To Each Crisis A Scam

 We’ll be finishing up this week’s Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment shortly but first…ABC News reports an underground market has emerged for migrants seeking sponsors under the Biden administration’s new ‘parole’ program for migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti.

 There are numerous posts on Facebook demanding $10,000 for a sponsorship. There is no process, no vetting, no way to tell what’s fraudulent and what isn’t. As the saying goes, “Never let a crisis go to waste” or as we say, “To each crisis a scam”. Several immigration attorneys said they could find no specific law prohibiting people from charging money to sponsor beneficiaries. The concern is the possibility of trafficking and exploitation.

 USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) warns about potential scams and notes that the program is free. Desperation will lead people to follow the paid sponsorship path. One woman, whose husband is in a wheelchair, offered to give a sponsor her house, everything in it, and $4,000 for each of them.

 What is even more worrisome is the program is only a two-year temporary ‘parole’  with no guarantees. After the two year ‘parole’ what happens to this lady if, since there are no guarantees, she has to return home? She’ll have no home to return to.

 Then we have Relief Web telling us that UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) approved a new cooperative plan with “The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” (Uhh, is that the same as “The Dictatorial and Criminal Maduro Regime”?).

 There was plenty of happy talk about fulfillment of rights for children and adolescents but no talk of any money allocated by anybody. Could the Maduro regime just be playing nice until the new law regulating NGOs in Venezuela is passed and the proposed $3.2 billion UN-managed humanitarian fund is up and running and they see if, or how much, they can get their hands on the money? What do you think?

 And we have La Prensa Latina telling us that Venezuelan young people turned out for both pro and anti-government marches on Youth Day. The article was noteworthy for two things:

 One was the anti-government marchers were prevented from reaching their destination, the CNE (electoral council), to demand answers on free and fair elections, by the National Police.

 The other was I didn’t know there were that many young people left in Venezuela with the migration number at 7.1 million and counting…

 Then we have BNN Bloomberg reporting that BCV (Venezuela Central Bank) sold $180 million in the official exchange market on Monday, marking the largest single-day cash injection since Maduro slashed 5 zeros from the bolivar in 2021, in it’s quest to halt the massive depreciation of the currency.

 The bolivar fell 5% versus the dollar last week and recent CPI estimates (It’s hard to get real numbers from the Chavistas) show the country is teetering on falling back into hyperinflation. (Despite BCV finding some money between the sofa cushions this shouldn’t last long) When they run out of money and can’t create artificial demand for the bolivar it should continue it’s downward slide.

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 16 continued…

 …On the morning of the failed uprising of April 30, 2019 I was pleasantly surprised to be able to watch events unfolding on CNN with my DIRECTV service. Well, that didn’t last long and the transmission was yanked off the air. After a brief search I found coverage on BBC but that too was short-lived. Soon it seemed like everything was blocked although it came back bit by bit as it appeared the uprising would fail.

 It was, for me, a taste of what journalists in Venezuela experience every day, whether it’s putting out information or trying to get information. After the big blackouts in March,2019 and the subsequent smaller blackouts (in many areas it’s a constant thing), it’s hard for journalists to connect with the world. Besides lack of power and internet service they have to contend with the persistent problems of shortages of food, water, and gasoline…just like almost everyone in Venezuela. In many parts of Venezuela journalists don’t jump in their cars to go cover a story. They jump in their cars to go wait in line for gasoline…or to get cooking gas… or to get water…or whatever.

 A good comparison of Venezuela versus the real world can be found in lawsuits related to journalism. Various members of the regime file lawsuits against media outlets and/or journalists all the time in countries outside Venezuela and they are almost immediately dismissed. (We have a term for that in the real world, “frivolous lawsuits”) Compare that to the recent award of $5 million to Diosdado Cabello by a Venezuelan judge. Cabello, who most believe is the most powerful member of the regime, sued the website La Patilla for posting a three year-old article from Spanish newspaper ABC regarding his links to drug trafficking. He knew he couldn’t get anything from ABC in a Spanish court but he could go after La Patilla in a Venezuelan court and get $5 million for “moral damage”.

 The courts are also helping the regime keep a lid on statistics it doesn’t want made public. In 2019 the members of the National Assembly Finance Commission (before being replaced by Maduro’s new National Assembly in yet another fraudulent election) were stripped of their parliamentary immunity opening the door for the Chavistas to go after them. The commission immediately had 5 of it’s 14 members missing or in exile and most of the members of the 2015 National Assembly have left the country.

 Summary : So, where are we now? Well, the government currently (as of 2019) owns 13 TV networks, 65 radio outlets, one news agency, and five newspapers. Through CONATEL (government telecom agency), utilizing their public/private co-op, they control 235 radio stations, 44 TV stations, and 120 newspapers. All this while Maracaibo, the country’s second largest city, has NO NEWSPAPER, due to the withholding of newsprint which the government controls.

 We consumers of media were treated to the story that musician Karen Palacios was being released from prison (shortly after the UN report on the Maduro regime’s Human Rights violations). In May, 2019 Ms Palacios was notified her contract with the National Philharmonic would not be renewed. She posted her frustration on social media, was arrested the same day, and imprisoned for violating…wait for it … yes, the Anti-Hate Law. What wasn’t reported on government media was that she had been ordered released by a judge two weeks after her arrest. Nothing happened for over a month and then she’s miraculously released. By the way, she’s on probation and prohibited from speaking to the media. What more do you need to know?

 That will do it for another week. We’ll be back Monday with our next Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole installment, “Scatter Shot” and, of course, more current news. Until then…Have a great weekend everybody!!!

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