You've Got One Job...

 Time to wrap up our week of holiday catch-up so here we go… tells us that in his year-end address, Nicolas Maduro called on the Army to do a better job halting the environmental destruction caused by illegal mining. This comes after Leonardo DiCaprio said state-sanctioned gold mining in Venezuela is causing a 170% increase in the loss of pristine rain forest. Reports by NGO, Clima21 and the UN-FFM (United Nations Fact Finding Mission), set up by the UN Human Rights Council, say pretty much the same thing.

 Remember, Maduro’s “Mining Arc”, established in 2016, was supposed to regulate and control all this and in over 6 years has done nothing to protect the environment (not to mention the indigenous people). The UN-FFM reports that much of the environmental destruction is within gold mining concessions granted by the Maduro regime to Colombia guerilla group ELN.

 “Venezuela military units allow and sometimes facilitate ELN activities…illegal logging, trafficking of drugs, arms, fuel, medicine, and food as well as creating a modern-day slavery situation and attacking indigenous communities.” All this is in addition to the gold smuggling activities in which the military and the government are complicit.

 In a nutshell, the military in this region has one job, the control of the designated area called the “Mining Arc”. In reality their one job is the protection of criminal groups like ELN. FYI, we haven’t seen any numbers recently but a couple of years ago the bribes paid by criminal groups to the military were so lucrative, like $800,000 a month lucrative, that the military had to rotate generals to the “Mining Arc” region to keep them happy. That’s what it’s really all about…keep the military happy…keep ELN happy…who cares about the environment (or the indigenous people).

 Is it just me or does this give credence to the allegations that the Maduro regime doesn’t even acknowledge anything as a problem until it surfaces on social media, then it makes a public proclamation, in true “Casablanca” fashion, “I’m shocked… outraged!”, then they just go right back to doing what they’ve been doing? This has been their MO with Human Rights violations, possible crimes against humanity, lack of an independent judiciary, lack of free and fair elections, suppression of free speech, and on and on. This is who they are.

 Then we have Reuters reporting that a Chevron chartered vessel is loading the first cargo of oil for export to the US under the new license enabled by the sanctions relief from the Biden administration. A second tanker will arrive in Venezuela carrying condensate needed for processing Venezuela’s extra-heavy crude in one of their joint ventures. Latin America energy expert, Francisco Monaldi, likened the US strategy with the Maduro regime to a row of carrots and US officials have said there must be verifiable changes at each step (How many times have we heard that?).

 The article also mentioned the Eni (Italy) and Repsol (Spain) oil deals for Europe. They did not, however, mention if the current shipment to Europe is being paid for in cash, as the Chavistas demanded, or with debt reduction, as required by the sanctions relief deal.

 Then we have Forex Live telling us that according to three Reuters sources, Chevrons efforts to load tankers at one of it’s joint ventures in Venezuela and bring it to the US are being delayed due to a lack of dredging at Lake Maracaibo’s navigation channel.

 This should surprise absolutely nobody. The Chavistas lack of attention to routine maintenance causes problems everywhere. Current refinery fires and mechanical breakdowns…lack of maintenance. The catastrophic blackouts of 2019…lack of maintenance. The regime’s public transportation bus fleet, with only one in ten buses running…lack of maintenance…and on…and on…

 Then we have Merco Press with a confusing counterpoint to the Forex Live article. This one says, “Chevron Activities Picking Up Pace In Venezuela”. They referenced all the preparations being made and the “readiness” to export but never said anything about a shipment being underway. (In the real world it’s a pretty straightforward process…a tanker arrives, is loaded, and leaves for it’s destination)

 They also mentioned (as did the Forex Live article) the Eni and Repsol deal with oil for Europe but, as with all media outlets, no clarification was made on the question of payment for this latest shipment to Europe after a four month pause.

 We haven’t forgotten what nobody seems to want to talk about. The four month pause was caused by the Chavistas demand for cash payments on all future shipments, contrary to the sanctions relief deal of oil shipments for debt reduction only. New shipments have resumed but nobody is saying if its a cash or debt reduction deal…not the Chavistas…not the Europeans…and certainly not the Biden administration. Since its basically the same deal Chevron has I would think someone would be asking the question…Then again, it would really throw a wrench in the works if the current shipment was for cash, which would violate the original sanctions-easing agreement. Everyone keeps talking about “verifiable steps” by the Chavistas. How about a little verification here?

 Then we have FX Empire reporting that a fire halted operations at a coking plant of Petromonagas, a Russia/Venezuela joint venture. PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) did not respond to requests for comment but that’s two fires in a week at PDVSA facilities.

 And, on a positive note, Rio Times reports that BCV (Venezuela Central Bank) issued a press release stating Venezuela GDP growth for January – September, 2022 was 17.73%. In the past the numbers put out by the Venezuela government, whether its GDP growth, oil production, or whatever, usually turn out to be less than half of what they claim. Even so, any growth, after 8 consecutive years of recession, is a positive sign.

 Then we have Rio Times also reporting that Venezuela government-owned steel company, Sidor, announced steel production in 2022 increased to 230,000 tons, up from 160,000 tons in 2021, and up from less than 20,000 tons in 2020. Still not exactly a steel-producing powerhouse but, as we say about everything in Venezuela, it’s better than nothing.

 And we have Legit telling us that the Bahamas-flagged “Amadea” docked at Venezuela’s Margarita Island with almost 500 European passengers. Its the first cruise ship to visit Venezuela in 15 years. Consecotourismo president, Leudo Gonzalez, said “For us its wonderful!” As one who used to watch the lights of the cruise ships traversing my Caribbean vista on many an evening (more like early morning) I love hearing this. Its a long way from where it used to be but, once again, its better than nothing.

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

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