Still Wide Open

 Insight Crime did a piece titled “Venezuela’s Army Faces Uphill Battle To Quell Colombia/Venezuela Border”. It shows us that the border between the two countries may have been closed since 2019 but the opportunities for criminal activity were still wide open.

 The border has recently been reopened but the criminal gangs there have been gaining power ever since the on and off closures began in 2008, allowing these groups to become more entrenched, often tolerated by the Venezuela government, and rake in profits from drug trafficking, human smuggling, contraband, and more.

 Zulia state is the 2nd busiest crossing point for migrants as well as contraband food and fuel and a busy hub for cocaine production and trafficking. Actively involved are ELN (Marxist paramilitary group) and various criminal groups that splintered off from the now defunct FARC (also a Marxist paramilitary group). There are also clashes with the indigenous peoples in the region.

 The criminal activity is facilitated by security forces in return for a fee. The criminal groups also act as de facto local government as the Maduro regime has largely ignored the region so when the army shows some initiative the local communities are more likely to side with the criminal groups than the army. Insight Crime did a good piece on this last year. The criminals provide food, social services, and protection where the government in Caracas has basically ignored the needs of the people. It’s kinda’ like the old Al Capone days in Chicago. Why would the people turn in the guy that gave them the Thanksgiving turkey, the Christmas roast, and the Easter ham?

 Tachira state is ELN’s commerce center although their control of the “trochas” (smuggling routes) is being threatened by Tren de Aragua, Venezuela’s most powerful criminal gang who, as we’ve covered previously, has gone multi-national.

 In Apure state cocaine production and transport (facilitated by it’s many clandestine airstrips) is prominent as is smuggling of gasoline and cattle (yes, cattle) into Colombia.

 Amazonas state, bordering Brazil and Colombia, has busy drug thoroughfares and is a haven for illegal mining. Criminal control is divided with ELN running the north and the criminal gang Acasio Medina Front dominating the south. Their activities are more heavily resisted by indigenous people than in any other state.

 No matter where you look in these border states, it’s the criminals in control, not the army.

 Then we have Reuters telling us that the US Federal Judge in the money laundering case against Alex Saab (the architect of Maduro’s fraudulent CLAP government food program and other schemes by the Chavistas) rejected the defense motion for dismissal based on the assertion of diplomatic immunity. The claim was fraudulent and everybody knew it but it’s good to see it officially struck down. In this case…if it doesn’t look like a duck, walk like a duck, and doesn’t quack like a duck…it ain’t a duck! now we can get on with it.

 And we have Merco Press reporting that a Venezuelan national, arrested in Venezuela for involvement in the murder of Paraguayan anti-mafia prosecutor, Marcello Pecci, will not be extradited. The Chavistas aren’t very cooperative with with anti-crime and anti-terror probes. Gee…could it be because they’re involved in both up to their eyeballs?

 Then we have Simple Flying telling us that Venezuela’s premier air carrier, Avensa, went out of business in 2002. It had been around since 1944, so what happened? It wasn’t the government takeover as that happened in 1976. What finally put them under after years of financial problems were the currency controls put in place by Hugo Chavez. Without the ability to convert bolivares trapped in Venezuelan banks into dollars in a timely manner (that conversion was reserved for well-connected Chavistas) they simply couldn’t pay their bills. So, by the numbers, 40 years of private control…they were OK. 20 years of government control…they were OK. 4 years of 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism…they were out of business.

 And we have asking the question, “Can Venezuela Meet It’s 2023 Oil Production Targets?” In short, NO!

 Revenue projections call for an increase of about 10%, which would put average monthly production at 700,000 – 725,000 bpd (barrels per day). The article made many of the points we’ve made here time and time again.

 According to Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategy, Energy, and Economic Research, “The recent moves by the US government…small steps toward a revival of the nation’s oil industry…not necessarily a lasting one…contingent on negotiations between the Maduro regime and the opposition…will prove inconclusive and the export agreement will not be renewed…Tens of billions of dollars are needed to restore production to 2002 levels…To create an environment that will encourage private/foreign investment…will be quite difficult…The oil industry will be able to finance 48% of the budget, not 63%…The deficit will most likely reduce the health, education, and infrastructure budgets…Keep in mind, the contraction of the economy has been the worst in 150 years.”

 Sounds like an echo huh? Maduro and the Chavistas are still who we thought they were, they will still do what they’ve always done, and the Venezuelan people will continue to suffer.

 And, as expected, lawyers for Alex Saab filed an appeal regarding US District Court Judge, Robert Scola’s, denial of a motion to dismiss the case on grounds of “diplomatic immunity” (which, as we’ve said before, is a totally fraudulent claim). The appeal goes to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which has already declined to hear the case in May. It’s expected they will uphold Judge Scola’s ruling.

 Then we have telling us that according to Legalrocks, A Venezuelan law firm, Venezuelan banks have suspended 75 accounts this year for suspicious cryptocurrency activities. The justification is that transactions were not authorized by Sunacrip, Venezuela’s cryptocurrency regulatory agency…Oh, OK, that explains everything…

 More tomorrow….


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