Anti-Chavista billionaire

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Apr 29 23:40:55 MDT 2002

On that gusano Cisneros, it should be noted that he maintains especially
close relations with AOL Time Warner, now headed to all intents and purposes
by Republican banker Dick Parsons.

Cisneros and the TW side of the company were/are partners in HBO Olé, which,
as should be obvious just from the name, has been a particularly odious
exercise in condescension and cultural imperialism.

Cisneros and the AOL side of the company are partners in AOL Latin America,
which, as should be obvious just from the name, has been a particularly
odious ... etc.

[An aside -- my *FAVORITE* AOL Latin America annecdote: I checked out the
AOL Argentina service (or to be more precise, the AOL service in what used
to be Argentina) shortly after 9/11. And on the cover page of their news
section I found some weirdo black-and-white drawing of some medieval guy,
purportedly Nostradamus, with the following "quote":

* * *

In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress
endures, the great leader will succumb,
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning.

- Nostradamus 1654

* * *

[Now, since Nostradamus DIED in 1566, his authorship of that passage almost
100 years later would have been doubtful at any rate. But in addition, the
specific passage in question never pretended to be anything but a fake. It
was concocted out of whole cloth by a college student in the late 90's to
show (no small irony here) how a sufficiently vague and allusive passage
could  be interpreted as a prediction of just about anything. In the days
following 9/11, some wise guy picked it up and put it in an email, which
eventually got translated and thus became the chief item on AOL Argentina's
news service.

[I repeat: this *fraud* is what was being presented by AOL Time
Warner --safeguard of the journalistic "integrity" of the likes of CNN,
Time, People, and Fortune-- as "news" to the Argentine subscribers of its
namesake flagship service].

As for the rest of it, I'm not sure the AOLTW partnerships with Cisneros are
going all that well. AOL is pumping all the additional $$ (to the tune of
$70 million a year or so, but, hey, who is counting!) into AOL LatAm. This
creates a great accounting awkwardness for it will, sooner rather than
later, force AOL TW to place AOL LatAm, and its never-ending supply of red
ink, onto AOL-TW's consolidated balance sheet.

As for AOL Olé, it was one of those Rube Goldberg deals former TimeWarner
uberfuehrer Jerry Levin  was famous for, and through which he put together
the TW conglomerate, where multiple layers of partnerships and ownership
stakes make it impossible to decipher what is going on. In addition --or so
rumor has it-- Olé has ceased to be, but who knows, in an outfit like AOLTW.

And speaking of the AOLTW conglomerate, the stock just crossed $19 -- on the
way down. That's supposedly less than the *book* value of the Time Warner
assets ALONE. Which means AOL is recognized by the market as having negative
value, the Wall Street equivalent of a Black Hole.

Which is  nothing to get excited about -- I was reading this morning about a
dot-com --I think in the online digital music "space," as we way hip web
site hacks like to say-- with virtually no liabilities whose market cap is
like 1/3rd of its cash on hand, never mind its book value. Meanwhile the
travel monopoly dot coms, if I remember right, are trading at like 1,000
times earnings, on the basis of the fine prospects of what is basically a
bankrupt industry, the airlines.

I mention this because over the past day or two I've been  reading some
posts on the list about "market socialism." You know the spiel, the market
brings rationality and efficiency and responsiveness and so on. Sure it
does. Just take a glance at the Wall Street casino.

All this market socialism stuff comes out of academia and all I had was a
couple of years of college without as much as an associate's degree before I
got bored, so I'm certainly not *qualified* to take on  the erudite
arguments for this schema cooked up by the professoriat.

But every time I see an oxymoron like "market socialism," it reminds me of
the joke my friend Daniel Alegría used to love to tell back in 1985 or 1986
in Nicaragua. When I first met Daniel he was a lieutenant in the Ministry of
the Interior, and an aide to Commander of the Revolution Tomás Borge, but I
think by 1986 or so he was probably a captain. Nevertheless, I always called
him "The Happy Lieutenant" -- after the famous book with a similar name by
Haviera Hollander. "The Happy Captain" just didn't have the same ring. But
I digress.

Anyways, Daniel loved to lampoon the "mixed economy" rap prevalent among
many Sandinistas at the time.

    "Our country," he would say, "has neither capitalism nor socialism, but
a unique Nicaraguan blend combining the worst aspects of both." We all
laughed at the joke, mostly because the alternative would have been to cry.
The characterization was right on the money.

    And --in my opinion-- there really was nothing Nicaragua, in and of
itself, could do about that situation. Besieged by imperialism, it was out
of options and alternatives. The reason for THAT didn't have to do with
Nicaragua, but rather with the nature of the socialist bloc headed by the
Soviet Union, and the character of "really existing socialism," at least as
it manifested itself to people down at the bottom of the "really existing"
socialist food chain in places like Nicaragua.

    And it was, of course, captured --perfectly-- in another one of the
Happy Lieutenant's jokes, one more joke that we all laughed at because it
was so devastatingly true. And it had to do with the difference between
capitalism and socialism (as practiced by the bureaucrats who ran the USSR
and other East European countries).

    "The difference between capitalism and socialism," Alegría would say,
"is that capitalism is a system based on the exploitation of man by man.

    "Under socialism," he explained, "it is the other way around."

    I don't, of course, believe for a second that this is true of any
society genuinely deserving the adjetive socialist, but I do believe it
captures --perfectly-- the difference between capitalism and bourgeois
"market socialism."


----- Original Message -----
From: "Chris Brady" <cdbrady at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 3:38 PM
Subject: Anti-Chavista billionaire

There was a wonderful portrait of an anti-Chavista billionaire in the
"Money & Business" section of Sunday's New York Times.  I'll give you
the headline, the URL, and some quotes below:

Coup? Not Cisneros's Style. But Power? Oh, Yes.

New York Times, April 28, 2002

Gustavo A. Cisneros "a media tycoon and one of Latin America's most
powerful figures",

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