Worse Than We Thought?

 We’ll head Down The Rabbit Hole shortly but first… Daily Sabah reports that PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) has asked gas station operators to immediately pay outstanding bills,according to sources and a company document seen by Reuters.

 “We request that you immediately honor any pending payment obligations from fuel sales. PDVSA needs it’s income to be fluid in order to sustain fuel production, storage, transport, and supply structure.”

 PDVSA said it would take “administration and legal action” against unfulfilled payments and could jeopardize fuel supplies.

 The request to settle pending balances has focused on stations that sell in US dollars. (I guess they’re like everybody else…not really interested in bolivares.) In recent years fuel scarcity and a need for hard currency led PDVSA to allow some stations and independent owners to receive dollar payments instead of local currency.

 One station owner said, “If outstanding balances are not paid within 72 hours they activate a credit hold and fuel supply to stations is suspended.” That’s not going to help the people that sometimes wait in line for days to fill their tanks.

 It looks like that accounts receivable balance of $20 billion, billions of which may be uncollectable, is more of a problem than we were led to believe. If PDVSA is on such shaky financial footing it’s going to be hard to do Maduro’s promised restart of PetroCaribe, the program started by Hugo Chavez whereby Venezuela supplied oil to member nations for very little money up front then financed the balance at 1 % for up to 20 years.

 The program has been inactive for most of the Maduro years (since they’re basically broke) although it’s worth noting they still manage to sent crude oil and gasoline to Cuba for free in return for Cuban doctors and “security advisors”.

 Then we have Livemint.com reporting something I think we already knew…World of Statistics revealed it’s ranking of “The World’s Most Criminal Countries”. Any guesses on which country sits atop the list as the most criminal country? Of course…that would be Venezuela.

 And we have Amnesty International telling us that Emirlendris Benitez, a 42 year-old mother and tradeswoman, was arbitrarily detained in August, 2018 in Venezuela for political reasons. (She’s still in prison)

 She has endured torture and other atrocities during her unjust and inhumane detention and now faces a 30 year prison sentence. The after effects of the torture and periods of incommunicado detention require urgent medical care.

 Amnesty International is calling for her immediate release. Remember, in Venezuela crimes aren’t even investigated unless there is trending on social media and the Maduro regime can score some PR points so she does have a chance…if this story catches on.

 Then we have Mehr News reporting that Iran’s Oil Minister and Venezuela’s Oil Minister met with Maduro’s VP, Delcy Rodriguez, in Caracas to sign MOUs (Memorandum Of Understanding) on development of oil and gas fields, reconstruction of refineries and petrochemical complexes, and oil trade. Uhh…haven’t they done this a couple of times already with the 20 “historic, strategic agreements”?

 And on the political front we have Digital Journal reporting that Tamara Adrian, a transgender former lawmaker, has announced her candidacy in Venezuela’s opposition primaries that will determine who challenges President (dictator) Nicolas Maduro in next year’s (?) election.

 The 69 year-old university professor is backed by the United for Dignity association which is in the long process of becoming a political party.

 The article said that Adrian has a “comprehensive plan” based on attracting foreign investment and improving public services but provided no details.

 Now, let’s go Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 7 continued…

 …The next idea had the potential to be a good thing but, as with everything Chavismo- related, they corrupted it. As the food crisis shifted from a simple lack of availability to a combination of limited availability and total lack of affordability the government (Maduro) came up with a plan to deliver boxes of food to those that needed them every two weeks, enough to feed a family of five. OK, so we know feeding a family of five might be a little overly ambitious but it’s still a good idea..uhh..kinda’.

 First, the CLAP (Spanish acronym) program can only be received by those holding the “Carnet de la Patria”. There’s that nasty “Homeland Card” again. Next, when first launched the deliveries were somewhat on time although, as we said, they weren’t big enough to feed a family of five. It didn’t take long for the deliveries to become spotty with priority given to the well-connected while others might not see a delivery for a month or two. Next the quality of the products rapidly declined and many items would be past their expiration dates. Next the government drastically overpaid for the contents of the boxes which surprised absolutely nobody. The majority of the items came from Mexico through a company affiliated with Maduro. When the company was targeted in a corruption probe they immediately closed up shop and the products were sourced primarily from Turkey. Not surprisingly, at the same time Maduro announced stronger ties with Turkey. Now, with the military in charge of food distribution (it’s getting harder and harder for Maduro to find ways to buy their loyalty) they also oversee CLAP delivery. Come on…raise your hand if you think things will improve!

 Summary : We’ve previously discussed “The Maduro Diet”, the food shortages, the lack of affordability (how about 138 minimum wages to feed a family of five a balanced diet, which were the numbers in 2017), and the government’s denial, until recently, of the problem. Now they can blame it on those imperialist, interventionist sanctions by those gringos who are responsible for all things evil. A recent report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) really sums things up…

 Said organization, the FAO, gave an award to Venezuela in 2013 for reducing hunger by 50% from 1990 levels. This is a good thing although we now know that as soon as the high oil prices and the massive borrowing went away so did the food. Anyway…Maduro got a lot of mileage from that award on state media. Curiously, there has been no coverage on state media of the latest FAO report. Venezuela is at risk of famine! 80% of Venezuelans live in food insecurity (they can’t afford to be properly fed). Malnutrition tripled in the four years leading up to the report. Crop production was down 50% from already depressed levels…and they didn’t even mention one of my personal favorites…In 2018, the combination of children with either malnutrition or wasting reached 35%. I didn’t even know what “wasting” meant (not malnourished but losing weight, which children aren’t supposed to do).

 We’ll wrap up our summary tomorrow….


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