Lombardi N Shakespeare

 We’ll get started with our next segment of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole, Chapter/14 The Three-Headed Monster, tomorrow and yes, it is frightening. Today we have some catching up to do.

 Ever since the Biden administration sent senior officials to Caracas to meet with Maduro there have been stories and statements that have been all over the place. I’m reminded of an old clip from NFL Films with legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi, storming around the sidelines yelling “What the hell’s going on out there?” … Is the US looking to buy oil from Venezuela?…Are they going to lift sanctions? What about the state of Venezuela’s oil production?…and so on…The Biden administration was quick to deny any rumors of a deal…but then a spokesperson or other official would say something like “Any sanctions relief would be tied to concrete steps…” and that statement would be followed by another denial and a reminder that the purpose of the meeting in Caracas was not to talk about an oil deal but to get political prisoners released. Then Maduro would say something like, “They want our oil!” which would quickly lead to more denials, or at least what is referred to as non-denial denials. In the words of The Bard, “Methinks thou doth protest too much.” Any time they flat out deny something then couch it with non-denial denials I get the feeling something’s up.

 Remember last week when Chevron didn’t get it’s special license to deal with Venezuelan oil approved, as had been an automatic occurrence recently? I thought,at the time, this was kind of suspicious as it’s in the best interest of the US, strategically, to have some kind of oil presence in Venezuela and all the other US oil majors have left or been expropriated. Could it be that if the US were to lift sanctions on the Maduro regime, and specifically PDVSA (government-owned oil company) then Chevron wouldn’t need a special license? Then we have this: Forex Live reports the Biden administration is considering allowing Chevron to communicate with the Maduro regime. (Negotiating with sanctioned individuals or entities is prohibited) The administration was quick to deny any speculation it was considering sanctions relief. This was also reported by other outlets including BNN Bloomberg.

 Then we have Responsible Statecraft saying that Maduro, in his own words, is looking to “reformat” negotiations with the opposition using co-opted opposition members (OPPINOs, opposition in name only) and no Juan Guaido (interim President recognized by the US and 60 other countries). Remember, restarting talks with the opposition is one of the conditions for sanctions removal although how can you have conditions for doing something you’re not considering doing?  They say that Maduro will seek the smallest and most symbolic concessions imaginable. We have already seen Maduro release two (of many) political prisoners and announce the restart of talks with the opposition even though they were adamant that there would be no talks until Alex Saab, the architect of many of Maduro’s fraudulent schemes and currently on trial in the US, was released. Looking forward they also question if Maduro will be able to rely on Russia and if the US will be able to rely on Guaido.

 We also have Investing.com reporting that PDVSA met recently with several firms offering oil tankers for sale or lease (names redacted). One company offers to blur tanker ownership through intermediaries to avoid sanctions. Venezuela’s tanker fleet is, in their words, “dilapidated” through years of neglected maintenance and last year lost three of four VLCCs, very large crude carriers, over payment disputes. (We’ve told you before, the Chavistas have screwed almost everybody on almost every deal they ever made) In it’s current state PDVSA’s tanker fleet can’t handle any increase in production, which begs the question, are they preparing for something?

 In another related piece, Investing.com reported PDVSA production in March (exports) was down to 644,419 bpd (barrels per day). One cargo was returned due to “off specification”. (Contamination issues are common at PDVSA these days leading to shipments refused or accepted but only with heavy discounts) PDVSA has been trying to restart it’s Petromangas crude up-grader (key for converting heavy crude, which is most of Venezuela’s oil, for export) but at the end of March it was still offline.

 We also have Petroleum Economist reporting that an analyst at Fitch says at best case Venezuela can increase oil production by 300,000 bpd, with foreign investment (up from an average of 650,000 bpd estimated for 2022) or maybe 100 – 200,000 bpd without foreign investment. They also posit that it may remain at that level until possibly 2031. “…infrastructure in tatters.” Maduro (as usual) predicts 2 million bpd by the end of this year. Oh, he also said they would reach 1 and 1/2 million bpd last year, then revised it down to 1 million, which he said they achieved (and nobody believed it). So, what is the Biden administration thinking and/or doing? I have no idea but I’m sure of one thing. Whatever they decide to do will be driven by poll numbers and focus groups, not what is the best policy.

Then we have the Daily Mail reporting on something I kinda’ forgot about. Remember the failed Marx Brothers – esque coup  attempt involving former Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau? Well, it seems he’s suing Venezuelan businessman, J J Rendon, who lives in Miami, for $1.4 million for breach of contract for walking away from the plan. (How crazy is that?) The process has been stalled after 7 unsuccessful attempts to serve the complaint. ( With all the former New Yorkers in Miami can’t he find one to get it served? They know how to get that stuff done.)

 And on the migration front we have a few items. First, we have La Prensa Latina reporting that Venezuelans are paying ‘coyotes’ (smugglers) $4,000 to cross the US southern border. In December,2020 there were 200 Venezuelans intercepted. In December, 2021 there were 24,805 and in January,2022 there were 22,779.

 We also have the UN -IOM (Institute Of Migration) giving us the latest numbers from the Darien Gap in Panama. This is one of the most dangerous migratory passages on the way to the US from Colombia and is a good gauge of the migration picture. While the numbers skyrocketed in 2021, in January and February if this year they have almost reached the 2021 total.

 Then we have the San Francisco Examiner giving us a good comparison of the migrants (refugees) from Ukraine and Venezuela.They say that in both countries people are fleeing seeking survival (not just people seeking a better life). In one country they are fleeing armed invaders while in the other they are fleeing a total societal collapse. Both countries are embattled,violent, and have extreme shortages of food and medicine. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 And speaking of migrants, Caracas Chronicles tells us that 1 million Venezuelan kids were separated from their parents in 2020. The number of children in Venezuela with migrating parents was up 40% in 2021. There’s a lot of coverage on families being separated at the US southern border but no outrage at an entire nation of families being separated by the Maduro regime’s 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. Why is that?

 And there’s this from Digital Journal. R 4 V Organization reports there are 600 Venezuelans a day crossing the Chilean border via Bolivia and Peru.

 And as long as we’re talking about the horrors of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism we have this from France 24. The National Academy of Medicine in Venezuela reports that 141 people died in Venezuelan hospitals in 2021 due to power failures. It’s one of those “if you care about your people,as you say you do, how about keeping ventilators running in hospitals?” kinda’ things.

 More tomorrow….

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