Swimming Upstream

 Swimming upstream or against the tide, whatever the case may be, when you’re going against the prevailing flow of things it can be a pretty rough go. Caracas Chronicles did a piece titled “In Venezuela, Foreign Companies Are In Survival Mode”. It’s been a rough go for them ever since the Chavistas took power.

 On June,28th, after almost 60 years, Avon Venezuela announced a group of Venezuelan companies will take over the entire operation under another brand. No more Avon products will be produced in Venezuela. (Fun Fact – Before Chavismo, Venezuela was ranked the number one consumer, per capita, of personal care products products in the world. Now they dig out of the back of garbage trucks for food.) Avon is just the latest of many transnational corporations to leave Venezuela, but not all have left, at least not all the way.

 Cocoa Cola, Nestle, Kraft, Procter & Gamble,and Chevron, to name a few, are still there. 21 multinationals have left. Many have cases in international courts, most of which Venezuela has lost (or will lose), worth an estimated $30 billion, due to expropriations and asset seizures. Most of those still in Venezuela have drastically reduced operations and have moved their offices to nearby Latin American countries.

 In the last 8 years (the Maduro years) almost all international airlines have left Venezuela. Now, with de facto dollarization and flexibilization (is that a word?) some airlines are considering a return. Right now 7 international airlines operate in Venezuela (down from approximately 28) and 7 more are expected to enter the market in the next quarter or so.

 The future of companies operating in Venezuela is uncertain.After 8 years of recession, a loss of 80% of GDP, 4 years of hyperinflation (the second longest period on record), and 3 currency re-denominations in which the bolivar lost over 99% of it’s value (in total, Chavez and Maduro lopped 14 zeros from the local currency), there have been signs of growth beginning in the 4th quarter of 2021. It’s unclear what effect Maduro’s Anti-blockade Law and his recent tax on foreign currency and cryptocurrency transactions (called the Law On Large Financial Transactions, for some unknown reason) will have on Venezuela’s fragile recovery. To date, most of the international interest in doing business in Venezuela is coming from Iran and Turkey (where Maduro moved the operations for his fraudulent CLAP food program after his nefarious activities were discovered in Mexico). Most economists doubt that Venezuela will become the hub for international investment it was in the past. In short, the future is uncertain.

 Then we have Translating Cuba telling us that opposition leader, Julio Borges, says Venezuela has given $60 billion to Cuba over the last 20 years. (It’s worth noting that Chavez realized that no oppressive regime has shown the ability to survive better than Cuba, although they struggled tremendously after the fall of the USSR, which they refer to as ‘The Special Period’, and Chavez hoped to replace the USSR as Cuba’s benefactor.) The support continues today with approximately 70,000 bpd (barrels per day) of crude and petroleum products arriving in Havana from Venezuela (even as Venezuelans wait in line for days for gasoline)

 Borges describes the relationship between Cuba and Chavismo as one of “inter- dependence, domination, and political kidnapping…and occupation.” For the uninitiated, the Maduro regime (and Chavez before him) is littered with Cuban advisors and intelligence officers as well as Cubans throughout the ranks of the military to inform on any signs of behavior disloyal to “The Revolution”. Borges describes Maduro as a puppet of the Cuban regime.

 And from, The News, we have a piece by Venezuelan journalist, Moises Naim, about the erosion of democracy in which he says that populists flout democratic norms, disregard parliamentary values, and ignore traditional parliamentary ethics through blatant lies. The confused general public is unable to differentiate between the truth and a lie and starts sleepwalking towards autocracy. They sell themselves as noble and pure champions of the people. They defy any constraint on their power and launch frontal attacks on the institutions that sustain constitutional democracy.

 Parties which take the law into their own hands, destroy property, block roads, and fight police instead of sitting in parliament do no service to the country. It was a cautionary article aimed at Pakistan but he could easily have been referring to his native Venezuela…or today’s US Democratic Party.

 Then we have SABA telling us that Yemen’s Foreign Minister sent a congratulatory cable to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister (in honor of Venezuela’s Independence Day). I guess Yemen is ready to join the ranks of “the worst the world has to offer”…(that’s how we here at TFT describe allies of the Maduro regime)

 And we have Merco Press telling us that opposition leader and interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, says, “Maduro’s links with international terrorism are a threat to the region”, referring to to the regime’s ties to FARC dissidents but he could have been referring to Iran and/or Hezbollah.

 Then we have TASS telling us that Venezuela’s Foreign Minister thanks Putin and Russia for their support. I guess Maduro’s recent world tour begging for money and foreign investment didn’t produce enough (except a lot of “strategic agreements) so it’s time to suck up to the Russians again.

 And we have TASS (Remember, they were the official state media outlet for the USSR, so it’s lather, rise, repeat) telling us that the Russian Foreign Minister shot back a healthy dose of kudos to Nicolas Maduro regarding his “responsible and effective policies for sustainable development”. What a love fest. He went on to say that their presidents confirm the intention to deepen political dialogue, trade – economic and cultural exchanges, and to promote mutually beneficial projects in the areas of energy, pharmaceutical industry,transport, and military- technical cooperation. Sounds like the making of another “historic, strategic agreement”.

 And TASS also tells us that Russia wants to place GLONASS satellite navigation stations in Venezuela.

 And we have TASS with another “here we go again” moment. Russia says it’s ready to mediate talks between the Maduro regime and Venezuela’s opposition at the upcoming talks in Mexico.(Remember, the Chavistas demanded Russia replace Norway as mediator for the talks, then backed off…expect another demand soon)

 And we also have TASS telling us that Venezuela’s Foreign Minister says they want to increase the frequency of flights between Caracas and Moscow from every other week to weekly. Gotta’ keep up with that hot tourist demand.

 Then we have Interfax telling us that the President of Belarus (Russia’s little brother) says they’re willing to expand military cooperation with Venezuela to confront “The West”…Big surprise huh?

 More tomorrow….

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