Go Team!

 We’ll head Down The Rabbit Hole shortly but first…Yahoo Finance reports that Nicolas Maduro ordered his “economic team” (Exactly which inept, corrupt Chavistas would that be?) to take measures to defend the bolivar (local currency) which has taken a sharp 29% fall this month.

 Maduro blamed “the criminal dollar” and “criminal groups in Miami” for the decline in value. Maduro’s Vice President, Delcy Rodriguez, says the team has outlined a series of actions it will take but did not elaborate (big surprise huh?). The Chavistas are very fond of making bold statements without backing them up.

 The Maduro regime had been keeping the value of the new (introduced last year) bolivar relatively stable by having BCV (Venezuela Central Bank) buy bolivars on the exchanges using their dollar reserves to create artificial demand. When they stopped buying bolivars (they ran out of money) demand plummeted.

 None of this is new under Chavismo. who replaced the old bolivar with the “strong bolivar”, then the “sovereign bolivar”, and now we have what some refer to as the “new bolivar” or the “digital bolivar” but the outcome is the same whatever you call it. Between Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro they have lopped 14 zeros from the currency’s value….GO TEAM!!

 Then we have Law 360 reporting that former Venezuela Treasurer, Claudia Diaz Guillen, on trial in a Florida Federal Court for money laundering and conspiracy, has asked for a mistrial saying prosecutors failed to correct the testimony of a witness who lied about a businessman’s involvement in the scheme. (They didn’t say if any proof was offered that the witness lied)

 And we have Insight Crime reporting that Peruvian authorities have arrested 30 members of “The Gallegos”, the strongest armed wing of Venezuela’s transnational criminal organization, Tren De Aragua. The criminal gang, operated out of Tocoron Prison in Venezuela, has gained a strong foothold in Peru and other Latin American countries for their activities including extortion, sexual exploitation, and murder.

 Then we have Tehran Times reporting that the Iranian-flagged tanker, Dore, has arrived at Venezuela’s Jose Terminal with 2 million barrels of Iranian ultra-light crude. So far this year Venezuela has received 26 million barrels of light crude and condensate from Iran, needed to mix with Venezuela’s extra-heavy crude to make it exportable. Iran is also involved in several refining projects in Venezuela to revive PDVSA’s (Venezuela government-owned oil company) production of motor fuels.

 And we have Air Insight Group reporting that IATA (International Air Transport Association) renewed it’s calls on Venezuela to allow repatriation of $3.8 billion in blocked airline funds trapped in Venezuela as well as $2 billion in other countries. The last limited authorization to repatriate trapped funds in Venezuela by the Maduro regime was in 2016.

 Remember, it was the inability to repatriate funds trapped in Venezuelan banks that prompted most international carriers to halt service to Venezuela. Air Canada even went so far as to ask, in a last ditch effort to continue service to Venezuela, if they could be allowed to use some of their funds in bolivars in Venezuelan banks to pay for refueling in Caracas. (The regime’s policy was that even though the various airlines had billions of dollars worth of bolivars stuck in Venezuelan banks awaiting government authorization to be converted to dollars and repatriated, airlines were required to pay the regime in cash, in dollars, for jet fuel. The government didn’t even accept it’s own currency.) The Maduro regime said NO! Air Canada, as well as most international carriers, halted service to Venezuela shortly thereafter.

 Maduro’s push to bolster tourism as part of the fragile economic recovery in Venezuela would have a better chance of success if they would release blocked funds and allow free repatriation of funds going forward…Good luck with that.

 Then we have Newsweek telling us that according to a former speechwriter for the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin and his top leadership have a back-up plan to escape to Venezuela in the event of a potential defeat in Ukraine. He said Argentina was also an option. Cuba must feel so slighted.

 Now let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 9/ El Dorado continued…

…You might think that giving the military control over the region would stabilize things and stem the lawlessness. The effect has been exactly the opposite. The pecking order goes something like this…The military is the top dog with the syndicates ranking second. Then you have ELN , the FARC dissidents, and the Prane- related gangs still exerting strong influence. All these groups cooperate with or compete with the military in various illegal enterprises. Violent clashes are the order of the day and include group to individual, group to group, and group to military confrontations. There are also narco- trafficking routes in the region which adds to the instability and lawless nature of the area. It also doesn’t help that the Venezuelan government doesn’t cooperate with it’s neighbors in anti-drug, anti-crime, anti-insurgent, or anti-terrorism activities. They prefer to allow these activities and receive compensation for their complicity. The military even arms some of these groups in return for both profit in gold and control. A good example of this was in 2005 when a National Guard Lieutenant Colonel was jailed for capturing a FARC leader and ELN is allowed to openly operate in 13 of 24 Venezuelan states.

 Caught in the middle of all this are the Pemon indigenous people who have lived in the region since long before the Spanish colonization in the 1500s. Numerous proclamations by Hugo Chavez, and now Nicolas Maduro, regarding the need to protect indigenous cultures have meant nothing. The Venezuelan government’s Indigenous Ministry and the Advocacy Office for Indigenous Peoples have failed to protect their interests. The protected Pemon lands have received the same treatment the Sioux got from the US government in the 1800s when they were told “All land north of the Powder River is considered sacred.” Things like that go by the wayside when gold enters the equation and so it is for the Pemon. They are preyed upon from all sides.

 Since the 2016 announcement of “The Mining Arc” local media have reported a dozen massacres perpetrated on the Pemon with 107 killed and many more wounded. (This is from 2019 so the numbers are surely higher today) Due to the remote location and fear of reprisals if people that go missing are reported most people believe the actual numbers are higher.

 The Pemon fare no better when they travel to towns to sell whatever gold they are able to mine or trade it for basic goods. The municipalities in “The Mining Arc” have homicide rates that far eclipse the rate in Caracas, considered the most violent major city in the world.

 Somewhat lost in the drama of Juan Guaido attempting to get humanitarian aid across the Colombia border into Venezuela (2019) was the attack on the Pemon when they attempted to let aid in from Brazil. Members of the military killed three and wounded dozens in the confrontation.

 Besides the exploitation and oppression of the Pemon people, what the Chavistas are also complicit in is the severe damage to the environment both on legally protected Pemon land and the land and rivers surrounding it.

 More tomorrow….

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