Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

The Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, March 31st, 2014

LatinAmerARGENTINA
Argentina Is Joined In The Supreme Court By The Coalition Of Weasels

Why Argentina Is Struggling to Find Lifelines

Argentina Moves to Trim Subsidies
Argentina will cut expensive natural-gas and water subsidies this year as it struggles with growing deficits that have been financed through inflation-fueling money printing.

BARBADOS
US Congress honours T&T and Barbados born judges

BOLIVIA
Bolivia clashes over anti-drugs base
Dozens of people in Bolivia clash with police in a protest against the construction of a military anti-drugs base in a coca-growing area

CHILE
Chile’s Codelco 2013 profit halves

COLOMBIA
Colombia current account deficit ends 2013 at 3.4 percent, “as lower prices for some key exports contributed to the near halving of the Andean nation’s trade surplus.”

COSTA RICA
Costa Rica’s two top political parties agree to runoff presidential debate, with or without candidates

In lieu of a candidate to support, PLN lawmaker Luis Villanueva said the campaign was about “ideas, programs and the emphasis” of each party.

CUBA
Azuuuucar !!! Chong Chon Gang returns for another load

Ukraine Angle to Cuba’s “Purchase” of Russian Antonov Planes

Tread carefully in Cuba’s ‘open’ economy: Experts

ECUADOR
Ecuador President Rafael Correa to Speak at Harvard
Has been criticized for anti-American rhetoric, crackdown on press freedoms

Correa has long pursued a multi-billion dollar judgment against oil company Chevron for alleged pollution that occurred in Ecuador’s Lago Agrio region. A U.S. federal judge ruled earlier this month that the judgment could not be enforced in America because the plaintiffs’ attorneys bribed a judge in Ecuador, ghostwrote purportedly neutral scientific studies, and conspired to break the law.

Correa in December dissolved a nongovernment organization protesting state oil drilling in the Amazon. He previously called the Free Beacon“corrupt” for reporting on the Chevron case.

Correa has also emulated Chavez by frequently decrying the alleged “imperial” influence of the United States in Latin America. He has expelled an American ambassador, shut down a joint U.S. anti-drug base, and grantedasylum to WikiLeaks founder and privacy advocate Julian Assange despiteallegations that Correa’s government has spied on reporters.

EL SALVADOR
El Salvador opposition admits defeat
El Salvador’s Arena party finally accepts the defeat of its candidate to former rebel leader Salvador Sanchez Ceren in a tight vote earlier this month.

JAMAICA
The Petrocaribe Trap

LATIN AMERICA
Life after the commodity boom
Instead of the crises of the past, mediocre growth is the big risk—unless productivity rises

As Obama Dismisses Russia As “Regional,” It Expands Its Reach

Latin Leftists with Blood on Their Hands

MEXICO
Stranded: In One Week Authorities Found 370 Abandoned Immigrant Children Wandering Around In Mexico

Mexico Intercepts 63 Guatemalans Headed for U.S.

OIL
Here Comes $75 Oil
Lower energy costs will have a salutary effect on the U.S. economy. Not so Russia, where oil provides 50% of government income.

PANAMA
Crimea: The Panama precedent

PARAGUAY
Cocaine Distribution Hub Dismantled in Paraguay

PERU
Peru Received $2.7 Billion in Remittances During 2013

PUERTO RICO
Census Reveals Population Drop Across Puerto Rico by 3%

URUGUAY
Uruguay To Track Pot By Genetic Markers

VENEZUELA
The Obama Administration seems indifferent to the crisis in Venezuela. Why?

US Senator Menendez Calls for International Condemnation of Venezuela

Lawsuit filed in Miami accuses Venezuela top official, Diosdado Cabello, of bribery
A lawsuit filed in Miami accuses the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly of receiving at least $50 million in bribes from a company doing business in that country.

Venezuelan government takes on crossword writers in protest crackdown
After expelling an opposition parliamentarian and arresting three air-force generals, the Venezuelan government has now taken aim at a new enemy: crosswords

The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela: How Hugo Chávez turned the country over to Cuba

Brazil: We shall soon be hearing about the “excellent healthcare”

Venezuela: more censorship, in “one of the most democratic nations on Earth”

#ThanksLarry: In praise of Larry Kudlow

The Isaías, on @Instapundit’s post

#SOSVenezuela: Marco Rubio’s speech

Mexico: Navigators helping people sign up for Obamacare regardless of citizenship

Mexico’s Radio Tecnico: How The Zetas Cartel Took Over Mexico With Walkie-Talkies

Venezuela: Slingshots vs tanks

En español: Terapia intensiva #201

Venezuela: Leopoldo López, Hun School alumnus

Uruguay: Gitmo releases will be free to leave

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
No, Joe, illegals are not citizens

Book review – Eyes On Target: Inside Stories from the Brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALs

Venezuela: How Hugo Chávez turned the country over to Cuba UPDATED

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Cuba and Venezuela’s disproportionate relationship:
Cristina Marcado of Spain’s ABC.es writes about the disproportionate relationship in Las relaciones desmedidas (article in Spanish – my translation):

  • It all started with 29 agents who arrived in 1997 to help Hugo Chávez 
  • Now thousands of Cubans work and control Venezuela’s public administration
  • Not allowed to have Venezuelan friends.

Thousands of Cubans currently work in Venezuela’s public administration. In the presidency, ministries and state enterprises. As bureaucrats, doctors, nurses, dentists, scientists, teachers, programmers, analysts, farm technicians, electricians, laborers, and cultural collaborators. Also in security, intelligence, and, including, the Armed Forces.

Most of them also belong to the militia. “In Venezuela we have over 30,000 Cuban cederristas from the 8.6 million members of our organization,” Juan José Rabilero, then-chief of Cuba’s Committees for the Defense of the Revolution [Comités de Defensa de la Revolución, or CDR, from which the word for its members, cederristas, originates] disclosed in 2007 during a public event in the state of Táchira, in western Venezuela. There is no reason to believe this number has decreased. Nearly 70% of Cuba’s population belongs to this system of vigilance and denunciation.

The Cubans manage Venezuela’s ID system, its identity cards and passports; its mercantile registries and oublic notaries. They also know who owns what properties and what transactions they conduct. They also jointly manage its ports and maintain a presence at the airports and immigration control, where they do as they please. The Cuban organization Albet, SA, of the Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas (Information Sciences University, or UCI), which manages the systems for the SAIME (which translates to Management Service for Identification, Immigration and Foreigners), is so powerful that it does not allow Venezuelans access to the top floor of SAIME headquarters in Caracas. The computer systems for the presidency, ministries, social services, police, and state oil company PDVSA are also Cuban, run by the Guardián del Alba joint venture.

The name of the article, Las relaciones desmedidas (Disproportionate Relations) refers to the ban on friendships with Venezuelans.

This is a must-read.

UPDATE:
Linked to by Extrano’s Alley and Babalu. Thank you!

UPDATE 2:
Capitol Hill Cubans translated also,

According to the latest official figures, in mid-2012, in Venezuela there were a total of 44,804 collaborators in so-called social missions; 31,700 in health care (11,000 doctors, 4,931 nurses, 2,713 dentists, 1,245 optometrists and 11,544 non-specified), 6,225 in sports, 1,905 in culture, 735 in agricultural activities, 486 in education and 54 in handicapped services. Yet, it is believed the actual numbers could be double. There are no officials statistics regarding those who work in the electricity sector, construction, information technology and security advisers to the government, among others.

“The Cuban doctors are sent in a form of modern slavery,” according to the NGO, Solidarity Without Frontiers.

Retired General Antonio Rivero, a former Chavez collaborator, assures that there are currently more than 100,000 Cubans in Venezuela, among them 3,700 in the intelligence services, the G2. “Just in security and defense, we estimate there are around 5,600 of them.” And he confirms that there are Cubans in the most important military bases in the country. “In the Armed Forces, there are some 500 active Cuban military officers serving as advisers in strategic areas, such as intelligence, weaponry, communications and military engineering. Also, in operations and in the office of the Minister of Defense, which has a permanent Cuban adviser with the rank of General.”

According to Rivero, which served chief of communications for the presidency and was the national director of Civil Protection, the presence of Havana goes back to 1997, when 29 undercover Cuban agents established operations in Margarita and in 1998 helped Chavez’s electoral campaign with intelligence, security and information technology.


Venezuela: more censorship, in “one of the most democratic nations on Earth”

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

American leftist websites proclaim that “Venezuela is one of the most democratic nations on Earth.” So democratic, that now the government may censor crossword puzzles:
Venezuelan newspaper accused of devising revolutionary crossword clues
Delcy Rodríguez, minister of information, calls for investigation of El Aragueño for allegedly printing anti-government puzzle

She tweeted that beaut, after which dozens of Venezuelans tweeted back mocking her. Some even made up a crossword (no hay means “there isn’t any”) listing shortages of staples – sugar, rice, milk, meat – and “what supermarkets have”, number 15 across, is “shortage”:

Here’s the crossword they’re sending Delcy Rodríguez

Let’s point out that Twitter and other social media have not been successfully blocked by the government – unlike print, radio and TV. Which, of course, the Left can’t believe because Mark Weisbrot says it ain’t so, just as they believe that Chavez “improved the economy drastically and ameliorated poverty drastically”:

This in NOT a demonstration, this is a line to buy food in Venezuela. The result of 15 years of Chavismo.

Those who believe that Chavez “improved the economy drastically and ameliorated poverty drastically”, on the other hand, will affirm that he had nothing to do with shortages, no matter what the Venezuelans themselves have been saying on the matter for the past four years.

Over in Miami, Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation filed a lawsuit accusing the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, of receiving at least $50 million in bribes from Derwick Associates for kickbacks on electric plants.

Alek Boyd posts on Diosdado Cabello & Wikileaks

 Wikileaks provides examples of how American authorities perceive Cabello, and so it is relevant to showcase these opinions, to get a measure of the man. I have chosen a few, among the 116 cables (2003-2010) that mention Cabello.

Go to his blog Infodio more.

If you check Alek’s twitter feed, you’ll see that he posts links specifically for Venezuela that bypass the government’s censorship, which of course Mark will have you believe doesn’t exist – no matter that Alek was banned in Caracas,

 It seems, though, as if Infodio has been rocking a few too many boats - a few weeks ago, the site was banned in Venezuela.

At this point even Dilma – who is facing falling approval ratings and is not impressed with Venezuela’s government public relations b.s. – is getting tired of the regime’s shenanigans, and wants to get paid: Brazil grows wary of Venezuela under Maduro, reduces support

Rousseff is worried the Venezuelan government’s repression of recent street protests, and Maduro’s refusal to hold genuine dialogue with opposition leaders, may make the political crisis worse over time, the officials said.

Worsening turmoil could, in turn, endanger the sizeable interests of Brazilian companies in Venezuela. They include conglomerate Odebrecht SA.

Brazilian newspaper Valor Economico reported this month that Venezuelan public-sector companies already owe Brazilian companies as much as $2.5 billion in debt.

You know you’re in trouble when Odebrecht starts complaining.

UPDATE:
Linked to be Pirate’s Cove. Thank you!

#SOSVenezuela: Marco Rubio’s speech

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Rubio Delivers Floor Speech On Crisis In Venezuela (emphasis added)

In fact, it is now known that the Interior Ministry of Venezuela authorized snipers to travel to Táchira state and fire on demonstrators. Here is a picture of a government official, of a law enforcement or army or National Guard individual, or Interior Ministry individual, on a rooftop with a rifle and a scope aiming into a crowd. Here is a picture of a sniper. It doesn’t end there. Those aren’t the only pictures we have. Here are more pictures of more snipers on rooftops. Here is another sniper aiming into the crowd, with a spotter next to them. Here is another picture of the same sniper blown up.

These are government-sponsored individuals. What civilized [country] on Earth sends the National Guard and the Interior Ministry of their own government, of their own country, with snipers to fire on their own people who are demonstrating because of the lack of freedoms and opportunity and economic degradation that exists in a country? They cannot deny this. Here are pictures taken by demonstrators themselves of the snipers ready to shoot down people. In fact, 36 people have lost their lives.

But it doesn’t end just with the government snipers. Because what the government is trying to do here to hide their involvement is they have organized these pro-government militia groups, basically, these militant groups that they hide behind. These groups don’t wear uniforms. They’re called ‘colectivos.’ They drive around the city in motorcycles, and they assault protesters, they break in and vandalize their homes, they have weapons that they use to shoot into the crowds and kill or harm people.

There are three main groups. By the way, these groups began under Hugo Chavez’s reign, and these groups are actually organized around a concept that has existed for years in Cuba — these committees to defend the Revolution. These are neighborhood groups, so they know your family, they know who you are, they’re always watching, and they organize themselves into armed militias. The government’s claim is, ‘Well, these groups are on their own, we’re not coordinating with them,’ but in fact, there have been multiple reports that these groups coordinate with the National Guard to take down barricades set up by protesters, to break into the homes of protesters, to vandalize homes, to terrorize people, and to kill.

There are three main groups that I want to point out, these ‘colectivos.’ La Piedrita is one of them, it’s based in a working class neighborhood of Caracas. It has a far-left ideology, it is armed, it is comprised of radicals, who claim to be willing to die for their revolutionary ideals, whatever those are. In January, this group, by the way, tweeted that Henrique Capriles, the opposition party’s nominee for president in the last elections, is a racist and a fascist and accused him of intending to launch attacks on the poor and on impoverished neighborhoods.

Read the whole thing.


Venezuela: Slingshots vs tanks

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

A demonstrator uses a slingshot against the National Guard during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in San Cristobal, about 410 miles (660 km) southwest of Caracas, February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela’s Failing State, by Leopoldo López, jailed since Feb. 18,

For 15 years, the definition of “intolerable” in this country has declined by degrees until, to our dismay, we found ourselves with one of the highest murder rates in the Western Hemisphere, a 57 percent inflation rate and a scarcity of basic goods unprecedented outside of wartime.

Our crippled economy is matched by an equally oppressive political climate. Since student protests began on Feb. 4, more than 1,500 protesters have been detained and more than 50 have reported that they were tortured while in police custody. Over 30 people, including security forces and civilians, have died in the demonstrations. What started as a peaceful march against crime on a university campus has exposed the depth of this government’s criminalization of dissent.

Indeed. As the country goes up in smoke, the same government who claims to have been “democratically elected” is in full assault against elected representatives:

And it’s also jailing the military:

President Nicolás Maduro said Tuesday that three air force generals allegedly plotting to overthrow the government had been arrested amid antigovernment protests that have roiled the country for nearly two months.

While publishing Leopoldo López’s letter, the NYT did a “two newspapers in one” by sending two reporters to gather opinions about Cuba’s interference in Venezuela. Babalu explains,

But alas, this is the New York Times and the outcome of their so-called investigation had already been decided before the reporters were even assigned to the story. Of course the newspaper of record – the same one that has brought us so many honest and respectable journalists such as Herbert Matthews — found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Cuba’s Castro dictatorship has infiltrated Venezuela. Instead, what they discover are “hardliners” who are “fixated” with going after Cuba. They even trot out Castro regime supporter Arturo Lopez-Levy, a former Castro-intelligence-agent-turned-American-academic who also happens to be a member of the Castro crime family to prove their point.

It’s not just Cuba; it’s also Russia. Back when he was alive, Hugo Chavez offered Putin the use of military installations as Russian bases. A Venezuelan general has even tweeted about it:
SECRET ACCORD with Russia signed in 2009 when Chavez unconditionally offered Russia the use of the Orchilla Island military base.”

Related: Putin’s quiet Latin America play, and it’s not only Russia,

With the American presence waning, officials say rivals such as Russia, China and Iran are quickly filling the void.

Iran has opened up 11 additional embassies and 33 cultural centers in Latin America while supporting the “operational presence” of militant group Lebanese Hezbollah in the region.

“On the military side, I believe they’re establishing, if you will, lily pads for future use if they needed to use them,” Kelly said.

China is making a play for Latin America a well, and is now the fastest growing investor in the region, according to experts. Although their activity is mostly economic, they are also increasing military activity through educational exchanges.

The Chinese Navy conducted a goodwill visit in Brazil, Chile and Argentina last year and conducted its first-ever naval exercise with the Argentine Navy.

It’s slingshots vs tanks.


Venezuela: Leopoldo López, Hun School alumnus

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Nearly everybody goes through Princeton, and Leopoldo López is no exception.

The Daily Princetonian reports that López graduated from The Hun School in 1989.

López is still in the custody of the Venezuelan government, though protests have continued in his absence. The Hun School continues to show their support for him by posting updates on the length of his internment on Twitter and exhorting community and school members to keep him in their thoughts.

The disgraced OAS Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, March 24th, 2014

LatinAmerThe big news of the week: the OAS voted on Friday to shut out the media and the public from Maria Corina Machado’s testimony, thereby disgracing itself.

ARGENTINA
ARGENTINA Y EL NARCOESTADO (PARTE II)

Al menos seis carteles operan en Argentina.Colombianos en Rosario,mexicanos en el Norte de Buenos Aires,narcotransportistas bolivianos en la ruta 34,”la ruta blanca”,sumadas a otras organizaciones criminales transnacionales que incluyen a chinos y serbios.

Pope meets Argentine Falklands veterans and calls for South Atlantic peace
Former archbishop of Buenos Aires has previously backed Argentina’s claim on the islands

How convenient: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner turns Pope Francis from foe to friend
Argentinian president praises cardinal’s commitment and vision, despite previously treating him as a political arch-enemy

BOLIVIA
Más de dos millones de libras de coca ilegal incautada colapsan los depósitos – Erbol

BRAZIL
Brazil’s ‘Constitution Of The Internet’ Puts Net Neutrality In The Spotlight

Brazil troops to quell Rio violenceHeavily-armed police patrol a shanty town in Rio de Janeiro, on March 13, 2014
Brazil’s government says it will send federal troops to Rio de Janeiro to quell recent attacks targeting police ahead of the World Cup in June
.

On Thursday, three police bases in the city were attacked by suspected gangs.

Four police officers have been killed since February in similar attacks.

CHILE
6.2 magnitude earthquake hits northern Chile, no damage reported

Chile asks extradition of alleged ex-guerrilla Marie Emmanuelle Verhoeven,

The 54-year-year-old has been wanted since 1996 on an international arrest warrant for the 1991 slaying of Jaime Guzman, leader of the conservative Chilean party Independent Democratic Union.

Andres Oppenheimer: Bachelet’s Chile: moving closer to Venezuela?

Chile: huge protest to urge new president to adopt reforms, via Bad Blue.

COLOMBIA
“Colombia’s democracy is mortally wounded”; Petro

CUBA
CUBA GIVES DOCTORS BIG PAY RAISE–TO $64 A MONTH

Obama Shouldn’t Forget Our Man in Havana

Uruguay’s Mujica Found Fidel Castro “Deteriorated” But Engaged

ECUADOR
Chevron seeks $32 million in legal fees in Ecuador case

GUATEMALA
Alfonso Portillo, Ex-President Admits Taking Taiwan Bribes

HAITI
Documentary: Post-quake Haiti rebuilding, a ‘Fatal Assistance

JAMAICA
Jamaica’s gang culture
Bad Vybz

LATIN AMERICA
Global Economy and Development – Brookings: A HIGH-CARBON PARTNERSHIP?
CHINESE-LATIN AMERICAN RELATIONS IN A CARBON-CONSTRAINED WORLD

MEXICO
US Sentences Mexican to 40 Years for Murder of Border Patrol Agent
Fourth Defendant Sentenced in Murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Robert Rosas

PANAMA
Behind the Chong Chon Gang Affair: North Korea’s Shadowy Arms Trade

PERU
Police, striking miners clash in Peru, 11 injured

PUERTO RICO
Finra Examining Trading in Puerto Rico Bonds
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is examining trading in Puerto Rico bonds, just a week after the island territory’s $3.5 billion bond sale.

VENEZUELA
Drone Camera Corrects CNN Español Report on Caracas Demonstrations

VenEconomy: Silence Means Consent

Airlines Move to Cut Off Service to Venezuela

Earlier this month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that international airlines would likely stop serving Venezuela unless the country took steps to resolve the issue. Carriers don’t want to acquire more bolivars, which aren’t exchangeable outside the country.

Venezuela says street protests have caused $10 billion in damage

Venezuela’s protests
Inside the barrios
Support among the poor for the government of Nicolás Maduro is conditional

Can the Chavistas Save Venezuela from Cuba?

Chavistas want to save their movement from incompetent leadership and foreign interference and to protect their social base. Student protesters want to roll back the authoritarian intrusions and economic mismanagement that threaten their future. These fundamental goals are far from mutually exclusive for Venezuelans of good will looking to rescue their country.

Venezuela Battles Media, Social and Otherwise, to Restrict Protest Coverage

Venezuela Goes Mad

The week’s posts and podcast:
#SOSVenezuela: Who’s doing the killing? UPDATED

#SOSVenezuela: Yesterday’s #22M march

#SOSVenezuela, Maria Corina, and the OAS

LIVE: OAS hearing on Maria Corina Machado blacked out?

Insourcing from . . . Mexico?

Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection

En español: Terapia intensiva #200 ¡Felicidades a @DrNetas por las doscientas terapias!

Colombia: Santos wets himself UPDATED

Brazil’s high operating costs

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
Latin America: Putin gets his license

Venezuela: The Left vs. reality

Podcast:
Venezuela & US-Latin America stories of the week


#SOSVenezuela: Who’s doing the killing? UPDATED

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Mary O’Grady has the answer: Who Is Killing Venezuela’s Protesters?
New evidence suggests that Chávez recruited today’s political militia from among the army.
(emphasis added)

Six documents stamped with the seal of the Venezuelan army show clearly that as far back as December 2001, agents of then-President Hugo Chávez —Mr. Maduro’s mentor—sought to build a paramilitary. What is more, the recruitment efforts targeted military bases in order to incorporate army personnel into this nonuniformed militia. In other words, the Chávez government was looking for trained professionals who could handle weapons.

Miguel Rodríguez Torres, then a lieutenant colonel, was one of the recruiters, according to one document. Today Mr. Rodríguez is Venezuela’s minister of the interior, the cabinet post charged with state security. The interior ministry’s mission includes supporting “grass roots organizations.” That would include the country’s “Bolivarian Circles,” which are modeled on Castro’s “committees to defend the revolution.”

Ostensibly the Bolivarian Circles are civic-minded community groups. But chavista street violence is carried out by organized, trained and well-armed civilians, another aspect of the Cuban model. If they aim their guns well, now we know why.

Back in June of 2012 Chávez was bragging about the rifles he was producing with Russia’s financing, and bullet-proof vests made under a joint enterprise with China. Are they now being put to use?

Related:
Venezuela acquired 1,800 Russian antiaircraft missiles in ’09

UPDATE:
Venevision News in mourning! Our sign language interpreter, Adriana Urquiola, was murdered, was pregnant.”

#SOSVenezuela: Yesterday’s #22M march

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

[Update] Better yet view from a done, via Daniel,

3 More Deaths in Venezuela as Both Sides March

Related:
Venezuela’s protests
Inside the barrios
Support among the poor for the government of Nicolás Maduro is conditional

Armed civilian gangs, loyal to the “revolution” and known euphemistically as colectivos, act as community enforcers. “The majority are criminals,” says José Quintero, an opposition activist from ProCatia, a non-governmental organisation, “and they are armed to the teeth.”

Since the conflict turned violent in mid-February, alleged members of the colectivos have been filmed and photographed using firearms against protesters. Acting in concert with security forces, they are accused by the opposition of several deaths (which they deny). Their tight grip on poorer communities is one reason the barrios, or shanty towns, have stayed quiet.

Another is the widespread fear of losing benefits such as housing allocations, employment or subsidised food, which are contingent on political loyalty. The oil boom that began in 2002 allowed Chávez to mount a plethora of clientelistic welfare programmes, known as “the missions”. Health and education were the main focus of these initiatives, which made up in quantity for what they lacked in quality. Poverty was greatly reduced. When the oil price stalled, so did social gains. The leadership of the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) alliance has so far failed to take full advantage of ensuing discontent. Critics say it has yet to convince disaffected chavistas that it has their best interests at heart.

In western Caracas, its task is made harder by the threat of chavista violence. Lest that prove insufficient, Nicolás Maduro, the president, recently banned opposition marches in this part of the city, which is where the most vital government institutions—including his office—are located.

A recent survey by Datos, a polling firm, found discontent with the government right across the social spectrum. Only 27.1% of respondents described themselves as pro-government; 43.7% favoured the opposition. More than seven out of ten had a negative view of the situation today and over half thought it would be even worse in six months.

#SOSVenezuela, Maria Corina, and the OAS

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

As I reported yesterday, the OAS voted yesterday to shut out the media and the public from Maria Corina Machado’s testimony. Here’s the video she prepared for the OAS:

34 OAS ambassadors didn’t see [the] video; 385,000 citizens have

Thanks to Panamanian ambassador @ArturoVallarino, Maria Corina was able to testify at the OAS, albeit behind closed doors:

In an unusual move, Maria Corina Machado, an opposition lawmaker whom the Venezuelan government is trying to put in prison, was made a temporary member of Panama’s delegation to have access to the organization, which so far has largely failed to act on, or even publicly debate, the continuing crisis in Venezuela.

We did it!!! The voice of the Venezuelan people was heard at the OAS!!!

The OAS’s closed-door vote is a shameful spectacle, a triumph of autocracy over democracy.

In violation of the OAS charter,

the representatives of these so called “democracies” had to start by protecting the repressor, Dictator Nicolas Maduro, violating not only the Charter of the OAS, but Ms. Machado’s rights and that of the opposition to be heard in a forum which is supposed to be there to defend the basic rights of people across the Americas.

And while I can understand the strong dependency of the weak Caribbean economies on the stupid (or is it?) largesse of the even more stupid revolution, I was most disappointed at how so many of these Latin American countries were ready to prostitute themselves in order to protect their mercantile interests. It is remarkable how low these mostly leftists Governments have fallen. Despite being democratically elected, they were not willing to give a voice to the over 50% of Venezuelans that find themselves discriminated against and repressed by the Maduro Dictatorship.

And in doing so, they are trying to defend the most repressive Government, save for Cuba, to have risen in the region in the last two decades. How these representatives and their Governments can sleep at night is beyond me, more so when some of them were victims of similar repression in the past.

But somehow they are short sighted enough in thinking that this will not happen again in their countries and that their commercial interests are being protected by their unethical actions. Both premises are actually wrong. As the world turns, their countries may swing back to repression and they may need the same type of solidarity Venezuela’ opposition deserves today. But more importantly, their belief that their actions in support of the Maduro Dictatorship will somehow lead to payment of Venezuela’s debts with their countries or companies is simply wrong. As stated by Minister Ramirez or the President of the Central Bank, Nelson Merentes, there is no money to pay anything but the foreign currency budget they have established for the year 2014.

So, forget it! You will not collect under Dictator Maduro. In fact, you would probably have a better chance under a change in Government that would put order in the economy and reduce some of the absurd subsidies present in the Venezuelan economy. Only in this case, could Venezuela receive loans and cut subsidies which would, with very strict management, allow it to pay its debts with these countries, that so easily supported what can not be supported under any moral framework.

While Maria Corina was allowed to speak at the OAS, a student, and the mother of one of the protestors killed were not, as the Brazilan ambassador labeled their presence “a circus“.

These countries voted for openness:

Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
USA
Guatemala
Honduras
México
Paraguay
Perú

Daniel Duquenal sees the vote as a breakdown of the OAS.

Simeon Tegel of Global Post writes on Why the OAS doesn’t want you to hear what this woman has to say
The Organization of American States blocked press access to hear a staunch opponent of Venezuela’s government

Machado faces the prospect of being jailed like Leopoldo Lopez, another opposition leader who has encouraged the demonstrations against widespread food shortages, skyrocketing inflation and the horrendous violent crime wave engulfing Venezuela.

Separately, two opposition mayors have been arrested in the last 48 hours — with one already sentenced to 10 months in jail — for failing to remove the street barricades put up by some of the protesters.

Upon her return, Maria Corina will be facing charges of murder and treason,

The attempt to silence Machado on trumped up charges follows the pattern of treatment opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has experienced. Lopez was arrested in February on charges including murder, arson and incitement and immediately placed in a military prison. Some of those charges were later dropped but charges of incitement remain.

Venezuela journalist Nelson Bocaranda writes that Maduro’s paying Cubans to vandalize.

While this is going on, Maduro claims that Venezuela’s the country with the highest democratic participation, and that his government has eradicated hunger. I can’t wait for the US lefties to repeat those two gems, the way they tout how Hugo Chavez “improved the economy drastically and ameliorated poverty drastically”, and Cuba’s “excellent free healthcare”.

Food shortages in fact now run at 47.7% of what’s demanded, along with shortages of water and electricity.

Antigovernment demonstrators in Caracas faced off against riot police armed with tear gas and water cannons on Friday after Wednesday’s arrest of another opposition leader:

There’s another demonstration scheduled for today, too. The official protest death toll in Venezuela is up to 31.

RELATED:
VENEZUELA’S MADURO THREATENS TO ARREST MORE OPPOSITION MAYORS

UPDATE:
Linked to by Doug Ross and Babalu. Thank you!