Friday, December 26, 2008

Sounds like Communism to me...

Former pro-Chávez mayor of Caracas had gunmen on payroll

By PHIL GUNSONSpecial to The Miami HeraldCARACAS -- The surprise electoral defeat last month of Hugo Chávez's candidate for metropolitan mayor of the capital Caracas -- and the consequent change of city government -- has helped cast light on some of the more unsavory activities that went on under outgoing mayor Juan Barreto.

One result is that a large, though so far undetermined, number of hired gunmen may suddenly be out of a job.

The gunmen, belonging to armed political organizations loyal to the leftist government, are thought to be among some 4,000 city employees who have failed to show up for work since the new mayor, Antonio Ledezma, was sworn in two weeks ago.

''Altogether, we've found more than 9,000 employees on short-term contracts,'' said Richard Blanco, a top city official. ``We're carrying out an investigation to find out who and where they all are.''

According to the new mayor's spokesman, David Pérez Hansen, many of the missing 4,000 worked as bodyguards and motorcycle escorts for leading Chávez supporters, known as chavistas, who had no direct connection with City Hall.

''They include members of parliament,'' Pérez Hansen said.

When Barreto took over the metropolitan authority, in 2004, he put leading members of the Tupamaro urban guerrilla organization in charge of the police.

The Tupamaros are just one of a large number of armed chavista groups based in the 23 de Enero slum district west of the presidential palace.

Plain-clothes gunmen, riding police motorcycles without license plates, immediately began to proliferate in the streets of Caracas.

Control of the police (known as the PM after its initials in Spanish) has now been transferred to the interior ministry, but equipment, including motorcycles and weapons, continues to circulate illegally, officials said.

''More than half the 310 motorcycles assigned to the city authority are still missing,'' incoming Caracas security chief Angel Rangel said. ``The worst thing is that some are alleged to have been used in acts of violence, including robberies.''

Caracas is one of the world's most violent cities, and often sees a couple of dozen murders in a single weekend. Police officers, many of whom are known to have criminal records, are frequently among those accused of the killings.

On Monday, Rangel and his team were ousted from their offices by chavista groups claiming the right to occupy them. Much of the information relating to missing equipment and personnel is now out of their reach. Despite complaints, the national authorities have failed to intervene.
An investigation by The Miami Herald, prior to the change of government, found that some of the chavista gunmen operated out of the Phelps Building, a downtown office block not far from City Hall.

During Barreto's time as mayor, blue Yamaha motorcycles like those used by the PM -- though without license plates -- were usually to be found lined up outside the building. Heavy-set men in civilian clothes, often with police badges and guns, hung around the main entrance.
A close associate of Barreto, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said around 50 were employed by a ''community development coordination body'' set up in October 2005, and based in the Phelps Building.

Their role, the associate said, was political enforcement, ''intelligence work'' and carrying out attacks on the opposition.

''This was also the group that attacked the ambassador,'' he said, referring to an incident in April 2006 in which former U.S. ambassador William Brownfield (now assigned to Colombia) was followed by a gang of motorcyclists who pelted his motorcade with vegetables.

This group was composed of Tupamaros, according to the Barreto associate. But several other 23 de Enero-based groups have also been mentioned in press reports as supplying ''enforcers'' to City Hall during Barreto's time as mayor.

The leader of one of the groups, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed this to The Miami Herald but defended Barreto. He said the policy was, ``more a question of keeping them on the inside so they don't cause so much trouble.''

Julio López Pacheco, who was director of the Metropolitan Police Training Institute at the time, described them as ``quasi-police.''

''I don't agree with it,'' he told The Miami Herald in 2006, ``but I have no influence over that -- the mayor's office is the authority in charge.''

Attempts to reach Barreto for comment on the allegations were not successful. The former mayor has made no public appearance since leaving office, and a message on his cellphone says it has been ``temporarily disconnected.''

City Hall, now in the hands of the opposition, has the feel of a building under siege. Its ground floor is shuttered and the art deco facade splattered with multicolored graffiti.
''We are bad losers,'' is one phrase favored by the graffiti artists. The adjacent Plaza Bolívar has seen acts of violence against opposition activists. Nonetheless, the investigation continues.
On Monday, Richard Blanco, Ledezma's second in command, had a news conference to accuse Barreto's administration of misusing at least $10 million in city funds, paid out for services or equipment that was never delivered.

Blanco declined to estimate how many gunmen, or from which groups, were employed by Barreto, saying his team was still compiling the documentary evidence. ''We will present a report in the next few days,'' he said.

Ironically, the 4,000 missing employees are still entitled to one last payment, under the terms of the contracts signed with the outgoing administration. No one knows how many will show up on New Year's Eve to collect their checks.


September 17, 2005
Harvard hugs a homophobe
Academia never learns. The more outrageous the 'educator,' the more likely he is to turn up at some place like Harvard. This storied institution has taken it over the top, though, by inviting in an authentic thug from Venezuela to "educate" its students. It's no exaggeration to call him that — what else can anyone call a man who chased another man around at Caracas airport with a smashed booze bottle ripped away from the duty—free, to retaliate against a protestor? It's on film.

Today, he's lecturing students at Harvard .

Who is this thug? Why, one of the mayors of Caracas, a guy named Juan Barreto, known for his loyalty to Marxist—Leninist dictator Hugo Chavez, in addition to his utterly 'third—world' lack of self—control reminiscent of dictatorships in the 1970s, or in any case, someone only V.S. Naipaul could do justice to. He sounds just perfect for present—day Harvard.

He's more than a rough guy who can't control himself, though, he is also a rabid homophobe who continually yells about gays. He's been caught on tape screaming about 'patiquines maricones' — derisive vulgar Spanish words for gay people, against his political opponents. It sounds a little odd, because anti—gay sentiment is something often associated with the 'religious right' in the U.S. and based on arguments over laws.

It's different in Venezuela, where it's used to assault people. There, it's an intolerance based on repression and deeply rooted in the culture of Chavismo. Barreto hurls accusations of 'maricon' against people he politically opposes. Some Venezuelans speculate that Barreto is so vehement he seems like an angry closeted gay.
He certainly has a dehumanized view of women — he publicly called women 'animals who bleed once a month.' One wonders how that would go over at the school that raked president Larry Summers over the coals for mere speculation about mental differences between men and women. Barreto's remarks are those of a stone—cold misogynist and theoretically consistent with those of a angry closeted gay. It wouldn't be the first time — this strange culture was prevalent among the Marxist Sandinistas of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Barreto's also a fan of 'naming names.' As mayor of Caracas, he's launched a 'Plan Barreto' program to force local taxi drivers in Caracas to formally train as spies in an 'intelligence network' informing on their riders. To 'defend the revolution' or quite possibly collect information about their personal lives. His idea is not going down well in Caracas.

What is most incredible is that Harvard wants a maniac of this distinction now to lecture them. His hatred of President Bush (Barreto recently announced he was going to 'corral' Bush) and the U.S. is evidently so strong a plus for Harvard that violent personal behavior and rabid homophobia are excusable, evidently. Is this really something that will please the state Barney Frank represents? Do Harvard's many gay organizations know about this? Or does being an enemy of the U.S. permit anti—gay ravings?

This grotesque spectacle at Harvard today is the handiwork of the Venezuelan Information Office, which is Marxist Venezuela's propaganda arm. Staffed by former Global Exchangers, they've put on quite a 'people—to—people' friendship show in Boston this week, spreading disinformation about Venezuela being a wonderful friend and via Citgo, investor to the U.S. — a bizarre sales effort given Hugo Chavez's recent ravings AGAINST Citgo for exactly those reasons. Congressman Bill Delahunt happily propaganized on Chavez's behalf this week, but a more serious retort about the Chavez claims, by a serious—minded Venezuelan can be read here.

A.M. Mora y Leon 03 17 05

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