Wheels Of Justice

 We’ll get started on our next segment of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole, “Scatter Shot” in just a bit but first we have news on the ICC (International Criminal Court) investigation into the Maduro regime for Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.

 The first one comes from FX Empire (and others) reporting that ICC Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, has rejected Venezuela’s (Maduro regime’s) request for a delay (extension). The ICC rules state that member states have a duty and first right to investigate and prosecute alleged atrocities. In other words, when the ICC says it’s going to open an official investigation into alleged atrocities by the Maduro regime they have to detail what they want to investigate (and/or prosecute) and give the member state (Venezuela/ Maduro regime) the opportunity to investigate the alleged atrocities themselves. Because of this rule, other than opening an office in Caracas in March, the ICC had not pursued the investigation. The Chavistas had to have their opportunity. Khan’s filing said that Venezuela had not demonstrated local accountability efforts that were sufficient and that they intended to resume the investigation as soon as possible. Khan’s filing must first be reviewed by a panel of judges and then he can (or not) be given the authority to proceed.

 From Human Rights Watch we have the timeline so far. On November 3rd the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Karim Khan, announced the opening of an official investigation into the regime of Nicolas Maduro for Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity and signed a letter of understanding with Venezuelan authorities. It’s important to know that this did not come out of nowhere. Khan’s office, under his predecessor, had been in the pre-investigation phase for a couple of years (and had received criticism for slow-walking the investigation) and the UNOHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) had submitted scathing reports on both the Human Rights violations and total lack of an independent judiciary.The UN reports came after an agreement with the Maduro regime and a two year fact finding mission.

 When Khan took over the Chief Prosecutor’s Office it was unclear if he would continue the preliminary investigation (which could go on almost indefinitely), suspend the investigation, or proceed to the opening of an official investigation. He chose the third option signaling to the Maduro regime that his office would not be covering for the Venezuela government. In the agreed upon letter of understanding the Venezuela government said it would “adopt all necessary measures to ensure the effective administration of justice.”

 Khan’s predecessor (a known Maduro apologist), after years of investigating by her office, submitted a lengthy report on the Maduro regime’s transgressions upon stepping down. (I guess this way she didn’t actually have to go after the Chavistas herself) She concluded in her report that “…authorities are unwilling to investigate and/or prosecute such cases…shielding persons from criminal responsibility.”

 After the signing by both sides of the letter of understanding the Maduro regime was given two months to demonstrate progress on it’s willingness to investigate the alleged atrocities in Khan’s predecessor’s report and the overwhelming evidence in the UNOHCHR report. They were given an extension in January. After being given the extension Maduro announced judicial reform and Venezuelan authorities said they had a “genuine will” to pursue cases of abuse and human rights violations. The “judicial reform” by the regime was purely cosmetic and of the 124 cases presented 116 were still in the preliminary investigation phase. According to Khan there is “No new information.”

 It is said that there can be no greater affront to a people than to have it’s justice system presided over by a criminal. Maikel Moreno, the head of Maduro’s TSJ (supreme court) is a convicted murderer. The second report by the UNOHCHR detailed the total lack of judicial independence as well as the Maduro regime’s unwillingness to enact reforms or investigate crimes. Combined with the ICC’s findings the intent of the Chavistas is clear, as it always has been. Tell the world how concerned they are about possible Human Rights violations and crimes against humanity and vow to “get to the bottom of it!” meanwhile doing nothing. It appears that Karim Khan isn’t buying it. The wheels of justice turn slowly but they do turn. After the judges give Khan the OK to proceed (it is almost a certainty that they will) we’ll see where all this leads.

 And then we have Lex Blog reporting that the US- DOJ (Department Of Justice) has filed a brief to appeal the dismissal in the Daisy Rafoi- Bleuler case for bribing PDVSA officials and opening Swiss bank accounts for co-conspirators, etc. The case was previously dismissed for lack of jurisdiction as she is a Swiss resident. The courts of the world are overflowing with cases involving the Chavistas and their accomplices.

 And we have BA Times reporting that a group including the former head of Fedecamaras (Venezuela business chamber), economists, and political analysts sent a letter to Joe Biden, Anthony Blinken (Secretary of State), and James Story (Venezuela Ambassador) urging talks to ease sanctions and allow Western oil companies and other private firms to recover the Venezuela oil sector and guarantees the extra income would be used to combat widespread poverty. All this sounds good but Nicolas Maduro has guaranteed a lot of things and hasn’t come through with any of them. Nonetheless, the Biden administration may still believe them. As I’ve said before, this decision will be made by polling and focus groups, not by what is right or even what makes sense. Despite their protestations to the contrary, the possibility of an oil deal with the Maduro regime is still out there.

 Now let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole….

 Chapter 17/ Scatter Shot

 So far we’ve covered major categories, each deserving an in-depth look, but the extent of the destruction, corruption, and outright lunacy that is Chavismo has hit and is hitting every aspect of life and society in Venezuela. There is a host of subjects that may not require an entire chapter to themselves but nevertheless deserve to be mentioned. Be warned, this will be all over the place and seem a bit (or a lot) disjointed. Kinda’ like life in Venezuela.

 Let’s begin with one of my personal favorites. I call it the magic number and it’s $4 billion.That seems to be the number that each major industry had to hit before they finally cried “Uncle!” Allow me to explain.

 As I’m sure you know, each industry has a group or association which is useful to track issues and trends whether it’s the airline industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the auto industry,etc. Let’s use the airline industry as an example but remember, the other industries follow the same pattern.

 International companies doing business in Venezuela have traditionally had to sell (up until recently) their products and services in the local currency, the bolivar (worthless outside Venezuela), deposit the money in a Venezuelan bank, and wait for the government to allow them to convert their bolivares to dollars so they could transfer the money outside Venezuela. Aside from the over four year period of hyperinflation, Venezuela has historically had high inflation, typically in the mid-twenties. It’s not hard to see where this is going huh?

 The longer the companies were forced to hold the bolivares the less they were worth. As the money piled up in the banks so did the currency exchange backlog.It was common to wait a year, two years, or longer to convert the bolivares. If you had to wait two years your bolivares only bought you half as many dollars. That’s quite a financial hit. I won’t get into the accounting but doing business in Venezuela was lucrative enough and the tax advantages of writing off these losses were substantial enough that the airlines would hang in there as long as the numbers were manageable.That’s the big question. At what point do the numbers become unmanageable? I can’t speak to individual airlines but I have a pretty good idea what the number is for the group as a whole. When their association announced that their group as a whole was owed $4 billion by the Venezuela government everything began to fall apart.

 In an attempt to play catch-up most carriers began to reduce exposure by reducing flights in and out of Venezuela. Airlines that had three or four flights a day into Caracas cut back to one. Those with daily flights cut back to one or two a week and so on. The idea was if they could maintain the pace of bolivar to dollar conversions they could reduce the balance owed. Well, the Chavistas simply reduced the pace of conversions and maintained the $4 billion balance in Venezuelan banks. What made the situation even worse was that the airlines were required to pay for refueling in Caracas in dollars. The Venezuela government wouldn’t accept their own money!

 Air Canada tried various negotiating strategies to continue servicing Venezuela. In a last ditch effort to continue doing business they asked the Chavistas, if they weren’t going to allow enough currency conversions to reduce the burdensome balance, at least allow them to pay for fuel in Venezuela in Venezuelan currency. Remember, at the time it was illegal to transact business in Venezuela in anything other than the bolivar (“the law is what we say it is”). The Chavistas said NO! That was the last straw for Air Canada and they discontinued service to Venezuela.

 Air Canada wasn’t the first to discontinue service to Venezuela and they wouldn’t be the last.Many tried to hang on as long as possible due to Maduro’s threat that any airline that completely stopped flying to Venezuela wouldn’t be allowed back in but most eventually threw in the towel. A market that used to be serviced by dozens of carriers was now down to seven or eight, depending on who you talk to. When the auto industry hit $4 billion as a group they followed the same pattern although most still maintain a minimal presence. There are almost no new cars produced in Venezuela now down from a couple of hundred thousand. There are still car dealerships but they have no cars. Ditto for the pharmaceutical industry and so on.

 More tomorrow….

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