- Venezuela is increasing the royalties paid by foreign oil companies involved in joint ventures in the Orinoco heavy crude belt from 1% to 16.6%. Chavez said:
"The days of giving oil away for free belong to the past . . ."No warning was given to the oil companies of this increase, although I imagine they could see it coming. David Voght, managing director of energy consulting company IPD Latin America, which has offices in Caracas and Mexico City, said:
"Investors are going to think twice about putting their money in Venezuela. If Venezuela wants to attract investments to its oil sector, it will need to be more consistent."
Yeah, right! Chavez has them over a (oil) barrel, and they know it. This is part of Chavez's plan to start "the second phase of the true nationalization of PDVSA and of Venezuela's oil, aiming for full petroleum sovereignty."
- Chavez has recently stated that world oil markets are "oversupplied", and that Venezuela did not plan to raise its oil production. He blamed current high oil prices on political factors connected to the attack on Iraq. I note that one of the major factors in current oil pricing - and one never mentioned by the 'experts' - is the enormous amount of the highest grades of fuel that has been used and is currently being consumed by the U. S. military in Iraq. Not only does the military require the most expensive fuel, it is not too fussy about what it pays for it, especially when it is being supplied on a 'cost-plus' basis by military contractors like Halliburton. It is ironic that the price of oil has increased due to a war waged in part to steal Iraq's oil, and doubly ironic that the war has led to resistance which has actually reduced the amount of Iraqi oil available on the market. Venezuela isn't going to bail out the United States for its own stupid choices.
- Chavez is in a fight with Venezuela's Central Bank to force it to release some of Venezuela's oil reserves to fund social programs. The long-term plan, which must drive the neocons crazy, is to take a more equitable share of oil revenues and direct an increasing proportion of these revenues to social programs to help the poor.
- One of Chavez's ideas, the PetroCaribe initiative, is intended to offer Caribbean countries petroleum products at significantly reduced costs. This is exactly the kind of cooperation by poorer countries that the neocons fear the most. How are American oil companies going to take their obscene profits in the face of Third World cooperation?
- Kevin Pina has an excellent article on the background to the illegal removal of President Aristide from Haiti by the Americans, Canadians and French. It turns out that the timing of the attack on Aristide may have been precipitated by an offer from Venezuela to offer him assistance. Aristide was under continuing assault by the rebels, usually in the form of attacks against local police stations (the fact that the local police were removed by these attacks led to much of the humanitarian catastrophe which recently took place in Haiti as a result of the hurricane, as no local emergency help was available). The plan of the Americans was to have the rebels force Aristide out of office without obvious foreign intervention, but Aristide's resilience, coupled with the threat of help from Venezuela, led to the three countries having to embarrass themselves by kidnapping Aristide.
- Inspired by the toppling of the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, Chavez supporters celebrated 'Indian Resistance Day', the new name for the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day, by toppling a statue of Columbus in Caracas. And finally, Chavez is the 2004 winner of the International Gaddafi Award for Human Rights!
Jimmy Carter has recently written (or here) criticizing the crooked election situation in Florida. Despite court orders and pious promises to clean up his act, Jeb Bush has spent most of the last four years developing his old ways of disenfranchising non-Republican voters (i. e., black voters), and has even developed new methods of ensuring that there is no democracy in Florida. At the last minute, and at a time when it is too late to do anything about it, Jimmy Carter is suddenly concerned about Florida. What has Carter been up to that he hasn't had time to pay attention to his neighboring state of Florida? He has been monitoring election fairness in Venezuela. Under Chavez, Venezuela has no history of election fraud, and Carter's interference in Venezuelan politics was a rather transparent effort to weaken Chavez's government so the opposition could attempt another coup (they never really wanted the recall referendum as they knew they would lose, and they indeed lost in a landslide). All observers found the recent Venezuelan recall vote to be completely fair. If Carter had even the slightest interest in democracy, he wouldn't have been carrying the can for the neocons in yet another American attempt to subvert democracy in a foreign country, and would have been paying attention to democracy in his own country. The crazed desire of Americans to get rid of Chavez blinds people like Carter to real problems in the United States.