All Weather - No Money

 We’ll go Down The Rabbit Hole in a few but first…Reuters reports that China and Venezuela will elevate their ties to an “all weather strategic partnership”, according to Chinese state media.

 President Xi told Venezuela President (dictator) Nicolas Maduro that China is willing to consolidate and deepen cooperation with Venezuela in various fields.

 These kinds of platitudes are emblematic of anyone with a similar ideology that meets with Nicolas Maduro or his acolytes. Lots of talk about deepening ties and bilateral cooperation but no mention of an actual loan or investment in Venezuela.

 Then we have our friends at Caracas Chronicles with a wrap-up of Nicolas Maduro’s visit to China, his first in five years.

 With the 2024 presidential elections coming up in Venezuela and the economy retreating from it’s brief rebound back to it’s normal state under Maduro (eight consecutive years of recession) it’s clear what Maduro hoped to achieve. He needs money and China hasn’t loaned him any in over five years (He was rebuffed on his last three “begging” visits).

 The question is, as it has been for some time, what can Maduro offer China in return for money? The Maduro regime has struggled to produce enough oil to comply with terms of the oil-for-loans deals in which China loaned the Chavistas, both Maduro and Chavez, over $60 billion, often shorting shipments because they simply don’t didn’t have the oil.

 China also had to withdraw from the numerous joint ventures with Venezuela in various sectors of industry due to the Chavistas inability to fulfill their obligations in their projects.

 Has anything changed? In a word…No! The Chavistas are still as inept and corrupt as ever. China President Xi announced the new “all weather strategic partnership” with Venezuela and the Maduro regime ‘s delegation signed some 502 commitments in a flurry of activity with Chinese officials.

 Aside from all the pledges of cooperation, Maduro and the Chavistas left China after their week-long visit just as they arrived, with no money.

 Now, let’s head Down The Rabbit Hole…

 Chapter 10/ continued…

 …The card is not required by the government but over half the population has registered. The majority of them did so for benefit-related purposes. Retirees get their pension through the card. Remember that from the “el Petro” story? The CLAP food program is run through the card, in return for supplying the government with basically all they could possibly want to know about your life. Tell them everything and you get a box of food every month or so at discounted prices (free for some). This is the most common and insidious use of the card. With the distribution run by the ‘colectivos’, Chavismo’s private militia numbering about 400,000, you can expect a visit anytime the government wants your participation or cooperation in something. Comply and your CLAP box arrives, maybe even on time. Don’t comply and good luck.

 With most of the population in, to use a “kinder, gentler” term, a food insecurity situation, this is a very effective means of control. Since the minimum wage is under four bucks A MONTH another effective means of control are the bonuses the government puts out there. At Christmas it might be the “Baby Jesus” bonus. Last year there was a “Mothers Day” bonus. The frequency of these is directly related to the government’s perception of the potential for unrest and the amounts, while seemingly substantial in bolivar terms, are only a dollar or two. It costs the government nothing as the money is created electronically out of thin air and what’s the downside anyway? A more devalued bolivar? A buck or two is a big deal when you make $4 A MONTH so maybe you toe the line.

 The May, 2018 elections, widely condemned internationally for other reasons as fraudulent, also had a “Carnet” aspect. Politics in Venezuela have long been vote-buying bonanzas. With the government in control of almost everything, you might get cement blocks if you were building a house or there were food giveaways. Now, with the card, vote buying is easy (and we see what the government really wanted to streamline). There is no attempt to disguise it. Outside each poll location the government puts “Red Point Kiosks”. As voters exit the polls they can have their cards scanned for a “Fatherland Prize”.

 Any new government initiative is run through the card. Government benefits and services may be billed as attempting to address a particular issue but they will only help those with the card. They are also a useful tool for government-owned businesses. They can send a list of names to the government and find out whatever they care to know about their employees. So far the cards don’t have an RFID chip, which enables location tracking. The only reason they don’t have this is because it was prohibitively expensive so the Chavistas declined the option.

 Summary : Under 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism nothing is ever as it seems or is proposed. The “Carnet de la Patria” was supposed to be a way to help the undocumented open bank accounts and vote. Strangely enough, they began exploring this after Hugo Chavez lost his first election when the people decline to grant him broader powers. It soon morphed into a government monitoring and control tool, and a very effective one with over half the population enrolled. The good news is that the government couldn’t afford to buy the “Enhanced Big Brother Package” with the RFID location tracking. They can’t pinpoint the exact location of card carriers…yet!!

 That will do it for Chapter 10/ The Card. We’ll have another segment for you tomorrow. Until then….

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