Adamant: Hardest metal

Police's anti-Chavez mood causes ructions in Venezuela, June 24, 2003, 09:15

Outgunned by criminals, dodging bullets, stones and fireworks at protests, Caracas's Metropolitan Police are under fire from another enemy: the government of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President.

Chavez, a progressive, is threatening to take over control of the 9 000-strong autonomous force for the second time in seven months after officers used tear gas and shotgun pellets on June 13 to disperse a violent stone-throwing mob of Chavez supporters.

The populist president regularly pillories the city police force, run by anti-Chavez mayor Alfredo Pena and known by its Spanish initials "PM", as a murderous, subversive band of coup plotters bent on trying to topple him.

State 'has monopoly of force'
Other regional units controlled by opposition state governors, who under the constitution can run their own police forces, are also viewed by Chavez as hostile. "If I have to take over these police again, I will ... We, as the state, hold the monopoly of force," Chavez said recently.

Venezuela's police and security forces have been sucked into the political maelstrom over Chavez's rule that has kept the world's No. 5 oil exporter in turmoil for over a year. Opponents of the soldier turned politician, first elected in 1998, have attempted a coup, a gruelling two-month strike and waves of street protests to try to unseat him. They accuse him of amassing dictatorial powers in a bid to install a Cuban-style government.

In this topsy-turvy world of polarised politics, Venezuela's police and security forces often appear to operate as rival armies instead of allies in preserving law and order.

Out of control
Chavez ordered the Metropolitan Police force to submit to military control last November. He accused Pena of running the force as a private army and blamed city officers for shooting dead several Chavez supporters during protests.

Opponents condemned this militarisation of the force as a move by the president to neutralise hostile armed groups in the wake of an April 2002 coup that briefly toppled him.

The Supreme Court overturned the takeover five weeks later but the Caracas force is still "policed" by army detachments embedded in their stations. Police officers say their vehicles and heavy weapons have been confiscated, leaving them with only revolvers to confront heavily armed criminals.

Government 'going too far'
"I think the initial move by the government may have been justified because the Metropolitan Police were a bit out of control and had weapons like heavy machine guns and even rocket launchers. But now the government may be going too far," one European diplomat observed.

With the rival security forces all nervously eyeing each other instead of fighting lawbreakers, crime has increased by 30% in Caracas, already one of Latin America's most violent cities. Killings, kidnappings and robberies are rife. - Reuters

The Deadly Hypocrisy of Progressivism

By Scott Jordan
A central tenet of Marxism and all its variants is that the rich—if you must have 'em—must pay more taxes than the proletariat. It's only fair, goes the thinking, that those who have more should pay more… not just proportionally more according to their larger income, but exponentially more through application of a larger multiple: a higher tax rate.

In a linguistic twist that must have given Orwell grim satisfaction, this is known as "progressive" taxation. Now, chew on that term: "progressive." Doesn't it sound nice? Per, its leading definitions are all gauzily forward-thinking and steeped in a heart-swelling sense of advancing modernity towards a brightening future for all humankind:

Main Entry: pro·gres·sive
Pronunciation: pr&-'gre-siv
Function: adjective
Date: circa 1612

1 a : of, relating to, or characterized by progress b : making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities c : of, relating to, or constituting an educational theory marked by emphasis on the individual child, informality of classroom procedure, and encouragement of self-expression

2 : of, relating to, or characterized by progression

3 : moving forward or onward : ADVANCING

Clearly, to be "progressive" is a desirable trait. Who wouldn't want their core tenets labeled in a way that connotes "progress" or "new ideas" or "opportunities" or even "encouragement of self-expression"? But consider the next definition:

4 a : increasing in extent or severity b : increasing in rate as the base increases

Now we're cooking. How apt that the definition that touches on taxation also touches on the relentless advancement of disease!

But imagine a tax that literally did advance disease. And imagine that it was the exact opposite of Marx's prescribed method of taxation: imagine it took its heaviest toll against the meager wealth and even the wretched lives of the poorest people in the world. Can you comprehend the ululations of despair, the keening howls of protest that would emanate from the Left? And what about the children? Won't somebody please think of the children?

Unfortunately, such a tax exists. It has subjected billions to unending, grinding poverty, stolen their best hope for better lives, and sentenced countless millions to death and starvation. It is the most regressive tax of all, yet it is the pet of the Progressives. It is doctrinaire, unquestioning, radical environmentalism.

There is no better example than the ban on DDT, 31 years ago this month. After its discovery, DDT was quickly proven to be a wonder chemical which virtually eliminated disease-bearing and crop-destroying insects. For example, it dropped the incidence of malaria in Venezuela from over eight million annual cases to fewer than a thousand, and in India from more than ten million to about a quarter million.[1]

It stopped an epidemic of typhus in war-devastated Naples. Malaria was even wiped out in the United States' poor rural South thanks to this miracle pesticide. All told, the World Health Organization credited DDT with saving fifty to one hundred million lives in just its first couple decades of use. Yet in a monument to junk science, this eminently safe, lifesaving chemical was banned due to unsupported, irreproducible, practically anecdotal contentions that it caused cancer in humans and disrupted reproduction in birds. (That the ban was issued in the U.S. just two years after the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency by a Republican president is cause for enduring shame for that Party and a reminder for unwavering vigilance against pseudoscience and go-along-to-get-along "moderation" for those of us on the Right.)

To put this in perspective, it has been estimated that perhaps half of all humans who have ever lived died of malaria. Their desperate heirs are today's poor around the world.

For rich societies like the United States and "Old Europe", it is merely a nuisance to address mosquitoes and farm-pests with alternative chemicals and costly abatement programs. But no alternative chemical has been developed which is as effective as DDT, and none is so affordable. Simply, the poorest societies of the world are hit hardest by this shibboleth of those who would call themselves Progressives.

[1] Reason Online: "Silent Spring at 40",

PAHO lauds 10 Latin America countries for negotiating discounts for HIV drugs


13 June – The United Nations World Health Organization's (WHO) regional office for the Americas today praised 10 Latin American countries for successfully negotiating with pharmaceutical companies a price reduction of drugs for HIV/AIDS treatment, saving up to $120 million a year.

"These savings are a demonstration of what can be achieved when governments and the pharmaceutical companies are truly committed to the well-being of the population," said the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Mirta Roses Periago.

Antiretroviral drugs drastically reduce the incidence of opportunistic infections and substantially improve the quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS, but costing $1,000 to $5,000 the regimen is out of reach for the vast majority of developing countries. After the negotiation, prices will fall to between $350 and $690, bringing 150,000 more annual treatments for the 10 countries, PAHO said.

The Ministries of Health of Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay negotiated the agreement in Lima, Peru last week. The negotiations were supported by PAHO, the Andean Health Organism (ORAS) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

According to PAHO, seven manufacturers of generic antiretrovirals offered the biggest reductions. There also were reductions in the prices of one brand name drug manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories. All the companies meet the quality requirements established by the negotiating countries, which are based on standards outlined by the WHO prequalification process.

The latest negotiations are the third to take place in the Latin American and Caribbean region. An estimated 60 per cent of the people in the developing world under antiretroviral treatment live in that region.

Emerging debt-Market skips higher, buoyed by Treasuries

Fri June 13, 2003 01:45 PM ET
NEW YORK, June 13 (Reuters) - Emerging sovereign bonds skipped higher on Friday on the back of a new leap in U.S. Treasury prices, piling more gains onto this year's already sizzling returns of some 23 percent.

The benchmark J.P. Morgan Emerging Market Bond Index Plus 11EMJ climbed 0.74 percent on the day as market heavyweight Brazil jumped 0.92 percent. Brazil's heavily traded C bond BRAZILC=RR notched a 0.125 point gain to 92.125 bid.

U.S. Treasury prices extended their march skywards after data showed a surprise slump in U.S. sentiment, fanning speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve could cut interest rates by a half point this month instead of the quarter point widely expected.

The rate talk helped sink U.S. Treasury yields to fresh record lows, in turn buoying the emerging debt market, where bonds are gauged by the premium investors demand over comparable U.S. Treasures to compensate for risk.

"The U.S. Treasury bond is up almost half a point, so that's driving the rest of the market higher in price terms," said Christian Stracke, head of emerging markets strategy at research firm CreditSights.

Emerging debt has been in fierce demand this year as investors hunt for yields above the rock-bottom ones offered by U.S. Treasuries. Wall Street's optimism for the fiscal policies and reform agenda of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has also fired up the debt, translating into strong gains market wide and a dizzying 46.6 percent return for Brazilian bonds since Jan. 1.

This sentiment has also bolstered Brazil's new $1.25 billion global bond BRAGLB13=RR , sold earlier this week. It notched a heady gain of 2.125 points to 101.875 percent of face value on Friday alone.

"There's strong account buying across the board with little supply," paving the way to a strong performance in new issues, said an emerging debt trader.

Venezuela's bellwether bond, however, bucked the day's sanguine trend, hurt by sliding world crude prices and worries about the repercussions of any effort to swap the nation's debt, said CreditSight's Stracke.

The country's finance minister has said the government is looking to ease a heavy concentration of debt payments this year through possible swaps, direct credits from banks and financing for specific projects.

A Vote on Mr. Chavez

The Washington Post
Thursday, June 12, 2003; Page A38

VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT Hugo Chavez and his opposition finally have agreed, in principle, on an electoral means to end the political turmoil that has all but wrecked one of Latin America's most stable and prosperous democracies. But it's fair to ask whether either side is sincere. The opposition coalition agreed to the deal, brokered by Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, only after a two-month strike intended to force Mr. Chavez from office proved a disastrous failure. Mr. Chavez, in turn, continues to behave as if he has no intention of giving up his attempt to push through a quasi-totalitarian, quasi-socialist "revolution," regardless of what his people may want. While it's possible that this increasingly polarized country could vote its way out of its crisis, it's not likely to happen without sustained pressure from outside.

In essence, the agreement brokered by Mr. Gaviria commits Mr. Chavez to respect his own constitution, which allows for a recall referendum after the midpoint of his current term this August. The terms favor the president: The opposition is first required to collect the signatures of 20 percent of the electorate, or more than 2.5 million voters, and if a recall vote is held opponents must win not only a majority but more total votes than Mr. Chavez obtained when he was last elected. Nevertheless, polls show that Mr. Chavez is at risk. In one recent survey, 85 percent of voters said they would participate and nearly two-thirds said they would support the president's ouster. Not surprisingly, Mr. Chavez is throwing up obstacles. He recently suggested that referendums on a number of mayors and provincial governors would have to be held first, and he has refused to agree on the composition of an electoral commission that must supervise the referendum.

More seriously, Mr. Chavez has pressed on with his attempt to centralize political and economic power in his hands. Last week his supporters in the National Assembly held a bizarre outdoor session -- to avoid the opposition -- in which they adopted new parliamentary procedures that would facilitate the approval of several far-reaching new laws. One would tightly constrict press freedom; another would add new judges to the supreme court. When a first attempt to implement the new procedures this week failed, the president's supporters vowed to try again. Mr. Chavez already has placed a stranglehold on Venezuela's supply of foreign currency, which he is using to choke off imports by the private sector. Gunmen opened fire on a recent opposition rally.

Venezuela's neighbors, including the United States, have watched the crisis in Caracas with growing alarm but have shrunk from taking significant action. A support group of countries created last year to support Mr. Gaviria's mediation, including the United States, Mexico and Brazil, has failed to play a significant role. Now they have another opportunity. Venezuela's president needs to hear from the region's leaders that his persecution of opponents and attempts to dodge a fair referendum are unacceptable. There should be no more putting off Venezuela's crisis: The chance for a democratic solution may soon be lost.

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