Changing The Narrative

 We’ll head Down The Rabbit Hole in a minute but first we have this… Chavismo is changing the narrative on the ongoing saga of disgraced Colombian businessman and architect of Maduro’s fraudulent financial schemes, Alex Saab. Ever since he was arrested in Cape Verde when his plane stopped for refueling and,after a long process, subsequently extradited to the US the Chavistas have portrayed him on social media as a ‘Twitter Martyr’. Here’s how it was, courtesy of Caracas Chronicles :

1/ Victimization- They have constantly played up Saab’s “eagerness to help the people” and his status as a “diplomat”.

2/ They named him to the negotiating team for the Mexico talks last fall with the opposition (even though he was already in jail in Cape Verde) and when he was extradited they walked away from the talks saying the negotiations would not resume until he was released.

3/ The Chavista social media juggernaut plastered posts everywhere with misinformation about both the case itself and the process.

4/ There were a number of attacks on social media targeting Cape Verde officials involved in the process.

5/ There were also social media attacks on journalists, especially ArmandoInfo, who originally broke the story about Maduro’s corrupt CLAP government food program, designed to defraud the Venezuelan people and enrich Maduro and other prominent Chavistas. We’ve talked before about the Chavismo tactic of attempting to smear and marginalize anyone with opposing views.

6/ They equated Alex Saab’s arrest and extradition to the situation of Wiki Leaker Julian Assange calling for the release of both and portraying both as “kidnappings.”

7/ Put out all kinds of propaganda about businesses linked to Alex Saab.

 Through Caracas Chronicles’ collaboration with social media watchdog Pro Box we’ve been treated to (and not for the first time) Chavismo’s incredibly dedicated and systematic ‘digital assault’ with repetitive hashtags. Again, this is not the first time we’ve talked about the “Chavista bots’.

 That was then… this is now… The new narrative is,  “Everything is a lie!” Now that court documents have exposed Alex Saab (and Chavismo)  for who he is (and what they are) the Chavista machine is bombarding social media every day and there’s an array of Ministers and various government officials all over the place portraying Saab (and Chavismo) as the victim(s). “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

 Then we have Venezuela’s Prosecutor General reporting that they have been aggressively pursuing CORPOLEC (government electric utility) property and material theft and PDVSA (government oil company) scrap metal sold. Since 2017 there have been 12,496 arrests and 5,564 people have been charged. A cynic might think that since everyone except “the 5%” are starving they’re taking whatever they can get their hands on to sell as they struggle to survive.

 And Maduro’s National Assembly (again, this is the fraudulent legislative body, not the duly elected 2015 National Assembly) has published the list compiled by the Committee For Judicial Nominations of proposed TSJ (Venezuela Supreme Court) justices. As you might expect, leading the parade of names is the current head of the TSJ,convicted murderer, Maikel Moreno.

 Then we have Maduro National Assembly deputy (representative), in an attempt to excuse the Chavista’s rape,pillage,and plunder approach to the area designated by Maduro as “The Mining Arc”, telling us that there have been “irregularities” in the mining sector for 400 years. he says that “The Mining Arc” is small and they use mercury with respect to Human Rights and nature. I feel so much better!

 And Insight Crime reports that with the killing of 10th Front leader,Arturo, who was hiding out in Venezuela, we can expect more violence and chaos in the Colombia/ Venezuela border region. I don’t know about you but I’ve never expected anything else.

 And Rigzone is reporting that the Venezuela oil sector is mounting an unlikely comeback. For the good of the Venezuelan people I want to believe it but I have to say ‘not so fast’. The article says they’re producing about 800,000 bpd (barrels per day). Most oil analysts agree those numbers are probably not accurate. They have benefited from shipments of condensate from Iran but I have to wonder how consistent that supply will be going forward. Since extra heavy crude makes up 70% of their supply the availability of condensate to mix with the crude will be critical. They estimated that PDVSA took in approximately $11 billion in revenue last year, up 38%. Again, I have to wonder if they can continue the increased production that has been relying on local contractors and paying them with backpacks full of cash and scrap metal versus experienced oilfield service companies with actual contracts. We’ll just have to wait and see.

 Now, Down The Rabbit Hole we go ….

 Southern and eastern Venezuela, the area bordering Brazil and Guyana,on the fringes of the Amazon,is a remote,and in many cases, spectacularly beautiful region. Colonial explorers traveled up the Orinoco river searching for the mythical city of gold, El Dorado.Unlike the gold rush days of the old American West,where huge gold strikes would cause everyone from everywhere to descend on areas it seemed gold was just “lying around for the taking” (which we all know was never true), the gold in this area, while plentiful, is dispersed over a large area.

 When the oil business was doing well gold, and in turn the region, was mostly an afterthought consisting of relatively small mining concerns and artesanal mining by the indigenous Pemon people.Area towns were quaint tourist spots and indeed many Pemon made a living servicing tourism.As the economy,and society as well, collapsed tourists stopped coming for a number of reasons and more and more people, Pemon included, turned to mining.

 As you might expect, with the rise in mining activity,the criminal activity increased as well. Extortion occurred in every aspect of life from the supply chain, the mining activities,the transport routes, and the market.Everywhere along the line everybody paid …and got paid.Local gangs, mostly run by the Pranes (a criminal organization run from the prison system), syndicates (organized crime), Colombian guerillas (both demobilized FARC and ELN groups),all extracted a price.Local police and military were also involved. It was,and is, The Wild West.

 A chaotic scenario like this was the perfect opportunity for Chavismo to get their hands on some badly needed revenue as well as to exert their control over another segment of the population(ie; the country). In February,2016 Maduro announced the launching of a new project, “The Mining Arc”. The initiative was supposed to drive development of the vast resources of gold,coltan,diamonds,uranium, etc. in a responsible and eco-friendly manner for the 112,000 square kilometer area. And, of course, the military was put in charge of the project.

 More tomorrow….

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