looking At 24

 Just like the US, Venezuela will be holding a presidential election in 2024 and just like here they’re already talking about it. Caracas Chronicles is already eying the contest with some trepidation, and rightfully so. They say that when (if) the negotiations between the opposition and the Maduro regime for free and fair elections (among other things) re-starts they must include provisions for the Venezuela diaspora (Venezuelans abroad…6.4 million migrants and counting) to vote. Rumors abound that members of the opposition are willing to go into the 2024 elections without guarantees that Venezuelans abroad be allowed to vote and that the Maduro regime makes provisions for this (as required by the Venezuela Constitution written by Hugo Chavez). This would be a mistake.

 16 other Latin American countries allow citizens to vote from abroad and have provisions for it addressing defining eligibility, requirements, deadlines,, processes, and transmission of votes back home. Standing in the way of this is a TSJ (Venezuela Supreme Court )  restriction (totally unconstitutional but the constitution is what the TSJ says it is…which is whatever Maduro says it is) that prevents Venezuelans from voting unless they can prove their regular status (documentation, residency, etc.). Also standing in the way is the CNE (electoral council). They need to register all Venezuelans abroad and update the voter registry both at home and abroad, (they have the same problems we have like dead people voting) as the opposition has been requesting for years.

 It’s worth noting that the IOM (International Organization for Migration) has extensive experience in assisting with these issues and there are many countries that could help with the mechanics and logistics as well. It is complex but definitely doable. A working group comprised of Venezuelans, both in Venezuela and abroad, international organizations, and representatives from countries that have functioning systems could accomplish this and return democracy to Venezuela.

 That said, here’s our take, and it won’t surprise anybody…never going to happen! We were proven right when we said the last elections in November wouldn’t be free and fair. The EOMs (Electoral Observation Missions) from the EU (European Union) and The Carter Center, both known to be, shall we say accommodating, declared the elections neither free nor fair (before they were thrown out of the country) and their cases were extensively documented. Now…here we go again…

 Despite all their “happy talk” to the contrary, the Chavistas are not interested in free and fair elections. The last one was in 2015 and the opposition won by a landslide only to be completely neutered by the Maduro regime and his TSJ. Chavismo “electoral victories” are achieved through extortion, bribery, and intimidation. These tactics don’t work if the voters are abroad and out of reach of the regime. With an approval rating of 5% (recently downgraded from his long-running percentage of 13) Nicolas Maduro can’t win a free and fair election, so why would he allow it?

 We have a long way to go until November, 2024 and we’ll be watching and reporting everything, good and bad, but no matter what the regime says and what they “agree to”, there will be no free and fair elections…no democracy in Venezuela. I would love to be wrong about this but I just can’t see it happening.

 Then we have Bitcoin.com with an article looking at several factors to explain the crash of the bolivar (local currency) last week, losing more than 35% (40%?) of it’s value.

 One is the increase in public spending. The government pays wages and salaries in bolivares which, if people aren’t going to spend them immediately, are converted into dollars to preserve their value. The government creates the bolivares out of thin air so more bolivares equals less value. Maybe now we know why the government was screwing people out of their bonuses and keeps wages ate starvation level (or below).

 The other factor is BCV (Venezuela Central Bank) intervention, selling dollars at auction to create artificial demand for bolivares. Last week BCV only put 20% of the amount of dollars they had been putting at auction so voila’, economics 101, too many bolivares chasing too few dollars equals a devalued bolivar. BCV is scheduled to auction $200 million this week in an attempt to slow the pace of the bolivar’s decline. Maybe they’ll stiff some more employees and pensioners too?

 Then we have the US- DOJ (United States Department Of Justice) with a statement telling us that a Federal Grand Jury in Miami indicted Venezuelan businessman, Rixon Rafael Moreno Oropeza, on various charges related to a bribery and money laundering scheme  involving Venezuela’s joint venture (with Chevron) Petropriar. Moreno allegedly received over $30 million in payments from Petropriar. We’ll add this to the list of court cases to follow which seems to grow daily.

 And speaking of court cases, Argus Media telling us that Conoco Phillips may have won the $8.5 billion court case against Venezuela receiving authority  to enforce the arbitration award but this is only the beginning, if you can say that about a case that has already dragged on for 15 years (which follows the Chavista playbook of delaying all these judgements against them since they are, for all intents and purposes, broke).

 Conoco Phillips will have to try and find $8.5 billion in Venezuelan assets…not an easy task. PDVSA’s (government-owned oil company) refining arm, CITGO, is still protected from seizure for another year by the US government (a concession to the interim government of Juan Guaido and the 2015 National Assembly), not to mention there are a whole lot of creditors eying the estimated $8 billion net worth of CITGO.

 It would need government approval (and Chavista agreement) to do an oil for debt swap like the US authorities gave to Eni (Italy) and Repsol (Spain) to receive Venezuela crude oil in Europe, but the Chavistas have already backed out of that deal (we told you they’ve screwed pretty much every company and every country on every deal they ever made) so it’s a moot point.

 Where Conoco Phillips is going to find $8.5 billion to satisfy the judgement from the Chavistas, who owe everybody and their brother…and the list grows longer every day, is anybody’s guess. Just ask Crystallex…they’re trying to find $1.2 billion that’s been OK’d.

 And how about this…Rio Times reports Nicolas Maduro introduced a model of a small, low-cost electric vehicle developed by Venezuela businessman, Augusto Pradelli, named “Catatumbo” after Venezuela’s Catatumbo lightning, the highest frequency lightning spot in the world. At this point we know nothing about the “Catatumbo” car, only the concept. We can only hope it turns out better than Maduro’s concept of a cryptocurrency, “El Petro”, which became, as one analyst described it, “The most obviously horrible investment in history.”

 More tomorrow….

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