Late To The Party
Before we head Down The Rabbit Hole we have a few things to get to. First up we have a piece from Oilprice.com titled “Venezuela’s Oil Industry Is Causing An Environmental Catastrophe”. Well, they’re a little late to the party but at least they’re talking about it. This has been flying under the radar of most international watchdogs for some time now.The situation is not helped by the fact that environmental damage is not documented by PDVSA (government owned oil company). They have not published operational data since 2016.
Various organizations including the Venezuela Observatory of Political Ecology put the number of oil spills in Venezuela for the years from 2016 – 2021 at 200, 73 of those between January and November of 2021 alone. The situation is deteriorating with the number of oil spills up six times from the number in 2016. To put it into context, the US had 3 oil spills in 2021. The amount of oil spills in Venezuela is made even more incredible by the fact that they don’t produce much oil these days, only averaging 650,000 bpd (barrels per day) while the US produced over 11 million.
The primary sources are corroded pipelines, storage tanks, and drilling platforms. In short, they’re leaking oil everywhere and destroying lakes and the formerly pristine Caribbean coastline. When Western oil majors (other than Chevron) pulled out or were expropriated maintenance stopped with the China and Russia joint ventures being the only ones left and they lack the West’s environmental standards (Venezuela seems to have no standards at all). Venezuela is the 11th most bio-diverse country in the world and between the oil spills and the environmental harm being perpetrated across the “Mining Arc” region (you know, little things like mercury poisoning in the rivers) the Maduro regime is doing environmental damage that will take decades to recover and some is irreparable. While they may be late to the party we can only hope more environmental organizations start talking about this.
We told you about the Maduro regime scrambling around to raise money wherever it can, including scrap metal, to replace revenue lost by collapsing oil production. FX Empire reports that the Maduro regime has designated exporting scrap metal as “strategic”. The majority of scrap metal exports go to Turkey,India, and Taiwan through Venezuela government owned company, Corporation Ezequiel Zamora, and the Venezuela government gets paid in much needed cash. Exports of scrap iron, steel, and copper doubled in 2021 ,however, the total was only $55 million. One anonymous source (for fear of reprisal) said,” Nothing is being restored today, everything is for sale.” Equipment is being dismantled. From the power and water infrastructure to oil production the Chavistas have maintained nothing. It seems to be the plan to just let everything collapse, throw it on the scrap heap, and get whatever they can for it.
Then we have Al Monitor reporting that Colombia has replaced Venezuela as Turkey’s number one trading partner in Latin America, despite all the Maduro regime’s happy talk about increasing trade between the two countries. I guess those scrap metal exports weren’t quite enough.
And we have Daily Caller reporting Florida representative, Matt Gaetz saying “Americans shouldn’t have to pay higher gas prices to support Maduro or Khameini over Putin, especially since Putin and his military get the money either way.”
And in some not so good news for oil revenue dependent countries like Venezuela, we have SABC reporting crude benchmarks had their biggest weekly fall in two years dropping 13%.
Then we have the ongoing migrant crisis. LA Times reports that approximately 500 migrants, many of them Venezuelan, clashed with Mexican police near the Guatemalan border. Participants say it’s more than just a protest. They are heading to the US and are frustrated with the Mexican government’s lack of processing of visa applications.
Also on the migrant front we have WOLA telling us that from October 2021 to February 2022 the number of Venezuelan migrant encounters at the US Southern border is up 4,000% from the same period a year ago although the numbers are down in the last month due to Mexico’s new policy regarding Venezuelan migrants. Venezuelans must now have proof of financial stability or $2,550 in their bank account. Various NGOs are calling for the US to expand asylum and TPS status for Venezuelans fleeing the Maduro regime.
And remember us telling you that Venezuela sells contaminated fuel at cheap prices? Well, The Strait Times reports that 34 ships allegedly received fuel from Singapore likely contaminated with cheap blending components from Venezuela. Many oil traders are looking for deals with the rising prices and these cheap alternatives can damage ship’s engines. You get what you pay for.
And in Venezuela’s ongoing legal battles to avoid the consequences of their expropriation of businesses we have Law360 reporting that Venezuela has appealed a judge’s order to move forward with the sale of $1.2 billion in Citgo shares and it looks like it’s headed back to the 3rd Circuit court. They have already ruled against Venezuela.
Oh, and in case you missed it, Merco Press reports a mural of Chavez and Putin together has been unveiled in Caracas…touching.
Now, let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole….
In April,2018 the Maduro regime crossed another line as far as acceptable behavior goes. That’s when they officially endorsed kidnapping in order to extort compliance with their wishes. We discussed earlier the websites that provide Venezuelans with information on the black market exchange rate to buy and sell bolivares and dollars. While the standard excuses for the Venezuela economic disaster are always various forms of ‘economic warfare’ by right-wing imperialists, in April,2018 they set their sights on these websites as a form of ‘economic terrorism’. The Venezuela Attorney General went on TV and blamed these site owners for Venezuela’s economic problems and demanded they be jailed. The problem for him was they weren’t in Venezuela. That’s when the Chavistas embraced a new strategy.
Carlos Marron, owner of webdolarpro.com, had resided in the US for years and his website had been around for years as well, one of twelve popular sites for black market exchange rates. DGCIM grabbed his father when he went out for his morning walk in Venezuela. When he didn’t come home his wife tried to find out what happened to him and she was apprehended by CICPC (scientific police) and held for eight hours. Up in the US, Carlos Marron got a phone call telling him if he wanted his father out of jail he would have to pay and payment must be made in person. DGCIM were waiting for him at the airport in Caracas, he was arrested for financial terrorism, spreading false information (according to the Law of Currency Exchange), money laundering, and conspiracy.
Lavrentiy Beria was head of the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB in the USSR. Stalin once called him “my Himmler” in reference to Hitler’s head of the SS. It’s a subject of debate whether Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich (head of the Gestapo), or Beria killed more millions of people. Beria is reputed to have said “Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” That seems to be the Chavista mindset.
I’ve saved the best for last. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a long awaited report on Human Rights violations in Venezuela. The head of the Human Rights office for the UN, Michele Bachelet, visited Caracas in 2019 for about two days. She met with various members of the government including Maduro as well as members of the opposition, NGOs, and alleged victims or families of victims of Human Rights abuse. Maduro’s detractors were concerned that the visit was too scripted. Maduro supporters (including Maduro himself) seemed satisfied with the visit and stated they looked forward to cooperating with the UN – OHCHR on this important issue. The report was highly anticipated for a couple of other reasons.
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