A rude awakening in Bonn

Global Media Forum“Oh, from Venezuela…“ my Congolese friend is saying to me, “I once interviewed Hugo Chávez in Paris. He stayed with me for hours, and then he invited me to Venezuela to attend his TV show. Sadly, the opposition then attempted a coup, and the invitation never materialized.“

The misty look on his face suggests that the journalist I have just met here in Bonn had fallen prey to the aura of the late galactic commander.

A Serbian journalist I met later confirmed my fear that this was not a group where I could be totally open about my position on Chávez. “He is a hero in my country. We found him refreshing … coming out of a war in which the great powers bombed our country, here was a man unafraid of speaking the truth to these guys. It was riveting. That,“ she says as she turns to a Russian journalist I have just met, “is why we love Putin so much. Because he‘s not afraid to stir the pot.“

Oh, dear.

Granted, this is not a meeting of chavistas. So far, I have met journalists and bloggers from at least twenty different countries, and it is hard to say there is a definite bias in their background. For example, I have met three South African journalists from a wide spectrum of views … one fiercely anti-ANC, one unbiased investigative reporter, and a guy who‘s like the Andres Izarra of the Zuma administration.

But for years I have been living in a bubble, thinking that any foreigner with chavista inclinations was already in the pocket of the government, and that anyone left simply had to be critical of this disaster. “Not at all,“ says my new Slovenian friend, “Chávez is a hero to many in my country.“ Eslovenia, chamo, Eslovenia.

I had simply dismissed the enormous amount of goodwill Chávez generated – not with his checkbook, but with his personal charm and his fierce anti-Americanism which plays so well this side of the Atlantic.

This gives me a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, engage with people who see things differently, and see if I can convince them, to make them look beyond their pink-tinted glasses.

Lord knows I‘m not convincing anyone at home. I might as well try some proselytizing here, on the shores of the Rhein.

162 thoughts on “A rude awakening in Bonn

  1. Oh my, it sounds so familiar. I am in Australia visiting my daughter and the comments I hear turn my stomach. Chavez is a hero, a modern Robin Hood, so charming and good hearted, is what they say. Well he sure sold himself well.


  2. Well the coma-andante did spend good money on propaganda outside Venezuela.

    chavismo has invested more money on their image abroad than on the issues at home.It’s only natural for the peopel of the world to see him as a hero,hell i bet every picture they’ve seen of venezuela is a giant picture of a smiling chavez with all happy kids around playing ball in their newly freed and sovereign homeland.

    It’s all about poetry and the arts,people eat more invisible words than bread.


  3. Firstly, here you can see those who in March voted to ask for the respect of human rights in Venezuela.


    The voting went very much along the lines of who likes Chavismo or not. Chavistas got 8.7% of the vote.
    Curiously, one of them was the founder of the racialist party Vlaams Blok (now as independent). A party like Le Pen (extreme right as well) abstained.

    I’m curious about your interactions with Germans (and also from where those Germans came).

    I live next to Brussels, which is probably the place where you can more easily meet people from all around Europe on any given day (more than much bigger London). My impression is that those who still have a good impression of Venezuela’s regime are:

    1- the masses in Russia/Belarus and in Eastern European countries with screwed economies that look at Russia with awe have a lot of people. These countries are mostly Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia (remember how Chávez condemned the bombing of Serbia by NATO troops? THAT WAS A BIGGIE). I have talked extensively with people from Romania, Bulgaria. These guys haven’t got a clue about oil prices. They see rich Russians (still) spending their dosh here and they see how Russians are, generally speaking, living better than they are in Transilvania, in Bucarest, in Sofia, in Varna. They tell me: we need a Strong Man!

    The better educated oppo Russians think Chávez was an idiot (well, many Putinists think Chávez was an useful idiot who bought lots of Russian arms)

    2- the extreme left in Western countries, which would mean around 10% or less of the population or less. Eastern Germany has a higher proportion of them than Western Germany.
    In Spain you have Izquierda Unida and PODEMOS. But even part of them are aware Chavismo doesn’t work. Now there is a big discussion in Spain because journalists found out the guy from PODEMOS received several million euros from Chávez. That allowed him and his group to have a platform for years and now they got into the EU Parliament. If you check El País you will see the discussions attacking PODEMOS because of the Chávez money…and the PODEMOS voters seeing that as just a means to attack their party..even many of them don’t want a Chávez regime and, as Spaniards, are more aware of the mess in Venezuela

    Remember also some of the people in these events might not be your average EU citizen.
    I’m sure if you were to travel around African American communities in the USA you will hear a lot of positive things about Chávez.


    • I’m sure if you were to travel around African American communities in the USA you will hear a lot of positive things about Chávez.

      Assuming they have any opinion or any idea of who Chávez is or where Venezuela is. And that’s not to pick on African Americans. The same would be true of pretty much any group.


    • Sigh. Did it ever occur to you, Kepler, that the Belarusians and East Germans might be right about Chavez, and that cockroach-monkeys like you might be wrong?

      I look forward to a world in which every time wussified whiners like you bleat about ‘human rights’, you get a slap in the face from the Venezuelan Armed Forces.


  4. I’ve been having this same crap for years: a street vendor in Barbados, a French shop-owner in Paris, a bloody bus driver near to the O2 arena in Greenwich, a Syrian restaurant owner in a small town near London…. They all have something in common: they described Chavez as some sort of Latin America Robin hood and the ones who opposed him (i.e. me!) as descendants of the elites (hard to take to a Catia-born black guy as I am)

    La peste roja only did one thing well: promoting themselves as protectors of the poor and enforcers of social justice. Films such as “South of the Border” (Oliver Stone) and the infamous “The Revolution will not be televised” are clear examples of how this guys appeal to the ill-informed and frankly simplistic international “progressive” audience. We have to remember that La desgracia Roja coincides in time with the rise of the neo-con in the US and New Labour (Tony Blair) in the UK with all the consequences they had internationally (war in Irak 2) and the rejection they cause within their own people. Anything opposing to them, was good… hence the popularity of El Fiambre with his (also infamous) “huele a azufre”

    Every now and then I find one of these enlightened brains telling me how thing are in my own country; unlike many (who rather not discuss with these types), I find myself offering accommodation in Caracas for a month for them to try first-hand the benefits of the Bolivarian revolution.


  5. Juan it’s ok to bring up this notion again, but it’s something I cannot believe you didn’t see before. Chavez’ support in the common people, especially those affected by el imperio, has been very real from long ago. Of course this notion should be reaffirmed from time to time, we tend to forget it with our highly renowned short-term memory.


  6. “A Serbian journalist I met later confirmed my fear that this was not a group where I could be totally open about my position on Chávez. “

    Wait, WHAT?! This is a joke, right?

    You’re there to slap world PSFery upside the head, Juan, not to mollify them…sheesh…


    • Indeed.
      How can Juan Nagel expect people in Venezuela to stand for their rights if he won’t do that in Germany?

      I am sure Nagel is taller than 95% of the people in that event and in case scuffles do escalate,
      the Bundespolizei will intervene in no time, unlike in Venezuela, and unlike in other places, they won’t use tasers.

      Thus, Nagel: go and tell the truth. You are safer there than in most places.


      • oh, I’m not keeping quiet, but I also want to keep an open mind and find out where their PSFery comes from. So I’m walking a fine line here. But the level of chavista BS about Venezuela that there is in Europe pales when compared to our hemisphere. I wasn’t prepared for this.


        • Come on, Juan, it’s like expecting people in Chile or the USA to know much about Kazakhstan or Palestine.
          Human rights are no better in Kazakhstan, by the way.
          Look at what even Foreign Policy writes about Kazakhtan.

          I also think these venues in Europe are some of the most likely places where you will find PSFs, apart from events organised by the extreme left party and the usual lefty PSFs. You will probably find much more support for Chávez in an African American community in the US than in a German city.

          The Deutsche Welle somehow took over a few of the journalists from Eastern Germany and that shows a lot in their reporting about Venezuela. That might have influenced their choice in their invitations (so, you are the weird there :-)

          The Deutsche Welle invited people like Michael Zeuske, a “history” professor” who worked together with the Venezuelan embassy, to explain Germans what Chávez was.
          Their reporting about Venezuela has been very different from the equally public but more competitive TV channels of ZDF and ARD. The few reports you see in ZDF about Venezuela are by far more critical of Chavismo. And remember: Venezuela here is like Congo or Turkey in Chile or Mexico.


          • You will probably find much more support for Chávez in an African American community in the US than in a German city.
            That’s twice you’ve said this. I contend that less than ten percent of African-Americans could find Venezuela on a map, much less know who the Eternal Commander was/is. Anglo-Americans the percentages would be only slightly higher.


            • I am aware of that and that is not in contradiction with my statement.
              You have maybe 1/3 have a positive image of Chavez from the 1/10 who know where Venezuela is
              -> 0.033
              In Germany you might have 1/4 who really know where Venezuela is and 1/8 of them who have a positive image of Chávez, thus 0.03125 of the total.
              But on a Deutsche Welle event the proportion will be more like 0.3


        • I will go to germany and try to stand with an “Open mind” about the Shutzstaffeln

          Come on!, they wore HUGO BOSS uniforms!, these guys wouldn’t be cooler otherwise!.


        • I agree with Juan,

          The best way to convince foreigners is listen to what they know/think abt Venezuela before you make your case. I have found this to be much more effective than slapping them.


        • Don’t be afraid to be branded an outcast,speak your mind, let them now how much you oppose the bullshit Juan. Set the maracucho inside you free


        • Good luck with your ethnographic trip over there. Those are very strange tribes of most surprising mores and beliefs, indeed :-)

          I can think of two arguments to which this audience should be fairly receptive.
          – Numbers, particularly comparative development numbers, showing that there isn’t much to Chavez vs., say Lula’s Brazil. Europeans curious enough to know about Venezuela should be literate (and numerate) enough to understand this type of normally rather dry information.
          – Corruption, with clear examples of the scale and destructiveness of it, and a good explanation of the mechanisms at play. Europeans really frown on corruption. Prepare for gaping mouths and looks of utter confusion and befuddlement when you try to explain them SICAD :-)


        • Really just NOW you noticed that? Have you talk to students in “Latino american Studies” in the US? I was “white”, and of course they cannot say I was a violent fascist opposition (well because they already had talked to me before knowing what I thought about Chavez), or that yes I participated in the bailo terapias ( oh yes that probably was a lie, because in all that the people where extremely violent destroying everything like hospitals for the poor) . Yes, that last part it was not way to believe the Venezuela medicine-work-specialization system inside the government/public institutions…. Only one lithuanian friend, that really remembers, when she saw VTV, she said,” I have to say sorry, I thought you were exaggerating…but watching that, all the reminders of the URSS in my country, the propaganda, came back…”


  7. The only way to win over people is to break out the numbers. If you start discussing vague philosophical issues such as how evil the evil empire is and how poor people are victims of global capitalism you’ll never get anywhere.


    • ^^^^. And I’d add: break out numbers with simple and clear explanations. Clarity first. And absolutely NO poetic gobbledygook.


      • You’re right syd – perhaps I should have said “details” – as others point out the flood of heart-wrenching should provide ample ammunition. Staying aloft in the theoretical plains is not likely to win people over.


  8. Oh, yea, and remember, most journalists or media types are not trained economists (and if they are they might be marxists!)


    • Good point. Again, CLARITY, dear Juan. Leave the econometric discussions for another targeted audience. This one ain’t it.


  9. Most people are ignorant or uninformed about the realities of far off places , so they judge what happens in them basing themselves on some picturesque cultural myths and stereorypes which flatter their own self regard by allowing them to assumme the role of ‘goody goody progressives’ . This is the same phenomena or folly that make people from distant lands admire Castro or Che Guevara .

    Also there is a tendency on the part of people who live in failed countries to assuage their envious resentment of highly succesful countries ( and the cultural models that typify them ) by imagining them as fiendish and corrupt , overbearing and malevolent . This feeds a lot of the anti americanism to be found in the world. Chavez was an expert at tapping into these conceits and resentments to canvass sympathies to feed his own gargantuan megalomania.!!

    These people are for the most part not interested in the truth , they are interested in holding views which flatter their moral conceits or entertain their florid imaginations on the cheap . !!

    Juan dont be dissapointed by these foreigng innocents or pendejos worship of Chavez touched up image . concentrate on discussing the venezuelan reality with people who are intellectually open and have a sense of intellectual honesty that makes them value truth above the pleasue they derive from the cultivation of their own foibles.!!


    • Not only from failed states, it is amusing how easy is to find Chavista believers in the banks of the Potomac or Thames


      • I live close to DC and had some friends/associates who were Chavista sympathizers, particularly among my European friends. Over the years, however, they started to keep quiet.

        When my wife is around, the daughter of a garbage man, tells them the realities her working class family faces in Caracas, they tend to shut the eff up about any ‘revolution’. These type of things (Bolivarian revolution), are much more appealing in the abstract, unbothered by any unsettling actualities.

        I will reiterate what someone said. The utter unpopularity of Bush made Hugo’s america bashing extremely effective.

        Say you what you will, but he had impeccable timing. Came to power right before a massive and prolonged oil boom, had a deeply unpopular US president to bash, and died when all the bills came due. That son of a gun.


      • The foreign chavista chupamedias are the love children of two intertwined influences , that of the human tendency to feel important by adopting a delusional heroic noble ideological identity that cartoonlike pits the goody goody progressives against the capitalist oligarchic traditional forces of evil and that of the resentment of people living in failed or have been countries loving victimhood and making the super succesful high profile USA the imaginary perpetrator of all the wickedness in the world !!

        The goody goody progressives (which tend to concentrate in academic circles) represent one trend , and can be found anywhere , while the anti american fabulists represent another and will be found mostly in the third world and in some small pogressive circles in Europe .

        In the Americas its toxic for a govt to show too much frienship to the US , in Europe its ok even though some people , outside govt , cultivate a pretentious anti americanism .


    • Bill Bass,

      Indeed most people everywhere are ignorant of other places to the extent that they can be easily fooled by image and traveling to those places doesn’t help much because it is so different to place things in the cultural context to which they belong.

      Juan, My husband’s brothers live in England and tell me there are loads of pro Chavismo Socialists there who are quite aggressive to this day and do not allow you to voice your opposition views without some sort of dangerous consequence.One of my brother- in -laws hides away to avoid problems at work.

      I have not seen this degree of fervor here in the US…so I assume if it exists it must be on a smaller scale, There were some vociferous Chavez supporters some years ago but never so much so that I felt intimidated but they are now very quiet.I remember 10 years ago a stupid man with a red beret at a Middle Eastern Restaurant in DC pontificating to me at my table, but I took offense and told him he knew not what he spoke of and I gave him my “look” hehe

      I think it is important to stand up to these bullies no matter the consequence.If they feel your force( your instincts) they might be more likely to make an inner stop( or in other words stop to think)Bullies are bullies.Convincing a bully with logic usually does not work.Speak your mind with strong conviction , or precede with your right to self expression as though their objections did not exist.Never back down from a bully.Political bullies are incredibly harmful to the public.


      • “I have not seen this degree of fervor here in the US…so I assume if it exists it must be on a smaller scale, There were some vociferous Chavez supporters some years ago but never so much so that I felt intimidated but they are now very quiet”
        Yeah, as expected.


        • I think there’s a bit of cognitive dissidence going on here. If you’re a European lefty, being against. Chavez would entail agreeing with the Americans or even the right wing of your own country, so people decide to support Chavez more for whom he is against than for whom he supports. They need to begin thinking more independently.


          • “They need to begin thinking more independently.”

            There’s the opening of your platform, Juan, something along the lines of:
            Journalists have to think independently, away from personal biases, away from the chatter of one or two groups that may or may not have been politically manipulated, to get at the heart of the story. Journalists have to stretch and reach for stories from across a wide spectrum to gain laser vision of what’s really going on, particularly when there are strong forces trying to ply their political wares in order to remain in power, in a state where chaos is the norm… bla-bla-bla.


      • Then again, there is lots of talk here about maintaining freedom and preventing censorship and the like, and all the chavista PSFs are nodding approvingly!


        • One can find every sort of person under the sun. Anyway, now that you’ve realized that internal affairs and foreign policy don’t match, please take this advice: do stress violations of human rights in Venezuela. It’s worked for me, at least. Talking about how Hugo Chavez worsened/didn’t do anything worthwhile to deal with the classical issues of Venezuela (corruption, inequality, insecurity) won’t help change the image he paid to create around the world.


    • Love Castro, love Che Guevara, love the Eternal Commander.

      I must say, I’m quite gleeful over the dismay that people like Nagel are feeling, like they just got stabbed in the back.


  10. There are idiots everywhere, you will have better luck argueing with a borracho! If you try to save the working girl from her pimp, they will both turn on you. Unfortunately the only way for a fool to understand , is by catching a good dose of dictatorship and suffering, democracy has blurred their vision.


  11. Judeo-Christian thought privileges the millenarian hero. Things are terrible, the world is falling apart, the Biblical prophesies of degeneration, pestilence, and war are becoming daily more real. And suddenly a hero appears, bringing a New Dawn. All the better if he comes from a far-off corner of the country, and chants redemptive phrases cribbed from The Sermon on the Mount.

    Hallelujah! Bow before the Great Man and the New Dispensation!

    It’s stirring stuff. But what is not addressed in the myth is the day after the New Dawn. Because this is religion, no one asks: “Does he know how to govern?”


  12. One of the more challenging aspects here is explaining to someone who grew up watching or even works at the BBC or Deutsche Welle what VtV and the rest of the hegemon are really like. State media is simply a whole different beast this side of the pond.

    I mean, a shooting took place in one of our main hospitals yesterday. Do you think the VTV website is mentioning it? Not a chance. So the standards in Venezuela are completely different from what you see in Europe. I guess that explains their naivete (partly).


    • Oh, when I find out one of them speaks Spanish I ask him to please visit VTV
      or just listen to 10 minutes of Radio Nacional. As the saying goes, a veces es mejor dejar que se ahorquen con su propia soga.

      I also translate occasionally some of the winged words Chavista grandees use for national consumption.

      Now, remember: Deutsche Welle is not the usual stuff Germans listen to or watch. Deutsche Welle is more like a nice channel to promote Germany. Germans usually watch public ARD, ZDF and regional channels.
      These are another beast altogether. They are public but very independent and, in my opinion, very decent. You can watch some videos of ZDF on Venezuela, they are rather good. But Venezuela is so far away!

      If you have time, try to talk to Germans on the streets of Cologne. As I said: I don’t think that venue is representative for what people in Western Germany think.


    • The hegemony’s policy is to NOT COVER those events and if they do, it’s to minimize them (by blaming someone else and announce a new plan that will go nowhere). Crime doesn’t fit their narrative.


      • Or to decry the politization of the issue. Prison Minister releases and then arms someone who killed a pregnant lady with said gun? Let’s condemn the opposition use of this tragedy to tarnish the reputation of the minister.


      • It seems that when they do mention them it’s always “un ajuste de cuentas”. Yeah this guy got shot 20 times, but he *probably* did something to deserve that. Law-abiding citizens are of course perfectly safe all over Venezuela.


        • Nothing to see here, move along, it’s just a run of the mill gunfight between gangs, with two thugs and three innocent bystanders shot dead.


    • yes, yes, mention the shooting in the quirófano.

      Pero bueno, tú estás allá para escuchar y medir sentimientos, o para dar un discurso?


  13. I would not deny Chavez’s charm but it would be foolish to overlook the propaganda machine he paid all over the world with the help of dying communist journalists. I was once in India for about a week and RK the Russian news channel had ongoing TV shows speaking about the greatness of the regime and it never mentioned even as a hint the crime was an issue if you travel to Venezuela.
    No wonder even taxi drivers knew who this guy was.


  14. We have loads of those guys here in Spain, the common people that believe the guy had the balls to speak to the empire and then the guys from the PODEMOS party which just recently in the european elections and became the 3rd political force in Spain, their party leaders were advisors to Hugo Chávez for 9 years through a foundation called “Centro de Estudios Políticos y Sociales” (they netted 3.7 million € from venezuelan money for those services).


    • I dont know exactly how “pro-Chávez” are the Podemos guys, and at what levels. It is kind of hard to have a good reading about them, with all the “lets do a grassroot assembly to decide” stuff. Getting 3-4 million € from Chávez to go and give some nice utopian report about some technical stuff that nobody cared about would very much be possible. Still problematic, starting with “wtf kind of polices are you thinking about then”

      Now, they have enough sympathies and stuff to make me more than a bit afraid, yes. But well, in the case of Spain, I get even more afraid when I see the usual suspects start insulting and vilifying them, because if at this point I’m not sure if they are Chávez or not, sure as hell PP and PSOE look like AD and COPEI. Hell, every single time they open their mouth to criticize Podemos is a bonus for them, it is like Lusinchi and Luis Herrera holding hands to tell the people to watch out for Hugo. It may true but unless you get somebody NEW and CLEAN to say it we are fucked because what people want is to strangle them, not listen to them.


        • ^ this is Pablo Iglesias from Podemos, one of the 4 guys elected from this party for the europarlament.


          • Can you feel my deja vu being an expat in Spain? two parties becoming tired and extinct and a rising party which is these guys.

            1998 all over again.


            • Yea, I get the same feeling here. Again, still not sure how much of it is just standard left radical habladera de paja, but boy the parallels are too close for comfort.


            • Yes, I can. I was speaking to a Spanish friend who lives in the USA now and she said, to my amazement, that she would consider voting for PODEMOS. She said: “you know, I didn’t even know about them until these elections but I do think I would vote for them to punish those two corrupt parties that don’t want to do anything about…” etc. I told her how I felt she was writing what I read from several Venezuelans in 1998.


        • he’s reading from a teleprompter. And he has been paid for delivering this message, I’m willing to bet, as is Bertín Osborne.


      • Fuck you, Fandino.

        It’s too bad we got rid of the Tascon List, it did a great job of keeping traitors like yourself in line.


    • All this of course doesnt means that my blood does not boil when somebody simultaneously protest for the awful stuff in Spanish politics lately, say, the way protests are being handled, and then proceeds to tell me how wonderful is Venezuela under the great revolution.


  15. Chavez did spend lots of money for almost 14 years to get this done… a false international image.. it paid off.. and after his death, he instantly became the venezuelan martyr he so longed for….

    I have to give credit for this flawless strategy though….


  16. I lived in Egypt for two and a half years (2011-2013) and I was confronted with this exact same dilemma many times, Juan. It’s as simple as this: since they have an outsider perspective, naturally, they judge international leaders strictly on one-or-two issues, two or three statistics (usually poverty reduction and access to education) and random soundbites.

    In relation to the Arab world, Chávez was pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist and ostensibly anti-American. These three positions have enough currency to curry favor with your average Arab or Muslim in the MENA region. They don’t care about anything else. Shit, for most of my life, I was pro-Chávez until I started to examine the internal dynamics of Venezuelan politics. I now prefer to maintain a critical perspective and have engaged many of my friends and colleagues on Chávez. I’ve changed a few minds, others held steadfast but no longer blindly believe he was this saint that’s universally loved by his people. The key word there is universally.

    The 2002 coup is not only the “original sin” of the opposition in domestic politics, but it is a major blight that affects how the “international community” perceives them. Every op-ed piece written by a Venezuelan politician (think Maduro’s piece in the NYT) or supporter will automatically reference the 2002 coup and the CIA support behind it. That instantly taps into anti-US networks (which are vast) globally and sways them to sympathize with the chavista project.


  17. Heh, some thousand million dollars burned in propaganda were the best investment the regime could do, brainwashing and confusing people in the other side of the world.


  18. Numbers and clarity will still clash with their worldview and cognitive biases. It is incredible how people make choices and think they are being rational, when in fact decisions are often made by gut, not brains.

    On the propaganda market , and political purchase decisions, ideology is the grease that keeps the albeit inconsistent truths smothed out.

    I agree, better luck to have an argument with a drunkard.

    At the end of the day, most people just want to support their beliefs with those pieces of reality thAt make sense, and will avoid the rest. Chavez played the part of anti- American while selling most of our oil to the us, this is enough for the PSF crowd out there.

    The states and nations that matter, do know the truth about Chavez, but will also play to their interests ( OAS and maria corina incident) , and thus it’s a waste of effort IMO trying to convince, or trying to have these audiences acknowledge your points. Secondary at best.

    Our key audience and where most efforts are needed is the Venezuelan c,d,e strata, and how to disassembly the hate bomb left by chavismo.

    When the economy continues to struggle and the big shit hits the fan, it’s imperative to have the necesary discourse and parking heads (and media) to explain the reasons Wahy, and the responsabilities.

    The foreign audiences can wait.


  19. Whenever I travel abroad I make sure most people I have contact with are informed of real conditions on our country , and almost always they are sympathetic . The way to get them to listen is not to go for a general expose of the regimes failures and misdeeds but to garnish it with the tale of anecdotes and personal experiences, as specific as possible which you know people can relate to because they can imagine themselves in similar situations .

    I know so many horror stories and how they have affected ordinary people that few people can help not be horrified by them !! You also make them feel priviledged by making them feel that they are learning things 1st hand which are never heard of on TV on in the papers .


    • This is what I do whenever I have the chance. People don’t know how good are they lives around here.


    • It’s a good approach. With Germans I add the military part. I tell them how my whole family has been intrinsically against the military. Then I quote Chávez and try to translate all that stuff about Vaterland oder Tod. But I also tell them about the haciendas in the hands of the Chávez clan.


  20. On the bright side, at least your people are not world famous for electing a potty-mouthed, crack addict.


  21. In the opportunities I’ve had to explain to lefty foreigners why I’m not chavista I tend to focus on the incompetence. The Valencia metro should have been ready in full by 2008 and it’s barely advanced some 20%. The delay has bankrupted almost every store in the viccinity of the subway construction.

    There’s also the healtcare problems, the crime problem, etc.

    When we reach scarcity and inflation, and they spew government talking points I answer in two fronts:
    – Venezuela is probably the only country in the region where exporting food and other goods is bad for the economy (bachaqueros are exporters). That shows how fucked up our system is.
    – Correa and Morales face the same right wing opponents, yet their economies aren’t fucked up.


  22. Thinking that you can convince blind ideologues of reality is not to understand the basic underpinnings of ideological thinking.

    It’s better to concentrate on standing for one’s truth without fear.That’s a language even the blind can feel.


  23. Look, the numbers matter, but the quickest way to demolish the Chavez myth is the way that the Soviet myth got demolished: Witness accounts about the living conditions on the country:


    Numbers, unfortunately, are abstractions. Political arguments tend, again, unfortunately, to go to the emotional, so what works best is to say: “Look, hospitals on the country have the conditions of WARZONES. How can you defend the goverment that caused that?”. Is about getting our own “The Gulag Archipelago”.


    • Ah, forgot. Wouldn’t pay attention to French socialists, most of them read The Monde Diplomatique, a propaganda effort that, until recently, was leaded by the old butt-buddy of Fidel Castro, Ignacio Ramonet.


  24. Juan,

    In addition to Bill B.’s advice above about personal anecdotes, when you are talking to the press do NOT tread lightly!

    The thing you should remember with journalists is that they like to think of themselves as worldly and cynical; hard-nosed reporters who can smell B.S. from a mile away and incapable of being seduced by a politician or by political rhetoric. Most aren’t that savvy, but they like to think they are. If you want to get their attention, start by insulting them:

    — “What?? You bought that load of crap???”

    — “Oh, man… (chortling) He really rolled you. Stripped your panties right off, and you never even noticed!”

    — “Jesus! You have done some good work. I thought you were smarter than that!”

    If you play it soft, they will just think that you are only spinning the story to represent the opposition. So don’t. Greet any praise of the Chavistas with the maximum of scorn you can muster. Once you have insulted their professional integrity you will get their attention. Then you can fill them in on the facts.

    Good luck!


  25. Juan ,

    I think the following quote ( though not by Einstein , hehe) is quite good:

    ” Ideology knows the answer before the question has been asked.
    Principles are something different: a set of values that have to be adapted to circumstances but not compromised away.”

    ― George Packer


  26. Welcome to the club Juan! I have been years and years convincing people, particularly in the media, that the story was not quite as Chávez had written fro them. Some people that know me personally were really amazed that I was against Chávez..thining that he meant social justice, etc etc.

    I once even had a clash with the local bolivarian circles that prepared a media group for the Revolution won’t be televised. Here’s my account, in English:



      • Yes, the article mentions the Swiss. Swiss women also rejected their own right to vote in a referendum, too, until they changed their minds in another referendum. The Swiss will come around about this, too.


    • “minimum level of income — whether or not they have a job.”
      Wasn’t that what chavismo did here with some “becas” like the one they gave to unemployed single mothers for each kid they had?
      Or maybe it’s closer to what the “paro” is in Spain, a systen that got aboused by some scumbags who actually don’t want to work at all and try to make a living of other’s money.


      • Ralph, no, it is not what chavismo did. What chavismo did was conditional; what is being proposed is unconditional, thus it cannot be used as an arepa muzzle. As to people being able to live at poverty line without working, that’s the proposed paradigm, not only as an inevitable consequence of two factors (population growth, scientific and technological advancements), but also as a more efficient means of dealing with the socio-economic bottom of capitalism. Survival depending on work needs to become a thing of the past.


      • syd, I notice that your lack of alternatives is losing ground to this academic fantasy, which is gaining traction world wide with ever accumulating supporting data.


        • Yes, extorres. There’s nothing quite like Huffington Post to lend credibility to the economic theory that you espouse. That is, predominantly for vote-getting purposes, as per your earlier admission, macroeconomic realities be damned.


          • syd, I can tell that from your high horse you spend so much time looking down at others that you can’t see past your nose, ahead.

            What proposal do you espouse that would win votes?

            What economic theory do you espouse that would eliminate the petro state model?

            Do you see job opportunities, worldwide, increasing at a higher rate that technology’s efficiency is reducing them?

            Do you see population growth diminishing at a greater rate than science’s advances are increasing life expectancy?

            The Unconditional Bonus Income proposal that I espouse addresses all four questions, and then some. I put it on the table and happily and seriously discuss any aspect anyone wants.

            Where’s the proposal that you espouse, syd? I’ve asked you countless times, to discuss mine and/or yours. When will it be time for you to put up? Or are you going to continue to wait for someone else to unsuccessfully attempt to take my proposal down to then cheer them on as if your support would lend any credibility.

            Talk about a shield of denial you have for anything that goes over your head. The reality is, syd, chavismo is here to stay so long as the opposition’s opinions are in any way swayed by the likes of you.


            • Extorres:
              I’ve suggested to you countless times that you write a peer-reviewed article on the subject. You skirt that suggestion. Are your qualifications insufficient to support what is now closer to charlatanerie?

              I’ve also asked you time and again to deal with the macroeconomic realities of Venezuela. You skirt those too, as though the underlying reality wasn’t important in the fantasy. Instead, you continue to espouse your theory, using us as a sounding board (or a mirror), supported by two flakey press articles (*), in all these years. Tronco de “tracción”.

              And you want me to consider you in a serious vein?

              When multiple parties object to your flim-flam, I’ve noticed that you keep quiet. But you become quiet bold in your badgering towards me, while whipping up a veritable froth of hyper-defensiveness. Craazy.

              Keep spinning those flakes.

              (*) Or, what you try to sell as “gaining traction world wide with ever accumulating supporting data.” LOL. Give me a break.


              • syd, you skirted, again and again:

                Your first skirt: What do you espouse?

                Your second skirt is related to your peer review advice. You imply that you don’t reply to my proposal because I would need to get any peer reviews for work before you could think for yourself on the topic. Yet, I have consistently pointed to countless peer reviewed articles of the work of others supporting what I’ve been suggesting for decades. But you skirt replying to those articles.


                Go ahead, accuse them of charlatanerie. Or are you just projecting?


              • extorres:

                You come across as hysterical, taking my words, spinning them back, and projecting. A veritable mental cyclone.

                When you have written your peer-review article — in a serious and independent economics journal (do you even know the difference?), not in a policy paper, as you try to show us, produced by a think-tank, in exchange for targeted funds by the governments of the UK and Norway — bias much? — then you’ll have ample reason to demand that others answer your attention-needy questions.

                You’ve admitted that you don’t want to write for a such a peer-review journal, without giving us reasons. Perhaps your credentials are not solid enough. Or you don’t have the sufficient maturity, or credibility. Maybe, deep down, you know that your UCT theory, for Vzla, is an insult. That is, to any thinking person who knows that, unlike Norway, a government “facing a resource windfall”, Venezuela has trouble paying for basic foods and services, amid an environment of massive shortages, to say nothing of corruption.

                So we’ve seen you back off from having published in an independent journal work that would add to your so-called traction, while you instead flap two skimpy press articles in two of the flakiest media around, and a policy paper of compromised independence. Over the course of several years, these are the only three backups that you can muster for your UCT theory, or banner election ploy. But no matter. In your delusional state, that’s what you call “gaining traction world wide with ever accumulating supporting data.” Uh-huh.

                You have failed to comprehend what I have mentioned before and more than once: I don’t believe in cheap election ploys without solid foundation. Period. I respect the intelligence of the humblest Venezuelan, who like myself will likely say, when presented with your Scheme, “y de dónde va a salir el dinero para eso?”

                Go insult someone else with your banter. Better yet, grow up. No offense, but you come across as a psycho, as has been noted by others.


              • I’ve given you links of formal peer reviewed papers before, syd. You’ve ignored them, much like you are now ignoring four simple questions.

                As to UBI, unconditional Bonus Income, you seem not to grasp the concept in economics that money is not destroyed by giving it to poor people; it simply gets spent and reinserted back into the market, going towards those that provide goods and services –the best goods and services in the best way. That takes care of the poverty, because the poorest would have money to spend, takes care of the market because it would have money to grow the most needed areas of the market first, takes care of much of the corruption by having no bureaucratic intermediaries, takes care of the government income because tax collection would increase according with the efficiency of the market, takes care of the banking system because much of that money would be in the best banks lowering interest rates for business expansion loans, takes care of city density because money would go a longer way in rural areas giving incentive to leave cities, which would reduce traffic in them, takes care of jobs because some people would decide not to work leaving jobs open for those who wish to live above the base line, takes care of many job conditions issues because employers must provide incentive to accept employment, takes care of artists who want to dedicate themselves to their art,

                but most urgently, it takes care of winning the support of chavismo supporters. Did I mention it gets rid of poverty and the petro state system?

                Answer the four questions, syd.

                Answer the four questions, syd.

                Answer the four questions…


              • extorres:
                1. Provide the link to your comment, on CC, which presented me with (links to) the peer-reviewed, independent journals, which you say you earlier wrote, and later justified as part of the gain in “traction world wide with ever accumulating supporting data”.
                2. Have published in such a peer-reviewed, independent journal, your theory on shifting acronyms, once UCT, now UBI, for the current Venezuelan economy. Do not forget to note in that journal that the theory you espouse is an election ploy.
                3. Deal with the macroeconomic issues in Venezuela, a topic always sidestepped by you in favour of your fantasy election ploy (reality be damned).
                4. Deal with the fact that Venezuela is stretched, economically, with no windfall from petrodollars, and with no organized state.
                5. Deal with the corruption index differences between Venezuela and Norway, as an example.
                6. Understand that some people don’t go for cheap election tricks with no basis for continuity in the Venezuelan economic reality, the way you do.

                Six demands. Deal with them before maniacally demanding answers from others.


              • syd, you keep skirting, this time by making “demands”! As if you would answer anything if I met these new conditions. I know you lie because I’ve provided you in the past with links to peer reviewed publications by people with credentials up the wazoo, but you ignored them, seemingly only because it’s me putting them forth.

                You are so full of it. If credentials are such a requirement for you to consider a proposal, what are you credentials to claim a proposal merits no consideration? All you’ve ever done to put my proposal down is cheer someone else who has shown no credentials, either. At least they show some thinking, which invariably fails in logic. But no credentials. So, syd, where are your credentials?

                Instead, prove that you can think for yourself, syd. I may, then, spend my time providing you with the food for thought that you now *demand*. (not even chavez rode such a high horse).

                Otherwise, just tell us, what do you propose instead of UBI? Please, enlighten us. It was just four basic questions, syd. A drunk at a bar could provide better answers than you ever have to those questions.

                P.S., as to the change from UCT to UBI, the reason is simple. Many people think that any cash program that does not condition the spending is an unconditional cash transfer, whereas I propose that the lack of conditionality apply to the recipients included, which would be all citizens. Unconditional Bonus Income seems to be more often understood correctly. I am now considering calling it Guaranteed Bonus Income, but I am still testing how people understand this latter one. The proposal has not changed. Just the name. That you would want to make a stink about my adjusting a name speaks more about your mentality than about my proposal, syd. Are you suggesting I should not adopt a better name if one should come up? Is that why you won’t consider anything new, syd. Changing your mind with new information to you is a negative thing?

                You love to put down, but hate to put up. It was just four questions, syd…


              • Poor little squirrel, squirming away from reality, squirming away from questions asked, still cobbling her economic story on these boards, after all these years. So far, there’s been zero mention of macroeconomic realities. It’s just pura paja. And now, another change in her pie-in-the-sky-quick-election-fix-with-no-macroeconomic-foundation-UCT. Let’s hear it for “new and improved” UBI — buy my new fantasy today! — while she continues to make 4 demands but can’t provide answers to the 6 counter-demands asked, let alone back-up proof to substantiate the finger wagging.

                And you wonder why others think you’re a wing-nut?

                Six demands — no need to fear the word or the number, extorres.


              • syd, seeing as you’re having a hard time, I’ll reduce to two. Don’t be scared of the word or the number, syd, just answer in your own words:

                What proposal do you espouse that would win votes?

                What economic theory do you espouse that would eliminate the petro state model?


    • Oh boy, oh boy, I’m not surprised to read this kind of comment since most Venezuelans don’t mind the law.

      Venezuela has had public unemployment insurance since October 1998, one of the last achievements of Teodoro Petkoff’s policies before Hugo Chavez became president. In October 1999 Chavez made some additional changes which have been in force since then.

      In summary, you can get 60% of your last salary for 5 months after claiming this unemployment benefit provided you had been paying unemployment tax while employed, just like any other taxes related to Social Security. For more information, just google “Seguro de Paro Forzoso”.

      “Becas” are another matter. They’re direct transfers to people who don’t belong to the formal economy. In my opinion, a filthy way to buy votes disguised as an act of kindness.


      • Yes, this is much more like unemployment insurance, which I criticize for falling short. Instead of minimum income, it should be a *bonus* income. In other words, someone with a job earning 1000USD per month should have a total income of 1000USD more than someone with no job. By having a Bonus Income, no one who works would ever earn the same or less than someone who doesn’t. I have hopes that they’ll wake up to that soon.


        • The problem with us is that we are great at thinking how to spend money from public resources which are thought of as unlimited and easy to produce , but no one pays attention that our bigger problem is being capable of bring about the steady and increased production of enough wealth to keep our country going much less fritter it away on fantasy programs .

          Our business people have never been able to develop a meaningful export capacity , we are dependent of the exploitation of our natural resources which are now failing miserably . The creation of wealth is difficult , market economies are great but a market model by itself is great buts its hardly a guarantee of achieving the kind of economic development we need to turn ourselves into a developed country , we have a lot of handicaps. and market economic models are by themselves no magical panacea .

          Always Always we go for the imaginary easy fix not for the hard tough but realistic strategy to slowly set our selves closer to the path of development which means developing our capacity for the creation of wealth by both exploiting our resources rationally and optimally and through the intelligent work of private investment .

          By giving money away , some think to break the back of clientelar politics but there is no thinking beyond that , no idea that unless the basis of goverment and the form of governance itself is reformed in some credible way nothing will get settled , that unless we find a way for becoming both as a State and as a country good at the creating wealth and ecoomic growth the money will never be enough for our needs !!

          UCT programs are like thinking that we can as parents make our children become good productive citizens by giving them a bigger stipend !! Have to think beyond that !!


          • Always Always we go for the imaginary easy fix not for the hard tough but realistic strategy to slowly set our selves closer to the path of development which means developing our capacity for the creation of wealth by both exploiting our resources rationally and optimally and through the intelligent work of private investment .

            So true.

            By giving money away , some think to break the back of clientelar politics but there is no thinking beyond that , no idea that unless the basis of goverment and the form of governance itself is reformed in some credible way nothing will get settled , that unless we find a way for becoming both as a State and as a country good at the creating wealth and ecoomic growth the money will never be enough for our needs !!

            Never mind the thinking beyond clientelar politics, There isn’t even thinking about the realities of the proposal. It’s just another flim-flam production of magical realism, wrapped in the finest palaver. Por eso estamos como estamos. Too many con-artists! And God forbid they should be questioned on their fantasies!


            • syd, what credential do you have to judge? What credentials has bill bass presented to you that has earned your seal of approval? I’m only asking because that’s what you keep asking of me. I really only care as to the quality of your current thinking, which you never provide, not about your past credentials, which you have never provided, either. But even if you did provide credentials, why would I accept lousy thinking because of them? What’s your proposal, syd. Show us some thought.

              Get off your high horse.


          • bill bass,

            Firstly, thank you for a serious response, and at least seemingly open to discussion. Your response demonstrates several base paradigms about UCT which are incorrect. Note that I am not saying that your conclusions based on your paradigms are incorrect. I other words, I agree with your thinking, but not with your foundation.

            You make mention of spending public resources as being thought of as unlimited and easy to produce. I am not in that group. I believe those resources are very difficult to produce and very limited. So, everything you explain about thinking about public spending being unlimited and easy to produce is something I agree with, but it does not talk to me, nor truly respond to the proposal I put forth. You seem to think of UCT in a way that falls in that category of thinking public resources are unlimited and easy to produce, and that is where you are wrong.

            The proposal of Unlimited Bonus Income (UBI, the more specific name for what I am proposing) does not use more cash that what you propose the government use. So, right off the bat, you must agree it is not assuming anything different regarding the limits or ease of production of resources than what you propose. I know it’s difficult for you because we have had this discussion before. UBI does not use any more money than what you propose. No unlimited, no ease of production assumptions.

            Something you don’t seem to be aware of is that what you propose (and I don’t need the specifics to make these statements) also depends on cash transfers, of the same amount or more than UBI. The difference is that the cash transfers of your proposals will get to people through the goods or services on which your proposal spends the government resources. It’s an indirect cash transfer, and it’s conditional; the government decides on what to spend the resources to provide what the government decides is best for the people. In the end, it’s still value transferred from the public funds to the people.

            So point out to you again, what you propose spends the same or *more* than UBI. The difference is that UBI transfers the value, as well as the decision regarding what is best for the people.

            You make mention of the capability of bringing “about the steady and increased production of enough wealth to keep our country going” as if UBI would not accomplish this. Again, I agree with you that this must be achieved. You seem to think UBI falls in the “fantasy programs” bucket. You are wrong. A market economy is not a “fantasy program”. It’s not even a program. It’s a sound basis for an economic system. You don’t have to like it; you don’t have to agree with making ours a market economy, but you do have to accept that a market economy is a valid position to hold based on sound economic principles. As such, UBI gets the public resources money to the market providers that best provide the goods and services that people want. In your proposal, fewer resources get to the market providers, though more get to industrial providers, and especially foreign providers, than with UBI, but let’s follow the money. In your proposal, the money that gets to the market providers is, not only less, but also to the providers that the government think provide the best goods and services for the people. UBI gets it the the market providers that the *people* think provide the best goods and services to them.

            This brings us to what I think is a root difference. You seem to believe that the government should know better than the people what goods and services are best for them. I think people know better. You could point to geographical examples where you demonstrate government can readily make better decisions than its people, but I could point to counters where the government clearly doesn’t. You could point to proposed changes in government to prevent past examples of examples in my favor, but I could counter with your very own “fantasy” term regarding such wishful thinking for Venezuela’s current scenario. We don’t have to agree on whether the government or the people are better at deciding which goods and services are better for the people, but you do have to acknowledge that those of my opinion that the people are better at it are not off on some fantasy; we hold a valid opinion that you should not be attributing to resulting from a lack of grasp of reality.

            Going back to the spending of money, I already stipulated that UBI uses the same or less than what you propose (whatever it is), but that it diverts a much greater proportion to the market providers via consumer spending than what you propose, which is via government spending. Your proposal seems to attempt development of export capacity and exploitation of our natural resources, but not via a market economy, which you hold is “hardly a guarantee of achieving the kind of economic development we need”. I challenge you to show that government development of government run PDVSA is not part of a market economy. I see it as a lousy way to compete in the market. Local politicians, popluarly elected, having the top decisions in a highly competitive global industry, and running PDVSA within a local monopoly context is “hardly a guarantee of achieving the kind of … development we need”.

            I’m not saying it cannot be done. Your position of wanting a well-run PDVSA by the government is valid. It’s just that what I propose seems more likely to succeed at the high stakes high pressure competition PDVSA in. My proposal is to keep politicians out of the oil industry, while keeping the revenues from oil coming into the coffers. This is achieved by what politicians should be doing, which is creating policy, not running oil businesses. The policies would be to sell the crude to those that wish to extract it, and seek to develop competition for such activities. This oil market would not be “a magical panacea” as you claim my proposal assumes, it would be a sound economic way of achieving an efficient development of oil related activities in Venezuela in as little time, with as little money, and fewest non experts affecting the results as possible. I see your idea of changing government to not be corrupt, or not be inefficient, or to make the right decision as the one based on more magic and fantasy. History is on my side.

            As to exportation, again, competitiveness is the ticket. Venezuela will not develop exports unless it can achieve for these to be cheaper and/or better than the global competitors. The key is for Venezuela to develop efficiency. UBI guarantees that local providers have the incentive to be more efficient than their competitors at producing goods and services that people want. Your proposal’s incentives are that the providers get to be buddies with the government officials that decide which goods and services are best for the people. The competition between providers becomes one of butt-kissing. Hoping that people will develop the principles and work ethics that you have mentioned in the past with a system that rewards butt-kissing is what is unrealistic and not based on sound economic principles.

            UBI and market economies are not imaginary. They certainly are easy, but that is only a bad thing if they work. You mention the “hard tough but realistic strategy”. Hard and tough are not a guarantee of success. In Venezuela, they certainly are not a realistic sell. Between two strategies, one easy and one hard, that both are based on sound economic principles, I go for easy, especially in Venezuela. Talk about reality: in a democracy, one of the requirements of any proposal is that it gets voted on. If your proposal won’t garner the votes, it truly is fantasy.

            You use the phrase, “giving money away”. That is an incorrect depiction of anything that I espouse. Money, like the water in the Water Cycle which does not go “away” when it rains but travels different paths to the ocean back to rain, also would rain on every citizen, get either spent or saved in a bank, either way travelling back to the government taxation system after very efficiently helping develop the most desirable and efficient businesses, all while having eliminated the need for most of the inefficient and ineffective government spendings on social programs aimed at alleviating poverty. The money is not given away; it is given to the end user; it is given to the ones you claim you want to help in the long run; it guarantees that the money gets to the intended recipient. You want to claim that it’s all about “clientelar politics”, almost admitting that you agree it would win votes (thank you for that), but then claim that there is “no thinking beyond that”. I just proved there is.

            You don’t seem to want to accept that so long as there is a petrostate model there are incentives going strongly against your desired goal of reforming the basis of government and the form of government itself. You also don’t seem to want to accept that UBI is a means of eliminating those incentives, therefore, more likely to achieve that very goal that we both share.

            I disagree with you that a State should be good at creating wealth. A State should be good ate establishing policy and developing the context so that the nation creates the wealth and the economic growth. It’s precisely one of the problems with petro states that people who believe in the State creating wealth have the incentive to use the petro monies as their own in running businesses, which clearly are not as likely to be efficient if the money was not earned, nor if it seems unlimited and easy to obtain for these ventures by popularly elected people. We must kill the petro state. Your proposal does not. UBI does.

            Your parent example with increased stipends shows that you are the one not thinking beyond that. UBI is like parents wanting their children to learn how to save and spend money and giving stipends for their spending *instead of* –get that, INSTEAD OF– giving the children the goods and services with no opportunity to learn for themselves on how to spend while wishing that they “magically” learn how to save and spend without ever having their own money, then blaming them when they don’t spend it wisely when suddenly some gets in their hands. What’s fantasy is thinking that kids who never had stipends would not be enticed to vote for the politician who promises stipends, especially when even the hard working kids aren’t making enough to eat. Talk to the poor. Food trumps all. UBI eliminates poverty, now, not later. When does your proposal? It also eliminates the petrostate incentives. It also reactivates the market. It also alleviates city congestion, unemployment, lending rates, bureaucracy, corruption, etc.. When does your proposal? After you answer, answer this: given Venezuelan history, why should a hungry kid being promised a stipend vote for your proposal?

            Get real.


          • The problem with us is that we are great at thinking how to spend money from public resources which are thought of as unlimited and easy to produce , but no one pays attention that our bigger problem is being capable of bring about the steady and increased production of enough wealth to keep our country going much less fritter it away on fantasy programs .

            And that is where the left, liberal and communist party, even right wing parties don’t want to UNDERSTAND. They think the government can provide unlimited amount of money to fund whatever needs they think society may have, and it will always fall short, and that’s where the blame game starts.


            • jett: the other not-so amusing thing is the delusion of treating Venezuela as though it were on a par with first-world countries. That used to happen a lot more frequently in the now-distant past. I think most people have now come down to earth. But there are a few holdovers. In this particular case, a commenter on these boards presents us with an *economic panacea* for Venezuela. That panacea copies from a theory proposed by services in a first-world country for payment by first-world governments that, not only have experienced windfall profits from a certain industry, but that manage relatively well their complex societies.

              You wonder why the copier of a theory, put forth by and for First World countries, cannot see “behind the telón”, cannot relate it to the primary-school exercise that goes: “One of these things is not like the other.”

              And through the wonder and doubts expressed on these boards — a tiny population — the promoter of the theory, needing adherents, for whatever reason — keeps stuffing us with this fantasy theory for Venezuela. Year after year. You wonder what planet the fantasist is on. Without any clarity of intentions, the promoter of the theory was finally pressed to reveal those intentions in more recent times. The promoted theory is nothing more than an election ploy.

              I don’t know what’s sadder for a country. A politician angling for votes, based on a palaver-induced theory that titillates the population but has no realistic foundation, beyond the vote-getting (#MoralValuesInQuestion); or the bad architect of that theory, knowing that the realistic foundation does not exist, ignores that even the humblest people are not stupid, and nonetheless presses forward to stuff these boards — a tiny population.– aiming to change opinions and gain adherents. (#LackOfRespect, #Narcissism?).


              • syd,

                I came up with the UBI in Venezuela, for Venezuela. As far as I know, it had never been proposed before, nor anywhere else, particulary not in “First World” nations.

                The initial idea came from seeking a way of eliminating poverty in a free and capitalistic context. That those in poverty would be happy to support it at a time when people like you cannot produce any alternative that will beat chavismo at the voting booth just makes it a no-brainer.

                The realistic foundation for UBI is as generalized as it is old: consumer market economy.

                In a country with a government, providers (people with jobs and/or businesses), and others, the only difference between UBI and whatever it is you espouse is that the government would spend its money, not on providers, but on the others who would, in turn, spend it on the goods and services of the providers. The consequence of this difference is that, with your alternative, syd, providers look to please the government, whereas, with UBI, providers look to please the end consumer of their goods and services.

                It the above seems low in morality to you, or lacking respect, or narcissistic, the problem is your vantage point from so high up on your high horse. Try questioning your own morality, respect and narcissism, putting down a proposal that would pull poor people out of poverty, and, instead, supporting alternatives that promise to worsen their situations, and all while blaming them for voting for what is best for them.


              • As I’ve explained multiple times, extorres, not that it would make a difference to your mono-vision, I do not PRETEND to have a solution to the POLITICAL IMPASSE in Venezuela. I have no alternative to your years-long peddling of a UCT theory on this commentariat, now — hello! — with a UBI flavour. Nor do I pretend to dangle sources to back up a theory, sources that are flakey or completely unrelated to the Venezuelan economy.

                If I were you, and thank God I’m not, I would at least be able to analyze the theory I’m trying to promote, vis-à-vis realities, before entertaining its promotion time and time again, year after year, hoping for one or two adherents to my ideas.

                Pesky word that one: Realities. Macroeconomic realities elude you consistently. Why?

                When pressed for a more serious sources as back up to your UCT, now UBI theory, following rejection of flakey articles in lightweight media, what is you do? You come up with a policy paper by a think tank that was PAID for that study. And who by? By governments of two first-world countries that have excess cash at their disposal, and are presumably considering the political presentation of the UCT mechanism. Did the disclosure of the excess cash not a ring any bells for you? Were you not able to connect between that and the NON-EXCESS CASH POSITION OF VENEZUELA’S MACROECONOMY?

                Speaking of which, I’ve repeatedly suggested that you focus on macroeconomic realities of Venezuela. bUT you repeatedly swerve from that suggestion. Instead, you get all hot and bothered because there are a NUMBER OF US who question the soundness of your proposal, as yet, not detailed in a more serious economic venue.

                But it isn’t just the macroeconomics of your proposal that makes no sense in current Venezuela, you also fail to understand the HUGE discrepancies in SOCIO-POLITICAL MANAGEMENT between the Venezuelan State with that of governments of first-world countries, say, Norway and the UK, both considering the UCT mechanism, if they at all implement it.

                I take it comparative analysis is not your strong suit. Nor, it seems, is logic. Sad to see yet another peddler of fantasies for Venezuela. That is NOT what the country needs after 15+ years of PLUNDER.



              • syd,

                Thank you, sincerely, for your straight answer.

                I do realize that my chosen approach for dissiminating my proposed solution to Venezuela’s situation is, not just different to the approach you would take, but quite annoying to you. Trust that it is not my intention to annoy you, but that I honestly think this is the best approach.

                From my point of view, it is you who seems not to understand the macro economic realities…

                As to the links I provided, I have provided countless links for you, by people with credentials, published in economic journals, with data from many nations, some with comparable situations as Venezuela, most notably Ghana, some from Latin America. You tear them all down sometimes because they are not exactly regarding Venezuela, which they can’t be because it’s never been done in Venezuela, and sometimes because it’s not exactly what I propose, which they can’t be because I came up with this on my own, and it’s never been done anywhere. Let me point out that what Switzerland, Norway, UK or any other you point to are even considering implementing is not what I propose. They are considering UCT as a top up for those falling below the poverty line. That is not what I propose. I propose a bonus income for everyone, not a top up which is more like an unemployment insurance.

                I have never ignored Venezuela’s reality in my proposal or my answers to you or anyone, syd, because I develped this proposal *for Venezuela*. You are the one you cannot seem to understand that this proposal SAVES the government money. It does not spend more. It spends LESS. If you look at it from a systems perspective, it is mathematically more efficient than any other system, anywhere.

                So, about the emptyiness of the “COFFERS”, this is exactly why my proposal is a way out of the situation. It *saves* money so that there starts being money in the coffers.

                Oh, and I almost forgot, it wins over chavistas. Do you think that would be a good start to get us out of the current situation?


              • extorres, my answers have always been straight. For, I don’t subscribe — on serious issues — to poetics, to gilding the lilly, or to promoting fantasies. What has changed is that you’re now being questioned more factually by two others, one of whom is a respected senior on these boards. And so you cannot easily resort to your hyper-defensiveness of previous months and years, whenever I questioned your pet theory or motives. That behaviour frankly added yet another bizarre dimension to your UCT theory, now UBI, and tomorrow whatever. Btw, earlier you switched acronyms, away from UCT. I can’t recall what the earlier acronym change was, but after you flipped back to UCT usage, I questioned you on that acronym change, only to receive from you denials, plus baiting and switching, all behaviours the sum of which have contributed to casting doubt on the credibility of your theory for Venezuela’s current climate.


              • syd, your memory is not selective, it’s just plain wrong. The proposal as never changed. When I first made the proposal in these pages I only spoke of distributing money to people. It was in these pages that I was told that that was referred to as Cash Transfers. So I started using that term. Then someone confused my proposal with what was already out there, Conditional Cash Transfers. I would argue against the limitations of CCTs and someone else pointed out that what I was describing was called UCTs, or Unconditional Cash Transfers. Recently, however many people have shown confusion with the lack of condition being about one what the money can be spent, yet thinking there are still conditions regarding who the recipients would be. I realized a new descriptor was needed. Simultaneously I was hearing much mention regarding guaranteed minimum salaries. Again, there are great differences between that and what I propose. That is why I came up with UBI. If my seeking to have a more appropriate name for the proposal has caused you to think the unchanged proposal has diminished credibility, it’s you who has a problem, not the proposal.

                You are recently claiming that my whole bent has been winning votes. Then perhaps you can explain why Quico, all the way back in his original post on this subject, described it as my seeing it as a poverty alleviation scheme. That is main goal: eliminating poverty. That it kills the petro state was Quico’s angle in that post, and I loved it, so I began mentioning it as a secondary goal of this proposal. When beating chavismo became more and more difficult for all alternatives presented, winning votes became a happy bonus, which I will gladly continue to mention. I will also mention that it lowers interest rates, and reduces city congestion, and provides incentives for local production. You seem to have a difficult time processing more than one variable at a time. Again, that’s your problem, not the proposal’s. UBI accomplishes all those things, and then some. Get used to it because you have no other alternative.


            • jctt: “They think the government can provide unlimited amount of money to fund whatever needs they think society may have, and it will always fall short, and that’s where the blame game starts.”

              That’s exactly right. UBI takes that power to squander the money on those half-baked, ideological ideas away from those in government and forces any of the kinds of government you mentioned, and all others and gives it to those who should be the end recipients of all the value of government spending. Too bad so many people continue to espouse the petro state model that keeps government people feeling that the money for their lousy ideas is unlimited and easy to produce. Are you one of those who thinks that if only you controlled the money it would get spent properly? Doesn’t that sound a little like those wishing to hold the Ring of Power from Lord of the Rings?


              • Ex torres you are a good decent smart in love with a big idea that you ve put your heart in , its doesnt appear to be very persuasive to many of us , but you cant let go of it no matter what reasons are given to doubt its efficacy . Perhaps there is a way to find a bridge to mutual understanding (a suggested by some experts on dispute resolution ) , why dont we go to specifics . How much exactly do you think every person in Venezuela would get per year if the UCT idea is implemented ?? how would you go about implementing it ? would you set aside a mandatory percentage of venezuelas oil revenue for that purpose ?? would that percentage correspond to the 30% Pdvsa has to pay the govt as royalties for the right to exploit the nations oil deposits or do you have another way of calculating it ?? if that cuts short money needed by the govt to cover legitimate expenses and services(school , hospitals etc) , would you still distribute that money to all and sundry ?? Of course that calculation is useless now because the country and its govt are flat broke and hasnt enough to even pay part of what it owes its many creditors . But lets assumme that the country isnt broke . can you make this calculation please ?? this will help both of us understand how exactly the idea can be implemented and what consequences might follow from its adoption .thank you !


              • bill bass, I replied further down for readability and so that it could be in direct reply to one of your comments.


          • bill bass: “How much exactly do you think every person in Venezuela would get per year if the UCT idea is implemented ??”

            In Venezuela, specifically, the amount would be greater than what I would describe for countries in general, merely because of its natural resources. The rules I would suggest are as follows.

            0) the only money for which a government can budget for spending must be resulting from taxation.

            1) all monies not from taxes, regardless of sources, enter a single, general national account.

            2) the money, having entered said account over a period of time, say greater than three months, gets divided by the number of days to obtain a buffered, daily average.

            3) the daily average, divided by the number of registered citizens, would be distributed, daily, into each citizen’s personal bank account of choice.

            4) if the amount to be distributed from step #3 is less than the established daily poverty level amount for a single person, then the distributed amount would get topped up to the poverty level amount by making it the first item of the government budget from step #0.

            To answer your question, the yearly amount would necessarily be at least the established poverty level amount, which in Venezuela is currently set at about 730USD per year.

            bill bass: “how would you go about implementing it ?”

            I suggest implementing it simultaneously removing redundant social programs, ensuring that the people and their family members whose jobs are getting cut from those social programs, as well as the recipients and their family members of the services provided by those programs, are being registered for their daily distribution, thus not left suddenly without income to make up for the salaries, goods, and services.

            I would also enlist the help of banks in providing an easy transition for those new to debit card services.

            bill bass: “would you set aside a mandatory percentage of venezuelas oil revenue for that purpose ??”

            I would suggest privatizing all oil businesses, and having the government merely collect from the royalties for the oil extracted, based on competitive, global market prices. The mandatory percentage would be 100% of the revenue, though not initially, since I can understand a period of weaning from said revenue.

            bill bass: “would that percentage correspond to the 30% Pdvsa has to pay the govt as royalties for the right to exploit the nations oil deposits or do you have another way of calculating it ??”

            Yes, as per above.

            bill bass: “if that cuts short money needed by the govt to cover legitimate expenses and services(school , hospitals etc) , would you still distribute that money to all and sundry ??”

            That’s a misconception. With this plan, the government’s required spending goes down, while its tax collection goes up. You can see from step #0 and #4, above, that the government will have 100% of its taxation monies dedicated to all its legitimate expenses, with none of these monies having to cover poverty level alleviation programs, anymore. The government would be saving on those. I seem to remember reading an estimate that this would represent more than 30% savings in government spending. Also, with the 100% of oil royalties going into the market, tax collection would increase, considerably. So, if a government runs out of budget for those expenditures, it isn’t the cash transfer’s doing. The cash transfer plan would give government more money to work with for those other expenditures, not less money, as you seem to assume.

            bill bass: “Of course that calculation is useless now because the country and its govt are flat broke and hasnt enough to even pay part of what it owes its many creditors .”

            I think that is an incorrect assumption. For example, if the gasoline subsidy were exchanged for its equivalent cash distribution –and this seems to me to be the only peaceful way of making the transition to zero gasoline subsidy– the savings to government would be far greater than the cost of the distribution. The current flat broke situation becomes less dire. By accomplishing a similar transition with each current, wasteful subsidy, the government will stop being flat broke, all while keeping people from falling below the poverty line.

            bill bass: “But lets assumme that the country isnt broke . can you make this calculation please ??”

            I have given you this calculation in the past, and it came to about 6USD per day per citizen, just from oil. But I stress, again, as I always have, this is not on top of current spending. This is *instead of* a greater amount of spending. In other words, the 6USD per day per citizen would be a *saving*.


            • I suggest implementing it simultaneously removing redundant social programs… good luck with that, minimo te tiran tres golpes de estado y los cerros se bajan pa quemar miraflores…

              People will think that you are taking away what they think they rightfully own… and changing that mentality is borderline impossible in one or two generations.


              • jctt, let’s analyze the options.

                The option I propose is to tell people, you now receive 1 carton of free milk every day, which costs 0.5USD at the store. I’m going to give you a free USD per day instead of the carton, so that you can buy 2 cartons of a different milk than the one I force you to have, or 1 carton and anything else you like, or just plainly anything you like and no milk. I believe, and studies of UCT throughout the world show that poor people get the math and are very happy with this option. Do you have studies showing otherwise? I have bounced the concept off of poor people in Venezuela and not a single one has rejected the idea. On the contrary, they wish it would materialize.

                Another option is to just start giving the money at one point, and, later, independently, trying to eliminate the milk program without tying it to the UCT. The first problem with this is that there is no money for the UCT unless cuts are made elsewhere. The second problem is that once they receive the UCT *and* the milk, they will feel like you are taking something away when you do take away the milk, so it will become unacceptable.

                Another option is to start by taking away the milk, and, later, independently, begin the UCT program which would let them start buying the milk they’ve been without for a while. The first problem with this is the one you describe, golpes and all. The second problem with this is the effect the lack of buying the milk would have caused in the market to the dairy industry, which may make it more expensive to repair, later.

                Another option is to leave the milk programs be and not give out UCT to replace it. That keeps our current status quo going with people on blogs complaining that we’re in a pickle that will only get worse until it explodes, which involves golpes and all, as well as dairy industry downfall, and increased poverty.

                Note that the last one which is the one we’ve been at for a while, is the the most likely one to fail in the most ways. It’s the one you, syd, and bill bass seem to espouse out of rejection of trying the first one, which is the one with the least likelihood of failing, even if you may be right that it will fail.

                The question I have is: why would you support the least likely to succeed in removing the milk subsidy, instead of the one most likely to succeed?


              • extorres,
                You ask: what does Venezuela’s colonial state have to do with people getting paid in bolivares an amount that varies with oil prices and currency rates?

                My answer: Near everything.

                Unless you’ve been living under a stone all these years, I suggest you take a look at the productivity factors in Cuba. I suggest you consider that the Cuban regime does not want a thriving, productive nation. I suggest that you consider Venezuela as being a colony of Cuba — the signs are everywhere!! I suggest you consider that there is ample, ideological reason for not reinvesting in Venezuela’s principal industry — PDVSA’s oil production. I suggest you consider the vast network of corruption with near-zero accountability, in Venezuela. The list goes on and on.

                Now, how much success do you think you’ll have, in this militaristic regime that is led by an impoverished island-nation with an iron grip on our petro-state, of getting your theory accepted, let alone implemented?


              • syd: “Now, how much success do you think you’ll have, in this militaristic regime that is led by an impoverished island-nation with an iron grip on our petro-state, of getting your theory accepted, let alone implemented”

                As I have explained before, syd, the proposal would have success at the grassroots level. The people who currently support chavismo would *want* this. They are quite aware, perhaps more than you, regarding the amount of corruption that keeps them from being recipients of the value from oil monies. If this proposal becomes an opposition proposition, the chavismo supporters wanting this would be faced with a choice of either changing sides, or questioning their own side as to why they aren’t getting what the opposition promises. We saw it with Mi Negra; chavismo was forced to counter with La Tarjeta del Buen Vivir. They know this is implosive for them.

                I agree with you regarding how strongly chavismo will attempt to curtail any such proposal. But I think that an idea like this among the poor people would be viral, thus very difficult to curtail. This is chavismo’s/castrismo’s worst enemy. People want cash. They would vote for it. They would fight for it.

                I could ask, how else do you expect to bring the regime down with the grip on power that you well described chavismo has, but you already gave me that answer: you have no alternative. There is no other peaceful alternative. You are not the only one to have to admit that they have no alternative solution. This is it. The question really becomes, are we willing to accept a solution we don’t like as a cost for getting rid of something we like even less. I am. To me, it’s a no-brainer. To you, clearly not. And I can understand that. But I also must place part of the blame for the life expectancy of chavismo in your unwillingness to accept this single possibility.


            • Good luck, too, with this:
              Alberto Ravell ‏@AlbertoRavell 
              El bolívar es la moneda más sobrevaluada del mundo. Según el Banco Internacional de Pagos de Basilea el desajuste es de 91%.


              • syd, I’m glad you brought this up. One immediate consequence of UBI is the dollarization, in effect, of the market. The reason for this effect is that the oil is sold in USD. By distributing the bolivar equivalent of the USD obtained by oil royalties, the currency controls can be eliminated without affecting the buying power of the poorest, regardless of how much is imported. I know you’re going to think that this is too good to be true, but you’d be wrong; it is true, and, yes, it is that good.


              • extorres, I would suggest that you quantify your theory on the basis of macroeconomic realities in Venezuela, and qualify your theory on the basis of political realities in Venezuela’s COLONIAL state.


              • What do you want me to quantify, syd? If a person earns in dollars, or in dollar based free currency rates as would be in the UBI scenario, then the overvaluation of the bolivar is irrelevant to that person. That’s not theory; its arithmetic.

                Also, what does Venezuela’s colonial state have to do with people getting paid in bolivares an amount that varies with oil prices and currency rates?


              • syd, I’m glad you also brought this up. UBI is something against which chavismo is powerless. They know it. Communism would not find fertile ground in a nation with no one under the poverty line. Communism would not find fertile ground in a nation where competitive provision of goods and services rules. Communism would not find fertile ground in a nation where the government does not control the oil money to buy votes. Let chavistas know that UBI is what we offer, and, even if they don’t flip to our side, they will begin to question why their side isn’t offering something as good. They’ll begin to question whether they want to continue living under the poverty line as a sacrifice to keep warring against the ones who simply want to give them cash.


              • Thanks Syd for bring to our attention this incisive article about how lying and concealing has become a blatant and flagrant practice of the regime so that it simply blinds itself to the reality that surrounds them and try to force all to live in a fantasy world of their own making where nothing they make up is ever capable of being scrutinized or exposed as false. whatever the evidence. .


              • extorres, I’m afraid that you are only able to see the promotion of a pet theory that has little basis in macroeconomic reality and little chance of succeeding in Venezuela’s current macroeconomic and political climate. I look forward to seeing your direct answers to Bill Blass’s pointed questions, as noted below.


              • syd, how about you explain how a proposal that you have acknowledged would be very popular with the masses in garnering votes is one with little chance of succeeding in Venezuela’s political climate?


              • extorres,
                Do I really have to repeat to you what I’ve already said hours ago , and in seveal instances in previous times? I’m quite sure that you are able to read, but perhaps your comprehension is limited. So I’ll try again: I DO NOT PRETEND TO HAVE ANY ANSWERS. The political and macroeconomic panorama is way too complex for simplistic answers. I do not have the training or the experience to putting forth a simplistic theory as a solution. But I do have sufficient education to know when simplistic solutions do not account for all the stakeholders involved in the environment for which that simplistic solution is being promoted.


              • syd, your reading comprehension needs a boost. I did not ask again for what you already told you did not have, an alternative.

                What I asked is how you can claim that my proposal is a populist vote getter, and at the same time claim that it cannot succeed in the current political climate. Either it will get votes and succeed politically in this climate, or it won’t get votes and fail politically in this climate.


            • Thanks Torres for your response . Still could you repeat for me how exactly you come to the US$ 6 per person per day calculation ( i dont remember having ever seen it ) , if we follow that calculation then the UCT would amount to US$ 2200 per person per year which multiplied by 30 million would result in an amount of US$ 66 billion per year . Could you please give me the numbers of how much could be saved from the budget by elliminating all social programs (please identify which ) and the gasoline subsidy. Please also subtract from revenues the Nations revenues from Pdvsa profits ( which would no longer be recieved) . Perhaps it would help if you also included in your calculation the public sectors forex debt , the total REAL net export revenue of the country and the volume of production which is currently produced ( do you know these numbers) . Also please include the cost to the new owners of Pdvsa of the tax deductible huge investments needed to maintain declining conventional oil production and putting on stream the new extra heavy crude and transforming into a marketable material..
              Also interesting to know is how you would tax and collect the taxes on those 30 million people who get the UCT’s and how much you would expect to collect from them.
              I have many other comments to your answers but for now lets keep it simple.!!


              • bill bass,

                I’ll reply to your requests in a different order than you posed them, and perhaps from a different angle.

                I think you’re not getting an important part. You talk about PDVSA profits that are no longer being received. PDVSA would still receive all its profits. The only difference is that it would not have the royalties from the oil extracted as profits. After PDVSA pays for the oil it extracts, as would any other oil company that would be allowed to extract oil, PDVSA would be free to do with the oil whatever was in its best interest to maximize its profits, which would be all theirs.

                If at 100USD per barrel, 30USD are royalties, PDVSA, as well as every other oil company interested, receive 70USD per barrel. Their profits will depend on how well they can reduce their costs at producing each barrel. If they can produce each barrel at 60USD cost, then their profit would be 10USD per barrel, for example.

                The important part to remember is that it is no longer of interest to this discussion what oil companies (whether it be PDVSA or any other) do or make after they hand over the oil royalties. As far as the government is concerned, the involvement in the oil business ends at the oil/royalty hand-off, then continually adjusting the royalty to current, global, competitive levels.

                Immediately, the government has a saving from no longer having to run an oil business. Another saving comes from the points of corruption eliminated. 100% of the royalty money goes into the general national account. This implies that 100% of the royalty enters the economy and gets spent on the goods and services that incorruptibly are the best in people’s opinion. Can you estimate how much of the oil royalties are currently mismanaged, or stolen?

                Since your stated goal is keeping things simple, instead of your bottom up approach to the calculations, I’m going to go with a very conservative top down approach: Venezuela’s current government budget is set at 87billion USD, assuming a 60USD/barrel. The government claims that it spends over 62% on social spending, that’s 54billion USD, budgeted. Dividing 54billion USD by 30million people gives 1800USD per person per year, or 5USD/day per person, which is twice over the poverty line. Again, that’s at a 60USD/barrel, not at 50% more. Using the 66billion USD that you estimated, instead of the currently budgeted 54 billion, that would leave 21billion USD for everything that is not related to poverty alleviation, and that is at 60USD/barrel, not at 90USD/barrel, or more. Keep in mind that your 66billion USD estimate is triple the poverty line and after the UBI from oil resources is fully implemented, not the amount at which it would start. So to keep it simple, we can assume the government would have NO LESS THAN 21billion USD for all non poverty alleviation spending per year. Putting it in perspective, that was the total yearly budget pre chavez, by the way. Would 21billion USD be enough for you to run the show in Venezuela, given every citizen is three times over the poverty line? I think that would be an enviable budget.

                I’m not sure where your tax collection question comes from. Without changing anything, people earning 1800USD/year don’t meet taxation requirements, I don’t think. The taxation collection increases I mentioned earlier are mostly related to the increased incomes of the providers of goods and services stemming from the increased sales to the 30million recipients of UBI. These already report and pay taxes. I should remind you that I have mentioned in the past that I would eliminate SENIAT, replacing current taxation methods with a new proposal that does tax and collect from all 30 million people, daily and paperlessly, but that is independent to the UBI proposal.


  27. Where I live, near Toronto, there’s still a lot of support for that city’s current mayor. People seem to shape their own bubbles around certain political leaders. On the other hand this blog creates its own ‘bubble-ish’ insularity. So it’s somewhat refreshing to read about a bit of self-reflection here.


    • Rob Ford is right in having defied widespread pressure to step down. Behind all the crack smoking and dance videos, there’s a politically-driven attempt at impeachment that must not happen in a modern democracy. That’s why he’s leaving the decision to the polls.


      • Yes. He was right to defy pressure in going to rehab too, although the biased media finally forced him into giving in. Who says you can’t casually smoke crack?


        • Yes, the crack humanizes him. As do the defamatory rants and the mafioso wing man. Let the people decide.


        • Well, I am for making drugs legal but meanwhile cocaine is not legal and if he paid for it he was paying murderers. A politician paying murderers is, in my opinion, someone who should step down.
          He can go to rehab, etc, but he is no accountable. Cocaine is no minor issue here.

          But well: let the people decide.


        • I am for making drugs legal too, but I don’t want people on drugs operating heavy machinery, much less running a city. Being the Mayor of a major city is big job, requiring sound judgement. His behavior displays anything but sound judgement. But, I suppose if the people vote for him, they deserve what they get.


  28. I can tell you that Slovenia is a bit … special … when it comes to lefties. It comes naturally with commies becoming less commie and abandoning communism (but not socialism).


    • I can tell you that Slovenia is a bit … special … when it comes to lefties.

      Perhaps because unlike other countries in Eastern Europe, Communism in Yugoslavia was more home-grown than the imposition from Moscow that it was in other countries.

      A family friend was the son of immigrants from Slovenia. As an adult he made a number of trips back to his parents’ homeland. Decades after his first visit, he found out that those dinners with both sides of his family were not as outwardly cordial as he had assumed. During WW2, a member of one side of his family – who subsequently became a high ranking apparatchik in Tito’s Yugoslavia- had executed several members of of the other side of the family for being Socialists but not Communists.


    • Bertín a Bea:
      “Ni siguiera has estado en Venezuela. Como coño estás hablando de algo que ni conoces?”

      If *comunicadora* Bea would replace her evident need for plastic surgery with space for brain cells, she might be able to actually think for herself. Maybe. Qué imbécil.


      • Well, the fact that Bertin Osborne is also behind the new Fox-News-wannabe Intereconomía group that spews as much far-right propaganda as they can without even taking into account facts kinda put a damp into the whole thing.

        There are “allies” I would very much prefer to lose, and “enemies” I would very much one to convince they are wrong.

        And bit of a sexist non-sequitur to the whole thing you manage there.


        • The way I look at it, and everyone is entitled to an opinion, when a person spends an excessive and extensive amount of time on their appearance, one can generally guess that there’s some narcissism happening. That tendency normally mushrooms, depleting energies that could best be spent on reflection over “others”. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but just a general observation. It doesn’t seem to have affected Diego Arria’s thought processes. But then, beyond the difference in age, I suspect a vast difference in experiences, Arria’s having included time spent in various countries, perhaps, too, in academic pursuits.

          And here’s another observation: The need for political correctness — self-imposed or coerced — tends to dumb down exchanges of ideas to a bland common denominator, any comment having to step over glass so as not to offend *delicate* sensibilities.


          • I’m sorry, I’m not going to watch anything with Osborne in it. The guy gives me a severe need to puke.

            And nobody is asking you to not offend delicate whatever. Either you have a point – that she said something very dumb and should know better and work as a journalist should; I agree BTW, going for the summaries I get about the exchange – and explain the point, or your perception of how many surgeries she needs or not is just an insult.

            Her point is wrong no matter how she looks, and how she looks have nothing to do with the discussion.


            • Jesus , The subject of likeability vs truth is a very old one , Cicero once said that he would rather be wrong with Plato than right with his antagonists , but it can happen the other way round , remember making a face many years ago when a Hare Krishna group surrounded me and a wise old friend in a public space . I was disgusted with being accosted with chants and all the safron smelling hoopla. but my friend noticing my discomfort said , dont judge anyones ideas by how much their external behaviour disgust you , Even if their message is mostly false maybe there is kernel of truth in what they think that you dont want to miss .

              There is also a religious metaphore concerning the merit of the prayers of a person in a state of mortal sin . its like offering the sacred person some delicious food in a plate washed in fesces , if you were that sacred person would you take it ??

              Still your reference to Maduro saying something right , is well ….unanswarable !!


      • Well:
        I would prefer to choose my speakers from people who don’t start to swear or be rude during a meeting, whatever the others. And I don’t think it is appropriate to be talking about that woman’s plastic surgery or looks or unlooks or the like, as long as she doesn’t pay the plastic surgery with state money.

        I agree with Jesús.


      • Note, no, I’ve not seen the video. I gather from reading the news that she said that there is democracy in Venezuela.

        Evidently, she is more than wrong. Having seen the kind of programs she is in she should be a bit ashamed … in case she actually knows what is happening in Venezuela. Which she doesnt seems to. But again, kind of sad to see her saying this kind of bullshit after denouncing stuff like how the Spanish antiriot police behaves in demonstrations over here.

        But well, the whole Venezuela thing has become another stupid flag over here to add to the set of Civil War flags, in which you either have to be against or in agreement, no actual need to know what the hell the issue is, it is only important that your trench is the one that has that flag. So between the uninformed and the plain old ideological manipulators the chances of somebody actually looking at stuff clearly is almost nil


        • I would advise listening to video for the full flavour. Then you’ll understand my earlier comments. This Bea is, frankly, ridiculous, as she pretends to know what she has no clue about, after evidently drinking some pretty strong Kool-Aid at the Church of Pablo Iglesias.


          • Many people are doing that, unfortunately.

            Is what you get when the champions of the other side in the media are guys like Osborne, members of our government, even old fans of Falange…

            That doesnt justify anything, of course, and it is in fact the same source of fear that I had when I left Venezuela. That people are righteously indignant and want change because the current system is rotten, but in their anger, they dont really seem to think that it is possible to get even WORSE than what we now have, and that diagnostics are easy, but solutions are hard.


  29. Sometimes likeable people think or say stupid things and unpleasant people say or think smart things, If we are honest we ought to be able to distinguish beween the likeability of a person and the thruth and fairness of what it thinks and says and not let one factor unfairly influence the other. Of course if someone however likeable says something not only stupid but offensively stupid then we will find that person less likeable . .


    • I know, but really. I prefer to read about it than to hear him. Frankly, at this point it would be fair for the argument, because I would actually read what he said and have to think about it instead of feeling the disgust I feel when I see his face or hear his voice.

      Imagine, I dont know, Maduro telling you something you know is true and that you agree with him. But then being Maduro and acting and speaking and doing all the same stuff he does.

      Same feeling


  30. Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any recommendations? dddeddgddfgd


  31. Ex Torres sorry to have to post my comments to your responses so far from their original placement, I hope my memory helps me remember each of them .

    1. Profits even now are separate from Royalties , they are the result of subtracting from Pdvsa oil revenues its costs of operating and its investments to ensure future production . Same for any private company that buys it , Venezuelas production of conventional oils are running down as the fields become depleted , to keep production going you have to spend a lot of money which wasnt spent before not only in restoring and conserving conventional oil production (which is falling anyway) and in putting on stream new extra heavy crude oil production . Pdvsa says that current EHCO production is at the 1.7 million bls per day level and climbing . Problem is that EHCO production is much more expensive to produce than conventional oil , in fact for it to be marketable it must be transformed via three different methods into a different kind of material , you can process it through an upgrader ( which costs 12 billion dollars each which means a total Pdvsa investment of some 144 billion USD to build and takes quite a few years to complete) or you can mix it with light crudes ( about 3 bls of light crude for every 7 bls of EHCO ) or with diesel and other diluents ( about 2.5 bls for every 7 bls of EHCO) . Venezuela hasnt enough light crudes to mix with the future production of EHCO so it must import them which is very expensive , if it mixes it with diesel it doesnt produce enough diesel to mix with its expected EHCO production in part because refineries are in ruins , and because diesel is now being used massively to produce electricity which the Guri system is no longer able to produce . So it becomes necessary to import diesel at a very high cost from among other countries the US just to make the EHCO production going. Of course if a private purchasers of Pdvsa wants to keep the oil flowing it will have to spend alot of money on these things , and those huge costs are TAX DEDUCTIBLE bringing down the amount of profits and thus the amount of taxes they produce for the Govt . This means that for quite a few years the govt will not be recieving much income tax from such pdvsa purchasers. This without counting the debt mountain which anyone buying Pdvsa will inherit and which will have to be paid .

    2. You appear to have a naive belief in the credibility of official Pdvsa figures , I would caution you to be very wary of whatever numbers they offer you , they cannot be trusted !! Instead I would suggest you use other sources to get at more reliable figures . One source which you might consult ( and there are others)
    are those contained in a presentation given the 2nd of May by Ramon Espinaza , (prof at Georgetown University) at Harvard University , . The presentation can be found on several Internet sites and is called “The rise and fall of Pdvsa , A case study in NOC governance ” . I would point your attention to several graphs at the end of the presentation , one entitled “Today : Export Markets – Export Resume by Markets , and another graph entitled “Today : Oil trade Balance ” . From these graphs you will see that Pdvsa 2013 revenues on its export sales are US$ 46.315 millions but that because they have to be used to pay for the import of oil products not imported before to the tune of close to US$ 10 billion in 2013 and to pay interest on a growing financial debt ( US$ 4.338 billion) the NET revenue actually recieved by the govt is of US$ 32.115 million hardly enough to cover the cost of : (a) Venezuelas external financial debt , (b) Venezuelas commercial debt , (c) import needs of local industrial producers .(d) needed imported food stapples , (e) routine govt funded functons such as public health , education , etc. Whats even worse the financial debt starts to fall due towards the end of the year so that urgent money has to be raised to pay at least part of this debt and convince the other financial creditors to roll over the other financial debt falling due the next few years and which otherwise the govt doesnt have the money to pay.

    With an income of 32.115 million USD no govt will be in a position to pay the USD 66 billion which according to your calculations would have to be paid as part of a UCT programme. Even assuming that income eventually rises after several years of intelligent govt management and taking measures increasing the cost of gasoline to the domestic market and elliminating the subsidies of oil supplies to petrocaribe and others any govt will be hard put to raise the money to cover even the most essential costs of routine governance and give away the UCT that you envisage.

    3. Finally you seem to think that people by openly increasing their compsumption of goods and services will help the local economy grow and thus ultimately produce a bigger tax base . First there are some 15% or more that dont need UCT and that already pay taxes so they will have to pay some additional taxes on what they do recieve , but on the other hand much of the money the UCT will distribute is money which people are getting in their pockets and spending anyway through existing social programs , so the effect is bound to be limited , more so when we consider that many of those goods and services are imported and dont increase the exissting tax base. .

    I think there are other issues which never appear to have crossed your mind for example regarding the percentage of royalty that we have now and which is larger than is paid in most market economy countries.
    for decades It used to be about 16% and then during the Chavez years it was raised to 30% plus , why was that ?? the reason for that is that Pdvsa being a govt company would not protest from having to pay such large royalty and the govt figured to get rid of an old problem. e.g. Every time market prices fell the income tax also fell and the govt find itself without enough money to cover its needs , by raising the royalty (which is paid on the gross income for each bl sold) the govt guaranteed itself that even if tax income fell in the future because a fall in oil prices it could always count on a fixed percentage of the gross revenue as part of its income . What this tells us is that the govts in Venezuela have never been able to count of the income tax to cover its needs on a stable basis thus the need to have a royalty income that gives it a fixed basic income to survive the tought times of falling markets .

    Please look again at your figures using sources other than Pdvsa official figures to make your calculations , you will discover that the UCT idea is impracticable not only at this moment but in the near future and would require a change in governance so deep and radical as to make the whole usefulness of an UCT program absolutely moot.


    • bill bass, thank you for your responses. Following my comments to yours:

      1) Like I said before the profits are the oil company’s. They would decide whether it is worth investing the required amount to obtain the estimated profits. If they decide it is not worth it, then they won’t accept buying the oil at the 30% royalty and the amount of royalty would need to go down to attract investors. The government’s role must be to stick to being crude sellers, while the buyers deciding at what price the oil is worth buying.

      As to what they pay in taxes, that is completely independent to the royalties. They pay taxes on profits at the set tax rates, which the oil companies would take into account in deciding at what price it’s worth buying crude from Venezuela.

      Your argument regarding the decrease in tax income due to the investments necessary supports my argument, not yours. You are basically proving that the government has been mismanaging the oil company, and, therefore, shouldn’t have been managing it in the first place. How are you insisting that they continue? The government needs to be out of the oil business, except as the seller of the crude to those whose business it is to buy and process oil.

      But to answer your point about decreased income from the lack of money currently being bled from PDVSA, and debts to be paid, the sale of PDVSA and the entry of new competitors would take care of much of the necessary cash flow, especially if the rules going forward are simple, clean, and competitive. But don’t forget that many of the costs currently in the government books would also disappear, so your argument is not as straightforward as may seem at a glance.

      2) You wanted to keep things simple; here’s the math: The government has X amount of income, and Y amount of expenditures. Your argument seems to be that Y is so large compared to X that there is no money from X available to start UBI. But that is not what I am proposing, at all. I don’t want money from X to start UBI. I want to replace poverty alleviation portions of Y that become redundant with UBI. So, to convince me that there is no money for UBI, stop pointing to X. You would need to show me that UBI is more expensive than the redundant portions of Y. That would be difficult because, right off the bat, the corruption and the overhead in the redundant Y gets eliminated with UBI.

      Also, you need to get the 66billion out of your head if we are going to be talking about how to get this implemented. 66billion is what I estimate it would get to, in the long run, from oil. It is not what is needed out of the gate. Remember, UBI saves money; it doesn’t spend more.

      3) The money that is distributed by UBI will go down one of two main paths. One path is consumption. The other path is banking. The latter path will tend to get banks to lower interest rates, which will tend to help businesses develop. The former path will tend to increase local business revenues. At the same time, the current paths of that money will diminish. Those current path of corruption, for example, all but disappears. The current path of imports would tend to diminish. Are you suggesting that injecting all the money from oil into the local economy does not have a greater tax base than having a greater portion of that money go to higher corruption and governmental imports?

      As to the amount of royalty, as I explained above, that should be a free, competitive market variable. Optimizing that royalty would be a focal government role. If in a competitive market the royalty should have been 17%, then the very fact that it was at 30% supports, once again, that the government was bleeding PDVSA for more than what was good business, and that the government had no business running PDVSA.

      Consider a country that has no natural resources has a government that budgets strictly off of taxation. Adding oil income to such a country gives us two options. We either inject the money at the government income level, which is what you propose we keep doing, or we inject the money at the population income level, which is UBI, what I support. Either way, it’s the same amount of money. You cannot claim that the figures make the UBI idea impractical because, regardless of how impractical it is, it is more efficient than the current alternative, or than any other alternative. However badly you see things going with UBI, things would be worse with any alternative you have, simply because UBI has less corruption, and higher efficiency. Perhaps you should attempt to think of UBI from the systems perspective, and not the politico-economic perspective. The fact is that letting it rain on all the grass a certain amount, and letting the water flow on its own to centralized bodies of water is more efficient than only letting it rain on the centralized bodies of water and having to transport the water to the dry grass for manual irrigation.

      As to deep and radical change in governance, yes, that is the whole point of UBI. To eliminate poverty while getting rid of the petro state model. Are you suggesting that we keep the petro state model?


  32. Ex referring to every one of your above points will mean repeating many of the arguments which I have extensively made to you in the past and which by now I know you are incapable of assimilating or hearing , I also dont want to get you riled up by pointing to the many wholes in those often repeated argument you always put forth in defense of your pet idea , so I will refer selectively to some issues you raise.

    1. If the Ven Govt ( this one and any other past or future one) are dependent on its tax and royalty income to cover its costs and you deny it the royalty income so that it only depends on its tax income and circumstances ( the extra heavy crude oil challenges I mentioned) dont allow it in future to get most of the tax income it receives even from an independent oil industry , then it simply will go broke and stop providing people with whatever services (however imperfectly) the population recieves from the govt , no schools , no education , no police , no govt subsidized food imports , no nothing .. is this an acceptable consequence for you in order to apply your UCT idea ??

    2. I didnt make up the 66 billion dollar cost of implementing the UCT idea , you yourself made up the number , it didnt fit with current economic realities so you dropped it and turned it into something else , not into a number capable of being calculated but into a game of switching X’s and Y’s the better to addle our understantdng of the UCT precise implications . Still I seem to detect a change in your position , you now appear to be saying that your intent is not to deprive the govt of its royalty income but to cancell the poverty alleviation policies the govt is currently applying and instead use the money used to fund such programs to give every venezuelan an equal share in that money to arbirarily spend as it sees fit . Of course people who arent in need of any poverty alleviation program would still recieve their share which in practice would meant taking it away from those which most need it , but then I guess holding up the integrity of the UCT idea is what counts . To understand what this actually means for those its meant to favour it would be useful to identify ( as per our previous request) that you identify which specific poverty alleviation programs you would elliminate , would that include the gasoline subsidy ?? would that include the import of subsidised food stapples , ? and of course using real numbers how much would each person be getting in lieu of the benefits flowing from the ellimination of such poverty alleviation programs .

    3. i think your idea of the benefits to be obtained from the free distribution of moneys to the general populace maybe imaginary , for one it would mean spending the same amount of money which is now spent by people receiving it through the misiones and other poverty alleviation programs so it would not increase the money in circulation right now, much of it would go to the buying of indiviudally chosen import items not to necessarily to the purchase of locally produced goods and services so no big help to local industry there. Secondly putting money in the bank is seldom the preference of people inside or on the fringes of the poverty line , for the most part they spend it inmmediately in anything that takes their fancy , moreover in an inflationary situation as the country lives now , its the smart thing to do , Doubt very much that any money flowing to the banks in todays inflationary situation is going to lead them lower interest rates and increased busines investments , many more things would have to change for that to happen , among them the government authorizing a rational reduction in interest rates , which we know wont happen except to make the banks go broke.

    What I most fear of the UCT idea is that if we ever get to change our current govt for a more rational and practical one , keeping it starved of resources isnt going to make it easier for it to fix the mess we are in, rather the opposite and the true problem lies in constituting an institutionalized form of governance which takes the option of governements using clientelar populist measures to shore up its political popularity on the cheap a very difficult thing to do . This last idea is one which I think needs exploring even if few people have the imagination to think up a credible way of making it practicable . (even if it does exist !!)



    • bill bass,

      1. I agree with you: If the spending of a government Y depends on oil royalty income X, then there is no way to take away oil royalty income X from the government without it ceasing to provide some of its goods and services to the nation that it pays for with Y. I also agree that ceasing to provide these goods and services would be unacceptable.

      2. I agree with you: distributing 66billion does not fit with current economic realities; the government cannot be deprived of this royalty income without unacceptable results, as per above.

      3. I agree that much of the money that would go into the local economy with UCT is being received through misiones and these monies would not increase circulation. I agree some of it would go into buying import products and not necessarily locally produced goods and services. I also agree that poor people seldom put money in banks and tend to spend it immediately.

      4. I agree that starving a nation of resources makes it tougher to fix economic messes. I also agree that institutionalized forms of governments are the way to go, and that governments tending towards clientelar populist measures are what need to be replaced.

      I say each of the above statements in all truthfulness and wholeheartedly. How can someone who is not lacking in sanity, intelligence, knowledge, nor rationality, and believes, like you do, in all of the above still espouse the implementation of UBI? Conundrum?

      So, please, stop trying to explain your point of view to me. I get it. Heck, I agree with it. No need to hash and rehash what I already get, which is all the above. So clear your mind, and let’s have a go at where our differences lie:

      A) I see a communication breakdown between what I propose during implementation phase and what I propose as a final phase. For example, the 66billion is my current estimate of the amount of money that would be distributed from oil royalties in *final* phase. Your arguments against the 66billion have been regarding *implementation* phase. Which is how, in item #2, I can wholeheartedly agree with you that there is no way to implement UBI with a 66billion distribution, while still expecting that, once things reach final phase, that’s the amount that would be distributed.

      B) I see a possible disagreement in the necessity of eliminating the petro state model. For example, I can agree with item #1 because I see the current dependence on oil royalties as a transitional necessity on the path to weaning the government out of that dependence. But my goal is clear: the government should not be dependent on the oil stipend in the final phase.

      C) I see a possible discrepancy in values to certain details. For example, I can agree with item #3 because I do see the similarities to which you point between misiones and cash distribution, but I also see important differences, which your statements seem to imply are negligible. Staying with the #3 example, I see some misiones as conditional cash transfers, not unconditional. And the conditions are not ethical: the government has made it clear that recipients of misiones benefits are expected to be grateful, which must be demonstrated through actions requested of them by the government. Note that I am not claiming that this effect is present in all cases. Another aspect of misiones is that the government is not choosing the provider of the goods or services within competitive market rules. Another aspect of misiones is that much of the money is being stolen, or mismanaged. There are many other nefarious aspects that, by replacing misiones with UBI, get eliminated, which directly or indirectly add up to increased circulation, more free circulation, higher competition, and a *tendency* towards local providers. Still with item #3, I can agree with the rule you point to that most poor people would never go put money in a bank, but I see the difference in the money starting out in a bank. If one day one person skips taking out his distributed amount out, that is already more money in a bank than would have been without UBI. These situations add up, in particular, they add up to the percentage of people who don’t need this money, right away, every day: say 15%? 25%? 35%?

      D) I see you suffering from the Ring of Power syndrome and thinking you don’t. I can agree with item #4 because it is obvious that when one is in economic trouble having money makes it easier to get out of them. Yet, your statements imply that if only the government were formed and run “correctly” (i.e., as per your indications) then we could avoid the clientelar populist measures we’re getting from governments not run your way. The thing is, how do you guarantee the permanence of the institutionalization when the oil royalties provide incentives against that very goal. Paraphrasing a past analogy of yours: a government should not be like a child with a stipend crying that his parents are going to stop the stipend because his job’s salary is not enough for all the spending he’s gotten used to. The fact is, other children live well with the same salary with no stipend. Would you agree that said child needs to be weaned off of that stipend?

      E.1) I see a difference in willingness to accept the results of basic logic. Consider your proposal of fixing the institutions of government. Imagine taking Z money and spending it on goods and services that will provide for the people of the nation. Awesome. That is a cash transfer. You have purchased the goods and services that in theory the people would want if they had your level of education and quality of thinking. They would have chosen those same goods and services because they would have understood the long term benefits of those choices over those of any short term temptations. Your proposal, bill bass, is an indirect cash transfer of the same monies that I am proposing to let people spend on their own. They do not have the level of education or quality of thinking that you do, but neither do the leaders they have the power to elect. Is it unrealistic of me to think that they will not elect someone of your capacity, or is it unrealistic of you to think they will? Stop trying to deduce that there is not enough money for UBI, since I am suggesting to spend no more than you are on the same things. But wait, my proposal does not have the overhead that yours does. Nor does it have the points of corruption failure that said overhead has. Do you see the logic?

      E.2) With a question to which I don’t know the answer in a multiple choice test, if I can eliminate obvious wrong choices, leaving only one, I fill that one in, and get on with solving the next problem. You seem not willing to do that. There is no alternative to UBI that will win an election. If UBI is the only one, a proposal that happens to be based on free market capitalism, democratic and human rights principles, then I fill it in, and get on with solving the next problem. What do you do?

      I leave you with two quotes which apply in particular to paradigm breaking proposals, such as UBI:

      “People with made up opinions however will tend to reject any information that doesnt suit their prejudices or preferences and welcome any misinformation that flatters them . Cant rule out that well informed people also get angry at what that information tells them !!

      “Then there is the sad fact that there are people who cannot rationally process the information thats put before them , not because their sectarian passions prevent it , but because their ignorance or lack of proper education make them incapable of assimilating and understanding such information !! Quite a few of those in our country.!!”

      [bill bass July 5, 2014 at 6:39 am]

      “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”
      [Albert Einstein]


      • Thanks Ex, for the very lucid and thorough explanation of our agreements and discrepancies and the educated and gentlemanly manner in which you have dealt with my misgivings . Perhaps what i have left out is that I too have something like an UCT idea for the tacking of the basic problem preventing the adequate performance of our political institutions which relates to our (yours and mine) basic mistrust of the way electoral systems can be misused by corrupt or irresponsible pols to follow clientelar and populist policies which destroy the country and yet attract the sympathy of so many. As you know I am wary of panaceas and magic bullets but same as you appreciate the need for something radical , basically upsetting to attempt at least to set things aright in our corrupt system of governance .

        I am not yet ready to put forth this idea of mine , but its starting point is very close to yours except that I also have a fundamental mistrust of the masses as having anything like the discipline and virtues and ethos needed to make appropiate use of whatever money is doled to them . You probably have read the book Nudge on how systems of incentives and inhibitions can help public policy achieve very worthwhile goals . This makes me feel that by funneling public assistance in certain ways much can be accomplished .

        Once I have something more developed on my UCT idea I will try and see how it can be best described and presented .


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