Well, we’re still playing catch-up from the holidays so let’s get to it. Stars And Stripes told us that former Venezuelan lawmakers and members of the opposition’s “interim government” (the 2015 National Assembly, duly elected unlike Maduro’s current National Assembly) voted 72-23 in favor of replacing “interim President”, Juan Guaido, with a leadership committee. It seems the opposition and it’s new coalition, the Unitary Platform, are ready to move on and embrace a fresh candidate for the 2024 presidential election. We here at TFT are early backers of Maria Corina Machado.

 As these things often happen, when they move they move quickly…Reuters tells us that 3 of 4 opposition groups seeking to remove “interim president”, Juan Guaido, say the step will not allow any Venezuelan assets to pass into Maduro’s control. They are also hopeful the US will extend the Treasury Department’s protection for CITGO, the US-based oil refiner, a subsidiary of PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company). The vultures are circling and as soon as the Treasury Department’s protection expires CITGO, one of Venezuela’s few remaining assets, will be carved up to satisfy (at least partially) creditors, who have been lining up for a while now.

 Then we have FX Empire reporting Venezuela’s 2015 National Assembly has officially voted to remove Juan Guaido, dissolve his “interim government”, and appoint a new commission to govern assets currently under control of the “interim government”. A spokesperson for the US National Security Council said the US will support the opposition, the “interim government”, and the National Assembly, “regardless of what form it takes”. What else would they say?

 Then we have Bitcoin.com reporting that the future of the $1.8 billion in disputed Venezuelan gold, currently controlled by the opposition and stored in the Bank Of England’s vaults, is now in question as the opposition dissolved the “interim government”. UK courts previously ruled the gold would remain in Bank Of England vaults and under opposition control because the “interim government” was recognized as the legitimate government of Venezuela and not the Maduro regime (despite the regime’s numerous attempts to get their hands on it). Now…?? With the newly formed commission in charge of asset control it remains to be seen how this will be received by the 52 trials underway around the world with over $40 billion in assets in dispute.

 Then we have News AM telling us that Nicolas Maduro told journalist, Ignacio Ramonet, “Venezuela is ready, totally ready, to take steps toward a process of normalization of diplomatic, consular, and political relations with the current administration of the US and administrations to come.” Kinda’ sounds like a guy that knows even though he and the Chavistas are totally fraudulent and Human Rights abusers, there may be a deal to be made with Joe Biden.

 Things are about to get, in the words of Arte Johnson, “Very…interesting”. Maduro sees a chance to get concessions without basically giving up anything and the Biden administration, despite protestations to the contrary, seems willing to make concessions to score political points at home.

 And we have Merco Press telling us that just before the holidays the US Senate passed the so-called “Bolivar Act” whereby no business may be conducted with the regime of Nicolas Maduro (it does not affect business with the duly elected 2015 National Assembly and/or it’s successors). Somebody might want to bring this to Joe Biden’s attention…just saying… Necessary exceptions are humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and when the Treasury Department’s OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control) issues a valid license (like Chevron’s).

 As you might expect, the Maduro regime issued an official statement “…unfortunate bill…constitutes a violation of economic freedoms and a serious offense to the Venezuelan people.” Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Carlos Faria, said “US authorities were placing companies at risk of being arbitrarily, unjustly, and illegally penalized for exercising their right to free trade….shows the fury of the ‘ultra-conservative and coup-mongering’ sectors in the US policy”. Oh, and of course, they played the “sovereign people of Venezuela” card. Anyone paying even minimal attention to events in Venezuela for the last two decades-plus knows that the regime of Nicolas Maduro (and Hugo Chavez before him) has shown nothing but contempt for the “sovereign people of Venezuela” and is the cause of their suffering. Just ask any of the over 7 million migrants that have fled 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism.

 Then we have ICIJ telling us that Martin Rodil, a key consultant to US law enforcement efforts to pursue corrupt Venezuela government officials, is himself under investigation in Spain for allegedly extorting some of those same officials. The allegations made to Spanish authorities come from three Venezuela officials under investigation by US authorities. The US-DOJ, Spanish prosecutors, and Rodil all declined to comment.

 And we have The New Humanitarian reminding us to remember all the concerns Venezuela migrants in Colombia had when Gustavo Petro, a leftist/Marxist, and looking to “normalize relations” with the Maduro regime, took over? So far, worries over changes in refugee status or the possibility Petro would allow extradition of Maduro’s political enemies from Colombia to Venezuela have proven unfounded. Now, with Brazil’s new president, Lula, taking office January 1st, it’s Gustavo Petro worries 2.0 as Lula is more ideologically aligned with Maduro than Lula’s predecessor. We can only hope that, as with Colombia, it’s much ado about nothing.

 Then we have the Jamaica Observer reporting that PDVSA is looking for “oil for cash” deals in it’s attempted revival of Petro Caribe, according to Bloomberg sources. No real surprise here as with limited oil production and no money the Chavistas are in no position to offer deals like the Petro Caribe of old. We said it as soon as Maduro announced he wanted to revive Petro Caribe…it’s all PR. There will be no funding of member country’s social programs, no low-interest loans, no low down-payments with 20 years to pay…none of the hallmarks of the original Petro Caribe which was founded (and funded) when Venezuela actually produced oil, oil prices were high, and the Chavistas were borrowing money hand over fist from the Chinese. Those days are long gone.

 More tomorrow….



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