To Your Health

 We’ll get to our Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment, “Blatant Disregard” in a few but first…from Science we have this.A network of young scientists and doctors aims to rebuild the country’s devastated health system.From 2001-2017 malaria increased twenty fold. Before the onset of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism the disease had been all but eradicated in Venezuela and after the twenty fold increase the numbers continued to climb.

 The group, IVC, also uses citizen scientists for epidemiology data collection and to alert of outbreaks ignored by the government’s destitute health agencies.A generation ago science flourished in Venezuela but when Chavez took over he expressed a disdain for science. One of their top scientists now earns only $20 a month.

 November,2014 the Ministry of Health stopped publishing the epidemiological bulletin. We already told you about the Health Minister that was fired only a week into the job for having the temerity to actually report epidemiology numbers to the WHO (World Health Organization). In 2018 they abolished the Center for Clarification of Diseases after 63 years of valuable contribution. One molecular ecologist, Martin Llewellyn, said “Venezuela is a black box.” One of their scientists had to flee the country after being threatened by government officials for publishing data without consent.(It’s been a long time since the Chavista’s consented to publishing data)

 Then we have Atlantic Council with this piece. We’ve covered bits and pieces but it’s a good reminder. The 2021 National Survey of Living conditions showed 95% of Venezuelans living in poverty with 77% in extreme poverty.32% of households are food insufficient. 40% have recurrent water interruptions and 25% have no sustainable access to potable water.The under five mortality rate is 24 per 1,000 live births and maternal deaths are so high the state no longer discloses them. Is this really the country that before Chavismo was the most prosperous in Latin America?  Why is it that only 29% of the $700 million allocated by the UN Humanitarian Rescue Plan for Venezuela has been executed?

 The Boston Group has an Oil Funded Humanitarian  proposal, the government can’t be depended upon so the idea is to get special permission from the Treasury Department OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control) the ones in charge of sanctions enforcement, for oil and gas sales. Oil For Venezuela would be an agreement between  the Maduro regime, the opposition, and the US Government. The proposed sale of 2-3 and 1/2 million barrels a month would be split 50-50. 50% would go into and escrow account and 50% would go to the joint venture minority partner (not the Venezuelan Government) so it would keep the proceeds directed to the people and not corrupt Chavistas. It would be a one year contract with an option for renewal. Sounds worth trying. Something needs to happen to alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people.

 And on the financial shenanigans front we have the US-DOJ announcing that two former Senior Venezuelan Prosecutors have been charged with money laundering for receiving bribes to not pursue charges against certain contractors involved in corrupt practices.

 And CBS Miami  reports a Miami businessman pleads guilty to receiving payments of $3 and 1/2 million from PDVSA through an account in Portugal to skirt US sanctions for servicing military jets.

 And on the migration front we have Chile Today reporting that two migrant related NGOs are decrying the Chilean government’s migrant response, in particular relating to Venezuelans crossing the border with Bolivia.

 Then we have Business Wire reporting that the Venezuela Ministry of Mines has revoked the mineral rights of the joint venture between the Venezuela government and Gold Reserve,Inc. over regulation compliance issues. So, let’s see if I’ve got this …in any joint venture the Venezuela government is the majority shareholder and controlling interest so the government is not complying with it’s own regulations? Sounds, once again, like somebody didn’t get paid.

And speaking of mining, VP Delcy Rodriguez, has announced that the minimum wage increase will begin March 15th (today) while Maduro clarified that other promises would be tied to extracting more minerals from the “Mining Arc” (in exchange for destroying the environment).

 Then we have Merco Press reporting that for the month of February the inflation rate in Argentina was higher than that of Venezuela. Finally, Venezuela doesn’t have the highest inflation in the world. It’s still at an annual rate of 246% but has been trending lower.The cautionary note is that recent moves like the minimum wage increase and the new foreign currency tax may cause an uptrend.

 And in other hopeful news we have Fox News telling us that the recently passed omnibus spending bill allocates $40 million for ‘democracy programs’ in Venezuela. We have no further details but it sounds promising.

 And,of course, we still have talk about a US/Venezuela oil deal. Interim President Juan Guaido said “Only a country with democratic,institutional, and transparent guarantees can be a reliable energy supplier.” Does that sound like Chavismo? That said we have Rigzone reporting that oil analyst, Matt Smith, says some type of deal to drop oil sanctions would favor both the US and Venezuela. I’m not sure how he comes to that conclusion. Maduro and his Chavista buddies get sanctions relief and the US gets …well… nothing (Venezuela has no oil to sell) and the Venezuelan people get… well… nothing (the Chavistas have proven time and time again that any extra revenue they get goes in their pockets, not to help the people).

 And on the  geopolitical scene we have Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov meeting with VP Delcy Rodriguez in Turkey. It’s not really news, just a bunch of diplo-speak happy talk between the two.

 But we did have a little news from the Venezuela Observatory of Finance. In the month of February you would have needed 216 monthly minimum wages to purchase the basic food basket (enough food to feed a family of 5 for a month).

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole….

 Chapter 11/ Blatant Disregard

 Nicolas Maduro was elected President of Venezuela in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez.The election was extremely close and there have been widespread allegations that his opponent, Henrique Capriles, actually won. For our purposes here let’s assume that Maduro won the election fair and square.The presidential term in Venezuela is six years and Maduro demonstrated early on it would be a long six years. The “Guarimba” of 2014 left over 40 dead and hundreds wounded as people protested food shortages and Maduro let it be known that he would respond to protesters with bullets and jail time. Opposition leader,Leopoldo Lopez, who called for peaceful, I repeat PEACEFUL demonstrations,was jailed for inciting violence and instability.He spent over three years in prison and a couple more under house arrest then stayed at the Spanish Embassy under their protection before fleeing the country for Spain. I used to joke,”If you think this is bad just wait a few years when we’ll consider this the ‘good old days’.” It turns out that may have been the height of Maduro’s popularity.

 In 2015 Venezuela had elections for the National Assembly, similar to US congressional elections. Although Maduro’s popularity was on the decline it was widely thought that it would be difficult for the opposition to overcome the Chavista political machine.The drop in oil prices had already hit but with the elections coming up Maduro borrowed $5 billion from the Chinese so so the Chavistas could deliver the expected largesse.

 Then came the big December surprise.With a high voter turnout,over 74%,the opposition swept to victory in 112 of 167 races.That gave them 67% of the seats in the assembly.With the 2/3 ‘super majority’,just barely, they would have wide latitude to effect a lot of changes including appointments (and firings) in the TSJ, Venezuela’s Supreme Court, and even a possible presidential recall election.Optimism was high that after a decade and a half of Chavismo change was in the air.

 Then the Chavistas killed it! They petitioned the TSJ to set aside the results of 4 elections, 3 of which were won by opposition MPs (Members of Parliament). The TSJ,which we’ll cover in detail in the next chapter, is Chavismo’s “rubber stamp”. They did their job and and suspended the 4 MP’s victories until the allegations could be properly investigated.They entered the limbo land of any anti-Chavismo entity. For a variety of ever changing reasons / rationalizations/ explanations/ whatever … nothing further was ever decided so their election was never approved by the TSJ … nor was it denied.They were prohibited from taking office but were not replaced in fresh elections…ever!

 More tomorrow….


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