President Hugo Chavez ordered by decree on Monday the takeover of oil projects run by foreign oil companies in Venezuela's Orinoco River region.
Chavez had previously announced the government's intention to take a majority stake by May 1 in four heavy oil-upgrading projects run by British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX), ConocoPhillips (COP) Co., Total SA (TOT) and Statoil ASA. (STO)
He said Monday that has decreed a law to proceed with the nationalizations that will see state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, taking at least a 60 percent stake in the projects.
"The privatization of oil in Venezuela has come to an end," he said on his weekday radio show, "Hello, President.""This marks the true nationalization of oil in Venezuela."
By May 1, "we will occupy these fields" and have the national flag flying on them, he said.
You can also read: Blue Crab Boulevard.
In the short span of a week, the ugly head of censorship and disregard for the basic right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the Venezuelan Constitution, surfaced in Venezuela, this time in two cases covered by this blog before. First, Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper Tal Cual was found guilty of violating the privacy of the President's daughter and fined (Posts here, here and here on this case). Then, physicist Claudio Mendoza was punished by the Board of Directors of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research (IVIC) for daring to express his opinions (posts here, here and here on that topic) and refusing to back down or apologize for what was considered as "a disrespectful article" by the authorities.
But in both cases, what we are seeing, once again, is simply an attitude ingrained in Chavez' Government, that they are the holders of the truth and anyone who dares step over the line will be punished sufficiently to induce fears in others, thus limiting freedom of expression in a very broad way. Either you are with them, or you are punished, they know the truth and you have to adapt to it, as easy as that. [Continue reading: it's very interesting].
He also explains both cases. About Tal Cual:
Ironically, it was Chavez himself who violated his daughter's privacy by telling a nationwide TV audience how she had advised him on changing the country's coat of arms. This led to a humorous and very non-intrusive piece by Laureano Marquez, which, if anything, treated Chávez' daughter with a certain level of endearment. This led to a fine against Tal Cual and Marquez by a judge's decision, which is so confusing an unprofessional, that the Prosecutor is asking for clarification of what it implies.
About Claudio Mendoza:
[He was punished because] "He can not say that the country is on its way to manufacture nuclear weapons. If that is said by a physicist from a scientific institution it is something serious and one cannot be deaf or mute. He (Claudio) placed Venezuela together with Iran and North Korea, something that would question the country internationally".
[...] But the truth is that there is no valid reason today to make Nuclear Physics or its uses a priority in Venezuela and it certainly collides with the broad outlines of that absurd contraption called "Mision Ciencia". But in the back of the minds of ignorant military officers, a nuclear weapon is the ultimate power trip, a toy to beat and replace all military toys, a sublime ego booster, a possible geopolitical catapult for the all-mighty leader.
La presunta participación argentina en el envío a Irán de un reactor nuclear de última generación mediante una triangulación Buenos Aires-Caracas-Teherán -cuyo destino final no habría sido ignorado por el gobierno argentino- se inició en 2005 mediante las primeras conversaciones que sostuvieron en tal sentido Hugo Chávez y Néstor Kirchner, las que contaron además con los buenos oficios de la entonces embajadora argentina en Venezuela, Nilda Garré, quien por su parte había cultivado la amistad del mandatario venezolano. A propósito -y detalles al margen- es conocida la afición de un "galán" como Chávez por conquistar la amistad de las últimas embajadoras argentinas en su país, primero Nilda Garré y ahora Alicia Castro.
La razón inicial de esas conversaciones había sido la propuesta de Chávez de adquirir un reactor nuclear para Venezuela, a lo que rápidamente asintió el presidente argentino. Después, el tema fue girando hacia el envío del reactor a Irán. No se sabe aún si ésa era en realidad la idea de Chávez desde un comienzo o si fue tomando consistencia luego de las charlas con su amigo Ahmadinejad, o incluso ante un pedido directo de éste, ya poco proclive a depender exclusivamente de los rusos. Tampoco se sabe aún si Kirchner ignoraba inocentemente el destino final del reactor o si, conociéndolo, se hizo el distraído.
Lo cierto es que el reactor argentino ya estaría en Irán desde el año anterior, y que habría viajado probablemente en uno de los barcos venezolanos que habían sido traídos a los astilleros de Río Santiago para su reparación. Su traslado hacia Irán, en cambio, fue dejado a la imaginación combinada de Chávez y el presidente Ahmadinejad.
"Firstly, the conversations had begun with Chávez's proposition of buying a nuclear reactor for Venezuela, proposition which was inmediately accepted by the Argentinian President. Afterwards, the conversations changed to send the reactor to Iran. [...] Also, we cannot know if Kirchner ignored the final destination of the reactor or, if knowing it, he just played the distracted man".
Lastly, Venezuela is spending huge quantities of money in weapons. Some months ago, I wrote about the Kalashnikov rifle factory which was going to be built in Venezuela. After that, I also wrote that Venezuela could possibly be the most important buyer of weapons of the decade. And it is not going to be because Chávez is not trying to. Thanks to Etimologías (SP):
Venezuela's arms spending has climbed to more than $4 billion in the past two years, transforming the nation into Latin America's largest weapons buyer and placing it ahead of other major purchasers in international arms markets like Pakistan and Iran.
Venezuelan military and government officials here say the arms acquisitions, which include dozens of fighter jets and attack helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, are needed to circumvent a ban by the United States on sales of American weapons to the country.
They also argue that Venezuela must strengthen its defenses to counter potential military aggression from the United States.
Since 2005, Venezuela has signed contracts with Russia for 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, 50 transport and attack helicopters, and 100,000 assault rifles. Venezuela also has plans to open Latin America's first Kalashnikov factory, to produce the Russian-designed rifles in the city of Maracay.
A report in January by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency pegged Venezuela's arms purchases in the past two years at $4.3 billion, ahead of Pakistan's $3 billion and Iran's $1.7 billion in that period.
In a statement before the House Intelligence Committee, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, called attention to Mr. Chávez's "agenda to neutralize U.S. influence throughout the hemisphere," contrasting Mr. Chávez with the "reformist left" exemplified by President Michelle Bachelet of Chile.
This is normal and just, taking into account how some Venezuelan citizens die.
In German: Die Zeit.
Oh, and take a look at the new mark in the belly that Mercal supermarkets are making to see if you have bought only the meat you are allowed to [la noticia en español aquí]:
"We were going to buy meat, and they wanted to put a mark on us. When we were informed that the mark was going to be made on the belly's skin, we refused. They insulted and scratched on us. Eventually the state police came and took us to the Police Station, where they opened an enquiry. They put handcuffs on us and we were forbidden to see our families. In the end, the Prosecutor's office released us".
Lastly, Elephants in Academia underlines that Venezuelan Bolivar has the dubious distinction of being "the world's worst-performing currency" as it has plunged 16% against the dollar so far this year.
Básicamente, Chávez va a NACIONALIZAR todos los proyectos petrolíferos que pertenezcan a compañías extranjeras. Como ha dicho "la privatización de petróleo en Venezuela ha terminado. Esto marca la verdadera nacionalización del petróleo en Venezuela".
The Devil's Excrement escribe sobre la falta de libertad de expresión en Venezuela refiriéndose a dos casos recientes: en primer lugar, el periódico Tal Cual ha sido multado por "violar" la privacidad de la hija de Presidente y el físico Claudio Mendoza ha sido castigado por el Consejo de Administración del Instituto Venezolano de Investigación Científica, por atreverse a dar su opinión y luego no retractarse ni pedir perdón. Pero "aquí sólo vemos, otra vez, la actitud del Gobierno de Chávez, que se ha instituido en el poseedor de la verdad y cualquier que se atreve a dar un paso adelante pasando la raya será castigado suficientemente para inducir miedo en otros".
El pecado del físico había sido poner juntos, a la hora de producir armas nucleares, a Venezuela, junto con Irán y Corea del Norte. Pero algo de razón tiene que tener el científico, cuando se le ha retirado de esa manera de su puesto, cumpliendo a partir de ahora, funciones netamente adminsitrativas. Eso sí, al parecer Argentina mandó un reactor nuclear a Irán en un barco venezolano...
Por último, Venezuela va camino de convertirse en el mayor comprador de armas de la década. ¿El pretexto? Una supuesta invasión de EEUU...
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