Everybody's Two Cents

 We’ll get started with our Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment tomorrow but first…Is it just me or does it seem that everybody and their brother is throwing in their two cents on the Venezuela dialogue situation?

 Caracas Chronicles reports the chief of the EU delegation visiting Caracas tells Venezuela’s Foreign Minister he supports dialogue (with international observers) with the potential achievement of holding free and fair elections? (How many years has everyone been saying that now?)

 Members of Foro Civico insist that negotiations must prioritize the humanitarian emergency and that the country needs some “early victories” that improve the quality of life (and also ‘free and fair’ elections).

 And we also have, Diosdado Cabello, Venezuela’s second most powerful man (maybe the most?) saying he is also in favor of dialogue and that the last round of talks with the US in Trinidad and Tobago was a great victory for Chavismo. He went on to assure everyone that it wasn’t Chavismo that left the negotiating table in Mexico… Uh…OK..Then who were those guys that walked out of the talks when the US extradited Maduro’s architect of financial fraud, corrupt Colombian businessman, Alex Saab? Oh, and it’s worth noting that the US was not a participant in those talks.

 And speaking of those failed talks, Telesur (government media) reports that Diosdado Cabello says the US scuttled the dialogue process between the Maduro regime and the opposition with the extradition of “diplomat”, Alex Saab.

 And as long as we’re talking about…well…talking, Americas Quarterly had a piece on the growing list of countries pulling out of participating in the upcoming Summit of the Americas, hosted by the US in Los Angeles, and that it’s a sign of the times.

 The Biden administration has no clear policy toward Latin America and may soon lose it’s strongest ally in the region. Citizens of Latin American countries are increasingly ambivalent towards democracy. There are no real strong democratic leaders in Latin America but there is no shortage of socialists, and by extension authoritarians or dictators. We contend that while people may not necessarily want authoritarians in power, democracies have failed to deliver for them.

 While it is understandable to ask if Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua should be represented at the Summit of the Americas, it’s also fair to ask if all those calling for these leftist dictatorial regimes to be represented would have called for right-wing dictatorial regimes like that of Chile’s Pinochet (going back a few decades but still talked about) to be represented? The Pinochet regime is widely denounced (and rightfully so) for it’s repression and extrajudicial killings but we don’t see the same level of denunciation for these leftist regimes, like Maduro’s, which are much worse. We’ve said before, Maduro’s thugs were responsible for more extrajudicial killings in one 18 month period than Pinochet’s killed in over 17 years.

 And on the “sign of the times” front, Caracas Chronicles tells us that Venezuela/ Colombia relations may be in for a change with the Colombia presidential election coming up May,29th. Leftist coalition leader, Gustavo Petro, who is leading in the polls, is close to many who support, or have supported, Chavismo. The question is, should he prevail, would he be more like the leaders in Nicaragua and Bolivia, who openly support Maduro, or more like AMLO, President of Mexico, who doesn’t really openly support Maduro but doesn’t condemn him outright either? He simply avoids the issue. Well, we shouldn’t have long to wait.

 And since you can’t talk about Venezuela without talking about oil, we have Mehr News (Iran) with a piece titled, “Venezuela Begins Imports of Iranian Heavy Crude to Feed Domestic Refineries”. OK, I understand PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) importing condensate from Iran to dilute and process it’s heavy crude for export. Venezuela doesn’t produce it and before sanctions got most of it from the US. But heavy crude…? Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world and most of it is heavy crude. Can’t they get their own oil to their refineries?

 Venezuela received 200,000 barrels of Iranian heavy crude in April and another 400,000 this month. What’s going on? Is it that even though the Iranian crude is heavy it’s not as heavy as most of Venezuela’s heavy crude? FYI, Venezuela is set to receive another 2 million barrels of condensate.

 Then, remember us telling you about the BCV (Venezuela Central Bank) doing whatever it could to support it’s local currency, the bolivar. They have been keeping the exchange rate artificially low by using whatever dollars it can spare to buy bolivars and create some kind of demand to keep the exchange rate low. BCV has spent $1,474 million so far this year. Almost a billion and a half dollars to keep the exchange rate low? That’s a lot of money for a country that’s essentially broke.

 Remember those coffee production numbers Maduro was touting last week? You know, the one’s we told you were suspect and had been proven incorrect in the past? Well, Fedeagro (agricultural organization) reports that the real coffee production numbers are less than one third of Maduro’s numbers.

 Then we have the report from Caracas Chronicles that it has been 13 days since the head of CNE (electoral council) left to head up TSJ (supreme court, taking over for Maikel Moreno, the convicted murderer who still sits on the court). Shouldn’t they at least show some sense that it matters who heads up CNE? Then again…maybe not.

 And there’s this…Two years ago journalist, Roland Carreno, was arrested and charged with “participation in conspiratorial plans against the democratic peace”. Carreno had been a coordinator for Popular Will, opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez’s party. When Lopez fled Venezuela for Spain, after being released from prison and put on house arrest, Carreno was arrested.Well, after two years, he had is first hearing…it lasted five minutes!

 And while we’re on the subject of detainees, remember the Citgo Six? They were arrested after being lured to Caracas on the pretense of an important meeting. The family of Jose Pereira, one of the Citgo Six, who is being held in the infamous El Helicoide (HQ of SEBIN, part of Maduro’s “Three-headed Monster” of security services) is concerned with his severely deteriorating health. He has been in prison for 4 and 1/2 years.

 Then we have more bad legal news for PDVSA. The Hague district court ruled that PDVSA was responsible for the debt of Bariven, a subsidiary. This case is $5 million with another $50 million pending in other similar cases.

 And remember the chaotic roll-out of Maduro’s foreign currency/cryptocurrency tax? ANSA president says the supermarket chain still needs another 40 days to apply the new (two months ago) tax. They haven’t received the machines (from the government) to process it.

 Oh, and Mehr News also says there should be another Iran oil shipment for Venezuela and Nicaragua arriving in 10 days…in case you’re interested.

 And we have Jamaica Gleaner reporting that Jamaica’s Energy Minister says Jamaica does not rule out going back to Venezuela for oil…Good to know..

 Then we have Telesur saying that Cuba’s Prime Minister met with Maduro to deepen ties and cooperation between the two countries. I guess that means more gas for Cuba and less for the gas-starved Venezuelan people.

 We’ll be back tomorrow with more news and Chapter 18 of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole, “It’s A Wrap”….

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