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Venezuela News Review 04.06.06

By Aleksander Boyd

• Following in the footsteps of the recent PR fiasco in European soil, Hugo Chavez was again defeated by common sense. Besides Iran, no other OPEC producer agreed with the Venezuelan caudillo in cutting oil production, which is the revolutionary jargon for PDVSA's ever decreasing output. But Chavez's policy merits some scrutiny, for his market-rattling has little to do with consciously managing PDVSA's spare capacity. To the contrary production of the revolutionary energy corporation is declining fast due to rampant corruption, mismanagement, lack of investment, maintenance and technical expertise. As the stream of oil-related income starts to dry Chavez will do whatever it takes to maximise the value of his shrinking production. Ergo energy markets, as other members of the oil cartel have done, would do well in paying no heed to artificial cuts coming out of Caracas.

• The first 30.000 Russian AK103 Kalashnikov rifles have arrived in Venezuela. No statements have been given by Venezuela's military as to the decommissioning or destination of the Belgian FAL rifles currently used by the country's army.

• Smartmatic, the e-voting machines vendor that has served the Chavez revolution so well, is under intense scrutiny in the USA. As I reported nearly a year ago its ownership is hidden behind shell companies in Amsterdam and Curaçao. Given that the venture was registered by relatives of high officials of the Chavez regime and funded by it, there is little doubt as to the impropriety of having such an outfit running through shoddy subsidiaries, read Sequoia, elections in US soil. Chicago officials denounced Sequoia after March 21 elections in Cook County when the machines did not perform adequately and the process was marred with irregularities.

• In another crass attempt at deviating attention from more relevant issues Venezuela is meant to be beefing up its military presence in the border with Colombia. It is hard to imagine how the utterly corrupt and inneficient Venezuelan armed forces are to 'defend' the country against the longest awaited 'invasion' in history.

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