Libertad Ya!

 Before we head Down The Rabbit Hole to wrap up this week’s segment let’s check the news feed…I have to say I was pleased to see this. Politico had a piece on Leopoldo Lopez, a Venezuela opposition leader who spent four years in solitary confinement at the hands of the Maduro regime for leading peaceful protests (until Maduro’s security forces killed 40 protesters) against Maduro in 2014, is on a mission to save democracy, not just in Venezuela but worldwide.

 Just so you know, Leopoldo is my favorite political figure anywhere. He is smart, endorses common sense solutions to problems, and is a man of conviction, even at great personal cost.

 When he was in prison on trumped-up charges in Venezuela Maduro tried to make a deal with him to relieve domestic and international pressure for his release. (Hence, the slogan “Libertad Ya!” which was on posters and T shirts everywhere in Venezuela, and yes, I do still have my T shirt) Leopoldo said “No Deal” and remained incarcerated, not in some “Club Fed” type facility but in a Venezuelan prison. Now that’s a guy I can believe in, a guy that stands for something. And he’s still putting himself at risk to “fight the good fight”!

 A group of 120 leaders and activists from 40 countries is meeting this week at an undisclosed location due to security concerns, which would seem to be valid  considering that a group of young dissidents from Nicaragua (home to Nicolas Maduro’s fellow authoritarian dictator, Daniel Ortega) were arrested last week returning from an event organized by his group. (With Maduro’s “bromance” with the Iranians Leopoldo better be careful. Hezbollah and Quds Force, the Iran Revolutionary Guard’s foreign operations arm, are known to strike anyone, anywhere)

 Their goal is to combat autocratic regimes. Leopoldo believes that, as autocracies support each other with money and weapons, democracy advocates have to form a network that will counter that by sharing techniques for grassroots activism, fighting corruption, countering governmental messaging, and using technology and the financial system to fight these regimes.

 He cited an alarming stat. From 2017-2021 the number of people who have democratic rights has declined from 3.9 billion to 2.3 billion. Leopoldo had two very revealing statements that say a lot about who he is and what he stands for.

 The first was in response to whether or not he still wanted to be the leader of Venezuela.”What I wake up every day thinking about is not what’s going to be my destiny, but the destiny of my country.”

 The second was a cautionary statement to the US (Joe Biden). “Anything that helps the path to democracy and freedom in Venezuela should be supported. Anything that gives Maduro or any dictatorship legitimacy, resources, or support should not be supported.”

 He also said he was confident that Venezuela, once Latin America’s most prosperous country (before 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism) , now it’s poorest country (under 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism), would be free within his lifetime.

 The world needs to pay more attention to Leopoldo Lopez. The US, at risk of being taken over by socialists, should pay more attention to Leopoldo Lopez.

 Then we have Airline Geeks telling us “Venezuela Is Close To Recovering It’s Pre-Pandemic Trans-Atlantic Network”. The number of seats scheduled to be available in December represents a 95% recovery from pre-pandemic levels.

 INAC (Venezuela’s version of the FAA) has authorized flights from 5 European and Asian countries including Spain, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, and Iran with Spain being serviced by 4 air carriers including Conviasa (Venezuela government-owned airline).

 Service ranges from a flight a day between Istanbul and Caracas to several flights a week from the other countries. OK, that’s what they’re telling us about a return to “pre-pandemic” levels. What about “pre-Chavismo levels”?

 When I started going to Venezuela in the mid-90s there were twice-daily flights from Miami to Caracas and at least once a day from New York and several times a week from Houston. This represents more flights with more seating capacity and more frequency than today’s Venezuela has (or will have) connecting it to the entire world. Oh, and back then there were numerous flights from Canada, Europe, and around the world. The “Concorde” even flew to Caracas back in the day. Viva la Revolucion!

 And we also have Air Cargo News telling us that JAG Cargo, who has a hub in Madrid, Spain, looks to benefit from flights resuming between Caracas and Madrid. They might be right, for a little while…at least until the Chavistas screw them like they did all the airlines in the past…and everybody else in the past.

 Let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole….

 Chapter 6/ continued…

…Venezuelan retirees receive their pensions monthly via the “Carnet de la Patria” (the ‘Homeland Card’)…don’t get me started. Once again, the “Carnet de la Patria” will require it’s own chapter as it is governmental political and economic extortion. Bolivares are placed into their accounts which they can then transfer to their personal bank accounts or withdraw cash. Without prior notification the retirees got a surprise in 2019. When they received their text message that the deposit had been made into their account it wasn’t in bolivares, it was in Petros! When the uproar commenced, as the retirees had no idea what to do with the Petros, they were told, “Don’t worry. It’s a simple, two-step process to convert the Petros to bolivares.” They failed to mention that the “simple process” would delay the arrival of the bolivares by a day or two. They also failed to mention that if you were one of those people that would go to Banco Venezuela and conduct your business in person to withdraw cash it would take an extra trip. It was a fiasco that, as far as I know, hasn’t been repeated.

 When Maduro launched the new currency, designated bsS for Bolivar Soberano, it was tied to the Petro saying it would provide stability as the Petro was tied to the price of a barrel of oil. Let me see if I’ve got this right. Is this supposed to be like algebra, if A=B and B=C then A=C ? So how did that work out? When the bsS was announced, in August,2018 the black market rate (the real rate) was 101 bsS / dollar. On June 1st, 2019 the rate was 6,000 bsS / dollar.

 It seems that the good old stable “El Petro” wasn’t faring much better. PTR went from 36,000 bsS / PTR to 196,957 bsS /PTR. It did get curious if you looked at the government website though. It still showed the dollar value of the Petro (PTR) at $60 but if you converted the price in PTR, 196,957 bsS/ dollar you would come up with $32.83. So, what is it? 60 bucks or less than 33 bucks? The funny thing was, nobody cared!

 Oh, I almost forgot another little eccentricity of “El Petro”. Unlike other cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, which I own a little of by the way, where you can buy it today and sell it tomorrow, PTR had a holding period of 90 days…and guess what? Nobody cared.

 Summary : I can understand Maduro’s fascination with cryptocurrency. It’s like they teach you in the Red Cross Lifeguard Certification course. “Drowning people are desperate and will latch on to anything.” I’m sure he thought it would be creating money out of thin air, as he did printing his “Sovereign Bolivares”. Unfortunately for Maduro and the rest of the Chavistas, they failed to understand even the most basic concept of cryptocurrency, lack of centralized control. Once you got past the conceptual level they didn’t really understand anything else either.

 There has never been a more confusing, convoluted, and contrary initial offering in the history of financial instruments, and there have been some doozies. Not surprising when you consider the source but you would think that as they worked their way through the process they might at least have been able to improve the situation a little, clarify the situation a little. You would be wrong.

 The only thing remotely resembling the truth about “El Petro” is that before the concept phase it was worth ZERO! After it was launched it was worth ZERO! And today it’s worth ZERO! Thankfully, other than the few people that were coerced into buying that $300,000 worth of Petro nobody fell for this fraud. Again, from the Washington Post, “The Petro might be the most obviously horrible investment ever!”

 That will do it for this week. We’ll be back Monday with our next segment of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole and more breaking news.

 Until then…Have a great weekend everybody!!!

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