It was a slow weekend for my news feed.There were plenty of Telesur articles putting out the usual blather from Chavismo and most of the rest seemed fixated on the next round of massive devaluation we discussed last week, six more zeros being lopped off the currency effective October 1st. A few also teased the talks beginning in Mexico this week between the opposition and Chavismo. You know where we stand on the possibility of substantial success there but hope springs eternal.
One that did catch my eye was an Insight Crime piece on El Koki being in hiding. The article didn’t intrigue me for the fact that the gang leader of the Cota 905 two day shoot out with government forces is still in hiding nor was my interest piqued by the report of 42 gang members arrested and dozens killed. When I read the article my thought was “What’s next?” The reason El Koki and his boys controlled four neighborhoods/areas of Caracas was that territory was ceded to them by the government as a ‘peace zone’. The area(s) would more or less be self-policed by the gang(s) with basically no police involvement.When El Koki became too powerful and eventually embarrassed the government by controlling the area encompassing SEBIN (one of the secret police groups) headquarters the government was forced to act. The big question of “What’s next?” leads us straight to,as the article proposed as a possibility, the colectivos. The’ colectivos’,motorcycle mounted,loosely government controlled, militia would follow the Chavismo MO. They can take the territory previously ceded to the ‘peace zone’ and turn control over to the ‘colectivos’. There is no benefit to the Chavistas putting the police back in charge but if they give that power to the ‘colectivos’ it might ensure their loyalty, at least for a while.
In keeping with our “What’s next?” theme let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole. You’ll see what I mean…..
Chapter 9/ El Dorado
Chavismo has managed to destroy healthcare, the national oil company, the power grid and access to fresh water,the currency (twice over),food security, transportation security, and the hopes and dreams of an entire generation.So, “What’s Next?” In the interest of being an equal opportunity destroyer Maduro created “The Mining Arc” causing the rape of the environment and the simultaneous exploitation and slaughter of indigenous peoples.Since they basically destroyed everything else they certainly couldn’t leave the environment and indigenous peoples alone.If you haven’t heard about this you’re not alone.It’s puzzling how an American company can let a few drops of oil hit the ground in Western Nebraska or an American soldier can be accused of violating someone’s civil rights in Afghanistan and it’s all over the news yet Maduro can poison rivers and kill the Pemon people and the environmentalists and human rights groups are largely silent.Please, allow me to enlighten you.
As the economy collapsed around them many Venezuelans had to make a geographic change to survive. Millions left the country causing the largest migratory crisis in the history of the Western Hemisphere. For thousands of people unable or unwilling to leave the country they only knew they had to go somewhere, do something.Similar to the American West in the 1800’s the best option seemed to be heading to the mining region(s). For those who caused it, the Chavistas, this also seemed like a good idea.As we have seen previously,the Maduro regime,in it’s desperate search for money to pay the military and ensure their loyalty,explored all options and exhausted all options. I’ve heard them compared to meth addicts who have already gone through all their money,sold everything they had of value, and then began destroying the house they lived in so they could rip the copper wiring out of the walls, sell it,and get what they could to buy themselves a little more time. A perfect analogy.
Southern and Eastern Venezuela, the area bordering Brazil and Guyana,on the fringes of the Amazon,is a remote,and in many cases,spectacularly beautiful region. Colonial explorers traveled up the Orinoco river searching for the mythical city of gold, El Dorado.Unlike the gold rush days of the American old west, where huge gold strikes would cause everyone from everywhere to descend on areas it seemed gold was just “lying around for the taking”(which we all know was never true),the gold in this region,while plentiful, is dispersed over a large area.
When the oil business was doing well gold,and in turn the region, was mostly an afterthought consisting of relatively small mining concerns and artesanal mining by the indigenous Pemon people.Area towns were quaint tourist spots and indeed many Pemon made a living servicing tourism. As the economy,and society as well, collapsed tourists stopped coming for a variety of reasons (security,accessibility, etc.) and more and more people,Pemon included, turned to mining.
As you might expect, with the rise in mining activity,the criminal activity increased. Extortion occurred in every aspect of life in the region from the supply chain, the mining activities,the transport routes,and the markets.Everywhere along the line everybody paid…and got paid. Local gangs, mostly run by Pranes (a criminal organization stemming from the prison system),the syndicates (organized crime), Colombian guerillas (both the ELN and demobilized FARC groups) all extracted a price.Local police and military were also involved.It was,and is, The Wild, Wild West.
To be continued….
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