Getting Closer

 We’ll be starting our next Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment next week as we have some catching up to do. First up we have Reuters reporting that talks between the Maduro regime and the Venezuela opposition could start any day now in Mexico according to five people familiar with the matter. (Colombia President, Gustavo Petro tweeted about it)

 The negotiations for free and fair elections in Venezuela are said to be a condition for sanctions easing although the Biden administration insists “concrete steps” must be demonstrated before action is taken on sanctions. Since the next election in Venezuela is the presidential election scheduled for (tentatively) December, 2024 a rational person would think nothing could happen until then. (An actual free and fair election, not the promise of one, would be a “concrete step”)

 Skeptics (like us) think the Biden administration will believe whatever the Maduro regime tells them even though the Chavistas already backed out of a sanctions relief deal to allow oil shipments to Europe for debt relief saying that after the initial shipments to Eni (Italy) and Repsol (Spain) all future shipments are to be “cash only”.

 Biden desperately wants an oil deal with Venezuela in lieu of US companies being allowed to produce more oil and gas (to keep the “Green New Deal” folks happy) although, as we’ve detailed extensively, Venezuela has no spare production capacity after obligations (China, Cuba, and domestic consumption) to provide anything to the US.

 Then we have the Daily Caller, as if on cue, telling us that the Wall Street Journal , citing people familiar with the matter, reports Chevron Corporation could soon receive a license to pump oil in Venezuela. Chevron is the last US oil major in Venezuela and currently has a limited license to operate there but is prohibited from exporting oil.

 A spokesperson for the NSC (National Security Council) said all the things you would expect such as our commitment to democracy and taking steps to alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people. The Maduro regime and the Venezuela opposition coalition are expected to announce a plan to use potentially unfrozen funds for humanitarian aid as well as electric and water infrastructure.

 Exactly how the $3 billion humanitarian project would be administered remains unclear. The Chavistas have been reluctant in the past to allow aid for the Venezuelan people without their control ( their massive corruption can’t function unless they get their hands on the money). It is worth noting that after years of denial NGOs have been allowed in Venezuela on a limited basis. We’re inching closer to a deal.

 Then we have one of those “only in Venezuela” stories brought to us by our friends at Caracas Chronicles. The Maduro regime presented to the National Assembly a “simulation” of what should be the 2023 budget. They were blank pages without a single figure. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Remember our “Tales From The Crypto” segment of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole? When Maduro announced his totally fraudulent cryptocurrency, “El Petro” there was an online manual submitted on how to buy and sell “El Petro”. It was a cover page that said “Manual” with no content. It’s not like the budget really matters in the land of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. Hugo Chavez wisely set it up so that 60% of government spending goes through FONDEN, which has no oversight by the National Assembly.

 The we have French President, Emmanuel Macron, meeting with Argentina President, Alberto Fernandez, who is presenting himself as a mediator between the Maduro regime and the Venezuela opposition despite his close ties to Maduro. Colombia President, Gustavo Petro, another Maduro BFF, also met with Macron.

 And in other sanctions-related news we have Sanctions reporting that the EU (European Union) Council extended sanctions against Venezuela and the Maduro regime for another year.

 Then we have TRT World telling us that Venezuela is not only under siege by the Maduro regime and 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism. Now they must contend with colonies of Giant African Snails! The sub-Saharan, Achatina Fulica snails are an invasive species that are not only devastating to crops but can also cause meningitis, encephalitis, and intestinal disorders in humans. “This will be unstoppable…it’s hard to eradicate them…but they can be controlled…they are voracious.” according to the Director of Wildlife at NGO, Azul Ambientalita, Jose Sandeval. It’s getting kinda’ Biblical down there. Along with all the other previously eradicated diseases making a come back now we’ve got Giant African Snails?

 And we have Insight Crime reporting that in November we have seen a major military deployment by Venezuela’s armed forces in the country’s valuable southern gold mining region. They have destroyed at least one rural camp, arrested at least 19 gang members, and seized four helicopters and four drones.

 According to Venezuela Army General, Domingo Hernandez Larez, “All mining activity must have permits, registries, supervision, and control…will supervise compliance with environmental laws and regulations.”

 I don’t mean to be overly cynical (yes I do) but supposedly Nicolas Maduro created his “Mining Arc” years ago to address all these issues. Another reason for the “Mining Arc” (supposedly) was to support and protect indigenous peoples. Since it’s creation it has only led to the exploitation and killing of indigenous peoples and the overall destruction of their way of life. (The military posting to command of the “Mining Arc” region is so lucrative the Chavistas have to rotate generals to keep everybody happy) Since more gold goes to the gangs than the government perhaps the increased military activity could signal the Maduro regime is not happy with the status quo.

 Then we have Mehr News telling us that the Venezuela Minister of Transport, Ramon Velasquez, says the executive process (whatever that is) to import the first 1,000 cars from Iran is proceeding. He added that 80,000 requests have been registered. As usual, he used the words “requests have been registered” not “vehicles have been ordered”. Remember, Maduro’s “El Petro” had millions…then billions… of dollars worth of requests for information on sales of “El Petro” which led to about $300,000 of verified “El Petro” sales.

 More tomorrow….

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