Tunnel Vision

 Havana Times had a piece titled “Is Venezuela Rebounding?” It certainly seems to be. With 202,609 new businesses registered it looks like Venezuela has been becoming “less worse” since the end of 2001. Venezuela dollarized their economy almost imperceptively and Nicolas Maduro loosened controls on business when he loosened controls on currency.

 Maduro seems to be, in terms of social Darwinism, adapting to his surroundings to fit his objective,staying alive – in power,that is.Luis Salamanca, political scientist and university professor, says Maduro’s pivot isn’t due to an ideological change but to pragmatism, to remain in Miraflores, the presidential palace. He’s a calculating opportunist.

 Under Maduro the economy shrunk 80%, for reasons we’ve detailed here many times (all Chavista- related). If the Venezuela economy grows 15% in 2022 (analyst estimates put it between 5% – 20% with most coming in around 5% but 15% is possible) and we add in growth from the end of 2021, we would still see an economy worse than it was in 2019.

 Just to speak of the economic recovery without context isn’t enough. The “rebound” is fragile. Only the commercial and import  sectors have recovered, leaving out manufacturing, industry, and production.

 Another contributing factor to the fragility is the lack of a solid institutional structure or coherent macroeconomic policy. He loosens currency controls and allows the use of the dollar and then, when it’s working, he comes up with a new tax on foreign currency/cryptocurrency.

 Another area that has it’s limits, both now and going forward, is the service sector. Without reliable access to electric power and fuel it’s hard to do much of anything.

 We already know that only 10% of Venezuelans have seen the benefits of “the recovery”. The poverty rate is still 95% with 76% in extreme poverty. Maduro’s power rests solely on his control of the government apparatus, the TSJ (supreme court), CNE (electoral council), and the military. Maduro’s popularity has always been low (current approval rating is about 13%) and even many Chavistas don’t like him. No president with this kind of opinion profile can win a competitive election.

 Salamanca describes the “recovery” like this : “You’re in a long tunnel, in an enormous line of cars, and none of them are moving.Hours pass. You’re at the back. Suddenly you see that some of the cars toward the front of the line are moving. What’s your reaction? There’s a change. Now I’m going to get out of here..finally. This punishment is coming to an end. Hours pass and you’re still in the tunnel. That exit from the tunnel was an illusion.. We remain trapped there.”

 Then we have this from the Miami Herald. Former Venezuela National Treasurer (and Hugo Chavez’s nurse), Claudia Diaz, has been denied bail in her bribery/ money laundering case. Ms Diaz was asking for a $1 million bond but the judge ruled her a flight risk. Her husband is currently awaiting extradition from Spain. Both cases are tied to corrupt billionaire businessman, Raul Gorrin and his group’s exploitation of the Venezuelan government’s bolivar – dollar exchange.

 We’ve detailed this practice extensively in our Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment, “Control Freaks”. A lot of millionaires and billionaires were created through Chavismo’s corrupt practices. All this was exposed by Diaz’s predecessor, Alejandro Andrade, who received a 10 year sentence after cooperating with US authorities. Now you know why all those Chavistas, Maduro included, are so nervous about what might be revealed by Alex Saab, the corrupt businessman at the heart of Maduro’s fraudulent financial schemes. We already have this trio. FYI, Claudia Diaz says she can’t go back to Venezuela because her life’s in danger. Hmmm… And who could that danger be from?


 Then we have Caracas Chronicles telling us that Vente Venezuela celebrated it’s 10th anniversary. One of my personal favorites and one of the few, true opposition figures, Maria Corina Machado, says they have a responsibility to “build a new road that leads us to freedom because they aren’t the ‘lemmings’ following an oppressive regime or an opposition that settles for almost nothing.” She stressed the need to elect a new political direction that’s “brave, disciplined, and does whatever it has to do”. She has stayed true to her beliefs from the beginning, Maduro must go, and is a real opposition leader. She deserves more support.

 And it’s been two months since the Venezuela military murdered 4 Yanomami tribe members in a dispute over a WiFi password. Despite some prosecutors being appointed to investigate, no progress has been made. However, three witnesses are under arrest in Caracas and their lawyers have been unable to see them.

 Then we have the Director of Centro para los Defensores y la Justicia saying attacks against Human Rights activists and NGOs are up in the last 3 years. Maduro uses the courts to prosecute his “internal enemy” logic.

 And we had Colombia President, Ivan Duque, addressing the World Economic Forum. he asked countries to “keep persevering” until Venezuela rejoins the path to democracy. “We can’t be indifferent to the humanitarian tragedy that is the dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.”

 Then we have US News reporting that FARC dissident leader, Gentil Duarte, was killed in Venezuela. he’s the 4th FARC dissident leader killed in the last year.

 In a follow-up we have Anadolu Agency reporting that Gentil Duarte was killed in a confrontation with a criminal group involved in drug trafficking.

 And we have Digital Journal reporting Bank of Venezuela (government owned) will offer up to 10% of it’s shares to the public. The first sale, along with shares of CANTV, was scheduled for May,16 but didn’t happen. No explanation was given. The Bank of Venezuela is the country’s largest with 15 million customers.

 And in a related piece, Caracas Chronicles asks the question, who would invest in a company (Bank of Venezuela) that has no budget, published balances, or profitability?

 Caracas Chronicles also reports that the bolivar/dollar exchange rate rose 11.5% in May…a potential Uh Oh ?

 And workers fired by Maduro’s National Assembly protested saying that the labor Ministry mandated they be rehired but Chavismo won’t comply. We hear stories like this all the time. The Chavistas do whatever they want. It’s just like lawyers that can’t get prisoners out of jail even with a signed release order from a judge because someone at the Prison Ministry says “No”. So much for rights and the rule of law.

 And in the “it’s just another Chavista- related scandal”, Jamaica Gleaner reports the Secretary of the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology denies any knowledge that Jamaica taxpayers funded Petrojam’s Venezuelan board member’s trips to Jamaica.

 And then we have an opposition scandal.A 2015 National Assembly (the last legitimate election in Venezuela) member says they are in possession  of documents with evidence of crimes regarding the Venezuela government joint venture with Monomeros (Colombia) under the oversight of the caretaker government of interim President, Juan Guaido. They are calling for an investigation. Chavista scandals and corruption…opposition scandals and corruption…no wonder a majority of Venezuelans consider themselves “Ni Ni” meaning they don’t support either of them.

 And with all the push-back to the exclusion of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua from the upcoming Summit of the Americas, Digital Journal reports that the Biden administration’s coordinator for the Summit of the Americas says the US absolutely will not invite the Maduro regime. He also issued a resounding “No” to Cuba and Nicaragua.

 More tomorrow….

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