Will He Or Won't He?

 BNN Bloomberg is reporting that the upscale, Las Mercedes, neighborhood in Caracas is experiencing a turnaround. When I went there a few years ago I was a little disappointed. I had heard a lot about the area but there didn’t seem to be much to get excited about. It appears that may be changing.

 During his time in power, Hugo Chavez banned casinos and constantly pushed the country in a socialist/Marxist direction. After his death in 2013 Nicolas Maduro took over and it was more of the same but on steroids and the economy (and everything else in Venezuela) collapsed and stayed that way as Maduro stayed true to his Marxist principles all the while cementing his role as dictator. The previously thriving enclave of the ‘well to do’, Las Mercedes, like the rest of Venezuela, remained in a depressed state.

 Now, out of pure financial desperation, Maduro has loosened currency controls and eased other economic restrictions and allowed, to a degree, the return of capitalism… and the casinos. The result, the economy is showing signs of positive growth after 8 consecutive years of recession, every year since Maduro took power…and Las Mercedes is booming.

 More than two dozen office towers are going up, although this can be misleading as wealthy businessmen that can’t get their money out of the country invest it in buildings and other developments so they don’t lose everything to inflation. Nonetheless, they’re going up and they weren’t a few years ago. Stores are selling $1,000 stilettos by Italian designers and other high-end apparel. Car dealerships offer $200,000 Ferraris. The casinos and restaurants are bustling.

 Still, the recovery is fragile with 95% of the country still living in poverty, 76% of the country in extreme poverty. The upper 10% are really the only ones benefiting, at this point. Maduro still clings to his Marxist ideology and voices support for “The Revolution” to keep his connection to icon, Hugo Chavez alive. He keeps hinting that the country’s de facto dollarization and other pro-capitalist measures that have fostered this “rebound” are temporary.

 Here is where I have to tip my hat to Bloomberg. This is the first I’ve heard, and as you know I follow this stuff very closely, of the two economists from Ecuador who previously worked for Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa, a fellow socialist, and helped engineer an economic recovery in that country. They’ve been working behind the scenes with Maduro since 2019 and have advised he follow he follow the template of how they succeeded in the turnaround of Ecuador under similar, albeit not so catastrophic, circumstances.

 Now the question is, will Maduro continue to follow the advice of the guys responsible for Venezuela’s fragile recovery (and Ecuador’s rebound) or will he listen to the voices in his head and find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Again…will he or won’t he?

 Moving on we have Havana Times telling us that Cuban singer and activist,Yotuel Romero, says “Dictators try to silence art every day”,referring to Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. “…carrying out artistic actions is criminalized.”

 Then we have Caracas Chronicles throwing a little cold water on everyone’s excitement over the US allowing Eni (Italy) and Repsol (Spain) to ship oil from Venezuela to Europe. They remind us that it is for debt only so no new money for PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) and the amount of oil involved is too small to have any impact on global markets.

 And we have Henrique Capriles, former presidential candidate (who many think is an OPPINO, ‘opposition in name only’) condemning the opposition for celebrating primaries “excluding sectors” meaning parties where the TSJ (supreme court) imposed authorities. Remember, the TSJ imposed itself into the electoral process and, after upholding the CNE (electoral council) decision to disqualify the leadership of some political parties, installed Chavista- approved OPPINOs to head these parties. These guys are the same (or worse) than the RINOs (Republican In Name Only) in the US and their participation only weakens the opposition just as the RINOs weaken the Republican Party in the US.

 Then we have a microcosm of Venezuela. Valentin Santana, leader of colectivo (Maduro regime- sanctioned gangs) La Piedrita, threatened Fetrasalud Secretary General, Pablo Zambrano, for calling employees to a strike. How is it that this guy can publicly threaten someone while he’s had a warrant out for his arrest since 2007?

 And remember the story about Venezuela authorities only acting on crimes after they go viral on social media? Well, four people have been arrested for using their 4X4 vehicles in a restricted area…they’re charged with environmental crimes. (while 98% of crimes in Venezuela go unsolved) Good to see the Prosecutor General has his priorities straight.

 And in another all too common story, National Journalist Guild reports that two journalists were detained after interviewing inmates for their ties with drug trafficking. They were arrested without warrant and no charges have been made public.

 And lets not forget about Covid-19. The last we heard from the Maduro regime regarding Covid-19 vaccination coverage they said the vaccination rate was somewhere in the 90% range (Maduro even touted a number of over 100% ???). We even had a story a week ago about millions of more vaccines shipped to Venezuela. At the time we quipped that Venezuela now had enough Covid-19 vaccines, thanks to shipments from Russia, China, Cuba, and even the COVAX syatem, to vaccinate every man, woman, and child (even dogs and cats) in Venezuela. So, how is it that Doctor Huniades Medina reports that only 45%  of Venezuelans have received two vaccine doses?

 Then we have the president of the Public Transportation User Committee saying that raising public transportation prices to a dollar is imminent due to fuel costs. Remember, with the latest increase in the minimum wage, the average Venezuelan earns less than $30 a month.

 And we have the president of the Venezuela Chamber of Automotive Product Manufacturers says “The industry has disappeared in Venezuela.”

 Oh, and we also have the US Secretary of State meeting with the Holy See Secretary of State regarding the importance of the negotiations between the Maduro regime and the Unitary Platform (opposition) to solve the Venezuela crisis… Good to know.

 And we have Digital Journal telling us that Maduro is visiting Turkey to deepen ties between the two countries…Good to know.

 That will do it for the week. We’ll be back with more for you on Monday.

 Until then…Have a great weekend everybody!!!

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