Global Barrel of Laughs


If you don’t already check Setty’s blog compulsively, here’s another reason to. Setty’s especially good at ferreting out online material that ought to be getting much more exposure than it does, and this one’s a real find: a three part series by gringo academic Tom O’Donnell (part 2 here, part 3 here) on the Venezuela-China oil relationship that’s puro lomito.

The reporting is in depth, the nuance and detail lovely, and the picture he paints is beautifully counterintuitive. (The copy-editing, on the other hand, is terrible.)

Turns out the Chinese themselves perceive their oil relationship with Venezuela very very differently from the way the rest of us tend to see it: years of delays and misspent bribes have dialed up Chinese frustration so much that they now feel forced to play hardball in ways they’d spent years avoiding.

It’s always a bit arbitrary picking out one paragraph to highlight out of such a thorough piece. But the part that caught my eye the most is O’Donnell’s contention that the Chinese are so annoyed at chavista fecklessness that, against all odds, the Government of the People’s Republic of China has become a champion of transparency in Venezuela:

The limit, however, for Beijing’s patience finally seems to have arrived around March 2010, and especially by the end of 2010, as the Chinese continued to observe the complete lack of Bolivarian Venezuela’s transparency in spending Chinese money.  This has been a very crucial factor in finally really seriously changing China’s attitudes towards Venezuela in the past year.  They had already been making demands on President Chavez to change his behavior vis-a-vis things he does that tend to provoke the Americans, but now they wanted to also know what had happened to all their money.  Much more specific demands – for transparency and accountability, as well as access to oil contracts – were then placed on Caracas.  With this, Chinese fortunes and participation in the Venezuelan oil sector finally seem to be on a trajectory towards palpable improvement in the last several months.

Really, you need to read the whole thing.

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  1. Guys, not your fault, but I am just sick and tired of reading how these sons of bitches have been stealing all of us blind. I just cannot find the details “lovely” (again, not your fault),

    Just give me a call when the hunting starts, for now, I will just concentrate on improving my bloody inmigrants life.

    Cheers and good luck

  2. You and my mother-in-law, Jau. She’s a briliant, former professor of political science from UCV. I’m just her gringa daughter-in-law, but I’m always surprised that she still becomes shocked at the news of yet more abuses perpetrated by the current regime. Absolutely none of it is surprising. The only reasons worth knowing the particulars anymore is to keep up with how the nonsense is affecting family members in Venezuela, and finally, one day, to hear that the world’s finest megalomaniac has been ousted.

    solidarity & empathy with you all –

      • Indeed – boxes belonging to troublemakers named Pandora, cans filled with worms, sometimes I just can’t help myself. I’m grateful to have found your blog, Quico. Much easier to digest than El Universal with my plodding Spanish skills. The “sin verguenza” shock may be a type of coping mechanism / response to experiencing yet another shade of the ultimate existential shaft: having someone trash your house and not being able to do a damn thing about it. Just might be useful to balance that coping mechanism with an understanding that the Chavez “government’s” modus is “sin verguenza.”

        Dale Chamos-

        • Thanks Gringa, but I am not shocked at all, I am just totally disgusted by the actions of these people. I find the “Global barrel of laughs” title offensive, because, lets face it, they are the ones laughing and we are the ones who have had to leave our country, lost our land, been separated from our family and friends, etc.

          So, I get Quico, he is not to blame, he is probably more detached from Venezuela than me or just trying to cope with the news with humor. But me, well I am just raging mad. Let me tell you that 7 years after leaving the country, I still feel 100% Venezuelan, I miss it and hopefully one day I will be back. I know that the country is in ruins in every way, but still, it is my country. Someday…

          • JAU,

            Sure I use humor as a defense mechanism, but also as a way of keeping the blog readable. It’s just not sustainable to rage day in and day out at full throttle. It’s an attitude that doesn’t lead to an analytical stance, just a stream of expletives.

            And there are plenty of places online where you can turn for a string of expletives about the rrrrrrrrrregimen. The added value of providing yet another outlet for furious venting is very low, the added value of providing a space where readers have permission to laugh, and then pivot to serious analysis, is high.

            And you have to admit, the whole idea that CHINA, of of all countries, is now the thing holding Venezuelan corruption in check is at least a little bit funny.

          • the whole idea that CHINA, of of all countries, is now the thing holding Venezuelan corruption in check is at least a little bit funny.

            takes one to know one.

          • Quico, you are right, yesterday was a bad day…
            I have laughed many times when reading incredibly bad/sad news…
            Its more like a tragicomedy, emphasis on TRAGIC.

          • I completely sympathize with you on this. I am having troubles finding anything humorous on these matters. Through my contacts in Venezuela I get to see a tiny fraction of the corruption involved in contracts with the government and it makes me sick to my stomach. When I think of the billions of dollars stolen/squandered in these 14 years while misery and scarcity spreads across the country, and I see the cancichofer pontificating at the UN in the name of the autocrat about hunger in Africa and the actions of the evil empire across the world, I cannot describe the violent thoughts that come to my mind. Ok, I’ll describe them: I imagine myself and a large group of people surrounding platanote while he is sitting in the centre tied to chair and we all give him a round of coscorrones until he asks for mercy. There you go, I said it.

          • Moraima,
            Coscorrón is actually international Spanish.
            Coquito is Venezuelan Spanish, as far as I know.
            But I wouldn’t like to give coquitos to Chávez, but carajazos.

        • Welcome SG. I think Quico is right: You do open up a Pandora’s box. You are also too kind in your explanation of why the public should express their repeated shock, after 12 years of chaos and mismanagement. Sometimes I wonder if part of that shock mechanism isn’t a cry for attention, or an engagement in some transference from the sociopath in office whose voice has ingratiated every home in nation. Just wonderin’.

    • Venezuelan’s use the expression “sin vergüenza”, or “shameless”, continually. But, they seem to forget what it means. They keep calling the actions of the government “sin vergüenza” and are shocked anew each time. What they don’t get is that the Chavistas ARE shameless and simply don’t care what we think.

      • ….in a country where all that mtters is that you have hte dough, and no one asks how it was earned, it is only logical many of these chavistas are behaving under the incentives, to embezzle and stash as much cash as they possibly can.

        There will come golden bridges and amnistias to polish them up, Time will make all forget and they can buy themselves a nice villa in the Valles del Tuy, get a nice purasangre, and continue their leisure lives in Venezuela…

        Sin Verguenzas! and with no fear or justice or retribution they are.

  3. “The copy-editing, on the other hand, is terrible.”

    In case you’re new to the blog, that line right there, thrown in the middle of a paragraph praising Tom to the heavens, is pure, unadulterated Quico. Had to laugh when I read it.

  4. “The copy-editing, on the other hand, is terrible.”

    Probably because it’s just a blog. That was my excuse too.

    So lets see we have…

    1) someone who writes their own blog
    2) someone who moves in hi level Venezuelan and Chinese diplomatic circles (I am sure he speaks polished Spanish and Mandarin).
    3) someone who claims to have contacts all over the place

    … yet manages not single quote for attribution, nor that I can recall, even a decent anonymous one!!

    But he very knowingly tells us that PDVSA management is in disarray (I’ve been hearing that for 9 years now), that Chavez government institutions are about to collapse (I’ve been hearing that since… when did this blog begin?), and that he is told Venezuela couldn’t survive 6 months with oil at $60 (never mind that survived 2009 with oil at a lot less than that). Why am I not surprised that none of those things caused this blog to doubt the veracity of those articles?

    And just for good measure he has to say the existing Faja projects were “implemented” under a prior government!! The guy isn’t doing much for the New School’s reputation.

      • No.

        As far as I can tell, the owner of this blog has what I would call a genetic predisposition against chisme. He has made it clear, over, and over, and over again. So I don’t get his excitement for blogs that are almost exclusively unsubstantiated, and unprovable chismes from some guy who’s not adding anything to conventional chismografia.

        • I don’t know the guy sure has an impresive resume, and he es not at journalist/blogger like Quico per example so his approach to blogging might be different, i.e. the lack of quotes, that’s a very journalistic technique. He is just sharing what he has heard/seen and his credentials are that he is really involved in the subjec, so you would not think he is an “hablador de paja”.

          And yes, we know a lot of the things there, but not everyone does, and his blog is targeting people interested in oil that might not be aware of the situation behind the scenes in Venezuela.

          And the fact tha the Chinese are demanding transparency does defy conventional chismografia.

          I agree that the editing is not really there yet…

  5. My take on Mr.O’Donnell et al and Mr. Setty’s website is the glaring failure of chavistas
    to keep the oil industry functioning in a productive way. In fact, while Chavez is running around
    boasting (and so are his henchmen) about increasing production-the opposite is and has been occuring mainly to the stupidity and errors of chavistas and even Chavez’s own decisions.
    Yes- examples -there are plenty.
    Supply lines have been disrupted, broken. Oilfield equipment and pipe suppliers -have not been paid- and then Chavez has the nerve to say “Oh, the yanquis stopped delivering pipe to us_-Well yes- because you haven’ t been paying…

    • One can point to criticisms by Mr. O’Donnell and his students,but
      also probably an equal amount from Mr. O’Donnell and his students
      is highest praise of Chavez.
      In my opinion, “you can’t have it both ways”..nothing funny here.

  6. Let me just say that I was of those who said that Chavismo can’t go on mismanaging and pursuing unsustainable missions, and ignoring corruption. That was years and years ago! My common sense belief was that Chavez’s political hold couldn’t survive economic collapse. However, I had no idea how the economic collapse would unfold. I thought that it would be much sooner and much more profound! Instead, it seems to be sustained but so gradual that everyone seems to be focusing on survival and adapting instead of protesting and demonstrating. It also seems to me that it has been getting very difficult people to adapt much further now. A cuñado and a cuñada have moved in with my suerga, and another cuñado has shaved his head in protest because his business is going bad. I can go on, but the point is that I think a breaking point must be getting close! Does anybody know what is going to happen?

  7. Does anybody know what is going to happen?
    I know what I would like to see happen- how about
    melt the tanks for recycling. And, machine guns,
    stop all weapons purchases.
    When the Venezuelan people get their country back
    destroy all the weapons. Put the military to planting trees,
    building roads, cleaning up poor neighborhoods and building


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