Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category

Venezuela: Circling the drain

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Today’s roundup:

Leopoldo Lopez, from his cell,

I mentioned this in last night’s podcast:
Grisly killing of Caracas woman becomes political battleground in hyper-polarized Venezuela

The two men, Jose Rafael Perez and Carlos Trejo, had been photographed alongside Venezuela’s best-known opposition leaders and at various political sites, with the snapshots leaving the impression that they were present, Forrest Gump-like, for virtually all of the milestones in the opposition’s protests over the past two years.


El Universal, the nation’s largest newspaper, reports that deaths of newborns at the hospital are common. One set of parents told the newspaper that their child had died on a Thursday, but they were not told until Friday. Others who have used the hospital’s services tell El Universal that the situation resembles that of a year ago, when 15 newborns died of an infection and became a rallying cry for the opposition against the socialist government’s recurring inability to provide adequate medical care.

Venezuela closed 2 of its borders with Colombia after a violent shoot-out; that is, 2 border crossings,

The members of the military were attacked during an anti-smuggling operation in the Venezuelan border town of San Antonio in the state of Tachira, according to the government.

Venezuela: Cuban doctors stuck in limbo, as the country collapses

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles calls it

the sprawling state-sponsored human trafficking ring known as Barrio Adentro

Barrio Adentro was the Cuban-doctors-for-Venezuelan-oil scheme Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro cooked up,

Governments pay the communist island for the doctors, making them an important source of revenue. And perhaps nowhere is the program more vital than in Venezuela, which in 2003 established the “Barrio Adentro” program — free healthcare centers staffed by Cubans.

In exchange, Venezuela sends crude oil and cash back to Cuba. During 2003-13 the state-run PDVSA oil company pumped $22.4 billion dollars into the program. Venezuela Health Minister Francisco Armada told state-run VTV television there are more than 10,000 Cuban health professionals in Venezuela

Not surprisingly (and as reported earlier)

The working conditions are those of slave labor:

Several Cuban defectors interviewed in Bogota said that they fled not only because of oppression in their own nation, but also because of unreasonably poor and demanding work conditions in Venezuela. Andres said that he could not stand the conditions in Venezuela, where he lived in a crowded house with a leaky straw roof which he shared with fifteen other Cuban doctors waiting to be put to work.

The doctors also said that in Venezuela, Cuban minders monitored their movements, prohibiting non-work contact with Venezuelans. When not at work, the Cubans were required to be at home after 6 pm. One couple said that after they pointed out some problems with the programme, officials threatened to send them back to Cuba in retaliation.

The doctors who risked their lives to leave Venezuela and crossed the border into Colombia are now facing delays after applying for asylum in the U.S.

What about the money they are due from the Cuban government for their work in Venezuela? Forgddabouit!

Internacionalistas are given modest stipends but the bulk of their salary is held in Cuba. When they’re sent home early — as he was being threatened with — they’re denied even those modest savings. Without that money, there was nothing to go home to, he said.

If you’re wondering why the internacionalistas don’t want to stay in Colombia, read Miguel Octavio’s post on Venezuela And Colombia: A Joint Future.

Bloomberg News editorial board:
If Venezuela Implodes, Will Its Neighbors Be Ready?

Perhaps you’re aware that Venezuela has the world’s highest inflation rate, a collapsing currency and every prospect of defaulting on its debts next year. You may have read about shortages of consumer goods (everything from milk and bread to beer and condoms), and the effort required to obtain hard currency (kidnapping purebred dogs to sell in Brazil is one way).

Here are some things you might have missed. In the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, transplant patients have resorted to veterinary medicines to stay alive. Coagulants for treating hemophilia are available only for emergencies. Medicines of every kind are getting hard to find outside the cities. Malaria and dengue fever are on the rise; so is malnutrition, although the government stopped publishing weekly epidemiological bulletins last November and denies that thousands of doctors are resigning and emigrating.

Every day, Venezuelans form lines at stores that are almost bare. On July 31, a man was killed and several dozen people arrested in the city of San Felix as angry shoppers looted grocery stores and attacked state-owned vehicles. The potential for more frequent and deadlier breakdowns in public order is plain, especially now that Maduro has stepped up military raids on “hoarders” who amass “contraband” goods.

Venezuela’s currency is now so worthless that people are using it as napkins

As for the upcoming December 6 elections, I fully agree with Bloomberg:

Venezuelans pinning their hopes on December’s parliamentary elections will likely be disappointed. Leading opposition politicians have been jailed or disqualified from running. Maduro has promisedto exclude election monitors from the European Union or the Organization of American States. He has said he’ll refuse to accept the ruling party’s defeat.

Let me spell it out for you: December 6th is the anniversary of the date Hugo Chavez was first elected president. The regime won’t let go.

Cuba: Air-travel, credit cards next . . . by executive action?

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Obama’s really pushing hard, no matter what Congress may or may not do:

Obama Administration Pushes for Deal to Start Flights to Cuba by Year’s End

White House aims to loosen travel restrictions for individual U.S. travelers despite congressional ban

The agreement would allow airlines to establish regular service between the U.S. and Cuba as early as December, officials said, marking the most significant expansion of economic and tourism ties between the U.S. and Cuba since the 1950s, when Americans regularly traveled back and forth to Havana.

The Obama administration is also exploring further steps to loosen travel restrictions for Americans to the island nation despite the decades-old congressional ban, officials said.
. . .
Only Congress can lift the long-standing U.S. travel and trade embargoes imposed against Cuba in the 1960s following the rise of Fidel Castro to power. But Mr. Obama has executive authority to grant exceptions to them. He announced several last December—such as allowing Americans to use credit and debit cards in Cuba and expanding commercial sales and exports between the two countries—and is considering others.

Speaking of credit cards, Jazz Shaw notes that it Looks like Obama will pretty much ignore Congress on easing Cuba restrictions. In addition to restrictions on travel as individuals (emphasis added),

there are other restrictions to deal with if you want to travel to Cuba. For one thing, you’re not allowed to spend any American money there except under very specific circumstances and credit card companies can’t process transactions which take place there. How will they get around that?
. . .
Most of these restrictions were passed by Congress. The State Department lists many of these restrictions on their travel web site and they are formidable. The Treasury Department reminds people that spending American money in Cuba as a tourist can result in up to a $65,000 fine.

While the media heaps praise his “bold move”, Obama continues a pattern of overreach of executive powers in pursuit of his “legacy.”

Note to the banks: If the credit card transactions bounce, good luck collecting.

Cuba: “Who fears the billboard?”

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

David Feith tells the story behind the U.S. Embassy’s ticker in The Bare Flagpoles of Havana
Before Obama restored ties to Cuba, he ended an inventive U.S. effort to promote freedom.

Victor Davis Hanson on Obama: Earning Contempt, at Home and Abroad

The Castro brothers just upped their rhetoric, as Fidel demanded millions of dollars in embargo reparations as part of President Obama’s “normalization” of relations with Cuba — apparently to remind the world that the Cubans have no intention of paying back the billions of dollars they confiscated 55 years ago in American capital and property, much less of easing up on human-rights activists. Why would the Castros do that at this point, when no American president in a half-century has been more deferential to their Stalinist government? Is their defiance cheap public grandstanding for the benefit of Cuban hardliners, or a more natural reaction known to benefactors and beneficiaries alike as something like the following: “If he gave a wretch like me something for nothing, then he either did not deserve what he had or he should have given me even more”?

Indeed. When Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla brazenly lied about Cuba and insulted the U.S. during their joint press conference, Kerry stood there like patience on a statue and took it (starting at 12:15 in the video. The video is from Jaime Bayly’s show last Friday. Bayly was incensed.)

My translation:

“Cuba is not a place where there is racial discrimination, police brutality, or where deaths occur from these issues. Neither is under Cuban jurisdiction the territory where people are tortured or held in legal limbo.”

At 13:07, continuing my translation,

“I have asserted to the Secretary of State that lifting the embargo, in our opinion, is essential for having normal relations with the United States, along with returning the territory usurped from our country and [sic] at the naval base on Guantanamo Bay. Likewise, we find it necessary to further the subject of compensation to the Cuban citizens, for human damages and for the economic losses brought about over more than five decades.”

John Kerry obviously knows enough Spanish (earlier in the video he reads his speech quite well) to understand what Rodríguez was saying, never mind that he has simultaneous translation in his earphone: There was no getting around the fact that Cuba is not only not giving an inch, it’s asking for more.

In two words: shameful spectacle.

Capitol Hill Cubans:

Thus, in hindsight, after seeing the moral mediocrity — with the exception of three U.S. Marines — that populated the Embassy’s courtyard on Friday morning, it was clear that no one there was worthy of the presence of Cuba’s courageous dissidents.

Eliott Abrams on Kerry in Cuba: More Interested in Cigars Than Dissidents.

Priorities, priorities.


Friday, August 14th, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Havana today for the opening of the U.S. Embassy. Read my article and roundup here.

Politico’s “formidable agent of change” on the job


Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’s daughter, richest person in the country

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Socialists in the U.S. proudly proclaim that the dead dictator “improved the economy, reduced inequality,” most likely in the Orwellian sense,

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Hugo Chávez daughter is the richest individual in Venezuela, report claims

According to the Miami-based Diario Las América, Venezuelan media sources will soon publish materials showing that María Gabriela Chávez has bank accounts in the U.S. and Andorra with assets totaling nearly $4.2 billion.

If the claim is true, Chávez’s daughter would be the richest person in Venezuela, a country with industrialists like telecommunications magnate Gustavo Cisneros (worth $3.6 billion, according to Forbes) and food and beverage mogul Lorenzo Mendoza ($2.7 billion).

. . .

Last July, Venezuelan outlets reported that she was involved in a scheme that favored an Argentinean rice company, Bioart, by importing 37,000 tons of greatly overpriced rice to Venezuela – a deal that reportedly contributed $15 million to her personal accounts.

. . .

In September of 2014, according to La Tribuna, the Cuban-American television journalist María Elvira Salazar showed on the air a receipt purported to be from a U.S. bank account in María Gabriela’s name that held nearly $737 million. The address on the account was that of the Venezuelan consulate in New York City.

MGC currently is permanent deputy representative to the United Nations, where she fits right in.

In other Venezuelan news, would-be kidnappers broke into an American’s apartment and murdered him:
Well-Known American Lawyer John Pate Murdered in His Apartment in Venezuela

The well-known American lawyer John Pate, a US citizen, was stabbed to death by assailants in his apartment at the Vista Real on Avenue Panorama in Lomas de San Román section of Caracas on Sunday evening.

Pate, 71, was a member of the Editorial Board of the Caracas Daily Journal, the predecessor of the Latin American Herald Tribune, and had helped build the fabric of Caracas society. His first wife, Gertie Paez Pate, was a well-known Peruvian painter who died of cancer in 2007.

According to police, the criminals reportedly entered his apartment with the intent to rob him, but instead killed him with multiple stab wounds. His girlfriend, Sally Evan Oquendo, 67, was wounded and is hospitalized.

According to early police reports, the perpetrators entered through a bathroom window and police suggest that they knew the building well. There are apartments being remodeled in the building and police are interrogating workers.

The Caracas expat community has shrunk as homicide rates rise and foreign companies pull out of Venezuela, citing economic difficulties.

Pate’s primary business was in representing multinational companies doing business in Venezuela, and he was sometimes critical of the country’s 16-year-old socialist revolution.
In 2005, he told the Christian Science Monitor he had lost half his international clients in the six years since the now-deceased President Hugo Chavez came to power.

24,980 people were murdered in Venezuela last year.

Money-wise, a billion here, a billion there, Ravaged by Oil’s Collapse, Venezuela Now Has a Big Gold Problem

The South American country, which is trying to stave off a bond default in the wake of oil’s swoon, had 68 percent of its international reserves in bullion as of August, according to the World Gold Council. That’s a big worry because the price of the precious metal has tumbled 15 percent from this year’s high in January as the global slump in commodities deepened.

At the blogs:
Daniel has A guide to Venezuela eateries around the world

Devil’s Excrement looks at The Uncertain Outcome Of The Venezuelan Parliamentary Election

Chavismo will do anything to manipulate and obtain an edge in the upcoming election.

The outcome does not look uncertain to me: Venezuela’s first lady Cilia Flores to run for congress while opposition figure barred

Hours after election officials reject María Corina Machado’s attempt to register as a candidate, President Nicolás Maduro announces his wife will run

Saturday essay: The Swedish model again, and why it won’t work in Latin America

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

No, not this Swedish model,

the socialist economic model, instead.

Socialists sooner or later bring up the exemplary Nordic economies when one talks about the failures of Communism; in my case, when I post on Latin America.

For instance, just this week,

That person assumes I have ignored Scandinavia. I don’t know about “the right” in general, but after hearing for decades how the Scandinavian models would work, today I’ll look at three factors:

  • Taxes and spending
  • Work ethic
  • Rule of law

Each of those factors explain why a Scandinavian economic model can’t work in Latin America.

Taxes and spending:

Venezuela: Food riots

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Food lines in Venezuela are getting worse

Shortages have reached the point where people are rioting for food. Here’s a roundup:

Looting Sweeps Venezuela as Hunger Takes Over132 Incidents Tell of “Desperation and Discomfort” Sinking In

During the first half of 2015, the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict (OVCS) registered no fewer than 132 incidents of looting or attempted looting at various stores throughout the country. In addition, Venezuelan consumers staged over 500 protests that condemned the lack of available products at state-run grocery stores, markets, and pharmacies

Death In Venezuela: Food Fights

Food riots and looting in Venezuela Friday left one person dead and exposed the combustible nature of the country’s imploding economy.

Bloomberg News

Venezuelan soldiers seized a food distribution center in Caracas, Venezuela, July 30 rented by global companies including Nestle, PepsiCo and Empresas Polar.

A day earlier, Venezuelan soldiers took over a food distribution center in Caracas, rented by companies including Empresas Polar, Nestle(NSRGY) and PepsiCo (PEP), Bloombergreports. The industrial real estate is to be converted to subsidized housing — a crowd-pleasing government effort ahead of December elections. But the move followed months of accusations by President Nicolas Maduro that Polar, Venezuela’s largest private employer, is working to sabotage the economy. The company denies this, Voice of America reports. Maduro claims the U.S. is to blame for food shortages and warehouse looting, Al Jazeera reports.

A Not So Subtle Change In Venezuela

. . . the two most significant factors are the rate at which prices are moving up (previous post) and the ease with which angry mobs (above) have decided to loot and riot at the smallest excuse. Yes, the problem is the Government controls the media and few people see what is going on, but the looting is taking place in traditional Chavista strongholds. And they don’t occur because people are fed up of lining up to get something, they take place because people are fed up of standing in line and getting nothing: Neither bread, nor Harina Pan, nor diapers, nor contraceptives. It used to be a moment of triumph to find something, now the moments of victory are few and far between.

And every day, there is a new item that can´t be found, last week, as I was visiting, it was bread and toothpaste. Great for my diet, no sandwiches for the Devil! Nor Cachitos, nor bombas, nor palmeras.

We are talking serious scarcity here!

Like there are also no Bills to pay things for. Despite an 80% increase in monetary liquidity (M2), the largest Bill is still Bs. 100, US$ 15.9 at the official rate, 50 cents at the Simadi official rate, but a scant 14 cents at the parallel rate.

These days, if you’re looking for reasons to be alarmed about Venezuela you’re spoilt for choice. But if I had to pick one, just one signal that’s freaking me the hell out right now, it has to be the government’s dogged refusal to issue larger denomination bank notes.

Reinforcing Failure

Venezuela should have been rich what with being the “12th largest oil producer in the world … and a beneficiary of the most sustained oil price boom in history”. Instead it is flat broke. It’s currency, the Bolivar is worth 1% of its official rate on the black market and 1/1000th of what it was before Hugo Chavez assumed power.

Venezuela is basically bankrupt again, and will continue being,

. . .the government doesn’t just decide who gets cheap dollars, but also how much they and everyone else can charge. Companies that don’t get dollars at the official exchange rate would lose money selling at the official prices, so they don’t—they leave their stores empty. But even ones that do get low-cost dollars would make more money selling them in the black market than using them to sell goods at the official prices, so they don’t as well—their stores stay just as barren. In other words, it’s not profitable for unsubsidized companies to stock their shelves, but not profitable enough for subsidized ones to do so, either. That’s why Venezuela’s supermarkets don’t have enough food, its breweries don’t have enough hops to keep making beer, and its factories don’t have enough pulp to produce toilet paper. That’s left Venezuela well-supplied with only one thing: lines.


Cuba: Hillary’s ignorance

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Ignorance, or willful blindness? She was Secretary of State, after all.

Hillary was at Florida International University last Friday doing a full flop, and called for an end to the so-called embargo because Cubans “want to read our books, surf our Web, and learn from our people. They want to bring their country into the 21st century.”

Mary O’Grady says Clinton Needs to Read Up on the Castros
The embargo does not block the sale of books to Cuba, or isolate its economy from the world.

. . . when Mrs. Clinton said on Friday that “we must decide between engagement and embargo, between embracing fresh thinking and returning to Cold War deadlock,” she was applying the same reasoning the Obama administration uses to argue that the U.S. needs to either accept the nuclear deal with Iran or go to war. This is a false dichotomy that doesn’t hold for Cuba policy any more than it holds for dealing with Tehran.
. . .
The embargo does not block the export of books to Cuba because informational material is exempt. Cubans cannot read “our” books because Cuba controls the reading material that enters the country and imprisons for “dangerousness” anyone caught with nonapproved texts.

There is no such thing as “our Web,” and the U.S. embargo does not restrict Cubans’ access to the Internet. Most Cubans cannot get computers. Most of those who do have them are denied access to the World Wide Web. It’s only the party faithful who get approval.

As to learning from “our people,” Cuba tightly controls interaction with foreigners, and those who step out of line can go to jail. Try getting a visa from Cuba if you have been labeled a “counterrevolutionary,” as I have. These policies are expressly designed to block Cubans from communicating with each other and with outsiders to keep them from organizing politically or socially.

The unconditional end of the embargo will do nothing to change this. On the contrary, it may strengthen the dictator’s hand if it results in fresh capital flowing to the island.

Which it will.

While Hillary gave her by-invitation-only speech, Police prohibit students from protesting outside Hillary Clinton’s pro-Castro Cuba speech at Miami’s FIU, borrowing a page from the Castros.

Venezuela: The shocking state of its health service

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Venezuela’s hospitals on life support

There is almost no official information available about waiting lists, operating times, or treatment. The government argues that its critics simply distort any figures they release to make them look bad. Opposition politicians say this lack of information means they are hiding the truth.

H/t Caracas Chronicles.