Much Ado About Nothing

 We’ll continue with “Scattershot” in Down The Rabbit Hole in a sec but first… you may have noticed that, conspicuous in it’s absence, we had nothing last week about the big talks between the Maduro regime and the opposition resuming in Mexico. It was by design, not oversight. The talks did resume but it was,in the words of The Bard, “Much ado about nothing.” First we had AP telling us that the talks had resumed. Then we had AP telling us the talks had been suspended due to the regime not showing up. Then we had pretty much everybody telling us the talks had…uhh…re-resumed. We even had Sputnik heralding the arrival of the regime delegation with no mention of their no show or why they weren’t there.Then, as the talks progressed,France 24 told us that “Both Sides Report More Progress.” Then it was all summed up in a piece by Science Norway (Norway being the mediators of this sideshow). Researchers interviewed both sides. Both are skeptical and don’t trust the other party’s intentions. They predicted there were two possible outcomes, one where they can’t reach an agreement and both sides walk away, and one where they reach an agreement and move forward with free and fair elections and the removal of sanctions. Uhh…isn’t that the point of this whole fiasco? The talks concluded with both sides making happy talk about the progress and looking forward to the next round of talks. How is this any different from the UN meeting to schedule another meeting?…other than we don’t have to reference any “dignitaries”. Much ado about nothing.

 How about a little vaccine talk? Reuters tells us that the Venezuela National Academy of Medicine is concerned about the use of the Abdala vaccine from Cuba citing a lack of research on safety and efficacy. Then we have Prensa Latina (Cuba) telling us that 900,000 doses of the Abdala vaccine had arrived in Venezuela. They went on to say that Nicolas Maduro approves of the use of Abdala.I’m sure that makes everyone feel better. The article went on to tout Abdala’s “Emergency Use Certification.” Is that like “In Case Of Fire Break Glass?” They also informed us that Abdala requires three injections. In a follow-up Prensa Latina reported “Venezuela Intensifies Covid-19 Vaccination Program.” We have VP Delcy Rodriguez and other Chavistas telling everybody to simply go to the government vaccine centers to get their first dose. I think those are the same centers where everyone was instructed to go for their second dose but everybody that went found there was nothing available …”Come back tomorrow.” Oh, and the Chavistas still maintain they can get to a 70% vaccination rate by the end of October, delayed from October 1st. We’re currently at about 15%.

 In the “I think I spoke too soon” category, Arkansas Online showed a photo of a new 10 bolivar banknote. I haven’t seen any other “reported sightings” nor any articles heralding the arrival of the notes as they’ve done the last two times…??

 And how about Telesur telling everyone to expect no local financial service for two days prior to the launch of the “Digital Bolivar.” That’s after Bank of Venezuela’s week long outage… Would anyone really notice?

 Then we have Global Voices sounding the alarm on CEIEC,one of China’s largest Military Electronics and Technology contractors, having a presence in Venezuela since 2005. They provide the Chavistas with services including surveillance and internet filtering.

 And then we have an interesting counterpoint to last week’s reporting on the xenophobic goings on in Chile (see blog post “Can’t Even Give It Away”). Caracas Chronicles tells us that with the November elections looming in Argentina the votes of the over 300,000 Venezuelans eligible to vote are actively being courted by non-government candidates, the government candidates being the “Kirshneristas”. Perhaps that’s because,as in the US, Venezuelan migrants have seen the effects of socialist policies up close and personal.

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

 ….In an attempt to play catch up most carriers began to reduce exposure by reducing flights in and out of Venezuela. Airlines that had three or four flights a day to Caracas cut back to one. Those with daily flights cut back to one or two a week and so on. The idea was if they could maintain the pace of bolivar to dollar conversions they could reduce the balance owed. Well,the Chavistas simply reduced the pace of conversions and maintained the $4 billion balance in Venezuelan banks. What made the situation even worse was that the airlines were required to pay for refueling in Caracas in dollars. The Venezuelan government wouldn’t accept their own money.

 Air Canada tried various negotiating strategies to continue servicing Venezuela. In a last ditch effort to continue doing business they asked the Chavistas, if they weren’t going to allow enough currency conversions to reduce the burdensome balance, at least allow them to pay for fuel in Venezuela in Venezuelan currency. Remember, at the time it was illegal to transact business in Venezuela in anything other than the bolivar (“the law is what we say it is”). The Chavistas said NO! That was the last straw for Air Canada and they discontinued service to Venezuela.

 Air Canada wasn’t the first to discontinue service to Venezuela and they wouldn’t be the last. Many tried to hang on as long as they could due to Maduro’s threat that any airline that completely stopped flying to Venezuela wouldn’t be allowed back in but most eventually threw in the towel. A market that used to be serviced by dozens of airlines is now down to 7 or 8 carriers, depending on who you talk to. When the auto industry hit a $4 billion balance as a group they followed the same pattern although most still maintain a minimal presence.There are almost no new cars produced in Venezuela now, down from a couple hundred thousand. Ditto for the pharmaceutical industry and so on.

 We’ve touched on expropriations but here are some shocking numbers. During the Chavez years Venezuela expropriated 1,147 companies or their facilities. Under Maduro information is harder to come by but estimates now put the total expropriations for the Chavismo years between 1,800 and 2,000.Compare that to fellow socialist ally Ecuador. Over the same period they expropriated less than 10% of Chavismo’s number.

 To be continued….

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