OK...How About This?

 We’ll be finishing up this week’s Down The Rabbit Hole segment shortly but first,I gotta’ tell you, this one made me laugh. There is a Russian oil company in Venezuela that has stakes in 5 joint ventures with PDVSA (government oil company). They are trying to transfer these assets to avoid sanctions. What got me is this company, not too long ago, was on the receiving end of an asset transfer from Russian oil giant Rosneft in an attempt to avoid sanctions. It’s one of those “OK, that didn’t work, how about this?” situations. They need to do something as they produce 125,000 bpd (barrels per day) which is 16% of Venezuela’s total production.

 And Columbia/SIPA brings up an interesting point. Any potential sanctions relief deal for Venezuela would be complicated by these 5 joint ventures. The Russian’s own 40% and PDVSA controls 60% in each of these and both companies are under sanction.It should keep the lawyers and diplomats busy figuring this one out.

 Then we have Scoop reporting that the UN Disability Rights Committee says Venezuela lacks accessibility to physical facilities for persons with disabilities and also lacks protection for women and girls with disabilities. At least the Chavistas don’t discriminate. Those with disabilities pay the price for Chavismo right along with everyone else.

 And speaking of paying the price (or in the Chavista’s case not paying) we have the pensioners of IVSS still waiting for their government benefits.  Their last payment from the government was Feb. 9th and haven’t had access to medication for over two months.

 And  Utopix tells us that the Maduro regime isn’t doing much to protect women in general. In the first two months of this year there have been 41 femicides or one every 35 hours which is on par with last year’s rate.

 Then we have the Venezuela Prison Observatory reporting that inmates of INOF have been denied food from their families for over three months after a raid produced cell phones (which aren’t allowed but everybody has them). This is a big deal because in Venezuela many prisoners rely on food from their families to survive.

 And Caracas Chronicles is reporting that Maduro’s National Assembly is struggling to appoint 20 new TSJ (Supreme Court) judges (I hesitate to call them justices). The deadline was supposed to be 3/31. It seems there is still no definitive list and they’re still negotiating power quotas for groups close to Chavismo. They better get moving if they’re going to keep up their sham judicial reform to placate the UNOHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

 Also on the Human Rights front we have Amnesty International submitting it’s annual report saying “The repressive policy of the Maduro regime hasn’t improved.” They denounced the new cases of “extrajudicial executions,excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, torture, and other cruel and inhuman treatment.”

 Then we have the Spanish Parliament passing a proposition defending press freedom in Venezuela. “Freedom of expression and commercial freedoms are systematically violated by Nicolas Maduro.”

 And the National Supermarket Association is reporting that most stores haven’t adjusted to Maduro’s new foreign currency tax. Some are charging it while others are just prohibiting the use of dollars. Those who said the new tax would hurt business can say “I told you…”

 And while we’re talking taxes, Argus Media reports that tax breaks granted by the Maduro regime for petrochemical imports are hurting private sector petrochemical companies. Many items including buckets and small containers have been produced in Venezuela for years but they can’t compete with tax free imports.

 Now let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole….

 The reasons for the disparity go beyond just news coverage. While all refugees are needy, well, there’s needy …and there’s NEEDY! As we discussed earlier, the people of Venezuela are literally wasting away, many existing on 700 calories a day (that’s if they spend every penny they earn on food). The 85% medicine shortage inched up to over 90% and vaccines (non Covid-related) are almost non-existent.Add to that a population that used to get contraception provided by the government, which is no longer the case, and they can’t afford to eat much less buy condoms so despite the horrible circumstances pregnancies have been rising. It’s a real head scratcher that with both infant mortality and maternal mortality skyrocketing people are still cranking out babies. (Good human nature lesson, people are going to do what they’re going to do regardless of circumstances)

 So what effect is this having on support services Colombia for example), you know, over a million people show up that are malnourished, unvaccinated, carrying diseases thought to be eradicated, and/or are pregnant? Last things first, in the border area of Colombia there were 1,457 emergency room visits in 2015. In 2018 there were 131,958. The fiscal burden on these hospitals increased 8,800%. 20% of these emergency room visits were pregnant women with a variety of diseases and neonatal problems that can’t be treated in Venezuela. As of 2018, over 900,000 vaccinations were given. All school classrooms were (and are) over maximum levels. Venezuelan children are on Colombian government welfare.

 With all support services overloaded and no jobs available for the latecomers most people are using the border areas as a rest stop on the way to Ecuador,Peru, and Chile.They sleep where they can, scrape together whatever money they may be able to earn (prostitution is a popular choice given the uncommonly beautiful physical attributes of Venezuelan women),and renew their journey onward. Unfortunately for many, they arrive at the next border and are confronted with the same issues they faced crossing into Colombia not to mention the hazzards and hardships of their cross-country travel.

 The outlook for the near term is bleak.Various NGOs predict famine conditions for Venezuela.What a travesty for a country that produced 70% of it’s food pre-Chavismo and now imports most of it. We already know the oil business is falling apart.Almost all the oil they produce goes to China,Cuba,and Russia, none of whom pay for it. Caracas Capital estimates that between drug trafficking and gold sales the the government takes in about a billion dollars a month. The Chavistas/Military will get almost all of that and the Venezuelan people will continue to starve.

 Summary : As the numbers mount every day the protests continue and the government calls for more dialogue. With each call for dialogue the stampede continues as do the protests although not on as grand a scale due to the repression. Lather,rinse,repeat. We have progressed (regressed?) from taking flights out to cars and buses to walking out. Oh, and there have been many instances of overloaded boats capsizing trying to reach Trinidad and Tobago. 97 people drowned in three incidents alone.

 The nations surrounding Venezuela and those not so close are waking up to the realization that an open border policy sounds good until you have an extra 6-8 million people you have to take care of. Systems are collapsing,xenophobia is rising, crime is rising (everywhere but Venezuela where there’s nothing left to steal and murders are down due to the high cost of bullets), and now we’re seeing immigration restrictions and deportations of Venezuelans rising.

 Perhaps one day the international media will catch on to this story. the problem is that with war (civil or otherwise) or natural disasters you get some juicy photos or video. This is just a slow motion train wreck that many are all too ready to blame on “Gringo sanctions” when the reality is, the truth is …cue the mantra …this is a man made disaster…a Chavista made disaster.

 That will do it for the week. We’ll be back Monday with more news and our next chapter from Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole.

 Have a great weekend everybody!!!!!


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