Where's The Love?

 We’ll get to our Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment in a minute but first a few items from the weekend’s news feed… I’ve always been a believer in the old saying, “Don’t tell me you love me, show me.” This applies to just about everything you hear coming out of Chavismo. Case in point, Nicolas Maduro constantly professes his love for “indigenous peoples”. (He says the same for the Venezuelan people in general, but that’s another story) Caracas Chronicles had this to say :

 On March 20th four members of the indigenous Yanomami community were murdered by the Venezuela military in a dispute over a WiFi pass code in Amazonas. On July 1st, also in Amazonas, indigenous leader, Virgilio Trujillo Arana, was murdered after denouncing the expansion of illegal mining and presence of irregular armed groups on indigenous lands. Later in July members of the indigenous Jivi community were murdered in Bolivar state. Nobody has been charged with any of these crimes.

 The Maduro regime hasn’t admitted that indigenous peoples Yanomami, Yakuana, Sanema, Pemon, Wattuja, Piapoco, Karina, and Warao have suffered forced displacement, disappearances, murders, extortion, sexual and gender violence, and they endure malnutrition, lack of housing, unemployment, lack of access to utilities, and other structural problems. In 23 years Chavismo hasn’t designed any public policy to deal with these issues. They did, however, re-brand October 12th as “Indigenous Resistance Day”. Like all Chavista proaganda…It means nothing. Where’s the love?

 Moving on…we have Mehr news telling us that the CEO of Iranian Gas Engineering and Development Company, Reza Noshadi, met with VP of Venezuela Oil Company for gas affairs, Juan Santana, to pursue gas projects in Venezuela. Noshadi said “This company …is regarded as the largest developer of gas projects in the world… and is interested in designing and supplying goods and implementing oversea projects.” For his part, Santana said “Venezuela is interested in exploiting Iran’s experience in LNG production projects.” All this comes as Venezuela is also talking to Colombia about restoring a gas pipeline. Maybe the Chavista destruction of it’s oil production capability is so pervasive that it’s turning to gas? Just thinking out loud…

 Then we have Reuters reporting that retired Venezuela General, Cliver Alcala, facing US drug charges, says his involvement in a plot to oust Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro shows he’s innocent. He claims there is exculpatory evidence based on his meetings with the CIA from 2017 – 2020. The CIA and federal prosecutors declined to comment.

 And we have Rio Times reporting that Chile and Costa Rica have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council, a move that ousted Venezuela due to the fact that there were only two open seats for the region. Human Rights defenders everywhere are celebrating…for now.

 Then we have a follow-up, sort of a well, that didn’t take long kinda’ thing. Reuters reports that US District Court Judge, Leonard P. Stark, approved an auction schedule for the sale of CITGO shares. As of now, the sale wouldn’t happen until late 2023 or early 2024. It’s all up to the US Treasury Department which currently has protections in place for CITGO but may choose not to extend them.

 Last week we told you about the heavy rains in Venezuela that caused landslides that killed dozens of people with many more missing. A landslide basically wiped out the town of Las Tejerias. Caracas Chronicles reports that Maduro decreed three days of national mourning and went to Las Tejerias with his VP, Delcy Rodriguez (can you say photo opp?). His tour of the town was broadcast as if he were campaigning. He admitted that he knew the soil was saturated 10 days before the tragedy which means the government knew the risk of a landslide yet didn’t evacuate.

 The government refuses to invest in early alert programs for this kind of situation (it can be done easily and cheaply so…they just don’t care) and their “constant monitoring” isn’t public information. There’s no demographic information since it’s been decades since the last census. The local Governor criticized videos on social media saying they cause anguish. Minister of Interior, Remigio Ceballos, said unauthorized vehicles or people won’t get in unless they have the “right credentials”. (that means nobody gets in) He also asked journalists “not to interfere” and to get their information from State media. He threatened to bring those who challenge this order (those who try to get real information) to the authorities even though he violates citizen’s right to information, journalist’s right to work, and freedom of expression.

 My take is that it was a preventable disaster, Maduro, almost without knowing, admitted the government knew of the danger (then he quickly moved on), and the Maduro regime is throwing a blanket over the whole thing so the people will only know what the Chavistas want them to know and the government will do nothing, or at least the bare minimum, to avert future disasters like this.

 Now it’s time to head Down The Rabbit Hole….

 Chapter 3/ Killing The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs

 Venezuela’s government-owned oil company, PDVSA, was once the envy of the entire oil-producing world. They were a founding member of OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries), the cartel that controls production and therefore pricing for much of the world’s oil. Through years of savvy business administration, not to mention sitting on top of the world’s largest proven oil reserves, PDVSA became an economic powerhouse. The government was smart enough to more or less allow them a free hand and just sat back and taxed the profits which, as you might expect, were substantial.

 The government nationalized PDVSA in 1976, however, they were astute enough to allow the company to operate, more or less, autonomously, and continue with their partnerships and special associations with a group of large multinational oil companies.

 I liken the situation to that of Hong Kong when it was still under British control. When the governor of Hong Kong, a Scotsman, was asked what his greatest fear was for the economy of one of the world’s financial hot spots he said “I can only hope the powers that be, back in London, don’t try to fix it.”

 In 1998 PDVSA was the largest company in Latin America and the 10th most profitable company in the world. It was the world’s 5th largest oil exporter with a workforce of approximately 40,000. It had a healthy contingent of experienced engineers, financial professionals, and outstanding operational support. All that would soon be put to the test.

 In December, 1998 Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela. The former paratrooper was a man without much formal education, training, or experience in politics, business, or pretty much anything else but he was extremely charismatic. He swept in on a populist wave promising to lift the everyday people of Venezuela out of poverty and allow them to benefit from the oil riches as did the country’s elite. His “Bolivarian Socialism” was heralded as “The New Socialism For The 21st Century”. It was going to right the wrongs of the past and correct all the inequities and, truth be told, there were a lot of them. I won’t say he promised free everything for everybody, as you hear today, to a degree, but he was definitely leaning that way. The Noam Chomskys and Sean Penns of the world led the parade of academics, politicians, economists, and revolutionary wannabes fawning over how great this was going to be.

 More tomorrow….

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