Tik Tok

 Today we begin with this headline from Caracas Chronicles,”The Ultimate Political Tik Tok Handbook”. After the widespread use of Tik Tok in the recent Colombia presidential election the article explores it’s use by politicians in Venezuela, eying the 2024 presidential election.Without getting too “deep in the weeds” here, it appears at this point that the two Chavista leaders, Nicolas Maduro and Rafael Lacava (the Chavistas have to offer someone along with Maduro so why not put “Dracula” out there) have well defined strategies and adapted successfully to the ways of Tik Tok. The opposition leaders (if there really are any)…not so much.

 Maduro’s “Venezuela Is Back” video on Tik Tok has more than a million views and he has over 600,000 followers. Maria Corina Machado (our personal favorite), on the other hand, has a little over 54,000 followers.

 The use of Tik Tok is further complicated by the threat of persecution. The case of Olga Mata comes to mind. She uploaded a satirical video in which she was making arepas, the Venezuela staple made from corn flour, and named each one after a Chavista leader. She was accused of “inciting hate” (there’s that “hate law” again … remember, hate is in the eye of the beholder) and forced to record a public self-blaming retraction.

 Another Tik Tok challenge, as it were, is that 30% of Venezuelans have no internet at home and most of those that do have an internet speed 6 times slower than the global average so watching videos is “challenging”.

 There is clearly an opportunity for the use of Tik Tok but how it will work out going forward is anybody’s guess. And just so you know, we here at TFT are opposed to Tik Tok due to it’s links to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and access to user information.

 Then we have Law 360 telling us that the US Commerce Department has moved to bar Emtrasur, the Venezuela cargo company owned by Conviasa (Venezuela government-owned airline), from carrying US goods. Remember, Emtrasur is the owner of the Argentina “mystery plane” that the US is seeking to seize claiming the transfer of the plane from Iran’s Mahan Air to Emtrasur was illegal as Mahan Air was prohibited by sanctions from any transaction involving US produced goods (the Boeing 747 was produced in the US).

 And Merco Press tells us that in an expected move, Nicolas Maduro, demands  the Boeing 747 detained in Argentina be returned to Venezuela. He claims that Emtrasur is the legal owner of the aircraft and it is used for humanitarian aid to the Caribbean and Africa. OK, so here’s the set up :

 Maduro wants the plane returned to Venezuela. The US wants the plane turned over to them saying the transfer of ownership from Iran’s Mahan Air to Emtrasur was in violation of US sanctions. What will Argentina do? Well, Fernandez, the socialist President of Argentina, has been a Maduro apologist in the past and supported Venezuela when they weren’t invited to the recent Summit of the Americas…but he didn’t participate in the boycott (like AMLO in Mexico and others). He is also trying to renegotiate Argentina’s debt (don’t get me started…what is this..round three?) so he may need some US support. So, best guess, Argentina does nothing for as long as they possibly can citing the ever popular “ongoing investigation”. It could be “ongoing” for a long time.

 Then we have WLRN with an Op-Ed suggesting that if incoming leftist (Marxist) Colombia President, Gustavo Petro, wants to tackle Colombia’s problems he must confront, not embrace, Nicolas Maduro, or he will have no credibility on the international stage. (They say he would just be viewed as another in a long line of Latin American leftist authoritarians should he embrace Maduro) Petro needs to apply the same criticism to the Maduro regime as he leveled at prior Colombia regimes and, at this point, it’s unclear if he’s willing to do so.

 And we have IFP News telling us that Iran has exported hepatitis B and BCG (tuberculosis) vaccines to Venezuela. They also sent several million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Venezuela last year. We can only hope they’re more effective than those Chinese “vaccines”.

 Then we have FX Empire reporting that former opposition lawmaker, Juan Requesens, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for alleged involvement in the 2018 explosion of two drones at an event attended by Maduro. Remember that one? It was hilarious! When the drones exploded the soldiers that were assembled leapt into action… but not to rush to the protection of their “beloved Commander-in- Chief…but to get as far away from Maduro as possible (and as quickly as possible). It was absolutely chaotic. 17 people received sentences over the incident. National Guard General, Hector Hernandez Da Costa, received 16 years in prison. Maybe his sentence would have been lighter (or no sentence at all) if the soldiers hadn’t run away?

 Then we have La Prensa Latina with the always uncomfortable topic of vasectomies, not something many guys usually care to talk about, especially in a country with a machismo culture like Venezuela. Just so you know, I’ve always found the existence of machismo in Venezuela to be a conundrum. Their society always seemed to me to be somewhat matriarchal, at least to the extent that women appear to have most of the familial responsibility. When you pass a bus stop in the morning it’s mostly women catching the bus to go to work while the guys are sitting on the stoops in front of their houses. And yet all the top positions in companies and the government are held by men? ….but I digress…

 As always, in Venezuela, accurate numbers are difficult to come by but the Family Planning Civil Association (Plafam) in Venezuela estimates they have performed 796 procedures on men since 2019, or a little over 250 per year. It’s not a service widely offered nor widely accepted while female sterilization is common and a routine procedure at all health centers.

 To put it in perspective, the US is roughly 11-12 times the size of Venezuela (population-wise) so to compare the numbers we need to multiply the Venezuela number of approximately 250 by 11 (2,750) or 12 (3,000). The yearly average for vasectomies performed in the US is 527,000 give or take a few snips so there are about 175 times more vasectomies performed in in the US annually than in Venezuela. So much for responsible family planning…

 Then we have Law 360 with yet another court case going against the Chavistas (as most of them do). They report that a US Magistrate judge (is that redundant?) in Washington, DC recommended the $500 million award to Spanish affiliate of Mexiican tortilla manufacturer, Gruma, should be enforced. The case stems from the Venezuela government’s expropriation of the company’s facilities and equipment. If it seems like there are an inordinate number of these expropriation cases against Venezuela…well…there are and it’s not a conspiracy. You know, “those trying to bring down the glorious Revolution”.

 Quick refresher…During the same years the Chavistas have been in power in Venezuela, Ecuador has had a socialist government as well. Over that time Ecuador expropriated 100 companies while the Chavistas expropriated about 2,000 (I stopped counting at 1,300). The bottom line is, as Chavez and Maduro took each company they said the owners would be compensated at “market prices”, which never happened (maybe it’s because when the Chavistas take over something it becomes worthless?), hence all the court cases. Well, to slightly alter a favorite old saying, a half a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money!

 More tomorrow….

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