Continuing Atrocities

 We’ll get started with our next chapter of Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole in a few cut first…Our friends at Caracas Chronicles had the headline, “Atrocities Are Still Happening In Venezuela”. More and more governments are working to release Nicolas Maduro from international isolation. But, the ICC (International Criminal Court) is still working and Human Rights continue to be under severe threat.

 An international legal scholar coined the term “crimes against humanity” during the Nuremberg trials. It’s defined as a “widespread and systematic attack directed at a civilian population”. This includes torture, sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, persecution, enforced disappearances, and enslavement. Does this sound familiar?

 Right now all these crimes are happening in Venezuela. There are upwards of 200 political prisoners, with the number of imprisoned military officials rising, 17 reported clandestine torture centers, and last year there were over 800 extrajudicial killings (although that’s less than Maduro’s average of 1,400 extrajudicial killings per year since he took power).

 These crimes against humanity have been planned and implemented on a national scale against large segments of the population by the President (dictator) and high-level military officials.

 This is one of Chavez’s enduring legacies that Maduro has perfected. This has been condoned, promoted, and exercised by all government officials. Many negate their participation because they are civil servants or lower-rank military and argue that they acted under orders from superiors. (Where have we heard that before? Nuremberg?)

 Because Venezuela’s judicial system has been co-opted, victims and their families must resort to international Human Rights and criminal courts to seek truth and justice.

 Information sharing on Human Rights violations and abuses by a wide range of actors in Venezuela has been crucial in bringing to light the regime’s atrocities, which have been well documented in reports (yes, that’s plural, over a few years) by the UN Human Rights Council-created International Fact-Finding Mission for Venezuela.

 David Crane, former Chief Prosecutor for one of three international tribunals, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, says that when such atrocities have been committed, “the big fish”, those with the most responsibility, are the ones that should be investigated, tried, and possibly imprisoned.

 This is the route the ICC has taken in investigating crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela since 2014. The government has attempted to halt the investigation but it is proceeding after The Hague determined that the state is not investigating crimes against humanity and domestic investigations have focused on lower-level perpetrators. The ICC has received more than 8,000 testimonies recounting these crimes.

 International pressure doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to the Maduro regime and it’s clear there is a PR machine cleaning it’s image (and it’s not just the Chavistas, many countries are complicit in the white-washing of the criminal regime’s image).

The ICC investigation has been brought up by Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro’s National Assembly Speaker, as one of the points to move forward in the Maduro regime’s Mexico negotiations with the Venezuela opposition for free and fair elections and return to democracy, neither of which are of any interest to the Maduro regime. To be clear, the ICC is an independent, apolitical body that has no relation to, or participation in, political negotiations. We may even see Maduro’s National Assembly pass an amnesty law, as was tried unsuccessfully in Argentina.

 As the ICC investigation moves forward it’s important to remember why “this fraught period should never be repeated”. If we don’t remember, who will?

 Now, lets head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 6/ Tales From The Crypto…

 You may think you’ve seen some financial manipulation, if not outright fraud, in the last chapter. There is a reason why I only mentioned “el Petro” briefly. The world has never seen anything like this before, literally. It was heralded as the world’s first cryptocurrency backed by the hard assets of a sovereign government. Yet another Chavismo “way of the future”. It was “revolutionary” and would change everything. To call it a fraud or a scam is an insult to anyone that has ever perpetrated a fraud or a scam. And what’s really crazy is, although it may be on it’s last legs, they’re still peddling it. Ladies and gentlemen…I give you… “el Petro”!!!

 The year 2017 was a tough one for Chavismo financially. When Maduro went on his, now annual, trip around the globe begging for money and came home empty-handed (again) it must have seemed like the jig was finally up. His last two trips had proven fruitless and Russia and China had let him know that no new money was coming his way. The US sanctions list was growing, adding more and more individuals each time. Oil production was continuing to decline and oil prices had yet to rebound. Then something that had been coming for a long time finally happened. They defaulted on their bonds.

 They needed to come up with some money somehow to continue to buy the loyalty of the military. They could print bolivares but, as we saw last chapter, nobody was interested in bolivares. As all this was happening the financial community was fixated on the rising popularity of blockchain technology and specifically the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. It had skyrocketed from $800 to $20,000 while Chavismo’s financial resources had done exactly the opposite. It seemed the answer to all their problems. Just invent their own “Bitcoin”. The result is what the Marxist former bus driver turned President and his band of economic and financial illiterates came up with.

 On December 4, 2017 Maduro announced the creation of “el Petro”. The trick would be that cryptocurrencies rely completely on trust, the confidence that people can buy and sell them…you know…use them as the name implies, as a currency. Credibility might be an issue considering they were broke, had no credit since they had screwed basically everyone in the world on basically every deal they ever made, and now had defaulted on their bonds for the first time in history.

 More tomorrow….


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