Nico's "Green New Deal"
We’ll get started with this week’s Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment in a few but first…We have a couple of pieces that show us Nicolas Maduro’s version of “The Green New Deal”. Mongabay reports that satellite imagery analyzed by NGO Amazon Conservation reveals that illegal mining operations in Venezuela’s Yapacana National Park, located in the state of Amazonas, are clearing protected forest faster than previously thought.
Over 750 hectares (1,870 acres) of deforestation took place in 2021 and 2022. Although law enforcement carried out raids in the area many experts believe the problem will persist amid government complacency. Previous reports by Amazon Conservation show 4,100 camps and 3,800 pieces of machinery.
In what I find to be a particularly disturbing report, 17 hectares (42 acres) of deforestation was on top of a tepui (mountaintop mesa) considered sacred by local indigenous groups. FYI, the tepuis of this area inspired the classic, “The Lost World”, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is one of the more unique ecosystems in the world. The vertical walls of these tabletop mesas go straight up for thousands of feet and although there are no dinosaurs (like in the novel) there are species that not only are they found nowhere else in the world, some are unique to a particular tepui.
In December the Army published videos on social media of raids in the area where they “deactivated and dismantled illegal mining structures which ignore the country’s laws and violate all kinds of orders and regulations”. The founder of advocacy group, SOS Orinoco, said “This raid was more of a publicity stunt to help Maduro in his efforts to clean up his reputation and position him now as a defender of the Amazon…They have completely abandoned both responsibilities due to their main interest and objective which is to profit from illegal mining”. Remember, the bribes paid to the military are so lucrative the Army rotates generals in charge of the region so they can share in the profits. It’s all about keeping the military happy so, while they may stage a raid here or there for PR purposes, nothing will change.
Then we have Oilprice.com with a piece titled “Venezuela’s Dilapidated Oil Industry Is An Environmental Catastrophe”. The headline says it all and the article relates well to the Mongabay piece on Venezuela’s environmental disaster caused by illegal mining.
The OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) member’s collapsing petroleum industry, along with precious metals and other mining, is a key culprit of the significant environmental damage occurring in the near-failed state. Oil spills, leaking pipelines and storage facilities, noxious discharges from ramshackle intermittently operating refineries, and toxic tar-like slicks are commonplace in Venezuela.
PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) stopped releasing incident data in 2016 but OVDHA (Venezuela Observatory of Environmental Human Rights) documented 199 oil spills in Venezuela from 2016 – 2021 with 68 coming in 2021 alone and OEP (Observatory of Political Ecology) reported 86 oil spills in 2022.
Then we have Lake Maracaibo, considered by most to be the largest natural lake in South America. The Maracaibo Basin contains 15% of Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest proven reserves in the world. OVDHA estimates up to 1,000 barrels of crude are being discharged into Lake Maracaibo and the surrounding area constantly, due to low-level leaks from the thousands of platforms on the lake, pipelines, storage tanks, and other decaying infrastructure.
The environmental destruction will keep expanding as industry infrastructure deteriorates further and the authoritarian Maduro regime sets even higher and unachievable production targets. Nothing will change until PDVSA can access the tremendous amount of capital required to rebuild or replace (much of the oil infrastructure is damaged beyond repair) it’s malfunctioning and crumbling infrastructure. (Most reliable analysts put the number at a minimum of $10 billion a year for at least a decade)
The article suggests that relaxing of sanctions would allow foreign energy majors to invest in Venezuela. The problem is the Maduro regime. The Chavistas have screwed basically everyone on basically every deal they’ve ever made and many of the companies needed to invest in Venezuela still have court cases around the world attempting to recover money lost due to Chavismo’s expropriation of assets in the country. Nobody trusts these guys.
The Chavista’s environmental program has been, and is, one of rape, pillage, and plunder as they wring out every bit of profit possible out of the country’s vast natural resources with no consideration for the environment nor the people. Welcome to Nico’s “Green New Deal”
Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…
Chapter 12/ The Supremes…
The basic structure of Venezuela’s government was set up by “The Great Liberator”, Simon Bolivar, to resemble, to a degree, that of the United States of America. What we see in Venezuela today resembles the government of the USA in name only ie; Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, each independent of the others. We already know that the Executive branch no longer has Presidential powers, it’s a dictatorship. We just discussed the lunacy of the Legislative branch, a legitimate assembly that can’t pass laws and an illegitimate assembly that does. That leaves us with the Judiciary, Venezuela’s Supreme Court, or TSJ.
I hardly know where to begin, it’s so crazy, but I’ll give it a shot. Venezuela’s Supreme Court sees a lot more cases than the US Supreme Court. I don’t know what it was like back in the day but in recent times the court reviews thousands of petitions/cases a year so just based on the math it can’t take too long to reach a decision (unless it’s contrary to the Chavista’s wishes in which case it may never be heard).
The TSJ gives new meaning to the term “Judicial Activism”. It’s worth noting that compared to the Maduro years the Chavez years were relatively tame but this is by comparison only. First things first, Chavez changed the name from “The Supreme Court” to “The Supreme Tribunal of Justice”. It’s a small thing but rebranding is generally a sign of changes to come. Under Chavez the Chavista-controlled National Assembly added 9 permanent judges and 32 stand-ins in 2010. Overall, during Chavez’s term, 12 judges were added to the TSJ increasing the total of permanent judges from 20 to 32. Needless to say all added judges and all replaced judges were pro-Chavista and their primary focus was always directly tied to Chavez’s wishes dismissing everything else. A good example of this “protectionism” was in 2008 when the OAS court (Venezuela was still a member of the OAS at the time) ordered a judge reinstated stemming from an appealed firing in 2003. It simply never happened.
When the TSJ was given it’s new name and new members it’s function was defined as “to control according to the Constitution and related laws the constitutionality and legality of public acts. Under Chavismo the lines between a legal entity and a political entity became blurred or non-existent even though they were the ones that defined TSJ’s responsibilities. The TSJ regularly makes recommendations to the CNE (electoral council). In 2012 it ruled that the top opposition leader couldn’t run against Chavez. It categorized it’s decision as an administrative decision and not a political one, whatever that means. By the way, as much as the Chavistas loved maligning Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition leader, and constantly professing their love for Simon Bolivar, The Great Liberator, it is Lopez, not Chavez, who is Bolivar’s descendant.
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