School Daze

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in just a few but first…We’ve said many times that 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism has destroyed every area of life and society in Venezuela. The Chavistas spare nothing and no one. It’s particularly distressing what they’ve done to the children. Opinio Juris did a piece titled “Covid-19 Devastates An Education System Already In Crisis.” Many countries have struggled with the impact of the Corona Virus on teaching our children by forcing remote learning due to lockdowns and then to safety issues after lockdowns were lifted. The situation in Venezuela is worse than most.

 In 2019, pre-Covid-19, NGOs and the UN (United Nations) reported considerable deterioration of school infrastructure and shortages of electricity,water, and basic sanitation so this is not just a Covid-19 story. It’s nothing new. In 2018 most school food programs were only providing food to the children two days a week (if that). Only 50% of students attended class regularly. A lot of them were either working to help support their families or helping in the ongoing search for food and water. Things were not just getting pretty bad, they had been for a long time. Remember, the “Guarimba” protests, in which security forces killed 40 protesters, were about lack of affordable (or any) food and took place in 2014.

 Then Covid-19 hit and there would be no in-person learning for almost two years. The issues facing remote learning in Venezuela were particularly acute. Online learning is not as effective as in-class learning under the best of circumstances. It’s even more difficult when you have, as is the case in Venezuela, one of the slowest internet speeds in the world. Add to that the fact that 70% of households in Venezuela have no computer and internet penetration, nationwide, is at about 40%. The situation was further compounded by 38% of children in Venezuela living with adults that had no high school diploma.

 In October,2021 Maduro announced the return of in-person learning. The schools still had dilapidated infrastructure, lack of reliable electric power and water, and little or no bio-safety measures. Teacher’s salaries were notoriously low, $10 – $30 per month, causing 40% – 50% to leave the profession altogether.

 The Maduro regime is in violation guarantees regarding education in the Venezuela Constitution. They are also violating various International Human Rights covenants and have ignored recommendations by the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

 Chavismo needs to address and ensure all schools adopt sanitary measures, drinking water access, hand washing facilities, functional toilets, soap and other cleaning products, access to electricity, internet access, as well as computers and other IT necessary for quality education. “The future of a generation of Venezuelan children is at stake.”

 Then we have this from India Times. The latest tactic for Iran to get crude and condensate shipments to Venezuela is ship to ship transfer off the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. An interesting note : Venezuela has only one VLCC (supertanker) left in it’s fleet after losing 3 others to Petro China in a debt dispute. The rest of Venezuela’s fleet is not permitted in many ports due to lack of maintenance and money for associated cleaning services when in port.

 And we have the International Rescue Committee telling us that funding by the international community is insufficient to support the humanitarian needs of 7 million people in Venezuela and over 6 million Venezuelan migrants.

 And La Prensa Latina reports Venezuelan migrants continue to cross from Peru  to Ecuador and human trafficking is an ongoing business. The numbers are down now that migration by Venezuelans is restricted but it still continues although a lot of it is illegal and many use ‘coyotes’.

 On the lighter side we have this from the Lexington Herald Leader. The Newport (Kentucky) Aquarium has a new exhibit featuring 3 baby Orinoco crocodiles. Once there were millions of them along the banks of the Orinoco river in Venezuela. Now there are only about 1,500 left in the wild. They will raise the  crocodiles until they are approximately 3 feet long and then release them in Venezuela in an effort to rebuild the species. They can grow up to 24 feet but these days few are over 16 feet due to illegal hunting for their highly-prized skins.

 Then we have Telesur (government media) reporting that the Governor of Tachira state, Freddy Bernal, says Venezuela is ready to reopen it’s commercial border with Colombia and consulates to improve economic relations between the two countries.

 And speaking of relations, we have BeiTA reporting that Belarus and Venezuela have agreed on cooperation promoting bilateral trade. Great…

 Then we have TeleGeography reporting that Nicolas Maduro has made another move away from socialist ideology (out of desperation), although he goes back and forth with these moves.  He announced that a number of state-owned companies including CANTV and Movilnet, previously nationalized by Hugo Chavez, will begin selling shares on the Caracas stock exchange. “We need capital to develop public companies.” No kidding!

And Fox News reports a large group of migrants crossed the US southern border illegally at Eagle Pass, Tx. They were primarily from three countries, Venezuela, Cuba, and Colombia.

 Now let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole….

 One theme that seemed to surface time and again was good intentions (at least vocally) gone bad.What they proposed always sounded good, generally started out well, and ended badly.The reason for this repeated pattern, they ran out of money. Free healthcare sounds great. Who isn’t in favor of that? With one caveat…the one nobody wants to talk about…how will it be paid for? When I hear “There’s plenty of money” or “We’ll figure it out” I’m reminded of Nancy Pelosi’s famous statement regarding the “Affordable Care Act”(which tripled my premiums, by the way), “We have to pass it to find out what’s in it.” Then it turns out that what’s in it isn’t exactly what we were told but it’s too late. Don’t give me platitudes and generalizations, I want details…how does it work and who, exactly, is picking up the tab? There is no free lunch!

 Another problem for Venezuela, which became evident when the money ran out, is the cost of keeping the military happy. Authoritarian regimes maintain power through control of the military.When oil revenues nose dived and they had already squandered or stolen all the borrowed money Maduro began ceding control of various sectors of the economy to the military since he couldn’t just pay them outright. First he put them in control of the oil business which is responsible for almost all of the Venezuelan government’s revenue (legal anyway). He also turned over the distribution of food medicine, gasoline, and other important items, even water. Another bone thrown the military’s way was control of Maduro’s “Mining Arc”. They pretty much are in charge of everything of consequence in Venezuela and to make it pay off for them that meant there had to be corruption of pretty much anything of consequence. The problem for Maduro is that all those things have collapsed so the corrupt distribution isn’t nearly as lucrative as you would think.

 The extra food and special healthcare benefits have also been severely degraded so the only ones really benefiting are those at the top. Now you know why an army of 150,000 soldiers has 2,000 generals. Many of the rank and file are unhappy and view their commanders with contempt. A journalist in the Caracas airport saw a general walk past a small group of soldiers and they didn’t even salute! They may not voice their displeasure for fear of retribution but it’s clearly out there.

 More tomorrow….

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