Soap Box

 Before we get to our usual fare including heading Down The Rabbit Hole I gotta’ get on my soap box for a minute. We talked about the US officials traveling to Caracas and meeting with Maduro (at his request) and VP Delcy Rodriguez to discuss a range of issues but primarily on Maduro’s mind was sanctions relief.No real progress was made but both sides agreed to continue talking.Well, it didn’t take long for dozens of articles to pile into my news feed from just about all the major media outlets and all talking about the same thing…Maduro possibly signaling a change in Venezuela’s relationship with the US and the Biden administration possibly changing their stance on sanctions relief for the Maduro regime.

 Unfortunately these days the media and much of the international community are short on credibility and long on gullibility. We can get to specific articles later but first let’s be clear who we’re talking about and their past behavior. This is Nicolas Maduro and the Chavistas. They are systematic Human Rights abusers and have destroyed every aspect of life and society in Venezuela (unless you’re a connected Chavista). Over the course of the more than two decades of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism we have seen them screw basically every country and every company on pretty much every deal they have engaged in.

 What Maduro is doing today is nothing he hasn’t done time and time again. He sees an opportunity to get something he wants so he gets someone to talk to him and makes a few cosmetic gestures in the hope that whomever he’s dealing with will fall for it backed up by an incredibly gullible media.A good example of this would be the elections last November.

 As usual, angling for sanctions relief, Maduro made a lot of happy talk about all the changes he was prepared to make in return for the lifting of sanctions. He announced negotiations with the opposition in Mexico, invited electoral observers from the EU and the Carter Center, and even put two opposition members (OPPINOs, opposition in name only) on the five person electoral board, the CNE.Stories were everywhere about the positive changes Maduro was signalling and the CNE situation was showing he was serious. At each round of the talks with the opposition in Mexico optimism was announced and both sides were looking forward to the next round of negotiations. Maduro assured everyone they would see a new attitude in Venezuela in the upcoming elections. It’s worth remembering that the staff of EU head, Joseph Borrell,recommended he not send a delegation that would simply lend credibility to the dictatorship but Borrell sent them anyway.

 So what happened? In October, with the elections right around the corner, Alex Saab, the architect of Maduro’s fraudulent financial schemes, was extradited from Cape Verde to the US. In a temper tantrum the Chavistas walked away from talks with the opposition in Mexico and everyone from Maduro on down let it be known that the negotiations would not resume until Saab was released. At the same time they reassured everyone that this wouldn’t have an effect on the ‘new and improved’ Chavista approach to the elections.

 The elections went about as expected by those of us who have followed the Chavista’s behavior. The guarantees they made about free and fair elections didn’t materialize. The changes at the CNE had no effect, and why would they? It’s a five person board so even if the two opposition members were in earnest, which was not the case, the Chavistas still held the majority at three to two. Due to some potentially damaging observations the EU delegation was shown the door immediately after the elections and after time passed both the EU and the Carter center observers issued their reports. They both came to the same conclusion. While there were some positive signs that it could get better there were no substantive differences between this election and the prior one that was considered by the international community to be a sham. There was no free and fair election in Venezuela.

 Now here we are again. The conditions that prompted the sanctions all still exist in Venezuela. No free and fair elections, systematic Human Rights violations, political prisoners languishing in Venezuelan prisons, media repression, free speech repression enforced via the ‘anti-hate law’, and so on. And let’s not forget that the Maduro regime is under investigation by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.There is nothing new here. It’s the same smoke and mirrors M.O. Maduro has always shown us.

 For further proof of the Maduro M.O. we have Political Wire (and pretty much everybody else) reporting that the Maduro regime has released two political prisoners, one of them being a member of the CITGO six. He was already released from prison before, on house arrest, until Maduro threw his temper tantrum over Alex Saab and had him tossed back in prison. But have no fear, Maduro still has a healthy stockpile of political prisoners to use as future bargaining chips.

 And in the latest pro-socialist propaganda we have Telesur (government media) reporting “World Leaders Pay Tribute To Comandante Hugo Chavez”…”in commemoration of his physical disappearance.” Does that mean his death? (I guess the immortal Hugo Chavez could never really die) They referenced heads of state,foreign ministers,and popular leaders as well as Chavista quotes. There was no other recognition except by the usual suspects like former President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, always looking for a microphone, and the President of Cuba.

 Then we have National News reporting that Guyana is submitting pleadings to the ICJ (International Court of Justice) in it’s ongoing dispute of the Essequibo region, site of huge oil and gas discoveries. The ICJ says it has jurisdiction and is backed by CARICOM while Venezuela wants bilateral talks. (They always want dialogue)

 Now, let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole….

 The May 2018 elections, widely condemned internationally for other reasons, also had a “Carnet” aspect.Politics in Venezuela have long been vote buying bonanzas. Recently, with the government in control of almost everything, you might get cement blocks if you were building a house or there were food give aways.Now, with the card, vote buying is easy (and we’ll see what the government really wanted to streamline). There is no attempt to disguise it. Outside each poll location the government puts ‘Red Point ” kiosks. As voters exited the polls they could have their cards scanned to register for a special “Fatherland Prize”.

 Any new government initiative is run through the card.Government benefits and services may be billed as attempting to address a particular issue but they will only help those with the card. They are also a useful tool for government owned businesses.They can send a list of names to the government and find out whatever they care to know about their employees.So far , the cards don’t have an RFID chip which enables location tracking.The only reason they don’t have this is because it was prohibitively expensive so the government declined the option.

 Summary : Under 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism nothing is ever as it seems or is proposed. The “Carnet de la Patria” was supposed to be a way to help the undocumented open bank accounts and vote. Strangely enough, they began exploring this after Chavez lost his first election, a referendum seeking broader powers which the people declined. It soon morphed into a government monitoring and control tool, and a very effective one with over half the population enrolled. The good news is that the government couldn’t afford to buy the “enhanced ‘big brother’ package”with RFID location tracking.They can’t pinpoint the exact location of card carriers…yet!

That wraps up this chapter of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole. We’ll have more news tomorrow….


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