Sunday, September 24, 2006

The "Venezuelan" Flap

Some readers have complained that Leonidas engages in too much "quoting and pasting" of others' opinions without comment. It is true that Leonidas attempts to confine his first person comments to personal experience and recent events have lent him the opportunity to do so:

Venezuela holds a special place in our cruising experiences as we spent two years in that country and made many friends there. Also growing up in the "oil patch" and being familiar with its workings contributes to the mix.

Venezuela is blessed (cursed?) with a substantial reserve of crude oil. The development of these resources was primarily accomplished by North American expertise, capital and technology. In the early 1960s The Venezuelan government nationalized the oil industry and seized control of the assets of several North American oil companies including Sinclair and Chevron. The wealth generated by oil production was diverted to social programs and a major increase in the various bureaucracies. Lately the wealth has been used by the (demented?) anti American soon to be President for Life Hugo Chavez who came to power in 1998 to purchase substantial quantities of military equipment such as 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles, 24 MIG 20 fighter aircraft and 53 assault helicopters from Russia. These weapons have not all been distributed to the Venezuelan military (La Guardia Nacional) but have been used to arm Chavez' political base which consists for the most part of the urban proletariat living in the makeshift shacks (ranchitos) on the mountain sides around the capitol. The 40 year experiment in socialism has swelled the ranks of these poor and resulted in the shrinking of the middle class, many of whom have fled to neighboring Colombia as well as Spain and the U.S. Chavez appears to be trying to create fear in his ignorant political base that the U.S. is planning an invasion of the country to seize the oil reserves. A concept that both Leonidas and the remaining middle class of Venezuela find ludicrous.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat,...defended Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Nations speech in which Chavez called President George Bush the devil. Harkin said the comments were "incendiary", then went on to say: "Let me put it this way, I can understand the frustration, ah, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush's policies." Harkin continued what has been frequent criticism of the president's foreign policy. Interestingly enough two unlikely defenders of President Bush have been found in Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel, both Democrats and who have supplied Sr. Chavez with most of his talking points. Oh, I forgot those two are campaigning for re election.

Incidentally, the U.S., neither under the present or any former administration has ever evinced any wish to come in conflict with Venezuela which was the founder of OPEC. It may be in Sr. Chavez' interest to be hostile to the US, but not in the interest of the Venezuelan people. It is sad to observe what was once a great and beautiful nation being dragged down the socialist rat hole a la Cuba.

ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

11 comments:

Jeff said...

Thanks for the post. Don't know much about Venezula, but I can understand why many think ill of George Bush. Remeber where the first rocket of the invasion of Iraq landed? Remember the pretense for going in not ever panning out? These things don't make us look good. I'm not going to defend socialism, but I'm also not going to buy the innocuous tone of this quote:

"The development of these resources was primarily accomplished by North American expertise, capital and technology."

If it was anything like Guatemala in 1953, or September 11, 1973 in Chili, then it wasn't a friendly business deal. (I'm not 100% sure on those years, but I know I'm close)

I don't understand why you're so critical of government shennigans but so forgiving of corporate ones.

You don't really believe that Cheveron and Sinclair are the good guys and Chavez is the bad guy do you? I'm hoping your simplistic views are simply the limits of parttime blogging.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

jeff: "...Don't know much about Venezula,[sic] but I can understand why many think ill of George Bush.

leonidas: GWB is a politician. His political opponents will exert considerable effort to assure that he is pilloried whether validly or otherwise. This is the nature of the game.

jeff: Remeber [sic] where the first rocket of the invasion of Iraq landed?

leonidas: Not offhand. It was probably a: school, hospital, retirement home or (fill in the blank) puppy farm. I would need to check the Al Jezeera archives.

jeff: Remember the pretense for going in not ever panning out?

leonidas: I remember the 22 reasons listed for passage of the congressional authorization for the use of force.

jeff: "...I'm also not going to buy the innocuous tone of this quote: "The development of these resources was primarily accomplished by North American expertise, capital and technology."

leonidas: Do you suppose it was the tooth fairy that bought and shipped in the drilling and production machinery and labor to the Lake Maricaibo region during the 1940 1962 era and paid substantial royalties to the Venezuelan and Colombian governments? It was the eeevil corporations that created the wealth necessary to propel Venezuela and Colombia into the 20th century. Some of those workers were members of Leonidas' family.

jeff: If it was anything like Guatemala in 1953, or September 11, 1973 in Chili [sic], then it wasn't a friendly business deal..."

leonidas: Sorry to disappoint you but there was no shooting or "revolution". It was in fact a mutually beneficial and "friendly business deal". By the way, Allende's death was neither suicide nor execution by Chilean military. It was his Cuban "body guards" who murdered him on Castro's orders. http://midiasemmascara.org/en/artigo.php?sid=37

jeff: "I don't understand why you're so critical of government shennigans [sic] but so forgiving of corporate ones".

leonidas: We do not have a choice in our dealings with government. They have a monopoly on the use of force; corporations do not.

jeff: "You don't really believe that Cheveron[sic] and Sinclair are the good guys and Chavez is the bad guy do you?"

leonidas: No, but if you can locate the quote wherein I made either of these statements, I will gladly recite the rosary and convert to Islam. Politicians/governments do what they do: wield raw power. Corporations do what they do i.e. seek profit. Neither are necessarily good or evil (Karl Marx notwithstanding).

--
ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

Jeff said...

That's an interesting account of the end of Allende's life, although I neither accept nor reject the veracity of the source. I was referring to the CIA backed coup, the context of Allende's death, not Allende's means of his permanent departure.

Castro views the U.S. and it's corporations as the enemy? Wow, I wonder why?

U.S. corporations routinely manipulated, often brutally, the heirarchical structure of their host countries to maximize their profits. If they didn't do so in Venezula, I'd be pleased to know that. I'll write more when I have time.

Jeff said...

"We do not have a choice in our dealings with government. They have a monopoly on the use of force; corporations do not."

Yes, that is a primary premise of the social contract. You'd prefer to have the use of force distributed among competing private interests? Wasn't that called the dark ages? And by the way, you do have a choice, it's called revolution, or war, although the government in question will likely call it crime.

Jeff said...

The project you describe in the Lake Maricaibo region sounds like a mutually beneficial business transaction. I'm sure that those happen. What has created the diplomatic problems for our country in Central and South America is the coercive and brutal business dealings that have been carried out with the complicity of our government agencies. It doesn't matter how many nice things your neighbor has done for you, he rapes your daughter once, you pretty much are going to hate him. Maybe all our transactions with Venezuela have been mutually beneficial, but we've done some pretty nasty things to their neighbors.

Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

Most of us will accept or reject historical accounts which conflict with what we are predisposed to believe. We were not there, he was. That is one of the reasons I prefer to blog with first hand experience.
Unfortunately, corporations and other organizations will go running to the government in order to buy/bribe favors but the ultimate responsibility for implementing the favors is the GOVERNMENT. Corporations do not kill/imprison you for disobedience/revolt. The "project" in Lake Maricaibo became the entire oil industry in Venezuela and Colombia.

Jeff said...

"Corporations do not kill/imprison you for disobedience/revolt. "

They would if there were no government to do it for them.

"Most of us will accept or reject historical accounts which conflict with what we are predisposed to believe."

Sadly true, and something I am guilty of. I'm trying to break myself of that foul habit. I don't really know if United Fruit used it's connections with the CIA to protect their financial interests in Guatemala through brutal means. I only know what I've heard and read. I've chosen to accept the validity of the accounts (to a point) and have formed opinions based on that acceptance.

I certainly don't know if the majority of people of Cuba are better off under Castro than they were under the regime before him. I'm not even sure how to define what better off or worse off would mean. I suspect you don't really know either, at least not the first part; maybe you have a very clear definition of what better off means. I suspect that if you wish to be an entreprenuer, you probably wouldn't like Castro. You express dislike for socialism so I'm guessing that slants your view of Castro's Cuba.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

"You express dislike for socialism so I'm guessing that slants your view of Castro's Cuba."

No my friend. I have been to Castro's Cuba and not as a Hollywood VIP. I speak fluent Spanish and traveled the countryside. The people are much worse off. Read my accounts in the November 2005 Archives.

Jeff said...

Were in in Cuba before Castro took over? The question is not are things bad now. What I am curious about is for the majority of citizens, are things better or worse since Castro has taken over. And if they are indeed worse, how much is due to Castro's policies and how much is due to the embargo. It's not as if the U.S. isn't meddling in Cuba's affairs, and they do attempt to meddle in ours.

I have a friend who was recently (about 2 yrs ago) in Cuba; she speaks fluent spanish. She complained about the treatment she received by the secret police that followed her around and harrassed her (though they pretended they were ordinary citizens, she's wise enough to know better, and the locals confirmed her suspicions). Her basic impression was that they were like poor people anywhere else, no better, no worse. But that's a second hand account of one person's
impressions. How meaningful is that?

I'm not a big fan of socialism, and capitalism is only slightly better. I definitely prefer democracy to dictatorship, but a dictatorship is probably perferralbe to a democracy of idiots and fools and addicts. No system is worth a damn if the people involved suck. Great people can make any system work. That's my anarchist perspective.

I will try to read your archives, but I'm already spending more time blogging than I should (but it's so fun). So this will be my last contribution to this thread. I will not comment again until I've read your posts on your visit to Cuba.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

jeff: Were in in Cuba before Castro took over?

leonidas: I don't know for sure what you are asking. My mother's sister visited Cuba in 1957. She described Havana as a busy and cosmopolitan city and the people as friendly and prosperous. Now one must seek out the older people and get them to speak candidly which I have done .

jeff: The question is not are things bad now. What I am curious about is for the majority of citizens, are things better or worse since Castro has taken over. And if they are indeed worse, how much is due to Castro's policies and how much is due to the embargo.

leonidas: There is no question that they are much worse off now than before Castro. They have no tooth paste, soap, toilet paper, coffee or most of the things we take for granted. Those items are rationed among the party aparatchiks. In order to purchase food items in the shops (which are usually empty) citizens must use their ration books. All this on one of the most fertile islands in the world. How can this be due to the U.S. embargo when they have trading relations with ALL of the nearly 200 other countries?


jeff: But that's a second hand account of one person's
impressions. How meaningful is that?

leonidas: How many countries have watch towers with machine guns along their coasts to keep the people IN? While we were in Varadero east of Havana one young man set sail for Florida on a WIND SURFER. He made it (135 miles)! Subsequently guards with machine guns were placed at all resort hotels on the beach.

jeff: I'm not a big fan of socialism, and capitalism is only slightly better.

leonidas: You had me fooled. What system would you favor? How about LIBERTY ie laissez faire capitalism?