Here We Go Again

 This one is another example of how authoritarians hate to be ignored. I guess since a few days had passed without anyone paying attention to their demands the Iranians felt the need to reiterate their demand that the 5 Iranian crew members from “The Mystery Flight” (the guys from the Emtrasur Venezuelan-Iranian cargo flight still detained in Argentina) be unconditionally released. Merco Press reports a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry affirmed “They have not committed any crime” and also said that their embassies in Buenos Aires and Caracas continue to negotiate. No mention of their terrorist ties to Quds Force, The Iran Islamic Revolutionary Guard foreign operations arm, and Hezbollah. There has been no progress and the investigation is ongoing.

 Then we have Iran Wire reporting that the FBI has named two Spanish companies, Zorex S.A. and Alcux Air Spain, as companies involved in the Emtrasur “Mystery Plane”. Zorex appears to be a ghost company and Alcux has offices registered in Barcelona but has no listed telephone number, contact details, or website and Iran Wire has been unable to locate any representative or employee associated with the company. Argentine judge, Federico Villena, is investigating these two companies.

 Alcux, it appears, paid Emtrasur $600,000 to transport cargo from Mexico to Argentina and the date of payment is the day “The Mystery Flight” landed in Argentina. Maybe there is a perfectly legitimate reason but there is no one to ask about it. Zorex concurrently received $780,000, through a subsidiary of Emtrasur.

 Earlier this month the Argentine investigation identified Juan Manuel Bataller as an administrator of Alcux and he was also a proxy for Zorex. Bataller has two convictions from Barcelona Commercial Court as well as a bankruptcy and via video link was unable to justify the use of the Zorex bank accounts by Emtrasur. It’s worth remembering that Emtrasur didn’t exist before last year when it was created by parent company, Conviasa (Venezuela government-owned airline) at the same time it took possession of the Boeing 747 aircraft from Iran’s Mahan Air (in violation of US sanctions). Hmm…maybe this is why the Iranians woke up after a week or two of inattention?

 Then we have Reuters telling us, in typical good news/bad news fashion for Venezuela, PDVSA’s (Venezuela government-owned oil company) 2nd largest refinery’s new gasoline production unit is already producing 28,000 bpd (barrels per day)…but their most important 88,000 bpd unit remains stalled.

 Reuters also had a piece about the former President of Brazil and current presidential candidate, Lula. (He has a long name so everybody just calls him Lula) I just don’t know what to think about this guy. I’m usually not a fan of leftist/socialists but back in the day Lula showed us that unlike most leftist/socialists he was capable of deviating from the typical ideology. (Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks?)

 After becoming president and taking the typical anti-business, anti-capitalist stance usually taken by leftist/socialists, Lula channeled his inner CCP (Chinese Communist Party). Quick history lesson…The CCP, under Chairman Mao, was ideologically pure and millions of people starved to death. When the CCP, under new leadership, engaged the business community and became more pro-capitalist they prospered. Lula did the same thing and Brazil’s economy became the powerhouse of Latin America.

 Today, as candidate Lula, he says he’s in favor of free elections in Venezuela…but he supports the Maduro regime. (Not addressing the 800 pound gorilla in the room of Chavismo’s Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity) You can’t have it both ways. With Maduro’s current approval rating of 5% (downgraded from the number we had of 13%) he can never win a free and fair election. So… you can be pro- Maduro or you can be pro- free and fair elections…but not both.

 And we have another one from Reuters reporting that Colombia President, Gustavo Petro, (Hey, did you notice…no qualifier like “leftist/ Marxist”?) said Colombia will guarantee Venezuelan’s right to asylum and refuge. This comes after Nicolas Maduro and the 2nd most powerful man on Venezuela (? number 1?), Diosdado Cabello, called for the extradition of unnamed opposition figures. There are also many activists, journalists, etc. who have fled to Colombia to escape the Maduro regime that have been concerned about their protection under the new Petro government. There are approximately two million Venezuelans in Colombia.

 Then we have WOLA with a very well-done piece about why the mandate of the FFM (Fact Finding Mission) should be renewed in September. Most of the content we’ve previously covered so we won’t go over it again but I was interested in the questions and responses (the article was in question/response format)

 The question was, “The government of Venezuela is cooperating with international mechanisms such as OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) and the ICC (International Criminal Court) Prosecutor’s Office. Does that not make the FFM unnecessary?

 The FFM is necessary (essential) to monitor progress made by the Maduro regime, or lack thereof, and provide recommendations for genuine and transparent reforms.

 In the past the government has taken significant measures to block UN (United Nations) investigations by signalling it’s “willingness to cooperate” and will, in all probability, do the same thing going forward with both the UN and the ICC.

 It is the “boots on the ground” of the FFM  that led to the first two reports by the OHCHR, neither of which was kind to the Maduro regime, and their findings along with the OAS (Organization of American States) report and the ICC preliminary investigation led to the ICC opening an official investigation into Human Rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed by the Maduro regime, both systematically and by individuals.

 The FFM helps to look past (through) the “smoke and mirrors” cosmetic moves the Maduro regime attempts to use to demonstrate their “willingness to cooperate” when the truth is they haven’t changed and have no intention to do so. The FFM mandate should be renewed.

 Then we have Nasdaq reporting that the president of BCV (Venezuela Central Bank), Calixto Ortega, says Venezuela’s economy grew 17% in the first quarter of 2022. He added that it grew 19% in the fourth quarter of 2021. The first question is : With the rest of the world reporting numbers for the second quarter of 2022 last month, why are we just now getting first quarter numbers from BCV?

 The second question is : Can we believe any numbers from the Maduro regime? The answer is No! When they need to show something positive like economic growth or oil production their numbers are always proven to be double the actual results. When they need to downplay something negative their numbers are are always proven to be less than half of what the actual results are.

 And in a related piece we have Rio Times telling us that a spokesman for the Venezuela National Treasury (the same people that can’t ell us what happened to about $28 billion of the people’s gold) says Venezuela has experienced double digit growth for four consecutive quarters. He went on to list all the hard work the regime has done in the areas of fiscal, monetary, and exchange rate policies and progress in objectives of stabilization, lowering inflation, and entering a strong growth phase.

 Excuse my skepticism but is all this talk from this guy and the BCV president just to distract us from the fact that the exchange rate of the bolivar cratered this week (as we told you Friday) and Venezuela’s inflation rate, between 155% – 170%, is still 2nd highest in the world?

 Then we have Merco Press reporting that retired and active public workers including teachers, healthcare workers, and pensioners as well as university students protested again in Caracas chanting “Maduro and ONAPRE (government budget office) are starving us!” We previously reported that the government, using ONAPRE calculations, short-changed teachers on their bonuses and continue to pay starvation-level wages.

 FYI, at the latest exchange rate of 9 bolivars per dollar the minimum wage is now under $14 a month. Protesters were met by pickets from PNB (National Police) and GNB (National Guard) and cleared peacefully but another protest is scheduled for next week. Nurse, Jose Cadiz, told reporters “They are starving us to death…people from the National Assembly get $5,000 each.” This is not going away.

 More tomorrow….

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