We’ll be going Down The Rabbit Hole in a few but first we have a tale of two countries brought to us by Oilprice.com. If you go back and look at South America before it was afflicted with Chavismo it was quite a different world. Colombia was almost a failed state due to drug cartels and guerillas. With the help of the US and other countries Colombia took back control from the cartels and after years managed to get at least a limited agreement with the FARC guerillas although some of their misguided violence continues. They have stabilized and are an example of democratic rehabilitation.

 While Colombia was undergoing it’s struggles Venezuela was considered Latin America’s most stable and prosperous country. Then Hugo Chavez took power and everything changed. Chavez turned away from the US and all those countries that helped Colombia get things turned around and specifically the US – DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) saying Venezuela could take care of the drug trafficking situation itself.After a brief period of continued prosperity, primarily due to record high oil prices and unprecedented borrowing, things went south. Venezuela now has an authoritarian government without democracy,the rule of law, and without a functioning economy or government institutions. All the problems that previously plagued Colombia are now afflicting Venezuela like extensive drug trafficking and paramilitary group violence. What a juxtaposition! One country went from an almost failed state to democratic success while the other went from democratic success to an almost failed state. If you ask me, what more do you need to know about 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism?

 And we have FX Empire telling us that after two years Venezuela has opened it’s border with Brazil.

 We also have JD Supra telling us that the new foreign currency/ cryptocurrency tax (if they ever finalize the details) may decrease foreign currency deposits, which were way up last year. At a time when the Maduro regime is desperately seeking foreign investment as they cannot fix their oil production problem themselves investors are hesitant (and rightfully so).

 Then we have Telesur (government media) reporting that Venezuela’s Foreign Minister rejects “the NATO determination to persecute,encircle, and threaten the tranquility and peace of the entire region.” Does that sound like Russian propaganda to you? He went on to say “Ukraine violated the Minsk Agreement” (VP Delcy Rodriguez already told us that). Putin says that with the recognition of the two separatist regions of Ukraine as independent republics the Minsk agreement is now voided. It’s worth noting that the Minsk Agreement, from 2014 and 2015, was signed as the foundation for political solutions to disputes after Russia invaded Crimea.

 And the latest leaked document from the Credit Suisse banking scandal discloses that 20% of the questionable accounts at the Swiss bank belong to Venezuelans. This is no secret. As one Venezuela social media company owner put it, ” We know who they are and where their money comes from but they are the people I have to trade with if I want my business to succeed.” With blatant displays of wealth like the recent Tepuy party, ferrying revelers to a tabletop mesa via helicopters in Canaima National Park, they don’t even try to hide it. The Venezuela “enchufadas” are pretty much the same as the Russian oligarchs. Elitist tourism is already destroying the ecologically fragile Los Roques archipelago and now,with the newly announced Russian / Venezuelan tourist agreements, they look to do the same to Margarita Island.

 But on the “fun side” we have Gambling Insider reporting that Pragmatic Play has launched it’s first bingo gaming product in Venezuela where bingo has always been popular.

 We also have Telesur telling us that Nicolas Maduro, always one to put his paranoid side on display, says mainstream media coverage of the Venezuela migrant crisis advocates invasion to overthrow the Bolivarian regime. At least he acknowledged that there is a migrant crisis. He went on to tout his “Return To Homeland” social program in which 27,000 Venezuelans have returned to the wonderful world of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. So let me get this straight, he sees over 6 million people fleeing the country and a paltry 27,000 coming back as a validation of Chavismo?

 And Voice Of America reports that Biden’s Special Assistant For Latin America says the Russian sanctions will also impact Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba and that is by design.

 Time to go Down The Rabbit Hole….

 At the time of the announcement there were supposedly 150 companies from 35 countries interested in projects in “The Mining Arc.” This interest has produced nothing substantial to date.The primary reason for this is the required partnering with either CAMIMPEG, the military controlled mining,oil and gas company or Minerven, the government run mining company. Another contributing factor to the lack of international investment in the project and to the violence in the region is the military itself.

 You might think that giving the military control over the region would stabilize things and stem the lawlessness. The effect has been exactly the opposite. The pecking order goes something like this. The military is the top dog with the syndicates ranking second. Then you have the ELN and FARC dissidents and the Prane-related gangs still exerting strong influence.All these groups cooperate with or compete with the military in illegal enterprises. Violent clashes are the order of the day and include group to individual, group to group, and group to military confrontations. There are also narco-trafficking routes in the region which adds to the instability and lawless nature of the area. It also doesn’t help that the Venezuelan government doesn’t cooperate with it’s neighbors in anti-drug, anti-crime, anti-insurgent, or anti-terrorism activities. They prefer to allow these activities and receive compensation for their complicity.The military even arms some of these groups in return for profit in gold and control. A good example of this attitude was in 2005 when a National Guard Lieutenant Colonel was jailed for capturing a FARC leader and the ELN is allowed to openly operate in 13 of 24 Venezuelan states.

 Caught in the middle of all this are the Pemon indigenous people who have lived in the region since long before the Spanish colonization of the 1500s. Numerous proclamations by Chavez, and now Maduro, regarding the need to preserve indigenous cultures have meant nothing. The Venezuelan government’s Indigenous Ministry and the Advocacy Office for Indigenous Peoples have failed to protect their interests.The protected ancestral Pemon lands have received the same treatment the Sioux got from the US government when they were told “all land North of The Powder River is considered sacred.” Things like that go by the wayside when gold enters the equation and so it is for the Pemon.They are preyed upon from all sides.

 Since the 2016 announcement of “The Mining Arc” local media have reported more than a dozen massacres perpetrated on the Pemon with 107 killed and many more wounded. (note : these are numbers from 2019 and they’re much higher now) Due to the remote location and fear of reprisals if people that go missing are reported most people believe the actual numbers should be much higher.

 More tomorrow….



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