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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.” ― Archibald MacLeish

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“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it--always.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

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“How shall freedom be defended? By arms when it is attacked by arms, by truth when it is attacked by lies, by faith when it is attacked by authoritarian dogma. Always, in the final act, by determination and faith.”

― Archibald MacLeish

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Comandante Duterte: Will The Philippines become another Venezuela?

Duterte can become the Filipino Hugo Chavez.
From The Manila Times
ChairmanJoma Sison together with NDFP peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni and NDFP spokesman Fidel Agcaoili recently sat down with the Times for a free-wheeling interview.
Sison said Duterte has all the characters of a good leader.
For Sison, unlike other presidential aspirants, Duterte has the grasp and understanding of the struggles of the Filipino people and the only one who has set a direction on how to address the peace problem in the country.
“Hindi siya sakim at kilala nya ang mga problema ng Pilipinas (He is not greedy and he knows and understands the problems of the people),” Sison said.
If he becomes president, Duterte can become the Filipino Hugo Chavez.
“He has the characters of Hugo Chavez,” said Sison, noting how the late Venezuelan leftist leader who galvanized the development of his country since coming to power in 1999.
Just like Chavez, Duterte, Sison said, is “dauntless and bold.”
Jalandoni called Duterte the “most forward” among the candidates.
Hugo Chavez: The controversial leader of Venezuela
From The Daily Beast:
Hugo Chávez Frias was not a dictator, a semantic point to which his supporters devoted much argument, but he was most assuredly not a democrat. Having burst onto the Venezuelan political scene in 1992 as the leader of a failed military coup, he would later reposition himself as a champion of the ballot box, though one without much concern for the niceties of democracy. 
In the early days of Chavismo, despite his golpista background, Chavez commanded support from beyond the barrios, but his popularity waned significantly as he consolidated power by shuttering opposition media, rewriting the constitution, and expanding the supreme court. 
As his rule become more arbitrary and power centralized, thousands fled into exile. He won elections in conditions that, had they taken place in this country, would likely provoke revolution (and, in 2002, actually did in Venezuela). Chavez took his semi-democratic mandate as license to rule undemocratically and rebuild state institutions, now staffed with loyal supporters.
Chávez presided over a political epoch flush with money and lorded over a society riven by fear, deep political divisions, and ultraviolence. Consider the latest crime statistics from Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia, which reckons that 2012 saw an astonishing 21,692 murders in the country—in a population of 29 million. Last year, I accompanied a Venezuelan journalist on his morning rounds at Caracas’s only morgue to count the previous night’s murders. As the number of dead ballooned, the Chávez regime simply stopped releasing murder statistics to the media.
From BBC News:
Tension in Venezuela remains high as the economic crisis which has engulfed the country shows little sign of abating.
The government and the opposition blame each other for the dire state of the economy.
Venezuela's inflation rate, which already is the world's highest, is expected to rise to a staggering 1,660% next year, the International Monetary Fund predicts.
The opposition-led National Assembly has voted to open a "political trial" against President Nicolas Maduro, a move which the president dismissed as "illegitimate".
Each side has accused the other of coup-mongering.
Here, we look more in depth at the problems facing Venezuela and its president.
Why is Venezuela so divided?
Hugo Chavez is still revered by many, but others think his party mismanaged the economy
Venezuela is split into Chavistas, the name given to the followers of the socialist policies of the late President Hugo Chavez, and those who cannot wait to see an end to the 17 years in power of his United Socialist Party (PSUV). After the socialist leader died in 2013, Nicolas Maduro, also of the PSUV, was elected president on a promise to continue Mr Chavez's policies. Chavistas praise the two men for using Venezuela's oil riches to markedly reduce inequality and for lifting many Venezuelans out of poverty. But the opposition says that since it came to power in 1999, the PSUV has eroded Venezuela's democratic institutions and mismanaged its economy.
Chavistas in turn accuse the opposition of being elitist and of exploiting poor Venezuelans to increase their own riches.
They also allege that opposition leaders are in the pay of the United States, a country with which Venezuela has had fraught relations in recent years.
Why has Mr Maduro's popularity plummeted?
President Maduro has proven less popular than his predecessor
Mr Maduro has not been able to inspire Chavistas in the same way his predecessor did. His government has furthermore been hampered by falling oil prices.
Oil accounts for about 95% of Venezuela's export revenues and was used to finance some of the government's generous social programmes which, according to official figures, have provided more than one million poor Venezuelans with homes.
The lack of oil revenue has forced the government to curtail its social programmes, leading to an erosion of support among its core backers.
A recent poll by firm Datanalisis suggested that more than 75% of Venezuelans were unhappy with the way Mr Maduro governed the country.
From Bloomberg News:
At a delicatessen counter in eastern Caracas, Humberto Gonzalez removes slices of salty white cheese from his scale and replaces them with a stack of bolivar notes handed over by his customer. The currency is so devalued and each purchase requires so many bills that instead of counting, he weighs them.
“It’s sad," Gonzalez says. "At this point, I think the cheese is worth more.”
It’s also one of the clearest signs yet that hyperinflation could be taking hold in a country that refuses to publish consumer-price data on a regular basis. Cash-weighing isn’t seen everywhere but is increasing, echoing scenes from some of the past century’s most-chaotic hyperinflation episodes: Post-World War I Germany, Yugoslavia in the 1990s and Zimbabwe a decade ago.
“When they start weighing cash, it’s a sign of runaway inflation,” said Jesus Casique, financial director of Capital Market Finance, a consulting firm. “But Venezuelans don’t know just how bad it is because the government refuses to publish figures.”
Once one of the world’s strongest currencies, the bolivar has been reduced to a nuisance. Basic purchases require hundreds of bills. Shoppers shove piles of them into gym bags before venturing into crime-plagued streets and shopkeepers stash thousands in boxes and overflowing drawers. In the absence of official data, economists are left to guess what the inflation rate is. Estimates for this year range from 200 percent to 1,500 percent.
Until now, as the bolivar sank, the government declined to print bigger-denomination bills. The 100-bolivar note -- the nation’s largest -- is worth less than a dime.
A few weeks ago, however, the government quietly asked five currency companies to submit bids for bigger bills -- 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000 , and perhaps a 20,000-bolivar note, according to someone with direct knowledge of the order.
The request is for the bills to be ready in time for Christmas bonuses. Normally such an order takes four to six months and so far no tender has been awarded. To minimize time and cost, the government is considering swapping only the color, not the design, of existing bills, and adding zeros, the person said. The Central Bank said it had no comment.
‘Raising the White Flag’
Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, said re-denominating banknotes is “raising the white flag. No one wants to do it, but eventually their hand gets forced.”
For now, many Venezuelans live a kind of paradox: they are awash in cash but can rarely afford to buy anything.
In truth, even getting hold of enough legal tender has become an ordeal. Before embarking on their shopping odysseys, weary consumers face long waits at the bank where dwindling numbers of cash machines have strict limits.
Data from the Central Bank show that despite the increased need for bank machines, their numbers have been declining. And whereas only two years ago a typical ATM was restocked every few days, now it occurs every few hours. In addition, many small towns have no machines at all and some 40 percent of the population have no bank accounts, according to Casique.
Permanent Bottleneck
Many, like Jose Marcano, a 26-year-old office messenger, find themselves caught in a permanent bottleneck. Marcano spends hours each week depositing his employer’s cash which he carries in black plastic bags on his motorbike. When he can’t make it to an ATM, he flies through stop signs and traffic lights, afraid of getting robbed.
“Carrying this amount of cash is incredibly dangerous,” he said while feeding stacks of bolivars into an ATM. “You put your life at risk.”
Feeling Like Pablo Escobar
Many say that will only saddle Venezuelans with even more bills until authorities print higher denominations.
Meanwhile, people like Bremmer Rodrigues, 25, who runs a bakery on Caracas’ outskirts, are at a loss over what to do with their bags of bills. Every day his business takes in hundreds of thousands of bolivars, which he hides around his office until packing them up in boxes to deposit at the bank. He says if someone looked in on him, he might be mistaken for a drug dealer.
“I feel like Pablo Escobar,” he said. “It’s a mountain of cash, every day more and more.”
5 Reasons Why This Oil-Rich Nation Is on the Brink of Collapse
From NBC News:
Here are five major reasons why hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans continue to pour into the streets in anger:
1. They're worried Maduro is replacing democracy with a de facto dictatorship.
Maduro was elected to office after the death of Chávez in 2013. His term was met with increasing resistance as consumer prices soared, and in 2014, street protests against his administration turned deadly.
Since then, critics have charged Maduro with inching closer toward dictatorial rule by suppressing people's rights and arresting political enemies.
"Maduro has shown how scared he is that the people will express themselves," opposition leader Henrique Capriles told The Associated Press as the nation was roiled by protests Wednesday.
2. A recall effort to oust Maduro was suspended by election officials.
Some lawmakers in Venezuela's National Assembly have pushed for a recall vote to get Maduro out of office. His term expires in April 2019.
But the country's electoral commission suspended the referendum drive last week after Maduro denounced it as a coup attempt.
In response, protesters and political adversaries have called for Maduro to be placed on trial for supposedly snubbing the country's constitution, which allows for recall elections. Protesters plan a major demonstration next Thursday at the presidential palace in Caracas if "constitutional order" is not restored.
3. The country, in a third year of a brutal recession, has grappled with food and supply shortages.
One of the more startling fallouts from the economic recession has been images of Venezuelans storming store shelves and mobs ripping open food delivery trucks in search of supplies.
Three years ago, as the class divide grew deeper, the crisis grabbed international headlines when people said they had to go to neighboring countries just to procure toilet paper.
More recently, "perhaps gearing up for a potential recall referendum," the government has reinvested in importing necessities, said Alejandro Velasco, the author of "Barrio Rising: Urban Popular Politics and the Making of Modern Venezuela."
"I can go to a store now and find most products I want, even if it's not the variety I want," Velasco told NBC News on Friday from Caracas.
4. Oil prices have tanked, and $11 billion went missing from the state-run oil fund.
Venezuela has been an oil producer since 1914, and eventually amassed the world's largest oil reserves. But as Chavez was able to capitalize on soaring oil prices into the late 2000s, the nation's fortunes went bust when prices began to plummet and its economic policies unraveled.
This month, a new scandal emerged when a congressional commission said Petróleos de Venezuela, the country's state oil company, could not account for $11 billion in funds during 2004 to 2014.
The company has long been accused of corruption, including a $1 billion kickback scheme with ties to American businessmen, Reuters reported.
5. Poor quality of life — from crime to poverty — has spiraled out of control.
Street gangs and organized crime run rampant in Venezuela, making it one of the deadliest in the world last year, according to the U.S. State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council.
The think tank Observatory of Venezuelan Violence said homicides were at 90 per 100,000 people — on par with other Latin-American countries plagued by killings. The U.S.'s homicide rate is about 5 per 100,000.
To improve quality of life and boost people's households, Maduro said Thursday he would sign a 40 percent rise of the national minimum wage.
Whether that can assuage the growing tide of frustration aimed at the government is unlikely, observers say.
Velasco said among community activists there remains a feeling of "a la deriva" — or being adrift — "at sea, alone, frightened, upset and with little expectation that anything will change anytime soon."
When he went to an opposition protest recently to observe, he noted something else: a sense of confusion and disorder as they strategized and "debated among themselves."
"It's the way of Venezuelan politics, ad hoc, never planning beyond short term," he said, "and always as a result, suffering the consequences."