The Beat Goes On

 As usual, we’ll head Down The Rabbit Hole in just a bit but first…Caracas Chronicles said it best. Most Venezuelans don’t know the magnitude of the border conflict because the regime hasn’t told them.It seems like hardly a week goes by that we here at TFT aren’t telling you about a killing(s) at the border with Colombia.It’s been going on since 2016 as FARC dissidents, ELN,drug traffickers, and gangs all seek control of the same trafficking/smuggling routes (and towns.) Both Colombia and Venezuela blame each other and have for years. ELN is mobilizing in Tachira state with 475 armed men and 641 (where do they get an exact number like that?) militia.They can cover Apure and Zulia from there. Venezuela Minister of the Interior reports 86 killed so far in 2022 in Araguca as a consequence of FARC dissident/ELN clashes. The government does want us to know that the DGCIM has arrested 6 military officers for gas smuggling. (funny, last week we reported gas smuggling was way down) And the beat goes on….

 Economist Manuel Sutherland tells us that if Venezuela can maintain it’s current growth (alleged?) it will recover the GDP it had in 2013 by the year 2054. Remember, 2013 was the year Maduro took power so his economic blundering will have cost Venezuela four decades of progress. I guess that’s not so bad in Chavista terms as in many areas they’ve set the country back a hundred years or more.

 Sociologist Pedro Espana tells us that Venezuela has to get real on all prices including gasoline,electricity,cooking gas, and water. We’ve been saying for some time (or asking) when will they ever learn, you don’t get something for nothing? I believe I’ve mentioned before that I had satellite internet in Venezuela and I was the only one I knew with that service. Everyone said I was crazy as it simply cost too much but I was also the only one I knew that was happy with their internet service.

 And we have two new political prisoners to tell you about.They were a couple of citizens that were arrested trying to put up a sign saying “Venezuela wants justice, Maduro out!” They were charged with inciting hate. (we told you about those hate laws)

 According to the Citizenship and Human Rights Commission at least 26 people disappeared in the mines in Bolivar state in 2021 and from 2012-2021 175 more. I know mining is dangerous but a couple of hundred people going missing?

 Venezuela authorities are investigating 8 dead Waraos (indigenous people) found near the border with Guyana. It is unclear if they were murdered or simply drowned fleeing Venezuela.

 And Panamanian Immigration Service has denied entry 10 Iranians for fake Id’s, German residence documents, and ordered they return to Venezuela. They should have bought Venezuela passports. Everybody knows they’re for sale.

 And the NATO Secretary General has assured that the Russia/China support for the Venezuela regime will be discussed at his upcoming meeting. Until the recent escalation at the Ukraine border you didn’t hear much about what the NATO Secretary General was up to.

 Then we have asking the question,”Is Venezuela Lying About It’s Oil Output?” Ya’ think? They’ve been doing so ever since Maduro took power. OPEC secondary sources report numbers for PDVSA (state owned oil company) in December are 22% lower than PDVSA’s reported numbers. Shocker! PDVSA stopped publishing production and other data in 2016 and no longer reports oil spills and production outages. Analysts say that despite Maduro’s current claims and future projections their real production capacity is about 750,000 bpd (barrels per day) and can’t be increased without significant investment, which is unlikely. That said, Maduro’s goal of 2 million bpd in 2022 is unachievable.

 And we have Law360 reporting that a London court has ordered an expedited trial on the BOE (Bank of England) gold case. Remember that one? They’ve denied Maduro access to over a billion dollars in gold and the court has ruled that England doesn’t recognize Maduro as the legitimate President of Venezuela. Venezuela is now claiming that rulings by Venezuela courts should apply. With it’s total lack of judicial independence a well known fact this shouldn’t take long.

 LawFare had a proposal regarding steps to be taken to mitigate the negative effects of sanctions on humanitarian crises :

1/ Congress should allocate funds to establish a special office within OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control), you know..the yay or nay guys on sanctions violations, tasked with coordinating sanctions-related inquiries between the Treasury Department and NGOs. Humanitarian aid organizations say the phone and email responses are not timely. They would work closely with the Department of State and the Agency for International Development (USAID).

 2/ The State Department has a position of Sanctions Coordinator but it needs a humanitarian aid specific portfolio.

 3/ The Treasury Department should create a “white list” of humanitarian aid organizations and others  to operate in sanctioned countries. It would facilitate financial transactions and licenses.

 4/ OFAC should publish a fact sheet for the above referenced “white list” regarding permissible financial activity and transactions to help avoid the common problem of over compliance.

 5/ OFAC should allow carve-outs for familial remittances. Many banks and financial institutions don’t handle them for fear of sanctions violation.

 These are good common sense ideas but they face an uphill climb. That would be the fact that the streamlining of processes in these agencies goes against the psychology of bureaucracy. If it could happen it would lessen the criticism of the impact sanctions have on local populations however it won’t solve the overall problem which is the disdain these regimes have for their own people which led to the sanctions in the first place.

 And now…Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Surely with a situation as serious as a starving population the government must be taking some steps to address hunger.Well,yes and no.Here are a couple of recommendations from the government. One is their “Urban Farming Initiative.” Residents in cities like Caracas should grow their own vegetables on balconies and rooftop gardens.I’m sure that will more than make up for the lost production of 3 and 1/2 million hectares of farmland.Another proposed solution regards the protein shortage in the average Venezuelan’s diet as beef,chicken,etc. are beyond the means of all but the wealthy.It’s rabbits! They are a popular pet in Venezuela so the government says you shouldn’t view them as cute little bunnies but as two kilos of meat!

 The next idea had the potential to be a good thing but,as with everything Chavismo related, they corrupted it.As the food crisis shifted from a simple lack of availability to a combination of a lack of availability and a total lack of affordability the government came up with a plan to deliver boxes of food to those that needed them every two weeks, enough to feed a family of five.OK, so we knew from the start that the feeding of a family of five was overly ambitious but it’s still a good idea…well …kinda’.

 First, the CLAP (Spanish acronym) program can only be received by those holding the “Carnet de la Patria”. There’s that nasty homeland card again. Next, when the project was first launched the deliveries were somewhat on schedule although, as we said, they weren’t big enough. It didn’t take long for the deliveries to become spotty with priority given to the well connected while others might not see their CLAP boxes for a month or two. Next, the quality of the products rapidly declined and many of the items would be past their expiration date. Next, the government drastically overpaid for the contents of the boxes which surprised absolutely nobody. The majority of the items came from Mexico through a company affiliated with Maduro. When the company was targeted in a corruption probe it closed up shop and the items were sourced primarily from Turkey.Not surprisingly, at the same time Maduro announced stronger ties with Turkey. Now, with the military put in charge of food distribution, (it was getting harder and harder to find ways to buy their loyalty) they also oversee CLAP box deliveries. C’mon, raise your hand if you think things will improve!

 Summary : We’ve previously discussed the “Maduro Diet”, the food shortages,the lack of affordability when food is available (how about 138 monthly minimum wages to feed a family of five?), and the government’s denial of the problem, at least until recently. Now they blame it on the imperialist, interventionist sanctions by those gringos who are responsible for all things evil. A 2019 report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) really summed things up.

 Said organization (FAO) gave Venezuela an award in 2013 (the year Maduro took power) for reducing hunger by 50% from 1990 levels. This is a good thing although we we know that as soon as the historically high oil prices and massive borrowing went away so would the food. Anyway…Maduro got a lot of mileage from that award on state-run media.Curiously there was no mention on state media of the subsequent report by the FAO. Venezuela is at risk of famine. Over 80% of Venezuelans live in food insecurity (they can’t afford to be properly fed). Malnutrition has tripled. Crop production is down 50% from already depressed levels and they didn’t even mention one of my personal favorites.In 2018 the number of children wasting reached 35%. I didn’t even know what wasting meant (not malnourished but losing weight, which children aren’t supposed to do).

 The purpose of the FAO report was to address the situation and make recommendations to implement to address the issues. Now call me crazy but if the Chavistas won’t listen to recommendations from their  most important allies, Russia (Russia gave them a 4 point plan…number of points implemented …zero), Cuba (everyone knows what an economic disaster they are or else why would there be more Cubans in Miami than in Havana? Cuba is only 90 miles from South Florida, and by the way the South Florida Cuban population are rabid supporters of the opposition in Venezuela and staunchly anti socialist/communist),and China. I saved the best for last. In a November,2018 economic cooperation conference a Venezuelan minister told his Chinese counterpart that the key for Venezuela would be more government control. Yu Bin, the head of the Chinese delegation responded, “We have found exactly the opposite to be true. 90% of companies in China are private and the government does whatever it can to support their efforts.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

 Famine…Jesus… I think I hear that familiar refrain. These are conditions normally associated with war torn countries or areas ravaged by natural disasters.This is a man made disaster…a Chavista made disaster.

P.S. Just so you know I didn’t forget, there are photos and videos everywhere showing things like the group of people jumping the farmer’s fence and beating a cow to death with rocks, slaughtered zoo animals, the lady cooking a cat in the street, etc. I didn’t think we needed to get into that here…?? Oh,and don’t forget the looting and hijackings.The most common sign on the side of trucks is “This vehicle carries no food.”

 That does it for this chapter of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole

 More news tomorrow….


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