Comrades In Arms

 We’ve got no Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment today but there’s plenty to get to so…Riddle tells us that while Cuban intelligence remains deeply involved in Venezuela it is more transactional under Nicolas Maduro than it was under his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Before the crisis of 2018 – 2019, when the opposition almost succeeded in unseating Maduro, there were Cuban intelligence officers at every level of the Maduro regime’s security apparatus. Now some of that intelligence presence is occupied by Russian intelligence.

 Russian fingerprints can be found all over Chavismo. The founder of SEBIN (Part of Maduro’s three-headed monster of security services), General Miguel Rodriguez Torres, received training in Russia. Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, the infamous ‘merchant of death’ recently involved in the Russia/US prisoner swap for WNBA star, Brittney Griner, was an arms supplier to Hugo Chavez. In January, 2022 former Venezuela spy chief, Manuel Figuera, claimed Russia has two military installations in Venezuela. Further reports suggest the installations may be Russian-built but not operated by them. Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Reskov did not confirm or deny…

 Russian mercenaries, The Wagner Group, have operated in Venezuela on and off and in 2019 were believed to number in the thousands deployed in Venezuela in both regime and asset protection roles.

 There has been significant cooperation between Russia and Venezuela in signals intelligence, specifically radar and GPS surveillance systems. There is also a lot of speculation Russia is assisting the Maduro regime with cyber warfare and security but very little is known. As much as people like to talk about US re-engagement with the Maduro regime, he continues to rely heavily on fellow authoritarians, comrades in arms, like Russia (and Iran and Cuba).

 Then we have FX Empire reporting that the new president of Venezuela’s opposition National Assembly, Dinorah Figuera, said the new committee meant to manage the country’s assets abroad will pay off debts to law firms in the US. This comes after the Reuters article reporting that Venezuela owed $20.7 million to US law firms representing Venezuela against creditors. (Funny that the law firms representing Venezuela against creditors are now creditors themselves) The US Treasury Department has renewed permission for US citizens to engage in business with the opposition National Assembly unlike the sanctioned Maduro National Assembly.

 And we have telling us that Venezuelans have long used the US dollar as a hedge against inflation but, according to Ecoanalytica, in Venezuela for 2022 prices, even when denominated in dollars, were up 54%. I guess when you compare it to the 306% inflation on prices denominated in bolivares it’s not so bad. FYI, the latest CPI (Consumer Price Index) reading in the US came in at 6.5% year over year. Then again, Venezuela is coming off of a four year bout of hyperinflation, the second longest period of hyperinflation on record.

 Then we have the Miami Herald telling us that Nicolas Maduro’s regime knows that Venezuelan’s ability to speak freely threatens his attempt to control their society. A recent UN report details how physical violence is a key part of his government’s stifling of free expression. But the attempt is also manifested through “digital authoritarianism”, which is the government’s efforts to control the population through technology.

 Venezuela’s descent into outright tyranny after once being a democracy underscores China’s role in the region. Beijing’s support for the Maduro regime has facilitated his government’s ability to digitally track political opponents and silence dissent. To this point, the UNOHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights) recommended governments adopt meaningful regulations on the export of technologies known to be associated with violating civil liberties.

 When you combine this with what we already know about the Maduro regime’s dominance of social media through the use of bots and various inorganic methods it’s hard to take Vice President Delcy Rodriguez seriously when she plays the victim card claiming the Maduro regime has been the victim of “psychological warfare” on social media.

 Note : Just a quick reminder here on something not referenced in the article. The Maduro regime implemented use of a government issued ID card, the “Carnet de la Patria” (Homeland Card), enabling any government bureaucrat to access citizen’s private information on basically every aspect of their life with a few keyboard strokes. The card currently doesn’t have the RFID function enabling location tracking but that’s only because it was cost prohibitive at the time. Whenever the Chavistas have the extra money I’m sure that’s the next step. FYI, the “Carnet de la Patria” was developed by Chinese telecom and technology giant, ZTE.

 Then we have Hart Energy reporting that Venezuela oil union official, Ivan Freites, revealed Venezuela oil sector workers are arguably the worst paid oil industry employees in the world. Workers in positions from refinery operator to superintendent take home salaries ranging from $20 – $40 PER MONTH!!

 This problem goes back to the early days of Hugo Chavez (when oil workers made good money, owned houses and  cars, took vacations, etc.). Chavez used the strike of 2002 as an excuse to fire PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) workers. Estimates range from 13,000 to 19,000 workers were purged out of a workforce of 40,000. Chavez boisterously announced at the time, “PDVSA will be red!” (the color of Chavismo). He then tripled the payroll to a bloated 120,000 workers, mostly loyal Chavistas with no experience or oil industry knowledge, to replace the fired industry professionals. Most of the remaining PDVSA workers from before the purge saw the handwriting on the wall and those who could left, either the company or in many cases the country.

 The rest, as they say, is history. Venezuela oil production declined from 3.5 million bpd (barrels per day) to last year’s average of a little over 600,000 bpd, and it’s been significantly lower. Today there are lot’s of PDVSA workers with knowledge and experience…they just work for somebody else.

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

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