Mister Irrelevant ?

 We’ll get to our Down The Rabbit Hole segment in a few but first…Caracas Chronicles had an interesting piece on Maduro/Venezuela. It made me think of the moniker “Mister Irrelevant”, which, as sports fans know, is applied to the last man picked in the NFL draft. Nobody talks about him. Could Maduro be trending that way? Well…maybe.

 Maduro started cultivating anti US/EU relationships with Iran,Russia, etc. before he took power when he was Chavez’s Foreign Minister. Since then Venezuela has made a series of questionable decisions on the geopolitical stage. Venezuela voted against recognizing Ukraine territorial integrity at the UN, one of only 11 countries to do so. They voted against the UN resolution urging Iran to promote Human Rights and comply with the UN charter. (I understand…I get it. They need to follow the lead of the few allies they have left)

 Venezuela was a geopolitical entity under Chavez. They were a major oil producer, (a founding member of OPEC) and when oil prices were at all-time highs for an extended period, Chavez used some of that revenue (and some of the $60 billion they inexplicably borrowed from China) as well as Chavez’s charisma to move toward becoming a player on the international stage. They founded new organizations consisting of blocs of countries willing to follow Chavez’s lead in return for monetary and political concessions. That was then…

 Now, Venezuela can’t vote at the UN due to their unpaid debt to the UN of $40 million. UNASUR, one of the organizations set up by Chavez, used to have all South American countries as members. Now Venezuela is one of only four left. ALBA, another of Chavez’s left-wing organizations of countries dependent on financial support and cheap oil from Venezuela, used to be talked about along with PETROCARIBE, 17 countries plus Cuba, who all benefited from Venezuelan loans and cheap oil. Now Venezuela has no money (owes pretty much everyone, public and private, on the globe) and produces so little oil it can’t meet it’s domestic needs (a requirement of the OPEC charter is members must meet domestic needs before exporting) and struggles to supply China, which it still owes for oil for loans deals, and Cuba, who it owes for providing doctors and much of Maduro’s security apparatus.

 So, no money…no oil…isolated from much of the world… no influence?  Does Maduro risk becoming irrelevant? In some ways, to China, he already is.

 Then we have McClatchy DC with a piece about the Biden administration’s questionable talks with Venezuela about oil (which they deny) but showing no love for little ole Guyana. Why? In October the Biden administration denied Guyana a $180 million loan from the IADB (Inter-American Development Bank) to expand it’s oil industry. The US delegate to the IADB nixed the lending project citing the new US environmental regulations to curb new loans for fossil fuels. (and you think those “Green New Deal” folks aren’t running the show?). This will provide another opening for China if the policy towards Guyana doesn’t change. There have recently been some significant new oil and gas finds in Guyana territory  and Guyana’s oil is much lighter, better quality, and less polluting than Venezuela’s. So why aren’t we talking to Guyana instead of Venezuela?

 And on the dialogue front we have Maduro’s OPPINOS (opposition in name only), you know, the board members of various opposition parties installed by Maduro, saying they want to participate in the proposed dialogue. The real opposition wants a dialogue in Mexico with the Unitary Platform (real opposition) and Norway. Spokesman for the regime, Jorge Rodriguez, says the regime won’t accept “international surveillance” this round. How’s that for transparency?

 And the Education Minister announced new wages for the sector of 265-600 bolivares per month with a food bonus of 45 bolivares. This equates to $52-$127 per month and a food bonus of under $10. Does this sound like paying educators is a priority for Chavismo?

 And although we don’t have any elections coming up in Venezuela for a while we already have questions. Sumate (electoral watchdog) is demanding an explanation by the CNE (electoral council) why the number of Venezuelans registered to vote abroad is down when 6 million Venezuelans have left the country. Good question?

 Then we have Reuters reporting that the opposition is pressuring the US government to tie any sanctions removal to political concessions. (this is the sanctions  removal the Biden administration says is not being considered)

 Then we have the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) presenting the case of 14 Chacao police officers wrongfully imprisoned and tortured by SEBIN (one of Maduro’s three ‘not so secret’ police groups) to the International Court of Human Rights. I haven’t been able to find any details about this case… anywhere.

 Oh, and for those keeping track, the electrical system in Venezuela failed in 17 states ….again!

 Now let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole….

 As previously discussed, the early Chavez years did a lot of things for the poor people of Venezuela and reduced the poverty rate by half, a commendable achievement. What was overlooked by the international community was was the sustainability of Chavez’s policies and spending. It was not overlooked by many inside Venezuela and the migration began.The mass expropriations and anti-business environment threw a bit of a scare into a number of Venezuelans, mostly business and professional people.They saw the clouds on the horizon,which in hindsight just seems like common sense. High oil prices and almost unlimited credit wouldn’t last forever although based on their behavior the Chavistas must have thought they would.

 Now that you could actually quantify the numbers let’s have a look. In 2015 there were 695,000 Venezuelan migrants, according to the UN. Since it was spread out over the first decade and a half of Chavismo it was hardly an alarming number however, a good number of those left following the “Guarimba” of 2014. What those people had in common with the pre-Chavismo migrants was that they were mostly business and professional people. They left via the airport and flew primarily to the US and Europe. All that was about to change.

 The number of migrants went from 695,000 in 2015 to over 4 million in June, 2019 with over 6 million today and counting. Remember, the Syrian crisis produced 6.7 million migrants. The breakdown in 2019 looked something like this although about 5,000 people continued to leave daily until the pandemic slowed things down :


 Peru-768,000 * began requiring visas

 USA-351,000 * requires visas


 Ecuador-263,000 * considering tightening controls

 Canada-258,000 * listed number is from 2013 – in the last few years the number of refugee claims in Canada are very small while the number of Syrians accepted are in the thousands….puzzling?

 Brazil-168,000 * would be much higher except border crossings are in remote areas


 Panama-94,000 * on again-off again policy regarding Venezuelans

 Mexico-40,000 * much higher today and now requires visas

 Trinidad and Tobago-40,000

 Curacao-16,000 * represents 15% of the population

 Aruba-11,000 * represents 15% of the population

 note: There are an estimated 28,500 (2019) Venezuelans in the Dominican Republic but their numbers are notoriously inaccurate and they now require visas as well as consider deportations

 These are the Western Hemisphere numbers.The are Venezuelan migrants around the globe.

 Those are the numbers and while they are staggering, and growing (the largest migration in the history of the Western Hemisphere)they don’t tell the whole story. Just like the Syrian crisis the early migrants took flights or traveled overland to neighboring countries and were more or less self-sufficient. Eventually the Syrians just kept pouring out by any means possible and wound up all over Europe and these later migrants had nothing in common with the earlier ones as far as self-sufficiency goes. They were simply desperate people fleeing a country ravaged by years of civil war and most arrived at the doorstep of host countries with nothing, in poor health, and not much in the way of prospects.

 The most frightening thing about the Venezuela situation is something I’ve repeated in earlier chapters. Syria was suffering years of civil war. Other countries have had large numbers of refugees due to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, massive river flooding, of famine caused by years of drought.All these situations are understandable. Venezuela’s defies belief as it is due to none of these factors or anything like them.

 More tomorrow….


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