Take A Breath

 As soon as I checked the news feed I knew where we had to start today. Every news wire had a headline like “Miami Prosecutors Dismiss Most Charges Against Alex Saab.” Everybody just take a breath. Yes,prosecutors did dismiss seven of eight money laundering charges against Alex Saab, the corrupt Colombian business man believed to be at the center of Nicolas Maduro’s fraudulent financial schemes. However, this is not news. It was totally expected as it was part of the extradition agreement with the Cape Verde authorities. The deal was to only have one charge with a penalty of 20 years in prison and that’s exactly where we are, conspiracy to commit money laundering which carries a sentence of up to twenty years. That said, authorities announced Saab’s arraignment has been postponed until November 15th so let’s move on.

 Venezuela’s Health Minister announced the “entrance green light” program has begun in malls and pharmacies around Venezuela. It’s an app that allows for scanning smart phones with the vaccination status of individuals connected to the patria system. How this will work out is anybody’s guess since at least a third of the country isn’t registered with the “Carnet de la Patria” (homeland card) since it provides a mechanism of control for the ruling Maduro regime. So far over 400 malls and pharmacies have signed up for the program.

 Ahead of ICC (International Criminal Court) Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan’s visit to Venezuela, demolition began at Cabimas prison. Most skeptics (like me) think this is an attempt by the Maduro regime to whitewash locations which might give an unfavorable impression of Chavismo’s administration.

 You may recall that last week “The Chicken” entered a last ditch effort to prevent his extradition to the US via an appeal that most thought would be denied. Well it was denied as it was just resubmitting the same appeal that had already been denied twice.

 We also have the President of Fedeagro, the agricultural association, telling us that the recent increase in fuel prices, like a 20X increase, is causing major problems for agricultural producers and not just in transportation costs to get products to market. It’s hitting them everywhere including their ability to pay for fuel for storage tanks and much needed generators.

 There was also an interesting statement from economist Asdrubal Oliveras. We all know that one of the major reasons Venezuela has experienced a decline in inflation has been the de facto dollorization of the country with well over 60% of transactions occurring in dollars, not bolivars. This started as soon as Maduro relaxed restrictions on using US dollars inside Venezuela, which was previously illegal. Now that people can use dollars it has reduced the use of the massively devalued bolivar thus reducing inflation. They are still mired in hyperinflation entering a fifth year now but 2,500% inflation is better than a million. Mr. Oliveras suggests that in order to take the next step the Maduro regime needs to allow banks to make loans in dollars, which they are currently prevented from doing. If allowing the use of dollars in day to day transactions had a positive effect it would make sense to utilize the same mechanism even further. I guess the key phrase is “It would make sense.”  The Maduro regime is not exactly known for “making sense.”

 And then we have Human Rights activist Marina Alvarado reminding us that former ICC Chief Prosecutor’s report on Human Rights violation and possible crimes against humanity stated there were “enough reasons to believe crimes against humanity were committed in Venezuela.” As we’ve said before, it’s just a shame she held the report until she was out of office as she has been covering for the Maduro regime for years.

 El Pais (Spain) reports the former Director of Production for PDVSA (national oil company) says there is $1.7 million in a Swiss account as well as another $2.5 million tied to former PDVSA president’s cousin and authorities are looking for a lot more. Mr. Prada,at the center of this, is believed to currently be in Canada. Funny, when we hear about a few million dollars stolen by corrupt Chavistas it almost goes unnoticed because they have looted hundreds of billions.

 And in the never ending stream of Alex Saab stories we have Saab’s defense team asking the judge assigned to the case to restrict media access. They must think they’re in Venezuela. We also have AP reporting that the Venezuelan government offered to release imprisoned Americans in exchange for Alex Saab’s release. Corrupt business man (there seem to be plenty of those involved with Chavismo) Raul Gorrin reportedly tried to broker the deal. Gorrin has a few legal difficulties of his own. Oh, and FYI, Alex Saab’s lawyer says he will plead “not guilty” when arraigned.

 Insight Crime has a new twist on something we thought we knew. It’s common knowledge that South American drug rings use Venezuelan mules to transport drugs, primarily to the US but now we have the Nigerian drug rings getting in on the action using Venezuelan mules to carry drugs to Europe.

 Then we have Spy Talk giving us this headline which is self explanatory. The Biden administration “…pretty much leaving Venezuela to stew in it’s own rancid juices – a pity for it’s suffering citizens.”

 And from Mises Wire we have the news that Southeast Venezuela has pretty much abandoned the beleaguered bolivar. Since 60% or more of transactions are now effected in US dollars this isn’t exactly breaking news but what’s different is they’re not using dollars. Many transactions are being made using gold flakes and small gold nuggets, usually wrapped in bolivar notes. They also mention that the bolivar has lost 73% of it’s value this year alone…and we’re not done!

 And speaking of nuggets, how about this little nugget? Responsible Statecraft had a report on something we covered in detail in Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole. When the Chavistas took over Venezuela had about $32 billion in gold reserves around the world. Hugo Chavez repatriated almost all of it back to the country to supposedly “protect it for the people.” Currently the gold reserves stand at less than $5 billion and dropping. So, where did it all go? Well, we know where some of it went. The Maduro regime has been using gold to pay Iran for condensate that they need to produce gasoline now that they can’t produce condensate themselves. They pay with swaps for crude when they can and make up the difference with gold. We’ve said it before…they won’t stop until it’s all gone.

 On that cheery note…see ya’ tomorrow.

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