Forced Restraint

Before we head Down The Rabbit Hole there was one of those “where we go from here” pieces in Caracas Chronicles that was pretty good. It posited that with the opposition still unable to coalesce any real force behind Juan Guaido, even with the wake up call in the Barinas revote, and the Chavistas still in control of 19 of 23 governor’s seats,they may be looking at a year of forced restraint for 2022.The reason being that their primary focus remains sanctions relief, although it would probably come from the EU with the US more or less staying the current course.

 In order to obtain any relief they must do two things.The first is to continue dialogue with the opposition…relatively easy.The next is a bit more challenging as it goes against their nature and that is dialing back violent repression.Even without any mass demonstrations they still have to tread lightly with the ICC (International Criminal Court) investigation lurking out there. What it will yield is anybody’s guess but the Venezuela Prosecutor General is likely to offer up a few low to mid-level scapegoats to show the international community they are serious about reforms.

 That still leaves us with the unresolved issue of free and fair elections. Chavismo needs to do a balancing act between respect for the Chavez legacy and,as we saw in Barinas, Chavez fatigue. The economy has stabilized but at a very low level. (It couldn’t keep falling forever even though it’s been going down for about eight years) The main reason is the de facto dollarization occurring borne out of necessity. In order to attract any outside participation in rebuilding their collapsed oil industry they needed to show at least a semblance of a more business friendly atmosphere hence the easing of restrictions on the dollar. While this has stemmed hyperinflation and allowed the economy to slow it’s free fall it hasn’t really helped the general population. The minimum wage is still under 2 bucks a month (paid in bolivares) so if you have dollars you’re OK but if not it’s still a struggle to survive so the migration exodus will continue.

 With no elections in the near term the Chavistas have a little time to deal with the free and fair elections issue, especially since the Mexico talks were put on hold when they had their temper tantrum over the extradition of Alex Saab, Maduro’s financial schemes web master. To get any sanctions relief from the EU they will need to show something is being done …the question is what?

 They have shown a propensity for the communal state which may effect whatever electoral reforms they enact. There’s also the possibility they may revive the Constituent Assembly which was widely criticized as it was installed unconstitutionally. If Chavismo wants to prevail in any remotely democratic elections they will have to structurally change things to avoid the repression of the past.

 My guess is that even with the positive effects of easing of restrictions on the economy and the de facto dollarization the Chavistas will revert,at some point, to a more heavy handed government approach. (like they’re not heavy handed now?) They are who they are…Marxists…and to allow free markets and free elections (down the road) simply isn’t in their nature. Meanwhile the Venezuelan people will continue to starve and die…unless they flee.

 P.S. All public services are still a disaster,albeit a man made – Chavista made disaster and due to the brain drain they won’t be fixed any time soon.

 And in the news feed we also have Telesur (government media ) telling us that the Foreign Minister is railing against “unscrupulous politicians …shameless plundering” etc. no mention of Chavismo’s shameless plundering though…

 In yet another example of Chavismo’s priorities we have The Drive reporting that Venezuela’s military is showcasing “The Thing”, a combat vehicle with six M50 guns protruding in all directions etc. As proud as they are, this design was retired by the USMC in 1970. Still, the Chavistas would rather spend money on toys like this than spend it to help the people.

 Oh, and did you see that the military also now has Iran made UAVs (drones) and Islamic Revolutionary Guard “technical or military” advisors? This was reported by JNS and is at least slightly ominous as they are capable of reaching Miami.

 Now, it’s on to The Rabbit Hole…

 Finally the US had to make a choice.Continue on with the plan as is and watch as the death toll mounted and the migration crisis infected (literally)the entire region or sanction PDVSA, the government owned oil company, thereby negatively impacting over 96% of government revenue (at least the legal revenue). The idea behind this strategy is if Maduro,with an approval rating of 13% at the time, couldn’t afford to but the loyalty of the military he would be forced to step down.These sanctions were not levied until 2019.

 When the sanctions were announced the Chavista (Maduro) regime bemoaned the fact that they wouldn’t have the much needed revenue to provide food and medicine for it’s people and the Chavistas were the first to use this number of 40,000 deaths caused by sanctions.Now this number is being tossed about by all the usual suspects, supporters of the Maduro regime or those blindly wedded to socialist ideology. So, let’s recap.

 Since Maduro took power in 2013 the regime has had opportunity after opportunity to change policy and redirect funding to provide food and medical assistance to the Venezuelan people.They have done basically nothing while the death toll continues to mount.They did allow some humanitarian aid to enter the country in  2019, a shipment by the Red Cross. ONE SHIPMENT! There was food and medicine stockpiled in warehouses surrounding Venezuela with billions of dollars in commitments for more and Maduro allows ONE SHIPMENT! Recently a couple of NGOs have been allowed in but the impact is minimal.Other humanitarian aid shipments have been blocked or confiscated solely to profit the regime doing nothing for the Venezuelan people. (Can you tell I get a little worked up about this?) There has been some aid allowed from Russia and China but that was administered by the Chavistas and primarily became a mechanism for corruption or an extortion tool for political support.

 In 2019 there was another round of major protests and an uprising/coup attempt/ prelude to civil war depending on who you talked to. There were more deaths and arrests with the promise of more to come,sooner or later.

 The sanctions pressure has also been ratcheted up to include the mining sector which I’ll address in subsequent writings.The rape of the environment, the slaughter of indigenous peoples, and the rampant disease (not Covid-19) caused by the government’s “Mining Arc” deserves special consideration.Suffice to say the Venezuelan people saw no improvement in their situation.

 More tomorrow….

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