More Insult To Injury

 Before we head Down The Rabbit Hole we have this from Insight Crime. We’ve talked before about the Maduro regime’s corrupt and fraudulent food program CLAP. We also have a chapter covering it in Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole so we’ll save the details for later but suffice to say the CLAP food program is just another corrupt mechanism used by the Chavistas to enrich themselves (and specifically Nicolas Maduro) and inflict suffering on the Venezuelan people.

 As if the “normal” corruption and fraud weren’t bad enough we’re adding even more insult to injury. It seems the cyber scammers have discovered CLAP and are nailing victims with the offer of non-existent CLAP food boxes via WhatsApp. Ouch! Oh, and FYI, police discovered 1,430 stolen CLAP boxes last week. At least it’s not fraud, corruption, or cyber crime…just good old fashioned theft.

 And in the seemingly endless stream of articles about how Venezuela can move forward we have a piece from the US Institute For Peace. To their credit, they didn’t offer the usual “pie in the sky” solutions, however, the lynch pin to their plan going forward is a return to the negotiating table with the opposition. Barring unforeseen  circumstances there are two non starters for the Maduro regime which will prevent this from happening.

 The first is the “Catch 22” of returning to the Mexico talks seeking sanctions relief but first requiring sanctions relief…huh?

 The second is the issue that caused them to walk away from the Mexico talks. It was their collective temper tantrum over the extradition of corrupt Colombian businessman, Alex Saab, to the US. The front man and architect of Maduro’s CLAP food program (there it is again) is expected to make some revelations exposing high ranking Chavistas, possibly even Maduro himself. The Chavistas refer to the extradition of Saab as “a kidnapping” and refuse to return to the negotiating table until Alex Saab is released. Not going to happen…Nice try US Institute For Peace.

 And just so we wouldn’t forget, Amnesty International did a piece calling for the release of the Fundaredes Human Rights activist that has been in jail since July. Two of the three that were arrested were released as a show of good faith (although still under house arrest) while the Mexico negotiations were still going on. With the talks indefinitely suspended I doubt we’ll see a third release any time soon.

 Then we have France24 shining a little light on the Maduro regime’s blather about caring for indigenous people in Venezuela. They cite various indigenous peoples medical facilities that are struggling. “…nothing hygienic,no clean water, not even a pair of scissors. I had to cut an umbilical cord with a knife.”

 And in the “one step forward, two steps back” category we have reporting that Sunacrip, Venezuela’s cryptocurrency regulatory agency, has revoked the licenses of two cryptocurrency exchanges. No details were given by Sunacrip but skeptics (like myself) might think somebody didn’t get paid…?

 And speaking of skeptics, Merco Press estimates Venezuela oil production for 2022 should level off between 450,000 – 500,000 bpd (barrels per day). Remember, at one time, before Chavismo destroyed PDVSA, they were producing almost 3 and a half million bpd.

 And in migration news we have Deadline Detroit reporting a Venezuelan national on the FBI Terrorist Watch List has been released into Michigan…exact whereabouts unknown. The FBI opposed the release but the Biden administration was concerned that since he was overweight confinement might subject him to Covid-19 risk. No mention of the risk of terrorism….

 And even though it’s been a little quiet lately on the extradition front there are still plenty of extraditions pending involving Chavismo. The Daily Mail reports that one of these pending extradition requests has been denied by Italy’s highest court. The Chavistas have been trying to get their hands on the former head of PDVSA for some time citing possible corruption charges (or is it just to keep him quiet?). The high court cited the Maduro regime’s Human Rights record as the grounds for the denial.

 And then we have The Independent telling us that a former Chavista general says the CIA knew about the 2020 coup plot. His disclosure is meant as proof he wasn’t involved in drug trafficking with the regime. I’m not quite connecting those dots.

 I guess it’s as good a time as any to head Down The Rabbit Hole….

 Despite it’s failures the number of items subject to price controls grew over the Chavista years reaching a peak of 250. Since the government couldn’t afford to subsidize everything at the same time, once all the oil revenue and loan money dried up whatever didn’t receive a subsidy made a second list, the shortage list. Until I lived in Venezuela I had never heard of such a thing. Fedecamaras, the Venezuela equivalent of the Better Business Bureau / Chamber of Commerce, keeps track of this as the government would never expose how many things they had forced to disappear.While there were always some items in short supply in Venezuela it became completely out of control. Even products that were available morphed from high quality brands to very low quality products due to a number of factors we’ll get into later.

 So now you have less products available and consumers are forced to settle for inferior quality.Then the populace was put in the untenable position of not being able to afford many of these due to currency devaluation, inflation, and the hyperinflation. The average Venezuelan could only afford to buy subsidized products and even those were in short supply.People waited in line for hours when word circulated that a delivery was scheduled.After hours in the hundred degree heat they would have to be content with a couple of packages of rice,pasta, or flour as it had to be rationed.That said, you better not be too far back in line or they would run out. After some rioting and looting incidents the military had to oversee deliveries.

 Today availability is better but almost nothing is affordable to the average Venezuelan on their less than two bucks a month minimum wage. I remember seeing that the price of flour had gone up and their month’s minimum wage would buy 3 and 1/2 kilos of flour…for the month! Quite a fall from the $200 a month minimum wage, pre Chavismo (which we all thought was low at the time but…). As with so many things Chavismo related, the minimum wage debacle deserves a detailed conversation so let’s just say that the price controls did nothing but hurt the Venezuelan people. So what about currency controls?

 Well, it’s broken record time again and I’m apologizing in advance for the tedious nature of the content. The Chavistas make simple things complicated but what you’re about to see is ridiculous.It will blow your mind. Oh, and imagine trying to manage your finances through all of this.

 In 2003 when Chavez instituted currency controls it was primarily to prevent dollars from leaving the country.It was intended to be a temporary measure although most lasted until just recently and some are still in effect. Remember, in the US, income tax was intended to be temporary. The bolivar had long been accepted only in Venezuela and a few border areas due to it’s unstable nature so having and retaining dollars was necessary to conduct business by both the government and individuals.

 All business in Venezuela was to be conducted in bolivares (until just recently) and the government would control all conversions of bolivares to dollars.There wasn’t much of a black market at the time because the rate (notice I said RATE) the government used was about the same as the parallel market.The main benefit was the government’s ability to ration the allocation of dollars to the many multinational corporations doing business in Venezuela at the time.

 The airlines were a good example. There were 23 international airlines servicing Venezuela (today there are 7). With all those tickets being converted into to bolivares and deposited in Venezuelan banks it was a sizeable amount of money the government could sit on and gradually allow it to be repatriated by the airlines. It was annoying to the airlines but they were willing to put up with the delays in the re-conversion process because they were making a good profit.

 More tomorrow….

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