On The Menu?

 We’ll start with something a little lighter today. AP reports that after years of deterioration the Caracas Caricuao Zoo is hoping the new pride of rare white lions will breathe life into the area’s most prominent zoo. Yikes! I hope they have better luck than a few years ago when zoos in Venezuela experienced break-ins with starving Venezuelans slaughtering the animals for food.

 Then we have Univision reporting that a former mayor in Venezuela and political and financial analyst in Miami had this to say about Joe Biden’s Venezuela policy : “Everyone is critical of his policy toward Venezuela and no one is in favor of what he’s doing. He is managing to alienate all those in favor of an opening toward Venezuela and those against. He has totally alienated all sectors.”  Is it just me or does that sound like Biden’s policy on just about everything?

 And we have the OPEC Bulletin telling us all about OPEC General Secretary Barkindo’s visit to Venezuela. What a bunch of PR nonsense. They mentioned all the honors bestowed upon him by various people and entities in Venezuela and his comments on the visionary leadership of People’s Minister of Petroleum, Tareck El Aissami, under the guidance of president Maduro. It was hard to tell if I was reading about the visit or the National Correspondents Dinner or a Hollywood awards ceremony.

 Then we have Caracas Chronicles with an analysis of how the three countries excluded from the Summit of the Americas (established to promote democratic values) choke dissenting voices. In all three countries, Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua censorship and persecution of journalists and activists have turned social media into the most relevant source of information. There are clear patterns of censorship in these three countries. The blocking of social media and news websites is the most repetitive one but cyber- bullying, hacking, and identity theft incidents led by governments don’t fall far behind.

 There’s also collaboration between all three countries in digital, diplomatic, political, and economic dimensions. This joint strategy isn’t a secret. These countries are very open and frontal about it. NGO – RSF says Cuba is the worst with no private media ownership allowed and all journalists are required to join the Union of Cuban Journalists which is controlled by the Cuban Communist Party.

 In Venezuela security forces and intelligence services have intensified media repression since 2017 but restrictions on press freedoms go back to the start of Chavismo. Constant electric outages and internet connectivity failures further restrict access to information.

 In Nicaragua the government has prohibited free mobilization and civic protests (at least they’re open about their repression) and have repeatedly attacked, raided, and censored journalists.

 Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua also follow the same pattern of repression against Civil Society. It’s also worth noting that all three countries have a lot of political prisoners. Caracas Chronicles asks the question, “Could these countries become more authoritarian due to their exclusion from the Summit of the Americas?” Well, it’s hard to imagine how they could be more authoritarian. I guess they would have to progress to totalitarian.

 Then we have the Daily Coin reporting that Sunacrip (Venezuela National Cryptocurrency Regulatory Agency) announced users of cryptocurrency exchanges and other related platforms could face fines up to $15,000 US for “unauthorized use”. The agency requires all exchanges and platforms be registered with Sunacrip and the largest and most commonly used in Venezuela, Binance, does not yet have an operating license. The FATF (Financial Action Task Force) claims the move is to combat “suspicious activity” related to money laundering, fraud, and terrorism etc. Cynics might think it’s because the Chavistas don’t like anything they don’t control.

 And on the migrant front we have the Atlantic Council with an article praising Colombia’s “whole of government” approach to the Venezuela migrant crisis. 1.8 million displaced Venezuelans are now in Colombia. Prior to Maduro’s migrant crisis things flowed the other way with more Colombia migrants heading to Venezuela than Venezuelans heading to Colombia. Colombia’s emergency response has evolved, working with the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the Regional Platform for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants, led by the UN (United Nations) as well as others. This should be the model for other countries going forward.

 Then we have the Jamaica Observer saying that journalists in Jamaica are  questioning if Jamaica government’s Venezuela foreign policy is acting in the best interest of the country as it’s been inconsistent. Hmm… sound like the US.

 And we have FX Empire with an article detailing the “sorry state” of the Venezuela oil industry…”decrepit infrastructure, prone to accidents and pollution with 9 oil spills in the last two years (you would think the environmentalists would be upset the Biden administration is even talking to the Chavistas) and a workforce severely lacking competent and experienced workers after Hugo Chavez, and later Maduro, replaced oil professionals with regime loyalists.”

 At current production levels there is no oil available for sale to the US and increasing production would take a long time and many billions of dollars of foreign investment by oil companies that have either chosen to leave Venezuela or had their assets expropriated by the Chavistas and have court cases against Chavismo and it’s national oil company, PDVSA, all over the world.

 Bottom line – Venezuela’s oil industry is environmentally irresponsible, it’s infrastructure is collapsing or has collapsed depending on where you look, it’s workforce is depleted, and all current production is already spoken for. Why would the Biden administration even be talking to these guys?

 More tomorrow….

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