The New Authoritarianism

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a sec but first… Global Voices tells us Advox submitted it’s Unfreedom Monitor Report on Venezuela. They say that democracy and freedom of expression have been disrupted since 2007 and the reduction of separation of powers have reached the point where they are basically nonexistent.

 The fight against repression is now more through digital tools which has led to an effect they call “networked authoritarianism” The resistance to government oppression is met with the government’s disinformation campaign (propaganda), internet blocking, and judicial persecution of journalists and activists that investigate Maduro’s government or talk about the humanitarian crisis.

 They also control and silence public discussion and inhibit the work of opposition politicians, Human Rights defenders, humanitarian workers, activists, public personalities, and citizens in general that question and report the actions of the Maduro regime.

 Surveillance without legal justification, arbitrary monitoring of citizens, and the use of technology to manipulate election results have changed the political and social landscape in Venezuela.

 It looks like in addition to conventional authoritarianism, you know, the killings (Maduro has averaged 1,400 extrajudicial killings per year since he took power in 2013), beatings, arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, torture, etc. we can now add “digital authoritarianism”.

 Then we have Law 360 reporting that, well, another day, another appeal related to the looming auction of Citgo shares to satisfy Venezuela’s debt.

 According to Venezuela’s attorneys, a DC Federal Judge should not allow Spanish affiliates of Mexican  tortilla manufacturer, Gruma SAB de CV, to register a $618 million judgement in Delaware so they could participate in the eventual auction.

 The holders of the $618 million arbitration award now join the long line of creditors and bondholders waiting for Venezuela to exhaust it’s appeals, which should happen in a matter of months, then the auction will go forward and, since there are more claims against Venezuela than the net asset value of Citgo, the US oil refiner, owned by PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company), will cease to exist.

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 13 continued…

 …The “middle escapees” began going overland, primarily to Colombia, and on to Ecuador, Peru, Chile, etc. Some drove their own cars and others took buses.This was a far cry from the wealthier “group one”, just heading for the airport, family in tow, and jumping on a plane to Spain. Another big difference was that the second round often couldn’t afford for the entire family to go. Some would choose to leave the elderly behind, often because they didn’t want to leave, and in many cases the children would stay with their grandparents. The prevailing opinion was that there was less risk to the children and they would be sent for as soon as the mother and father got established. Another common method used by those with limited resources was for the family to stay put and send the young adults abroad. Over half of the families in Venezuela have at least one family member abroad sending back remittances monthly to help their families survive.

 Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors adopted a welcoming attitude towards Venezuelan migrants, at least initially, as Venezuela had welcomed migrants from their countries. That attitude continued 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 (we might be beyond the “migrant” category) 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 many are just taking off on foot with whatever they can carry and what few dollars they may have. Most cross the border into Colombia because no matter where you are 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 crossings 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, which usually isn’t much. There is also a common practice of using children (who should be in school, by the way) as pack mules for the river crossings. Some turn to crime to earn money. It’s better to be a criminal than a victim.

 So let’s say you make it across 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.

 More tomorrow….

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