Can You Guess...?

 We’ll continue with our drug story in just a bit but first…Consortium News had this piece. Can you guess what they’re talking about? VP of Council of the Americas, Brian Winter, said “Until we know precisely what the Biden Administration is trying to achieve, it’ll be difficult to evaluate how far this detente can go.” Also in the article, “Biden’s unwillingness (or inability) to boldly explain and defend his change of policy …” And also, “Indeed, it’s hard to know exactly what Biden has in mind as to how to proceed, assuming he himself knows.” And then we have…”In both cases, the will of Venezuelans is ignored as is their suffering…Pro-Biden centrists who see his approach to Venezuela as more “humanitarian” fail to consider how far removed the Venezuelan people are from Washington’s calculations and political maneuvers.” OK, so…what is it?

 There is no coherent, logical policy toward Venezuela and the Maduro regime coming from the Biden administration. They’re all over the place and various members of  the administration have taken about every stance you can take. It’s good to see someone else making my point. Biden’s policy toward Venezuela and the Maduro regime will be decided by polling and focus groups with an eye toward the mid-term elections.

 Then we have Responsible Statecraft telling us “Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, signals no change from Trump era policies – US policy in the region (Latin America) seems rudderless.”

 And in the “Is this news?” category we have You Tube telling us “Old cars prevail on Venezuela roads.” What did they expect? Venezuela used to produce several hundred thousand cars per year. Now they produce under 300 and the few imports available are un-affordable to most Venezuelans.

 Then we have Caracas Chronicles reporting that Cecodap (Children’s and Adolescent’s rights organization) tells us that cases of depression and suicidal thoughts are up 112% for 2021.

 Then we have the Maduro regime’s Foreign Minister meeting with the delegation chief from the EU to strengthen dialogue.(Their last interaction with the EU was kicking the electoral observers out of the country).

 And we have the details of the “Dia Del Trabajador” bonus. Remember us telling you that Maduro puts these bonuses out there (available only to ‘Carnet de la Patria’ holders …Chavismo’s homeland card) from time to time hoping to boost his popularity. The “Workers Day Bonus” came in at a whopping 19 bolivares or about 4 bucks!

 Then we have the Venezuela Prosecutor’s Office announcing an investigation against the  President of the Olympic Committee and former Sports Minister for irregularities in 2007 and 2008…A squabble among Chavista factions?

 And we have Joshua Baduel, son of Raul Baduel, who died in prison. He’s been in jail for two years now for alleged participation in failed coup attempt Operation Gedeon. His sister claims he’s been tortured. We’ll keep you posted.

 Then we have the National Journalists Guild reporting that there were 68 documented attacks on the press from January – April, 2022.

 And we have Sumate warning it has been 90 days since the arrest of mayors in Zulia and Anzoategui for allegedly committing crimes. CNE (electoral council) is supposed to call for new elections and that hasn’t happened. (Remember those three National Assembly representatives from Amazonas that were disqualified in 2015 and never replaced?)

 Then we have Cepaz telling us it has documented 28 acts of harassment and criminalizing press workers, political activists, NGOs, and citizens to add to the first quarter number of 98 incidents.

 And in case you were wondering…OAS (Organization of American States) General Secretary and David Smolansky announced the immigration crisis is worsening.

 Then we have Caracas Chronicles reporting on the Yekuana (indigenous people) from Caura fighting the exploitation of their ancestral lands through traditional baskets sold as far away as Milan,Italy. They are raising awareness to the fact that the Caura area was declared protected in 1968 and again ordered preserved under Chavez’s “Plan Caura”. They lost all protection in 2017 and 2018 due to a new “land planning strategy” announced by Maduro. The land is even protected by Chavez’s own constitution. The Yekuana have appealed to the Indigenous Minister to do something. So far there has been no help. (This from the Chavistas that never tire of reminding us how much they care about indigenous communities)

 And we have La Prensa Latina reporting that the leisure and fashion industry is rebounding in Venezuela after a near death blow during Covid-19. The de facto dollarization of Venezuela has been a big part of this. Before the dollar was allowed back in Venezuela businesses couldn’t engage in scheduling or contracting with the bolivar in free-fall but the use of dollars has added stability. I hope this means we can look forward to Venezuela adding to it’s world-leading total of Miss Universes.

 Fun fact : Before the onset of Chavismo Venezuelans were the number one (per capita) consumers of personal care products in the world. Now they don’t even have food or medicine…or water…or reliable electric power…

 And how about NRT reporting that the Venezuela Ambassador met with the Sulaimaini Provincial Council (Iraq) regarding possibly opening an embassy office.

 Then we have AP reporting that the ex-mayor of the Venezuela port city of Guanta surrendered to authorities in Miami in connection to a bribery scheme involving major oil joint ventures in Venezuela. Another day…another bribery/corruption scandal in the world of Chavismo.

 Now let’s continue with Insight Crime’s series on the cocaine situation in Venezuela ….Criminals are so intertwined with the community that when the head of the Paraguana Cartel was arrested and their operations raided citizens protested the “theft” of foundation property. Martinez’s downfall shows the fragility of relationships between political actors and drug traffickers. When there is a political power struggle drug traffickers can lose their protection even after years of stability.

 Today’s major political/drug trafficking factions are Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello with Tareck El Aissami (Economy VP and Oil Minister) as a sub-faction along with various governors. Generally, the various factions can put aside disagreements for the benefit of the overall goal, to remain in power. For now, Maduro is managing to control the delicate balance.

 Next in Insight Crime’s series is : Venezuela’s Narco Brokers

 In 2016, two of Maduro’s adopted nephews made headlines. They were found guilty of conspiracy attempting to bring 880 kilos of cocaine to the US. (Their claim that it was to fund First Lady Cilia Flores’s political campaign was all over international news) Lost in all the noise was the role of middle-men, Narco Brokers.

 They connect politicians (who have fewer options for money these days) with drug traffickers. Corrupt politicians have transitioned from just taking bribes to allow drug trafficking to actively facilitating drug trafficking and even directly participating ie; Cartel of the Suns. They used to allow Colombian drug traffickers to operate networks in Venezuela. Now they have removed Colombian drug traffickers and replaced them with Venezuelans.

 Key to all this is the Narco Broker network. They connect cocaine production sources (most commonly ELN and FARC dissidents) with transport (most commonly with the Army) to local gangs and then export networks.

 In addition to the previous routes the Dominican Republic is now a popular route and Narco Brokers have built up money laundering services operating there and in other Caribbean islands as well as Central and South America. At all levels there are military and government officials that are accomplices to these brokers.

 More tomorrow….

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