Powerful Mothers

 Caracas Chronicles did an excellent piece on a group of women in Venezuela who have had sons, husbands, and brothers killed by extrajudicial execution at the hands of state security forces. They have formed “Powerful Mothers”, a committee of victims (albeit second hand as the actual victims are all dead). They protest, on average, once a week in front of the Prosecutors Office in Caracas to draw attention and push back against the Maduro regime’s practice of extrajudicial killings, the numbers of which are, and have been for years, alarmingly high.

 Lupa por la Vida project reports 7,810 extrajudicial killings from 2015 – 2021. They documented 1,414 cases in 2021. Putting it in perspective, we’ve said it before and will keep saying it, in Chile, Pinochet’s “death squads” killed approximately 3,000 people (there are higher numbers but most estimates put the number at about 3,000) over his 17 years in power. He was, and still is, widely condemned for his horrific practices (and as we always say, rightfully so). If you do the math, Pinochet’s “death squads” killed, on average, 176 people a year. That’s a sizeable number of basically innocent victims (or at least people entitled to due process) murdered by government authorities. So how is it that Nicolas Maduro’s security services (we covered them in detail in Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole, “The Three- Headed Monster”) average killing over 1,400 people a year and yet Maduro is not considered a pariah? He even gets photo- op visits from Hollywood celebs like Jamie Fox, Danny Glover, and Steven Segal.

 But back to the “Powerful Mothers”. They contend that there is a cultural, social stigma associated with barrio residents and that members of Maduro’s security forces (and a part of society as well) feel that these young men are “killable” because “they must have done something”. One of the mothers said “…there is no death penalty in our laws, but as a matter of fact there is, law enforcement does it all the time.”

 The sons, husbands, and brothers of these women were killed by FAES, CICPC, National Police, etc. ( The article didn’t even mention SEBIN nor DGCIM, two heads of the “Three- Headed Monster”, although they did get FAES in there. It’s widely felt in Venezuela that while other groups may come and arrest you, FAES comes to kill you.) They weren’t criminals and had no record with SIPOL (Police Investigation and Information System) or the courthouse.

 NGO – Defiende Venezuela has almost 2,000 documented cases with a disturbing pattern where the enforcement unit came in, shot them, altered the scene, and then obstructed justice.A large number of these killings are part of OLP (Operacion de Liberacion del Pueblo, FYI – it’s got nothing to do with ‘freeing the people’) and a source with FAES says the order is : if you don’t have a prisoner, leave two dead behind. (Not that much of a stretch from the policy of the authorities whereby if they come with an arrest warrant and they can’t find the subject they arrest whoever is there)

 Victims committees like this can raise awareness but aren’t really acknowledged by the ICC (International Criminal Court) themselves. They need the backing of the various Human Rights NGOs in Venezuela and extensive documentation, not just complaint files and protests. With the support of NGOs and Civil Society the ICC could recognize their cases and they might be included in the ICC’s investigation into the Maduro regime’s Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.

 Moving on from death in Venezuela, let’s talk about life in Venezuela. The New Humanitarian gave us a look from a different perspective. Most news in Venezuela is centered around Caracas but this piece was about life in Maracaibo,Venezuela’s second largest city.

 Gasoline station lines average a 24 hour wait with the National Guard onsite to keep order. Since when a gas truck arrives only about 300 people will get gasoline, those who live nearby will save a spot for you for $5 or you can bribe the National Guard for a VIP slot.It now costs about $20 to fill the average tank (I know, it seems cheap to us). Not that long ago it was basically free. I used to fill up my tank with loose change from the console in my car. For perspective, the monthly minimum wage in Venezuela is about $30, a lot better than the under $2 a month before the last big increase but still at the UN (United Nations) level for extreme poverty. We said at the time…”How bad is it that the Maduro regime has to give minimum wage earners a huge increase just to get them UP to the level of extreme poverty?”

 Maracaibo is still suffering constant (daily) blackouts, three years removed from the massive, week-long, blackout in 2019. The average blackout lasts 3-6 hours. (kinda’ annoying to lose power for 3-6 hours every day) Those with the money have generators but can’t find fuel to keep them running.

 The Venezuela Observatory of Public Services says almost 49% of Maracaibo residents have water delivered by tanker truck. It sounds high but it’s better than the national average of 73%. Normal delivery is once a week so for most people storage is a problem. For a special delivery the cost is from $25 – $50 dollars depending on how much water you need to fill your storage tank. (again, remember that minimum wage number of $30 a month)

 The situation in Maracaibo can be summed up in a quote by one of the residents. “Where’s the future? I just don’t see it.”

 Then we have Caracas Chronicles reporting an all too common story. After 72 hours in Maracay hospital a man with tuberculosis died. He had been waiting three years for treatment. Sounds a lot like when my Venezuelan wife told me “In Venezuela you go to the hospital to die.”

 They also reported that journalist, Roland Carreno, had his 5th hearing postponed. Remember, his last hearing was postponed after only five minutes when the prosecutor failed to show up. In the real world that’s grounds for dismissal.

 And we have the president of the Real Estate Chamber suggesting modification of three laws  blocking the sector’s rebound, specifically notary rates (in Venezuela all notaries are public officials). They can be from 5% – 40% of the value.

 Then we have the T&T Guardian reporting President Biden announced an additional $314 million in new assistance to countries dealing with the Venezuela migrant crisis.

 And the UN Refugee Agency and the IOM (International Organization for Migration)commended Ecuador’s initiative to regularize the status of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. It will ease access to rights, basic services, the job market, and socio-economic integration.

 Then we have US Senator, Marco Rubio’s office issuing a statement urging world leaders to “see Maduro for the threat that he is”. Very simple statement that’s accurate on so many levels, inside and outside Venezuela.

 And we have Malay Mail telling us that US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, expects talks will resume between the Maduro regime and the opposition. I hope they will do it without further incentives from the Biden administration.

 And we have Fox News telling us that Venezuelan refugee and founder of Dissident Project aims to educate kids that “Socialism is not the way to solve our problems.” It never ceases to amaze me that even with a failure rate of 100% socialism is still considered to be a solution to anything.

 Then we have ABC News reporting that Venezuela opposition leader and interim President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, was physically attacked during a visit to a rural community as he continued his nationwide tour to drum up support for the opposition. (They need a lot of support as their approval rating currently stands at about 13%…the same as Maduro’s abysmally low approval rating) Guaido accused PSUV (the Chavistas) of the attack (no real surprise there). What is surprising is the lack of response from PSUV. They usually rush to the microphones for any reason at all (or no reason at all).

 More tomorrow….

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