First up today we have a real disturbing one for you. News 18 had a piece on some really bad guys we’ve told you about before, Tren de Aragua, the Venezuela mega-gang, operated out of Venezuela’s prison system, and it’s efforts to expand to Bogota, Colombia, as it has in other areas of South America. It’s now reported that the violence between Tren de Aragua, Los Maracuchos (another gang from Venezuela), and a third unknown gang is terrorizing (and terrifying) Colombians even more than the days of drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar’s bombings, or the murderous ways of leftist guerillas and the frequent kidnappings.

 Since January, 23 bodies, wrapped in plastic have been found abandoned in various parts of Bogota. The “packaged corpses” have been victims of strangulation, firearms, knives, and in some cases dismembered.

 The violence is escalating and may get worse as El Tiempo reports the third gang is a Mexican mafia cell with ties to the Sinaloa cartel (you know, the heads on spikes and bodies hanging from overpasses guys).

 Initially the Venezuela gangs took control of the Venezuela/Colombia border areas to profit from “tolls” charged to use the illegal migrant routes. Now they have spread throughout Colombia and from Panama to Chile, including Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru charging “protection fees”. PARES investigations has uncovered at least four illegal Venezuelan structures (gangs) operating in Bogota. If their history in Venezuela and the history of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico tell us anything it’s that the citizens of Bogota have only begun to be terrorized.

 In a much less intense story we have SADC  telling us that the Deputy Secretary of SADC (Southern African Development Community) says they’re looking to strengthen connections with Venezuela and ALBA (the Castro/Chavez group of leftists). I know the SADC (basically the countries from The Congo southward in Africa) face economic challenges but I’m not sure working with the Maduro regime and the ALBA countries will be much help.

 Then we have BA Times telling us that 12 crew members from the Emtrasur “Mystery Flight”, detained in Argentina for over three months, have returned to Venezuela. Authorities chose not to appeal the ruling releasing them to the Argentina Supreme Court. 7 crew members, along with the Boeing 747 cargo plane, remain in Argentina as the investigation continues regarding ties to Quds Force, the Iran Revolutionary Guard’s foreign operations arm, and Hezbollah.

 And we have Merco Press reporting that US President Joe Biden issued a declaration including Venezuela and Bolivia among countries that do not fight drug trafficking. The list is full of Latin American and Caribbean nations, perhaps most notably Colombia, who has in the past cooperated with the US-DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration).

 Then we have Maritime Bulletin reporting that a Panamanian-flagged tanker broke off her moorings at the Venezuela oil terminal in Puerto La Cruz. Fire was reported at the pier and on the tanker and was extinguished shortly thereafter. No news yet on tanker damage or possible oil leak.

 And we have Aviacionline telling us that Conviasa (Venezuela government-owned airline) performed the first flight in the history of Venezuela with an all female crew, flying non-stop from Porlamar to Caracas. Let’s hope it’s not a one-time PR stunt and that we see this regularly in the future.

 Then we have IRNA telling us that Nicolas Maduro announced 4 Iranian car models are to be assembled in Venezuela by a state company (of course), Venirauto. Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Toyota as well as other companies used to produce approximately 200,000 cars a year in Venezuela and now produce basically none so…good luck with that, Venirauto.

 And Daily Mail reports that Venezuela authorities arrested Fidel Ramirez, brother of former president of PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) and former Oil Minister, Rafael Ramiriz, for failing to appear in court as required by his bail agreement.

 He is part of an ongoing investigation into a multi-billion dollar embezzlement scheme (is there anywhere in the world with even half of the fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement schemes as Venezuela?) at the state-owned oil company. He was originally arrested in 2018 for his part in a decade-old scheme to siphon $2 billion from PDVSA through a bank in Andorra (a small European country where the daughter of Hugo Chavez has most of her $4 billion…where did she get that anyway?). Rafael Ramirez has remained silent in the midst of his own controversies.

 Then we have People’s Daily telling us that Venezuela Minister of Education, Yelitze Santaella, says US sanctions prevent Venezuela from accessing necessary resources for the sector. No details or specific examples were provided…as usual. The Chavistas blame all their failures on US sanctions (which is pretty much everything in Venezuela).

 And we have Rio Times reporting that a lightning strike caused a fire at PDVSA’s refinery in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. It struck the oxidation and water treatment lagoon inside the facility. Their terminal was the site of another fire earlier this week.

 Then we have American Spectator asking the question : “Is Latin America Beyond Hope?” The prospects are dire but there is hope as evidenced by Chile’s rejection of a new constitution. The region will have to suffer under it’s current leadership (leftist) before it reaches the kind of crisis that opens up the opportunity for real change  toward socioeconomic development.

 If history teaches us anything it’s that socialism always fails (100% failure track record) it just needs a little time. Countries prosper most when they encourage private investment, whose economic activity and profits fund the social programs. Brazil learned this under Lula and China learned it under Chairman Mao’s disastrous time in power which cost the lives of millions.

 Foreign direct investment in the region is now about half of what it was in the ’90s when countries were more “business friendly”. Venezuela wants to encourage foreign investment but it’s too late. Everybody has seen that Maduro and the Chavistas can’t be trusted and have screwed basically every company and every country on basically every deal they’ve ever done. The other Latin American countries have a chance and hopefully their people won’t have to suffer too much in the mean time.

 Then we have Maylasiakini telling us that $185 million was laundered through an entity linked to PSI (Petro Saudi International) and the Venezuela government according to submissions in the Kuala Lumpur High Court. No further details at this time but we’ll add this to the list of Venezuela-related court cases, criminal and civil, which gets longer every day.

 And IRNA tells us that Venezuela and Iran signed 60 MOUs (memos of understanding) at the Venezuela-Iran Scientific an Technological Expo in Caracas. We can add this to the other “historic, strategic agreements” between the two countries. As we’ve said…they’re all meaningless.

 More tomorrow….

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