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Chávez is responsible for the killing and plundering in Venezuela

By Gustavo Coronel

11.07.05 | "The Buck Stops Here" Harry S. Truman. The same day I read about Venezuela being the world country having the largest number of deaths by firearms, 26 or more members of the Venezuelan armed forces and of the "special" police organizations of the Chávez regime assassinated in cold blood three university students in the western side of Caracas. The students were dragged out of their car and executed. Later, the murderers planted guns in the car, to make the murdered students look like criminals. In a nine minute comment on this massacre, made over the radio, Hugo Chávez claimed to be very deeply hurt, "muchisisimo, muchisisimo, muchisisimo," repeating the word muchisisimo (muchisimo is the real word) three times for emphasis, as if repetition of the colloquialism would make his sadness sound more real. In fact, many listeners were repelled by his comments, which sounded cynical and insensitive, definitely improper at a time in which such a tragedy had taken place. He started to browbeat those he considered the culprits for this situation: the governors, the ministers, the mayors, the heads and members of the diverse police organizations (Military Intelligence, Scientific Police, Police Investigations). He earned masochistic applause from members of the very same group he was browbeating, when he said that he preferred to live in a country without police. He actually said, to the applause in the background: "Sweep all of them off the ranks! Throw the ministers, the vice-ministers, the heads of police out. It is better not to have a police force than to have these murderers, these presumed policemen, acting thus." He started to doubt if the little army that had done the killings were, in fact, members of the police forces. His outburst was largely for effect, however, as one week after the killings took place, no one has been singled out as the person who gave the orders. In private, Chávez seems to be mostly indignant that the assassinated youth were university students, since this would have undesirable political consequences for his regime. University students have already taken to the street in protest for these cruel killings.

In Venezuela human life is rapidly becoming worthless. Violent deaths in the streets of the country are now in the order of 12,000 per year, four times higher than when Chávez arrived in power. Close to 3,800 people have been murdered by the police forces during the last five years, according to official figures. Venezuela is one of the countries with the highest incidence of killings inside the prisons. Caracas is one of the three most violent cities in the world. This city used to have a busy nightlife in restaurants, theaters and other public places but, today, no one wants to walk around after dark, unless armed or dressed in drag. Only the killers and the transvestites walk around in the city at night. At the same time, drug lords walk out of Venezuelan prisons with total ease and impunity and members of the Colombian guerrillas live under the protection of the regime.

Caracas is like Gotham City . . . without a Batman

Caracas is like Gotham City . . . without a Batman. The members of one of the branches of government, PODER CIUDADANO (Citizen Power: Ombudsman, Attorney General, and General Comptroller) do not have the time or the inclination to protect citizens from the excesses of the regime or from the criminals who have taken over the streets and much of the national administrative offices. They are totally committed to the protection of the members of the Chávez regime. This perversion of PODER CIUDADANO is one of the most grotesque aspects of life under the Chávez regime and makes one wonder how the incumbents of those jobs can look at themselves in the mirror. Their diligence is reserved for the indictment and prosecution of the "enemies" of the regime. This is why the Attorney General is taking Súmate to court, to be judged by a tribunal of Justice "which is to Justice what military music is to music" (Groucho Marx). This is why the Ombudsman cries intervention by the U.S. Statement deploring the trial of the Súmate board members, instead of defending those citizens from being dragged to a kangaroo court. While the leaders of Súmate are tried for treason for accepting a US$53,400 grant from The National Endowment for Democracy, money utilized to improve the transparency of elections in Venezuela, the Venezuelan Ambassador in Washington, Mr. Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, distributes well over US$600,000 per year among Washington lobbyists, fellow travelers and mercenaries to sing the praises of an authoritarian regime. The Chávez regime has redefined the concept of treason to include any activity by the opposition that could be damaging to the regime.

While assassinations takes place, Petróleos de Venezuela continues to be plundered

The external auditors of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), members of the KPMG group, cannot make heads or tails of the finances of the company. They keep asking unanswered questions from their clients, according to a detailed report by Mery Mogollón (El Nacional, July 10, 2005). The report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will not be presented this year, just as it was not presented last year or the year before last. PDVSA has become an international rogue company, a real financial black box. International investors will have to contend with both a political and a financial risk when dealing with this company. Of course, the country is oil-rich and oil is in short supply. This will probably make risks worth taking but no international petroleum company is going into Venezuela nowadays with trust and confidence in what the future holds. The Venezuelan company has also failed to present shareholders with its annual reports for 2003 and 2004, in spite of the slogan painted all over Venezuela that claims: "Now PDVSA belongs to all of us." Finance Directors come and go but no one has been able to unravel the financial mysteries of a company that before Chávez arrived in power was the pride of the country. The weaknesses and failures of information identified by KPMG include lack of controls, doubtful receivables, absence of an up-to-date Book of Shareholder meetings, illegal Financial Statements, great discrepancies between the amounts of money budgeted and the money actually spent, incomplete list of payments and exports, lack of supporting documentation for reserves and personnel under contract, a whole myriad of basic accounting errors.

The audit of the company, adds Mogollón, reveals important discrepancies between support documents and bank accounts involving hundreds of millions of dollars. These discrepancies do not constitute evidence of criminal wrondoing but certainly are cause for concern and should be reconciled. The problem is that the information to do this reconciliation is nowhere to be found. The same problem exists in the inventories of materials and crude oil. In the area of production the auditors cannot find enough information to know how much it costs to produce the oil and what the reserves really are. The company does not know how much money it owes to the 18,000 employees that Chávez fired on national TV. Severance payments for most of them remain unpaid.

The marketing of Venezuelan oil remains in chaos. Cuba owes Venezuela about US$600 millon for oil received up to 2003 and, conceivably, much more for 2004. About 30 accounts have been challenged by clients and remain unrecognized. Internet is full with offers of Venezuelan oil and products by third parties, presumably with murky connections to the company. The list of irregularities concerning the marketing of Venezuelan oil is very long.

Chávez is directly responsible for this mess

Chávez has now adopted the strategy of protesting loudly against the crimes and the thievery of . . . his own regime! Amazingly, both inside and outside the country this strategy has been working, at least for the time being. Millions of Venezuelans are complaining about the Chávez bureaucracy, about the Chávez police, about the opposition and about the CIA, including Chávez himself! But no one is clearly saying that Chávez is the main culprit for the killings and the thievery. And he is!

Chávez is the main culprit of the Venezuelan mess. He is the one that generated the political and social polarization that has ended up in chaos. He is the one diverting the money from PDVSA to use in his political fantasies, rendering the financial auditing of the company impossible. He is the one who has promoted hate and violence in the country and the only one responsible for the naming of criminals and thieves into positions of political power. His public denouncing of his own club of assassins and thieves is just a very cynical strategy, only comparable to the offer recently made by Gloria Arroyo, the corrupt Phillipine President "to commit an act of sacrifice by sending her husband abroad!" In the Philippines, however, there is a level of moral fortitude among the government team that does not exist in the Venezuelan regime of Chávez. Ministers are resigning in the Philippines while they are clinging desperately to power in Venezuela.

A message to Chávez supporters

If you want to go ahead and support Chávez this is OK with me. If you feel Chávez is the answer to Venezuela's problems, I respect your belief. But do not claim tomorrow that you did not know that the man was leading the country to ruin. Do not tell me tomorrow that you did not know about the daily violations to the Constitution, about the abuses of power, about the killings and the overwhelming corruption. You did know everything because everything to know was and is there for all to see. You knew about the disasters and the killings and the thievery and yet you chose to look the other way. You had your reasons.

Do not ever claim that statistics showed differently. All statistics have been showing, consistently, the dismal situation of the Venezuelan poor, the chaos of Venezuelan social life, and the tragic deterioration of Venezuelan quality of life.

You are as guilty as Chávez.

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