cantamañanas, more accurately, someone who promises to do something and never does it.
  4. [4]Orig. Spanish: CC, i.e., Consejo Comunal, a local council which, among other things, administers government funds granted under the Bolivarian Mission programs.
  5. [5]United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the current ruling political party.
  6. [6]Venezuelan slang, jalar bolas, lit. to pull balls, fig. to flatter or sweet talk with an ulterior motive.
  7. [7]Ambiguous: reniego, meaning either potentially reneging, cursing, detesting, renouncing a religion, or, significantly given the context, uttering blasphemy.
  8. [8]comandante eterno, compañero camarada, el arañero, nuestro proceso, la guerra económica, el gigante eterno, el legado, all nicknames or honorary phrases associated with the Bolivarian Socialist government and especially with the cult of personality around Hugo Chávez.
  9. [9]Presumably Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1914-2001), right-wing military dictator of Venezuela 1952-1958. A few of the more right-wing opposition groups explicitly identify their goals with perezjimenismo.
  10. [10]Leopoldo López Mendoza, leader in the right-wing political opposition party Voluntad Popular, arrested earlier this month and imprisoned on terrorism charges after the outbreak of street protests in Venezuela.
  11. [11]Ganas no me faltan, common phrase, meaning I don’t lack the desire or I don’t lack the urge.
  12. [12]Matraqueros, lit. those who use matracas, a kind of spinning noise-maker popular with diehard Latin American sports fans.
  13. [13]Cajero del banco, which can refer either to an ATM or to a human teller. From the reference to smashing with sledgehammers, I assume (hope?) from context that this is referring to smashing up a machine to get at the cash inside of it.
  14. [14]Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, the main national intelligence agency and political police force in Venezuela.
  15. [15]Primero Justicia, a center-right party in the political opposition, run by Henrique Capriles, a right-wing opposition leader who has condemned the street protests.
  16. [16]Pajua, from paja, lit. masturbation or fig. wankery, in the sense of talking bullshit.
  17. [17]Original Spanish, untranslated. I don’t have a good idea of what this means, even after consulting with native speakers from South America. (It’s not in any slang dictionaries I have access to, either.) Our best guess is that it’s probably a portmanteau profanity of some kind and that it’s probably intended to suggest something like cocksuckers.
  18. [18]I am not at all sure that this is a correct translation. Orig. Spanish: que podría haber sido una buena tranca de cochina. Tranca is a lock or a door-bolt, cochina literally means sow, but cochino/a are also used as the masculine and feminine forms of an insult meaning nasty or dirty. This phrase, taken as a whole, doesn’t seem to be an idiomatic expression, or at least, does not seem to occur anywhere else on the Internet.