Follow The Yellow Brick Road

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a sec but first…We have a timely piece from Rio Times since this week’s Down The Rabbit Hole segment is “El Dorado” so, let’s “Follow The Yellow Brick Road”…According to the World Gold Council, Venezuela has the largest gold reserves in South America at 161.2 tons.

 OK, so if you do the math that comes out to over $10 billion. Call me skeptical but I have a hard time buying this. I know the price of gold is up recently but from a year ago the price of gold is basically flat and I follow the price of gold closely since I own a bit.

 They must be relying on info from BCV (Venezuela Central Bank) and, as we know, the Chavistas have a habit of lying to us. A year ago Venezuela’s gold reserves were pegged at under $5 billion, down from over $30 billion when Hugo Chavez repatriated Venezuela’s gold to Caracas to “protect it for the people”. Now we’re supposed to believe the gold reserves magically doubled in the last year? I don’t think so.

 And speaking of alternative financial instruments other than central banker’s much-loved fiat currencies, we have Today q telling us that, according to various media sources, cryptocurrency entities in Venezuela, including cryptocurrency exchanges and Bitcoin mining (I follow Bitcoin too, for obvious reasons) are supposed to remain inactive until further notice.

 Sunacrip, the government’s cryptocurrency regulatory agency, stands at the center of the swirling controversy amid the Maduro regime’s wide-ranging corruption probe (purge?). Both the chairman of Sunacrip and the head of digital mining operations are currently in the custody of authorities. Speculation is, at this point, that Sunacrip may be completely restructured along with the restructuring that will certainly occur in other areas as a result of the probe (purge?).

 Then we have Argus Media reporting that US oil refiner, Valero, joins Phillips 66 and Chevron as companies receiving Venezuela crude in the US, having received shipments in the last three months.

 All shipments have been as a result of Chevron’s expanded licenses due to sanctions-easing related to Chevron’s joint ventures with PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company).

 And World Oil tells us that Chevron’s CEO, Mike Wirth, says Chevron’s Venezuela oil production could rise 50% from the current level of !00,000 bpd (barrels per day).

 He stressed that production increases will depend on whether or not existing sanctions waivers remain in place. He made no reference to oil production in Venezuela outside of Chevron’s joint ventures with PDVSA, which is still struggling to recover lost production under Chavismo and 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism, down to approximately 700,000 bpd last month from almost 3 and 1/2 million bpd before the Chavistas took power.

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 9 continued…

 …Caught in the middle of all this are the Pemon indigenous people who have lived in the region since well before the Spanish colonization in the 1500s. Numerous proclamations by Hugo Chavez, and now Nicolas Maduro, regarding the need to preserve indigenous cultures have meant nothing. The Venezuelan government’s Indigenous Ministry and the Advocacy Office for Indigenous Peoples have failed to protect their interests. The protected ancestral Pemon lands have received the same treatment the Sioux got from the US government when they were told “All land north of the Powder River is considered sacred”. Things like that go by the wayside when gold enters the equation and so it is for the Pemon. They are preyed upon from all sides.

 Since the 2016 announcement of “The Mining Arc” (as of 2019) local media reported a dozen massacres perpetrated on the Pemon with 107 killed and many more wounded. Due to the remote location and fear of reprisals if people that go missing are reported, most people believe the numbers are much higher.

 The Pemon fare no better when they travel to the towns to sell whatever gold they are able to mine or trade it for basic goods. The municipalities in “The Mining Arc” have homicide rates that far eclipse the homicide rate in Caracas, considered the world’s most violet major city.

 Somewhat lost in the 2019 drama of opposition leader, Juan Guaido, attempting to get humanitarian aid across the Colombian border was the attack on the Pemon when they attempted to let aid in from Brazil. Members of the Venezuelan military killed three and wounded dozens in the confrontation.

 Besides the exploitation and oppression of the Pemon people, what the Chavistas are also complicit in, is the severe damage to the environment both on legally protected Pemon land and the land and rivers surrounding it.

 Outside the area officially designated as “The Mining Arc” and the Orinoco River are the Carrao River and others as well as the Imataca National Forest, the Yapacana and El Caura national parks, and the Canaima national park (famous as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World” and home to species found nowhere else in the world). Oh, and did I mention that the Canaima region is the home of Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world? The areas bordering the designated “Mining Arc” are being encroached upon as tends to happen with these things. It’s not just the mines themselves but the environmental damage due to deforestation and pollution. In 2017 blood tests done on residents along three area rivers, it was revealed they had 60 times the maximum allowable levels of mercury, which is used in metals processing.

 More tomorrow….

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