More Love For Jorge

 No Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment today but there’s plenty from the news feed so let’s get to it…Univison had a piece titled “How to get rid of a dictator. Finally, a way out for Venezuela”. Jorge Ramos did an excellent job detailing the Venezuela opposition’s efforts to get rid of Nicolas Maduro since 2013 when Maduro took power.

 “Thousands of opponents have been murdered, tortured, and jailed. They are crimes against humanity according to the UN (United Nations)…The opposition has done everything possible to remove the Maduro dictatorship, from mass marches and protests over many years to demands for international sanctions and the establishment of a new (parallel) government, but nothing has worked. The reason is simple : the regime, with it’s absolute control of the military and security forces has wielded unusual levels of violence to crush any attempt at rebellion.”

 He sees the negotiations in Mexico between the Maduro regime and the Venezuela opposition as the way out …but he cautions, “…his government cannot be allowed to organize the elections or count the votes…The 2024 presidential election must be supervised by international organizations…It’s not a perfect solution. It can be full of dangers and tricks, but it is the only ray of hope peeking out of the dark and long Bolivarian tyranny.” (Love that term “Bolivarian tyranny” as opposed to the Chavistas calling it the “Bolivarian Revolution”)

 He made several other salient points including one that isn’t exactly popular (and of course I agree with him 100%), and that is that the international sanctions against the Maduro regime have worked and have driven him to the negotiating table. (he wouldn’t be there if he didn’t have to be)

 He also stressed that the opposition needs to unite behind a single presidential candidate and noted the Unitary Platform’s (Venezuela opposition coalition) 2023 primary elections. “But for now, what’s important is that there is a possible, although distant, path to democracy in Venezuela. Yes, it sounds almost impossible. But all tyrants fall, and Maduro will fall.”

 I have followed the work of Jorge Ramos for a long time. We don’t always see eye to eye on issues as his views can be more left-leaning than mine but I’ve always respected his principles and integrity. In case you don’t remember, when Trump was president, Maduro invited Ramos to Miraflores (presidential palace) for a rare interview. Perhaps he thought that Ramos, being a Trump critic, would serve him up some softballs. About 15 minutes into the interview Ramos confronted Maduro on his claims that there was no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. He showed him a video on his ipad of Venezuelans digging through the back of a garbage truck for food. Maduro abruptly ended the interview and stormed off. Ramos and his crew had all their equipment and devices confiscated and after returning to their hotel were escorted to the airport and kicked out of the country. Ramos would later say that it was the best interview nobody would ever see. Fortunately for him (and us) the video later surfaced in Colombia and was released to the world. Ramos has not been invited back to Miraflores….but there are many of us that still have a lotta’ love for Jorge.

 Then we have Reuters telling us that it looks like the gasoline shortages in Venezuela that had eased earlier this year are back and with them the long lines at gas stations. (Remember, the Maduro regime still ships crude and  gasoline to Cuba) In 2020 and 2021 it was not uncommon for people to wait in line for days to fill their tanks. (They were frequently frustrated when they got to the head of the line only to find out the station had run out of gasoline) PDVSA, Venezuela’s government-owned oil company did not reply to requests for comment, which is probably a wise move. Motorists are worried about dollar denominated prices being charged when gasoline is available. Remember, the Maduro regime has two gasoline prices, the subsidized price in bolivares (local currency), and the international price in dollars.

 And speaking of bolivares, Merco Press tells us that, as you might expect with the slide of the bolivar vs the dollar on currency exchanges, Venezuela’s minimum wage, paid in bolivares, is now under $10 a month!

 The monthly minimum wage, set in March at 130 bolivares (Remember, the monthly minimum wage is also the basis for public sector pensions) is now worth $9.20/month on the official exchange with a rate of 14.12 bolivares/dollar while the parallel rate (black market) has the rate at over 18 bolivares/dollar which would put the monthly minimum wage at about $7.

 The UN metric for extreme poverty is now $1.90 a day so the Venezuela monthly minimum wage covers less than four days at the extreme poverty rate or 23 cents a day. FYI, at one time the minimum wage was as low as 67 cents A MONTH! Before Hugo Chavez took power the monthly minimum wage was about $200 and Chavez was fond of saying 21st Century Boivarian Socialism would enable minimum wage earners and pensioners  to live lives of dignity. Kinda’ hard to live a dignified existence for under 10 bucks a month.

 Then we have Argus Media telling us that Chevron is expected to send it’s first cargo of Venezuelan crude to the US by the end of December, according to a company source. The oil is coming from storage inventories, not from an increase in production.

 Also on the oil front we have telling us that the black market for oil is booming. Venezuela is using false documents and tankers linked to Iran and known for carrying sanctioned Iranian crude. Venezuela is selling (actually delivering for debt reduction from past loans) oil to Chinese refiners and passing it off as Malaysian crude either by false documents or ship to ship transfers, according to an investigation by Reuters.

 And on the legal front (With Venezuela the legal front is pretty crowded) we have Daily Mail reporting that former Venezuela Treasurer (and nurse to Hugo Chavez), Claudis Diaz Guillen, has been found guilty of money laundering in relation to a scheme in which she and her husband, also found guilty, accepted millions of dollars in bribes from disgraced Venezuelan businessman and media mogul, Raul Gorrin, in return for preferential access to currency exchange rates. Remember, at one time Venezuela had three exchange rates and the fraudulent arbitrage between government-controlled rates created many Chavista millionaires and billionaires. Deliberations were short and the couple now face up to 20 years in prison.

 That will do it for the week. We’ll be back Monday with our next segment of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole as well as current news. Until then… Have a great weekend everybody!!


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