In Full Swing

 We had a lot going on in the world of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism the last couple of days so I’ll put off giving you some “Bullets” from Down The Rabbit Hole until tomorrow. Let’s get to it. We have had a few things hanging out there, among them the next round of talks in Mexico between the Maduro regime and the opposition, some pending extraditions,and of course, the ever present political persecution. They all became connected in the last couple of days and here’s how it went down.

 Of the group of pending extraditions out there the most prominent had to be that of Alex Saab, business man (also classified by Chavismo recently as a diplomat as well as named a negotiator in the ongoing Mexico talks), and at the center of a lot of shady deals involving Maduro and other Chavistas. Quick refresher, Saab,wanted by the US on various charges, had avoided going to any countries with extradition treaties with the US until a trip to Iran caused his plane to set down in Cape Verde, Africa for refueling. He was arrested,the US was notified, and he was detained pending extradition. It’s worth noting that since that happened the Maduro regime has purchased an aircraft capable of traveling from Caracas to Tehran without refueling as there are a number of high ranking Chavistas, Maduro included, the US wants to talk to.

 The Chavistas invested a lot of time,money, and whatever political capital they could to attempt to block the extradition. Alex Saab knows where some bodies are buried, so to speak, maybe a lot of ’em. It’s also pretty much a given that Saab is a very astute businessman and wouldn’t get involved with the Chavistas without having some chips to cash in if things went south. Well, the other day things went south and Alex Saab was finally put on a plane to the US. As soon as that happened we were treated to Full On Chavismo and the Chavista machine was In Full Swing.

 First they went public decrying the “kidnapping of Alex Saab” by the US. At the same time they announced that they were suspending participation in the Mexico talks out of protest and since he was a member of the negotiating team (even though he was named to the team after his arrest in Cape Verde). It’s also worth noting that although Alex Saab was given a diplomatic passport he never participated in any diplomatic endeavor. Those of us who have observed the past failed efforts at dialogue between the opposition and Chavismo knew they were just waiting for a reason to kick the table and withdraw. Now they had it and, of course, they could blame the US.

 Within hours of the news of the extradition we had another example of Chavismo In Full Swing. The CITGO executives, under house arrest in Caracas, were rearrested by SEBIN (part of the three-headed monster of Maduro’s secret, ‘or not so secret’, police. Another quick refresher, CITGO is the only real remaining international asset of value left at government owned oil company PDVSA. When it began to look like PDVSA was in danger of losing control of CITGO due to bond defaults the “CITGO Six”, six high ranking CITGO executives, were lured to Caracas from their residences in the US under the pretense of an emergency executive meeting in Caracas and were arrested by SEBIN as they got off their respective flights. They were thrown in prison for a couple of years on the usual charges of corruption,etc. until under international pressure the Chavistas allowed them to be transferred to house arrest in Caracas. Now, with the extradition  going down, Chavismo may need some bargaining chips so Boom!, no more house arrest. It’s back into the hands of the secret police.

 Just before the extradition was officially announced, VTV (government media) announced that the Venezuelan government was opening an investigation into journalist Roberto Deniz for promoting hate (there’s that ‘hate law’ again), defamation, and extortion. Another refresher, Deniz was one of two lead investigative journalists who broke the story of Maduro’s involvement in the fraudulent CLAP government food program. Remember that one? The products, mainly from Mexico, were funneled through a company tied to Maduro and were inferior quality products sold at inflated prices. When ArmandoInfo broke the story the operation in Mexico was quickly shuttered and a lot of the products began to come from Turkey. Coincidentally, at the same time the Maduro regime announced increased economic ties with Turkey. And who was at the center of all this? Why that would be Alex Saab. FYI, Roberto Deniz wisely fled Venezuela before the Chavistas could get their hands on him or he would probably be languishing in prison.

 And almost lost in the middle of all this is Merco Press reporting that the Spanish government has green lighted the extradition of a former Venezuela Government Treasurer suspected of taking $65 million in bribes from corrupt businessman Raul Gorrin.Maybe now we’ll see what other corrupt Chavistas are involved in yet another scandal.

 So where does all this leave us? Caracas Chronicles had an interesting piece on this over the weekend postulating that Chavismo has been preparing for this from day one (? day one of the Mexico talks or day one of the Saab arrest?). Saab surely has plenty of information he can use to leverage his position with the US so you can look for the Chavistas to round up more political prisoners so they’ll have some cards to play. It’s also possible that all this may heighten the need to negotiate for the Chavistas, although I have my doubts on that score. I think it’s also worth remembering we have other extraditions hanging out there. Don’t forget about “the chicken”.

 With all this going on you could almost forget about all the Maduro regime’s human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity. Well, we won’t!


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