Geo Politics

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a minute but first a little look at the big picture with the relationship between Russia and Venezuela courtesy of Caracas Chronicles. With the Chinese withdrawing a bit from Venezuela Russia has stepped in to fill the void. Russian tourism has been on the rise since May. They have replaced the Germans and Canadians on Margarita Island whose tourist presence used to be prevalent. 9,000 Russian tourists have visited Margarita in this time frame and there are even Cyrillic signs selling arepas, a staple of the Venezuelan diet. There used to be direct flights from various places but now all those are discontinued.

 Even when they weren’t the dominant influence the Russians have had a significant presence in Venezuela. Between 2005-2012 (Chavez years) Venezuela spent hundreds of millions with Russia for weapons. All told Russia has spent $17 billion in loans and credit lines for Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal calls Venezuela “a Russian client state”. Russia helped Venezuela violate US sanctions leading to sanctions against Russian oil major Rosneft and it’s subsidiary TNK Trading in 2020.

 Reuters estimates Russia spent $9 billion between 2010 – 2019 on oil projects and loans. The oil projects (like all Chavista joint ventures) didn’t make a profit. For all their bluster, the Russian joint ventures were the same as 90 projects with oil majors which Hugo Chavez called “neo liberal” and cancelled.

 The geopolitical picture in Venezuela with Russia is a bit murky. Venezuela clearly needs financial help but what’s in it for Russia? The oil spending quagmire (failure) and Maduro’s somewhat lukewarm support of Putin’s invasion into Ukraine (Venezuela didn’t officially recognize the Ukraine separatist states as they did with Georgia in 2009) indicate their strategic partnership may be built on a shaky foundation.

 Perhaps learning from the Chinese, the Russians dialed back financial support and today it’s mostly tech support for Venezuela security forces. They seem to view Venezuela as a low cost way to geopolitically annoy the US, which Putin loves to do. They have participated in keeping Colombia/Venezuela border tensions stoked (proxies of US / Russia) Any real Russia military deployment in Venezuela would be very expensive which,at this point, they can’t afford. So despite all the bluster of Putin and his Foreign Minister,for now, the Russian threat in the Western Hemisphere appears to be all bark and no bite. (But it is out there)

 Oh, and FYI, Venezuela didn’t vote at the UN to support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine for a very good reason…they couldn’t. Venezuela’s voting rights at the UN are still suspended for nonpayment of dues. How typically Chavista.

 Then we have a couple of items coming out of Spain. The Spanish justice system will not investigate payments made by “The Chicken”, former DGCIM (security force for Maduro) to political party in Spain, Podemos…however…Spanish tax authorities have detected accounting and fiscal irregularities in MS Trading, registered to the wife of the former ambassador and they suspect money laundering for PDVSA.

 From GOV.UK we have their official statement regarding the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council pertaining to Venezuela. After review  of reports by the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights) and other UN sources the council is concerned deeply by the use of the justice system to undermine democracy, forced labor as well as sexual exploitaion and human trafficking in the “Mining Arc”, arbitrary disqualification of dissident leaders (need to respect political party independence) , and they need to cease overriding Venezuela’s will through court decisions. So…tell me something I didn’t know.

 We know that the Chavistas love to refer to the term “ecosocialism”. The Economist tells us that “ecosocialism” apparently means bulldozing nature to build mansions.

 And Block Crypto reports that Venezuela users of cryptocurrency wallet Meta Mask were blocked from using it. Supposedly it was due to a software update and sanction compliance issues. Nobody is really sure but Venezuelans need all the help they can get to avoid using the bolivar.

 And from the White House we have this… (the short version) the National Emergency with respect to Venezuela from 2015 has been extended.

 Then we have another story on the Venezuela government’s efforts to delay paying money owed to just about everybody. Law360 tells us that PDVSA asked a Delaware court to dismiss Red Tree Investment’s $246 million lien on CITGO saying it’s forbidden by US sanctions. Nice try but not likely. A US District Court has already ruled that PDVSA’s interpretation of US sanctions is “overly expansive.”

 Also from the financial world (kinda’) we have NFT marketplace Open Sea banning Venezuelan and Iranian users due to US sanctions. So…no digital recreations of real world things for the Chavistas?

 On that note, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 One member of this group was Anthony Daquin, technical advisor and delegation member.He was amazed by the Chinese smart card system and it’s vast database.Through card use they could monitor every aspect of a person’s life, social, political, and economic behavior.Although, at the time, still in the early stages of it’s development it was easy enough for Daquin to see the tremendous possibilities as technology advanced.The Chinese were already accumulating data and rating/ scoring it’s citizens. Uhh, OK but do you get the same credit for being a dependable, hard worker as you do for being a loyal party member? Can you say “Cultural Revolution”? For those who don’t know, the “Cultural Revolution” in China under Chairman Mao had similar ideals and was responsible for killing millions.

 Such was the quandary for Daquin. Right behind his amazement and the potential for doing a lot of good was his fear and the potential for doing a lot of harm, evil if you will. He approached government officials with his concerns about possible abuse of such a system. Their response was quintessential Chavismo. He was detained, beaten, threatened, and eventually fled the country.

 Just because there wasn’t much news about this initiative didn’t mean nothing was happening. The Venezuelans tried advancing the project on their own…and failed. They got the Cubans to help…and that failed. Finally they wised up and went back to the source, China and ZTE.With the advances in technology the Chinese had them set up in short order with biometric smart cards capable of using digital wallets to process payments and more importantly upgrading the database. If you have the “Carnet de la Patria” any government bureaucrat can access the following simply by entering your name :

 Family information

 Employment and income

 Property owned

 Medical history

 State benefits received

 Presence on social media

 Membership of a political party

Participation in Socialist Party events

 Whether you have voted

 More tomorrow….

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