A New Twist

 We’ll get started with this week’s Down The Rabbit Hole segment tomorrow. For today let’s begin with something that caught me by surprise. Camilla Fabri’s aunts were arrested in Italy according to Caracas Chronicles. It was in relation to connections to money laundering schemes.Authorities believe they acted as middle women for Fabri. Why tell you this? Camilla Fabri is the wife of Alex Saab!

 So, now we have Alex Saab, the architect of Nicolas Maduro’s fraudulent financial schemes, facing money laundering charges in the US. Rumors abounded that his wife, still in Venezuela, might try to leave the country for fear of reprisal from Maduro and other prominent Chavistas that may have their secrets come our during Saab’s trial. Remember, in court documents from earlier hearings it was revealed that Alex Saab, back in 2018, was talking to US authorities and supposedly a deal was in the works. When Saab failed to turn himself in by the deadline a warrant was issued for his arrest. We already know from his history as a businessman, albeit a corrupt one, he’s accustomed to making deals.

 Camilla Fabri has maintained that she has been under no threat from the Maduro regime. The question has been, what would happen should Saab make a deal with US authorities in return for a reduced sentence by disclosing information implicating Maduro and/or other prominent Chavistas? He knows where the bodies are buried, so to speak. Now we have more questions. What will Camilla Fabri’s aunts reveal about her involvement in their money laundering trial? Is it tied to Saab’s trial? ( Both trials , if the aunts go to trial, are for money laundering) Were Maduro and/or other Chavistas  involved in the aunt’s scheme? What will happen to Ms. Fabri if she gets thrown under the bus by either the aunts or Saab along with Maduro? Might she now try to leave Venezuela? If so, would the Chavistas let her go? It’s going to be interesting.

 Then we have Telesur reporting that Maduro’s National Assembly unanimously approved a resolution to demand respect for the diplomatic immunity of Alex Saab. No surprise there. I guess spending their time on that is a lot more important than pursuing judicial reform, which they haven’t gotten done yet.

 And The News Tribune reports that Alex Saab’s attorneys and US prosecutors presented their arguments in a hearing before a three judge panel in Miami relating to Saab’s status as a diplomat.No indication on a decision.

 Then we have IPYS reporting on press freedom, or lack thereof, in Venezuela. They counted 14 attempts to limit press freedom including intimidation, arbitrary acts, and blocking access to sources. The cases involved one Human Rights NGO, 32 press workers, and one activist.

 And in a related story we have VE Sin Filtro reporting that the Venezuela government has blocked 36 news websites since December and Espacio Publico tells us that there were 25 Freedom of Expression violations in March.

 And on the migrant front we have World Bank reporting that in 2021 they approved a $500 million loan to support the Colombian government’s strategy for social and economic integration of Venezuelans as well as supporting efforts in Peru and Ecuador.

 We also have a piece in La Prensa Latina telling us that many Venezuelan migrants are choosing to stay in Bolivia. Immigration controls in Chile and Peru are making it more difficult to stay in Peru and to enter Chile. I gotta’ say, there isn’t a whole lot in Bolivia (aside from cocaine). Remember, all these South American countries were all for open borders (and criticized the US for not opening it’s southern border) until they were overwhelmed by the over 6 million and counting migrants from Venezuela.

 Then we have the President of Chile issuing a statement saying the Venezuela Presidential elections (2024) must be legitimate and it would be a milestone if Venezuelans abroad could participate (as citizens abroad can in other countries). The fly in the ointment is that all the people that are abroad (at least almost all) support the opposition. He also called the exodus of over 6 million Venezuelans a continental and global tragedy.

 And we have more protests outside the Venezuela Ministry of Labor because the minimum wage and food bonus, a buck a day and $10 a month respectively, isn’t enough to cover their basic needs. Remember, the UN metric for extreme poverty is a dollar a day. I know I harp on that a lot but sometimes it’s hard to get your head around the fact that Maduro increased the minimum wage 18 fold just to reach the level of extreme poverty. Before that it was…well…something like super duper extreme poverty.

 And then we have CVG saying it can’t afford the minimum wage citing a lack of liquidity.Are you serious? Can’t afford to pay people a buck a day!

 Then we have Caracas Chronicles giving us a little insight into how people are surviving in Venezuela with such low wages. Many receive remittances from family members abroad but the article highlighted call center work as a popular option. If you speak English you can earn $150 – $190 a month. One woman said she hadn’t made over $20 a month working for the government in years. It’s worth noting that since he took power Maduro has averaged over  four minimum wage increase per year.

 And another alternative for the ‘less fortunate’ to earn money is reported by OCCRP. The ‘mega gang’, formerly headed by “El Koki”, paid children $20 – $150 a month as “soldiers”. The exploitation is easy in Venezuela where there is basically nothing so a little money and food is a big deal.

 Then we have Telesur reporting that an oil tanker in the Red Sea is an “imminent ecological disaster”. Funny that they don’t report on all the oil spills that happen all the time in their own back yard posing an “imminent ecological disaster”.

 And in other oil news we have The Straits Times reporting that sanctioned oil from Venezuela, Iran, and Russia is piling up off the coast of China as tankers wait to offload due to Covid-19 restrictions.

 Then we have NGO – Acceso a la Justicia telling us that by not appointing TSJ, (supreme court)justices (both new and replacements delayed) Maduro’s National Assembly is violating both the Constitution and TSJ regulations.

 And on a positive note, few and far between in relating to Venezuela, we have Venezuelan company, Monomeros, reporting it’s best results in five years. The problem with the fertilizer company’s results is…they’re in Colombia!

 An in the outlier category we have MP reporting that Credit Suisse, you know, the guys up to their eyeballs in questionable accounts belonging to Venezuelan elites,  predicts Venezuela’s GDP will increase 20% this year. Is anybody buying that?

 Then we have Telesur with this headline, “President Maduro Reactivates Social Dialogue.” They continue telling us that Maduro will “…reformat the dialogue, we are going to make it more inclusive.” In other words the Chavistas want to negotiate with “OPPINOS” (Opposition In Name Only), not actual opposition members.

 And we have Daily Signal reporting that The Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom has been released. Venezuela is ranked 176th, just above North Korea.

More tomorrow….

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