Op Ed And Then Some

 Before we head Down The Rabbit Hole we’ll get to some news but first I have to get a little Op Ed out of my system.There seems to be no shortage of people lobbying for an oil deal with Venezuela.Besides Chevron,who is positioned well to profit from the deal, we have all those who have been pushing for sanctions relief for quite a while for humanitarian reasons.When you combine that with an administration that is desperate to show they are doing something positive to address high oil prices and supply issues there is a real possibility they could make a deal with Venezuela in return for sanctions relief. This would be a really bad move.

 This situation highlights the reason I launched this website in the first place. The purpose was,and is, to raise awareness about how bad these people are (Nicolas Maduro and the Chavistas), what they have done to Venezuela, and are continuing to do. There was a reason the sanctions were initiated in the first place by Barack Obama in 2015 and have been ratcheted up since. We have a moral and ethical obligation to show no support for the Maduro regime until significant changes are made.

 Without revisiting all the things we cover historically in Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole and currently through the news feed coverage here are a few nuggets.

 When Chavez took power a couple of short decades ago (I know, it seems longer) the poverty rate in Venezuela was about 50%. The Chavistas promised to lift “the people” out of poverty.Today the poverty rate is well over 90%, approaching 95%, and 77% live in extreme poverty.

 On the humanitarian crisis front the Venezuelan people lack access to fresh water, reliable electric power, and suffer severe shortages of affordable food and over 85% of medicines are in short supply or unavailable.

 On the Human Rights front they have made no progress. A good example is extrajudicial killings. Many people like to point to the Pinochet regime in Chile a few decades ago as an example of a repressive regime (and rightfully so). The Pinochet regime’s death squads were responsible for over 3,000 extrajudicial killings over his 17 years in power. Maduro’s number came in at over 1,400 last year, a little below his average, so he commits as many killings every two years as Pinochet did in 17 years. The list of other Human Rights violations is long and well documented and the Maduro regime is currently under investigation by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.

 There is no independent judiciary in Venezuela. It is no longer a democracy. It is a dictatorship. In order to believe that sanctions removal would help the Venezuelan people you would have to believe that the Maduro regime would use the revenue to improve conditions for the citizens. There is no evidence to support this theory. The Venezuelan people were starving and dying long before the first sanctions were put in place as evidenced by the “Guarimba” of 2014 where protests exploded over food and medicine shortages. 40 protesters were killed, 1,500 wounded, and thousands jailed. I could go on…and on…and on.

 Any deal reached by the Biden administration for Venezuelan oil in return for sanctions relief would be an abandonment of the principles we, as Americans, are supposed to stand for. It would be pure political desperation. Don’t do it, Joe!

 And in related news we have Telesur (government media) reporting that VP, Delcy Rodriguez, has given us another empty statement regarding Venezuela’s “rebound”. “Our disposable income reached $1.7 billion.” What is she referring to? Maybe cash reserves? If so, that ain’t much,as they say. She went on…”Oil production was strengthened enough to produce 2 million bpd (barrels per day)”  Currently the government reports production at 800,000 bpd with analysts reporting a more reliable number of 650,000 bpd. Either way, to reach 2 million bpd production which is Maduro and the Chavista’s projection, is in the very unlikely, highly improbable, basically impossible category according to almost all reliable oil analysts. And she went on…”In 2021 the food supply was up 69% from 2017.” Up from what? Before Chavismo Venezuela was a net exporter and now they only produce 40% of necessary consumption. Oh, and she said ‘supply’ was up. She didn’t say it was not affordable to most Venezuelans. And she still went on…”60% of private companies increased sales.” Again, I say…from what?  And how many private companies are left anyway? Ugghhhh…

 Enough already. Let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole…

 In 2017 when the TSJ assumed the assembly’s powers then backed off they still prohibited the assembly from “declaring political responsibility” and prohibited acts that alter public order.Uhh, I’m no constitutional scholar but I think that means you can’t say “This mess is Maduro’s fault” and you can’t protest.

 In 2017 after the widely boycotted Constituent Assembly (ANC) elections Maduro had them sworn in by the TSJ and not the assembly as required by the constitution. So…now we have an unconstitutional election for an unconstitutional ANC, which was unconstitutionally sworn in. Maduro declared the ANC not only constitutional but all-powerful and his decision was ratified by the TSJ.

 But fear not! Venezuela still has judicial oversight. No, it’s not by the assembly or even the unconstitutional (and supposedly all-powerful) ANC. It’s the TSJ’s own Judicial Commission! Well, that should allay everyone’s concerns.The TSJ Judicial Commission consists of 6 judges including the TSJ President (you know, the convicted murderer with the extortion,drug trafficking, and money laundering allegations). It can dismiss any provisional or temporary judge in the country (80% of the country’s 1,732 judges) without cause or due process.Example 1/ In 2017 three judges released people detained during the protests and were summarily fired. One was even reinstated and fired again. Example 2/ A judge’s driver was arrested as he was delivering documents to a court official outside the courthouse. He was released but only after spending 35 days in jail without charges. This led to the courthouse being raided which led to 5 judges charged with “inexcusable error” and dismissed. While the commission can fire judges without cause or due process it’s not like they have no recourse. They do have the right to appeal and it must be heard within 90 days. Of the 5 fired judges one retired and the other four appealed. Those appeals were never heard.

 If this wasn’t crazy enough we also have a parallel TSJ known as TSJ in exile so we have two Presidents, two assemblies, and two Supreme Courts (TSJs). The TSJ in exile consists of 33 judges living in the US,Colombia,Panama,and Chile meeting every 15 days by video conference. As you might expect, they declared the ANC illegitimate just as Moreno’s TSJ declared the constitutionally elected National Assembly illegitimate not once (2019) but twice (also in 2017 when they bestowed the assembly’s powers on the ANC after briefly assuming said powers themselves). OK, got it?

 So what did (does) the international community think of Venezuela’s TSJ? Well, in 2017 and 2018 the US Treasury Department blacklisted 8 TSJ judges. In 2014 Transparency International rated Venezuela’s TSJ the most corrupt judicial system in the world. Transparency International also annually publishes a Corruption Perception Index which defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit.” For 2010 – 2018 Venezuela ranked in the bottom 10 of 176 countries every year. For the years 2017 and 2018 the World Justice Project Rule Of Law Index rated Venezuela last out of 113 countries.

 So where are we now in 2019 (the date of this writing) since the failed uprising which it is widely reported failed due to Maikel Moreno backing out of a deal with the opposition because he didn’t get the power he wanted? Well, the TSJ stripped 15 members (and counting) of the National Assembly of their parliamentary immunity and a few were arrested while others fled or sought asylum. When the assembly denounced these arrests by SEBIN,one of three secret (or not so secret) police organizations of the regime,TSJ judge, Carol Padilla, produced the warrant application as justification for the arrest of opposition leader Roberto Marrero. The only problem is that included in the justification for the warrant are Google searches for news articles that occurred five days after the warrant application.

 Summary : Many of the judges of the TSJ in exile have confirmed the regular practice of TSJ judges being summoned to Miraflores (the presidential palace) to discuss “sensitive cases”.And now,I’ve saved the best for last. This will tell you everything you need to know about the TSJ. This number is from 2019 but it has increased daily (one recent ruling in favor of the opposition still in doubt). The TSJ heard 45,474 cases over the Chavismo years. IT RULED AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT ZERO TIMES!!!

 Update : The UNOHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) has declared there is no independent judiciary in Venezuela and that the Maduro regime has failed to sufficiently enact suggested reforms. They will also, most certainly, figure prominently in the investigation by the ICC (International Criminal Court) into Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed by the Maduro regime.

 That will do it for this week. We’ll be back with more on Monday.

 Have a great weekend everybody!!!

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