What Took So Long?

 We’ll get to our Down The Rabbit Hole segment in a few but first…Reuters reports that Nicolas Maduro’s National Assembly passed a first reading of a bill to regulate and inspect NGOs in Venezuela. If passed following a second reading the bill becomes law. (This is a mere formality as the National Assembly is simply a rubber stamp for whatever Maduro wants)

 Advocacy groups fear it will silence NGOs and stop them from carrying out their work with new threats and intimidation. More than 500 NGOs and foundations work in Venezuela focusing on prisoner well-being, monitoring violence, investigating extra-judicial killings (the Maduro regime has averaged over 1,400 extra-judicial killings per year since he took power in 2013), and reviewing economic indicators among other things. (Note : Maduro didn’t allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela until about two years ago even though many Venezuelans have been starving since 2014)

 If (when) the bill becomes law NGOs will have to declare their assets, balance sheets, financial statements, and their “relationship with donations received, with full identification of the donors, indicating whether they are nationals or foreigners”.

 These NGOs will be banned from “carrying out political activities, promoting or allowing actions that threaten national stability and the institutions of the republic”. Violations carry a fine of up to 200 Petros (The Chavistas still reference Maduro’s totally fraudulent and totally failed cryptocurrency, El Petro, every chance they get. The real number is $12,000).

 My first question is…”What took you so long?” We all knew something like this was coming as soon as Maduro announced he was “allowing” humanitarian aid into Venezuela. The Chavistas hate anything they don’t control.

 My next question is, “Why now?” Could the proposed $3 billion UN-managed humanitarian fund have anything to do with it?

 I’m also curious about what the new UNHCHR (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights), Volker Turk, will have to say during his upcoming visit to Venezuela, his first since the latest scathing report on Venezuela Human Rights and other related issues by the UN-FFM (United Nations Fact-Finding Mission). Will he keep up the pressure on the Maduro regime? How will the new law be viewed? We’re about to learn a lot about the new guy.

 Then we have The Hill telling us that the Archbishop of Barquisimento (Venezuela) insists “There is no miracle economy in Venezuela. It is time to stop the bubbles of economic falsehood that try to hide from the world the precarious situation in which Venezuelans are immersed. The regime tries to promote a false normality to confuse and sell to the world that Venezuela has fixed itself.”

 The article went on to mention that Nicolas Maduro announced a police reform which will increase the number of police officers from 44,000 to over 100,000 in 2024.

 They went on to say that according to Penal Forum, a network of pro-bono defense lawyers, there were 245 political prisoners being detained by the Maduro regime as of October, 2022. At least 114 of them have spent more than three years in pre-trial detention despite time limits in a recent Criminal Code reform.

 Let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 13 continued…

 …Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors adopted a welcoming attitude toward Venezuelan migrants, at least initially, as Venezuela had welcomed migrants from their countries. That attitude held up for the next year or two until round three, “the refugees”, was well underway and it appeared there was no end in sight. It was one thing for Maduro and the Chavistas to destroy their own country but now it was having a real effect on surrounding countries.

 Today’s refugees (I think we’re beyond the “migrant” category, although they’re still referred to as migrants) are arriving at the doorstep of host countries with less than nothing. Most have delayed leaving because they were trying to scrape together a little money for bus fare and maybe an extra dollar or two. Finally, giving up hope on being able to afford bus fare, most are just taking off on foot with whatever they can carry and what few dollars they have. Most cross the border at Colombia because no matter where you’re going you first have to get out of Venezuela.

 Due to a number of factors, all Chavista- created, many of these “walkers” have no documentation. To cross the border everybody pays. If you have documents you can use the legal crossing but you will have to bribe the National Guard or you will languish in the back of the line indefinitely. If you don’t have documents you will have to pay “coyotes” to sneak you across.

 Crime is rampant on both sides of the border.If you are legal and have documents and money for the bribe you are a target for kidnapping or robbery, both of which are way up. If you are illegal you will have to pay the “coyotes” somehow so what do you do? People barter with whatever they have. There is also a common practice of using children (who should be in school, by the way) as pack mules for river crossings. Some turn to crime. Better to be a criminal than a victim.

 So let’s say you make it across the border and now you’re in Colombia. You’ve used all your scant resources just to escape the hell that is Venezuela. Now what do you do? There has been a drastic increase in recruitment by ELN guerillas and FARC dissidents, right-wing paramilitaries, drug- traffickers, human smugglers, prostitution rings, and other criminal elements (in case I missed anybody). Desperate women sell their hair, their bodies, even their children.

 So let’s say you’ve avoided the other numerous pitfalls and although you have nothing your life and your family are still, more or less, intact. What do you do? Unfortunately for “the walkers” the Venezuela migrant/refugee gets nowhere near the media coverage as migration- related issues in Africa, the Middle East (and now Ukraine). While I have enormous respect for the various aid groups around the world trying to keep their fingers in the dyke the reality is help will always arrive too slowly. It’s much easier to jump on the news and pledge millions of dollars for relief here or there than it is to deal with the logistics of actually getting the help where it’s needed. That said, the Venezuelans aren’t just getting less news coverage, they’re getting less money. According to NGOs, aid groups in Africa and the Middle East typically operate on 50% of needs. Yes, it sucks, but that’s the reality. As bad as that is, groups dealing with Venezuelans operate on 21% of needs!

 The reasons for the disparity go beyond just the news coverage. While all refugees are needy, well…there’s needy and there’s NEEDY! As we discussed earlier, the people of Venezuela are literally wasting away, many existing on 700 calories a day (that’s if they spend every penny they earn on food). The 85% medicine shortage of a few years earlier inched up to 90% in 2019 and vaccines (non- Covid) are almost non-existent. Add to that a population that used to get contraception from the government, which is no longer the case, they can’t afford to eat much less buy condoms so despite the horrible circumstances pregnancies are on the rise. It’s a real head scratcher that with both infant mortality and maternal mortality skyrocketing people are still cranking out babies. (Good human nature lesson…people are going to do what they’re going to do regardless of circumstances)

 More tomorrow….






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