A Sensible Alternative?

 We’ll get to our wrap-up of this week’s Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment in just a bit but first…Washington Examiner had an article that put forth the idea that the US could learn a foreign policy lesson from Venezuela dictator, Nicolas Maduro’s, withdrawal from the Celac summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It seems to be a sensible alternative given that nothing else has worked to improve the plight of the Venezuelan people.

 Even though Argentina’s President, Alberto Fernandez, and Vice President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, (at least until she goes to jail) are staunch allies of Nicolas Maduro he has a degree of respect/fear of Argentina’s activists, their political opposition, and particularly Argentina’s fiercely independent judiciary which convicted the sitting Vice President but, according to Argentina law, she’s allowed to end her term before going to jail.

 Argentina’s judicial independence is also displayed by the Emtrasur 747 cargo plane (Emtrasur’s parent company, Conviasa, is owned by the Venezuela government) still detained in Argentina, contrary to the wishes of President Fernandez and, of course, Nicolas Maduro. The investigation into the plane’s activities and that of their crew continue to be investigated and the US has requested the plane be turned over to them as it was sold to Conviasa by Iran’s Mahan Air in violation of US sanctions. The fact that this is ongoing says a lot.

 The article suggests that if the world’s democracies want to curtail the activities of the world’s dictators, who seem to roam freely around the world, and perhaps negatively impact their authoritarian rule, they should seek to identify and support more situations like Argentina, a strong activist community, a strong opposition (or government opposed to these dictators), and an independent judiciary. Makes sense to me.

 Then we have Rio Times telling us that Venezuela President, Nicolas Maduro, announced “Venezuela is ready and we support the initiative to create a Latin America and Caribbean currency…Independence, union, and liberation of Latin America and the Caribbean!”

 He joins the initiative put forward by Brazil and Argentina…Uhh…OK, so who is going to lead on this? I guess we could get Brazil’s President Lula to do it now that he’s no longer in jail on corruption and money laundering charges. If not, maybe since the Caribbean is included in this we could get somebody from Haiti?

 We also have Argentina, perpetually in default on their bonds and having gone through, what is it now, three bailouts by the IMF? Or Venezuela, who under Chavismo and 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism, have lopped 14 zeroes off the value of their currency?

 This has the potential to be even worse than Nicolas Maduro’s totally fraudulent and totally failed (but still around because Maduro just won’t let it die the death it deserves) cryptocurrency, “El Petro”, called by the Wall Street Journal the “most obviously horrible investment in history”. As we say all too often…What could possibly go wrong?

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 13 continued…

 …So what effect is this having on support services?…You know, millions of extra people that are malnourished, unvaccinated, carrying diseases thought to be eradicated years ago, and/or are pregnant? Last things first, in the border area of Colombia there were 1,457 emergency room visits in 2015. In 2018 there were 131,958. The fiscal burden on these hospitals has increased 8,800%. 20% of these emergency room visits are pregnant women with a variety of diseases and neonatal problems that can’t be treated in Venezuela. As of 2018 over 900,000 vaccinations had been given. All school classrooms are above maximum levels. 62,000 Venezuelan children are on Colombian government welfare.

 With all support services overloaded and no jobs available for the latecomers most people are using Colombia as a rest stop on the way to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and other countries. They sleep where they can, scrape together whatever money they may be able to earn (prostitution is a popular choice given the uncommonly beautiful physical attributes of Venezuelan women), and resume their journey onward. Unfortunately for many, they arrive at the next border and are confronted with the same issues they faced crossing into Colombia, not to mention the hazards and hardships of their cross country travel in Colombia.

 The outlook for the near term is bleak. Various NGOs have predicted famine-like conditions for Venezuela. What a travesty for a country that produced 70% of it’s food pre-Chavismo only to see 95% of it’s food needs imported. (Recently there’s more food available but 95% of the population can’t afford it) We already know the oil business is falling apart (where it hasn’t totally collapsed). Last year’s average production numbers were just over 600,000 bpd (barrels per day). All of that production is already spoken for through obligations to China and Cuba (for which they receive no revenue) and domestic consumption. Caracas Capital estimates that between drug trafficking and illegal gold sales the government takes in about a billion dollars a month. The Chavistas and the military get almost all of that while the Venezuelan people continue to starve.

 Summary : As the numbers mount and the protests continue the government calls for more dialog. With each call for dialog the stampede increases as do the protests, although not on as grand a scale due to the repression. Lather, rinse, repeat. We have progressed (regressed?) from taking flights out to cars and buses to walking out. Oh, did I forget to mention the shipwrecks of overloaded boats of migrants trying to reach nearby island nations?

 The nations surrounding Venezuela, and those not quite so close, are waking up to the realization that an open border policy sounds good until you have an extra over 7 million (and counting) people you have to take care of. Systems are collapsing, xenophobia is rising, crime is rising (everywhere except Venezuela where there is nothing left to steal and murders are down due to the high cost of bullets), and now we’re seeing immigration restrictions and deportation of Venezuelans rising.

 There is some coverage about the plight of the Venezuelans but the international media still hasn’t come to grips with the depth of the problem. Perhaps one day… The problem is, as we’ve said many times, with civil war or natural disaster you get some juicy photos/videos. This is just a slow motion train wreck that many are all too ready to blame on “Gringo” sanctions when the truth is…the reality is…cue the mantra…this is a man made disaster…a Chavista made disaster.

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

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