Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Chavez shuts down the press

Reactions from Santo Domingo

The news of the rise potential dictator in the richest nation to the south arrives here in Santo Domingo on the 46th anniversary of the death of Trujillo, the strongman who ruled without mercy for thirty one years.

Last night thousands of protestors and supporters took to the streets of Caracas prostesting the closure of the only oppostion television station with national coverage whose license was not renewed by the government. The TV station had long been a critic of Chavez and was implicated in the attempted coup against hm in 2004.

Michelle Bachelet, the socialist president of Chile, alluded to the closure, saying:"Freedome of expression is a gift of gold."

Hugo Chavez has great popularity throughout Latin America, not only perhaps for his rages against the imperialism of United States which has so often been on the side of the oppressors, but also for his solidarity with the poor, his ability to free his country from submission to the IMF and the World Bank, his identification with Africa, and last, but certainly not least, his generous discount oil programs to poor countries. Yet his totalitarian methods are inspiring fear, particularly here, in this country which has only known a generation of freedom.

Chavez has been a welcomed visitor on this side of Hispaniola and hailed as a hero in the Haitian capital of Port au Prince. Haiti, as an independent nation in 1804, was the launching site for the independence of Latin America, the first "Bolivarian" revolution, hosting first Francisco de Miranda in 1806 the precursor to Simon Bolivar, and then in 1817 under President Petion, giving aid and support to Simon Bolivar. Chavez does not forget his nation's debt to Haiti.

President Chavez has ruled by decree since the National Assembly gave him that authority in 2005. The opposition party boycotted the elections in 2005 and therefore had no representation in the government. Chavez said that he wanted extraordinary powers in order to swiftly move forward the socialist revolution, nationalizing the oil fields (which he completed by the beginning of this month), and gaining state control of the media, which he has just done. The Venezuelan state now owns a controlling interest in all the oil fields although private companies have been invited to continue as minority share holders.

Norway, arguably a strong democracy and top of the United Nations Human Development Index, the 3rd largest oil exporting nation in the world, (Venezuela is the 6th according to the CIA factbook) has a 50% tax on oil production so that claiming the natural resources of the nation as belonging to all the citizens is also possible within a democracy.

Chavez, having now supressed a powerful voice of the opposition, has taken a large step down into the darkeness of totalitarianism, which was certainly not the revolution dreamed of by Simon Bolivar.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Norway in the Lead?

Norway's Dirty Little Secret

Norway, a small rich country in northern Europe has once again topped the United Nations charts for Human Development. ( which means that they are,simply, the best of the best of the best. Judging by the United Nations' standards, Norway is nation to follow.

Their primacy is probably made easier by the fact that there are not a lot of them, only about 4.5 million and they are ranked 7th in the world in oil production and 3rd in oil exports. But let's give them credit, oil production alone will certainly not put a nation in the top rankings for human development, a number baded on statitisitics of income, longevity, literacy, standard of living, and child welfare.

Like me, you may become even more enamoured of Norway as you learn more. It is an odd mixture of socialism and capitalism. They have a 50% tax on oil production and use the bulk of it to fund their government pension plan, which is administered by the Central Bank and invested in the global stock market with heavy socially conscious monitors. Walmart's is ineligible. They have a 10-12 month government funded maternity and one month paternity leave. If fathers don't take their leave, both parents risk losing all their leave. They have state sponsered day care centers, government health insurance.

Norway is generous, ranking fourth in the world in its commitment to foreign development.

So what is wrong with the picture? Well, yes, they still hunt whales. But more devasting than that are their agricultural subsidies. Both the Right (Nicholas Kristol, The Cato Institute) and the Left (Oxfam, Common Dreams) agree that the agricultural subsidies in the industrialized world which amount to $350 billion a year are almost 7 times higher than the foreign aid given to poor countries

In an article in Forign Policy on "Ranking the Rich" in terms of thier generosity to the developing world, Norway piles up an embarrassing 1101.24 in agricutural subsidies, per person, per year. These are on cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens. In comparison,its contributionof foreign aid per person in the developing world is $.83


So, how about it Norway? Care to really show the world some High Human Development and cut those subsides?


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Play the Ayati Game

Play the Ayati Game

If you click here, you will be directed to a game developed by a group of teens. In it, you will be in charge of keeping a poor Haitian family alive through four years, four seasons each. You will get to monitor their health, their wealth, and their education, decide where and when to send them to work, when to go to the store, what to buy. WARNING: I found this game through a discussion on a development blog where the poster noted that he played it once again and once again, the entire family died of cholera. I started playing at 8 PM and suddenly looked up and it was 3 AM.

You will find perhaps as I did, that there is no real winning at this game, just staying alive. I still have hopes that one day I will be able to get all the kids educated but the public school keeps appearing and disappearing and the others are very expensive. I also long for the indoor plumbing for the family but fear that it will be forever out of our reach.

I have some complaints - that even when I let someone rest at home, their health did not seem to improve, that there were no vitamins available at the store, that the level of happiness always stayed ridiculously high for people who had nothing. (But then, I have lived in Haiti and I have found that to be true, they are ridiculously happy).

So go ahead and play and be sure to post comments. When we have compiled a list of them, I will set up an appointment with the head of UNICEF here and see if we can make some changes and turn the whole thing into a fund raiser for pa lante!!

When is a delinquent a criminal?

Delinquency vs. Organized Crime

It is cute, really, the way they keep talking down here in the Dominican Republic about "delinquency" as if there are roving gangs of adolescents running their skateboards through crowds of pedestrians, stealing hubcaps, spray painting graffiti on walls. I am not sure why they keep using the word to refer to the crimes that are taking place all over the beach areas and in the affluent areas of the Capital. Seems to me that when you have armed men breaking into a house and going for computers, passports, jewelry and credit cards, you have crime. And to sell foreign passports, you need a real connection. So this would be crime. Since the US changed its deportation policies back in '94, both the DR and Haiti have had an influx of returned deportees who have completed their advanced crime training in the prison systems of the US. This is a crime wave. Fueled with a crack addiction.

This is not to say that you should not come to vacation here - or even think about investing here. Just be aware that there are areas that are best avoided.