Agree To Disagree

 We’ll be starting the next segment of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole in a moment but first a little catch up. Over the weekend every international news outlet couldn’t wait to say something about the continuation of the talks in Mexico between the opposition and the Maduro regime. Everybody wants to sing the praises of dialogue. So where are we really with round two? Well, if you believe former Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez things look promising.”A partial agreement has been reached.” This sounds suspiciously like Maduro’s last few trips to China begging for money, agreements of cooperation…$5 billion future loans…etc. Each time the reality was the Chinese didn’t agree to anything. In these new talks the opposition hasn’t agreed to anything and the odds are they won’t, contrary to popular belief.

 Voice of America reporting on the “partial agreement” was followed by Bloomberg reporting that a key member of the opposition’s negotiating team, Carlos Vecchio’s participation had been veto’d and he would be replaced by Freddy Guevara who was recently released from government detention.Could they be replacing a hard stance by someone like Vecchio with a milder stance by someone that might just be grateful not to be in a Chavismo prison? At this point does it really matter? Will they just announce meetings scheduled to schedule more meetings (UN style)? What do you think?

 And of course we have Maduro showing his real spirit of cooperation in Telesur. Regarding interim president Juan Guaido (or whatever they call him these days) Maduro said “There will be no impunity either in Mexico or on Mars”. Sounds like cooperation to me… Then he said “There is only one legitimate, revolutionary,and constitutional government which is recognized by most of the Venezuelan people.” OK,so we have a partial agreement with people Maduro says have no right to even be there, represented at the table by other than their preferred negotiators, with the old “Sword of Damocles” still hanging over Juan Guaido’s head. Sounds promising to me!

 At least we can agree on one thing, the pressing need to address the Coronavirus.Well, kinda’…The Maduro regime has maintained dueling positions from the beginning.They simultaneously have everything under control and bemoan their inability to respond to the crisis because of “the evil empire”, right wing oligarchs, etc.For the latest positive spin we turn to government media outlet Telesur reporting from various sources that COVAX vaccines,through the WHO, will arrive this week…and also arriving this week will me more of the Russian vaccine SputnikV. Are either of these the vaccines that “arrived” last week, then didn’t, then there was no information?Various Chavistas in various capacities tell us more of the government’s plan to reach 70% vaccinated in October…uhh it was September…and August before that.But hey, they’re already at 30% (not confirmed by the Health Ministry). What can be confirmed through various international sources is that the actual vaccination rate is about 12% and at this rate they should reach 70% in about a year and a half.

 There is some good news coming out of Venezuela though.(It’s not vaccine related) The government, as part of it’s tourism initiative, is allowing the reopening of the casinos after Chavez closed them ten years ago and put 100,000 people out of work. The bad news is that there are no international tourists in Venezuela and all the best casino revenue comes from international tourists. Sounds good though.

 We also have BNN Bloomberg reporting that CNPC (China National Petroleum) is looking at the possibility of resuming some operations in Venezuela. The reports,however, are very preliminary. After doing nothing but pulling back from losing endeavors in Venezuela over the last few years I can’t get too excited about this “very preliminary” report.

 I think it’s time to head Down The Rabbit Hole….

 Chapter 13/ Voting With Their Feet…

 There’s a lot of talk these days about the migration crisis at the southern border of the US. At the same time there seems to be a number of people that decry the state of things in the US and constantly harp on all the things wrong with America. The two issues, one would think, would be at odds. If there was so much wrong with the US it begs the question why are so many people risking their lives to enter America illegally? Especially since the US admits more legal immigrants than any other other country.

 Just as puzzling is the attitude of many people toward Venezuela, it’s dictator Nicolas Maduro, and it’s government,Chavismo,also known as “21st Century Bolivarian Socialism.”During the first decade of Chavismo the entire world was enraptured with it and many hailed it as the way of the future.Now that we’ve had a second decade of Chavismo all those same voices are suspiciously quiet about Venezuela while at the same time calling for the US, the same country they say has so many problems, to open it’s borders. Former Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton, and others, are even calling for a border-less Western Hemisphere.

 For years the entire world has focused on the migrant crisis of Syria.It has had a profound effect, not just on it’s neighboring countries, but on countries all over Europe including the UK. It’s worth noting that the European Union has an open border policy. These things all scream for a closer look, however, we’re not here to delve into why so many people think the US is the place to be and the Syrian migration crisis may have been the driving force behind the UK’s Brexit. Our focus here is on Venezuela so let’s take a look at their migration crisis and it’s effect both internally and externally. It’s also worth noting that up until a couple of years ago many of Venezuela’s neighbors criticized the US for not opening it’s borders.

 Before 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism the number of Venezuelan migrants, worldwide, was negligible. They simply didn’t leave and it’s easy to understand why. Venezuela is incredibly blessed in both natural beauty and natural resources. It certainly had it’s share of issues and inequalities,as most countries, including the US, do. It had a poverty rate of 50% so clearly there was an underlying problem but, in hindsight, most Venezuelans would happily trade that for today’s 90% poverty rate, many of those living in extreme poverty. Remember, the UN classifies extreme poverty as those earning a dollar a day or less. There really isn’t even a category for those millions of Venezuelans earning two bucks a month or less (based on current black market exchange rates).

 Venezuela back then had a substantial middle class and was climbing out of third world status and firmly in the emerging market category. Almost all Venezuelans living abroad were pursuing career or entrepreneurial opportunities.Then, with the arrival of Hugo Chavez and Chavismo,everything changed.

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