Venezuela Gives the Most

by bicyclemark

I read a recent report from the AP that Venezuela gives more money to Latin American countries than the United States. An interesting fact, if it proves true.

Through direct investment, aid, and grant programs, Hugo Chavez’s government has offered 8.8 billion dollars for development and infrastructure to countries like Bolivia and Nicaragua.

Of course it can be said that through private companies and supragovernmental organizations like the world bank, the US provides more funding… but any student of history knows that a loan from the world bank is more often a curse then a blessing.

For all the criticism and hate directed towards Chavez’s administration, seeing this fact is an example where they’ve done right for the region. By right I mean leading the way to provide an alternative to the US influence and domination over the region. If nothing else, making it OK for Latin American nations to stand up and say “we can do things our way” instead of feeling dependent on international loan schemes or empty private investment promises.

bm130 Oil Costs; Iran, Venezuela, Energy Security and the Death of the US Auto Industry

by bicyclemark

If you run down the list of top oil exporters in the world, each one has a special story that somehow relates back to the US. Venezuela and Iran are no exception, as they occupy important spots on that list. Meanwhile the oil companies hide behind prices while posting record profits. And in the background you can hear the deafening silence, as the US auto industry goes silent. DRock, the perennial DC insider, explains it all.

Useful Links:

PBS NewsHour Special on GM
Oil Producers/Exporters Listing
Common Dreams article on GM going into the future

Additional note: This one was produced specially as a fill in show for Madge Weinstein on Sirius Stars.

bm115 A Visit to Venezuela, the Observations of Steve Shalom

by bicyclemark

It becomes hard to tell what is really happening in Venezuela with all the conflicting reports coming from the United States government, US media, the international press, and the country itself. How you view the situation seems to hinge on whether you are pro-Chavez or anti-Chavez. While I was in New Jersey in December, my former professor and good friend Steve Shalom informed me that he was going to be part of a group from my alma mater, paying a special visit to Venezuela this month. He recently returned and in the podcast I bring you his observations; the good, the bad, and the still-too-early-to-tell.

Music –
Various songs from Luis Silva
Los Amigos Invisibles – Esto es lo que hay
Un Solo Pueblo – Venezuela

Also: Panel Discussion on US Drug Policy and Latin America at NYU coming up. Anyone interested and in the area, read about it over at the LatinAmericanist blog.

As discussed in the show, here is the photo from the cover of the NY Times, I labelled it.
Photo Hosted at

Its true, I admire Chavez

by bicyclemark

I don’t like bullies. I don’t care for military things. I don’t even dig people who are full of themselves and constantly making things “about them.” But as ye dear readers probably know, I’m an admirer of Hugo Chavez. I don’t love everything he does, I don’t even trust him 100%, but still, he is the champion underdog on the international scene.

I’ll explain further. Over the past decades, plenty of Latin American presidents have come and gone, and during their tenure they’ve licked the boots of the United States governments, bending over and filling their pockets with the money of multinational corporations, while the masses have remained poor and in many cases, gotten poorer. Upon further reflection, it’s probably hard to go against the whims of the United States and those companies, if you piss them off you risk loosing their investment, their assistance… you lose that lifeline… it’s a big risk.

But in 1998, Hugo Chavez came along, in his red beret and military uniforms, and he swept into office. And since that day, the wealthy of Venezuela, the multinationals, and yes… a large segment of the middle class in Venezuela, have hated him. And I mean hate. HATE HATe. I’ve spoken to some who would take up arms against him, and well – some did a few years ago. They don’t like how he’s friendly to the hated leaders of the world, like Castro. Myself, I wish he wasn’t such a strong supporter of Zimbabwe’s president, but like I said, it’s not that I love all his decisions – but I love the spirit of defiance. And defy he continues to do.

So now there are elections, and as much as some powerful people would like to see the upper class take to the polls and vote him out. It hasn’t happened. Not to mention the fact that they boycotted the vote to begin with, with doesn’t help when you want to get elected. And they cry corruption, which hey – could be possible. But you know, with all those international observers saying the vote is legit, it becomes harder and harder to accuse the big guy of rigging the election.

Anyway I’m glad we’ve got a Chavez in this world. Later on, he might do some questionable stuff. I also fear he won’t step down once his term is up. But then again, that kind of stuff happens indirectly in most democracies anyway (you know, somehow staying in power forever). And I have to say, the Venezuelan governments initiatives to help poor communities of the united states by offering cheap heating oil is impressive. I’ve heard the reports that in the Bronx it’s already happening… if you work for the government of Newark or Detroit, or whatever city full of struggling people, call Citgo and get your community involved in this deal, it’s something the world could use a little more of — compassion.