Tag Archives: Venezuela

Connecting corruption and traffic lights

I really like it when experts (and journalists) take a complicated issue and connect it to something John and Jane Doe on Main Street can understand.

And Alejandro Salas, Regional Director for the Americas at Transparency International, has done just that: CPI 2013: TRAFFIC LIGHTS IN THE AMERICAS – LIFESAVERS OR URBAN DECORATIONS?

Salas notes that in Latin America there are some pretty tough traffic laws and really draconian laws against corrupt practices. And yet in most of Latin America a red light is a suggestion to stop rather than a command. Likewise, business and government officials see the need to engage in corrupt practices because, “it is the way to get things done” thus making the anti-corruption laws suggestions rather than anything that should be enforced.

If you look at the Transparency International Corruption Index for 2013, you can see a correlation between corruption and traffic deaths, granted not a perfect 1:1 but enough to draw some useful conclusions.

Country TI Ranking Deaths per 100,000
Canada 9 6.8
United States 19 11.4
Uruguay 19 21.5
Costa Rica 49 12.7
Brazil 72 22.5
Peru 83 15.9
El Salvador 83 21.9
Ecuador 102 27.0
Argentina 106 12.6
Dominican Republic 123 41.7
Honduras 140 18.8
Venezuela                160 37.2

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Filed under Connections, Corruption

Why it matters when a country is heading for collapse

Fareed Zakaria did a great piece today (Sunday, Nov. 17) on how the Venezuelan government is doing everything on the “how to destroy an economy” check list.

Five ways to ruin an economy

Here is the conclusion. (Read or view the whole piece. It is excellent analysis.)

Venezuela is on a fast-track to total ruin. The world saw this coming under Chavez. We hoped for change, but in his dying days Chavez handpicked a “mini-me” to stay the course. The sad truth is that Venezuela is wasting the world’s largest oil reserves. It could have been as wealthy as Saudi Arabia or Qatar. It could have outstripped Mexico or Brazil. Instead, it is beginning to resemble North Korea, simply by following the most ruinous set of policies in the world.

Click here to see full video.

But why should Americans care — other than for humanitarian concerns for human rights?

The bottom line is trade/jobs and regional stability.

On trade,

  • Venezuela was the United States’ 26th largest goods export market in 2011.
  • The top export categories in 2011 were: Machinery ($3.0 billion), Electrical Machinery ($1.7 billion), Organic Chemicals ($1.3 billion), Optic and Medical Instruments ($810 million), and Vehicles ($682 million).
  • The five largest import categories in 2011 were: Mineral Fuel and Oil (crude) ($42.0 billion), Organic Chemicals ($309 million), Iron and Steel ($263 million), Aluminum ($169 million), and Fertilizers ($152 million).

Looking at this shows that Venezuela buys American finished products while  the US buys natural resources. Finished products — machinery, vehicles, etc — mean high-paying quality jobs.

The top five U.S. states that export to Venezuela include the ones you might think, Texas, Florida and Louisiana (Numbers 1-3.) But Number 4 is Michigan and Number 5 is California. A collapse of the Venezuelan economy could mean more joblessness across the USA.

On regional stability, let’s face it, fighting the transportation of illegal drugs is a key component. And Venezuela is the major source for the shipping of drugs to North America and Europe. (Venezuela: Where the Traffickers Wear Military Uniforms)

There are also humanitarian and business issues.

With jobs across the United States at risk and humanitarian concerns growing, more and proper coverage of Venezuela is needed.

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Filed under International News Coverage, South America, Story Ideas, Trade

Really Mr. Snowden, Venezuela?

It seems odd that the only places that are being so vocal about supporting NSA data thief Edward Snowden and offering him sanctuary are countries with some of the worst records on freedom of speech/expression and press.

Thanks to Boing Boing, we get to hear a first-person account of what it is like living in Venezuela.

Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state

Highlights:

  • On Monday, Sept. 14, 2009 a private phone call between my mother and me was broadcast on two talk shows on the Venezuelan government TV station.
  • We can be heard talking about the international anti-Chavez demonstrations, and how we thought they hadn’t been successful. I compared them to the much larger ones for democracy in Iran that I attended in DC.
  • My mother, Maruja Tarre, was an outspoken critic of the Chavez government and she is often on television commenting on Venezuelan foreign policy. She is a columnist for the country’s oldest newspaper, El Universal, and is followed by thousands on Twitter.
  • Our private conversation aired again on the late night show, La Hojilla, hosted by Mario Silva. He plays clips from news shows edited to ridicule opposition politicians. The government has used “evidence” gathered by reporters on this show to accuse opposition leaders.
  • This was an eye-opening incident. Like most Venezuelans, I have long been aware, on an intellectual level, that many calls are recorded and that my mother’s landline was most likely tapped.
  • That was four years ago. Since then, the Venezuelan government has grown even more aggressive in its use of private conversations to intimidate opposition activists, and even their own supporters.

 

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of access, Freedom of Information, International News Coverage, South America

Venezuela releases U.S. filmmaker

Venezuela released and expelled U.S. filmmaker  Tim Tracy.

Tracy was arrested April 24 on charges of undermining the Venezuelan government and “acting like a spy.”

At the time Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said they had evidence Tracy was promoting dissent and unrest in Venezuela. The “proof” was in “the way Tracy acted.” Rodriguez said it was clear Tracey was a spy because “he knows how to infiltrate, how to recruit sources.”

Oh yeah, recruit sources. Just like any journalist or documentary filmmaker would do

Tracy was in Venezuela to do a documentary about the political divide following the death of Hugo Chavez and the questionable election of Nicolas Maduro. Tracy filmed government supporters in a Caracas slum and student demonstrators opposed to the government. The government saw his session with the students as subversive rather than just some one investigating a story.

This all goes back to the issue that just because repressive governments that restrict press freedom — like Venezuela and China and Cuba — use reporters as spies, it does not mean the rest of the world follows suit.

Obviously even the rigged Venezuelan system could not make the charges stick.

According to the New York Times, government officials said on Tuesday there was insufficient evidence to charge Tracy.  (Venezuela Frees Jailed U.S. Filmmaker and Expels Him)

Immediately upon release, Tracy, was put on a flight to Miami.

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Filed under Censorship, Freedom of Information, Harassment, Press Freedom, South America

Chilean president proposes legislation to ban bad-mouthing cops

The nice thing about Twitter and Tumblr is that you often find interesting things you never knew were out there. (By the way, thank you @adam_wola)

Today (June 3) a columnist in Chile discusses a new proposal by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to make it a felony to insult a police officer in the performance of his/her job.

The police respect and freedom of expression

(Translation by Google Translate)

Before the announcement of President Sebastián Piñera sent a bill to establish serious offense to insult a police officer in performance of his duties, columnists warn-with practical arguments, legal and political-of the dangers to freedom of expression.

The last public account of the President of the Republic was an announcement that should turn all alarms in a democracy respectful of freedom of expression. In explicit terms, said the government will send a bill ” establishing a new crime as serious insult to a policeman or police in performance of their duties “. The criminalization of such conduct should be criticized arguments based on practical, legal and political.

Full commentary here.

This is something the U.S. should be watching.

The gains made in Chile in terms of human and civic rights since the fall of the dictatorship are important. Chile is a major trading partner with the United States and is becoming a major economic force in the Pacific.

For the business community freedom of speech/expression/press are important to understanding the social, political and economic situation before investing money in a country. Or, knowing when either put more money in or take money out.

Data from countries where the governments control the media (overtly or by proxy) often cannot be trusted. (And I am looking at you Venezuela and Argentina.)

From a basic humanitarian view, freedom of expression is vital for any society to truly thrive.

Chile has developed a strong sense of freedom. It would be a shame to see this piece of legislation go through.

One of the best lines in the article is used as a pull-quote:

One of the central and undisputed content of freedom of expression is political criticism of public authorities.

‘Nuff said.

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Filed under Connections, South America