Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

Venezuela’s deadly colectivos

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Readers of this blog may be familiar with Venezuela’s colectivos, the government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs doing the dirty work, that I’ve written about in the past.

Panampost has an article on how Venezuelan Paramilitaries Wreak Havoc with Cuban, FARC Support

Studies Reveal Colectivos with 10,000 Active Members

Studies released by the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies(ICCAS) at the University of Miami have revealed that the Cuban regime is training Venezuelan paramilitary groups, including Los Tupamaros, La Piedrita, Simón Bolívar, and Alexis Vive. These groups have killed more than 25 students during protests, and injured over 300.

These studies show that for years the Venezuelan government has sent regime supporters to Havana to learn repression tactics in order to help their leaders stay in power. Furthermore, there is evidence that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group designated as a terrorist organization by the US government, also trains these groups on Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

Remember Raul Reyes‘s computer? Not only did it reveal that the Venezuelan government may have had the FARC act as hit men against political opponents, Panampost adds that (emphasis added),

In 2011, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, on behalf of the Colombian Defense Ministry, conducted an independent analysis of the computers of Raúl Reyes, a member of FARC’s Central High Command who was killed in an ambush in 2008. The investigation revealed important intelligence material on the guerrilla, including information that linked senior members of the Venezuelan army with drug trafficking.

The IISS also found evidence of that the FARC had trained Venezuelan colectivos in exchange for the campgrounds Hugo Chávez allowed the guerrilla to establish on the border.

The ICCAS report concludes,

The most troubling aspects of this relationship are the growing drug trafficking and the continuous opposition to U.S. policies. The inclusion of Iran in rounding out this triumvirate, has added a dimension of strategic importance. The proximity of Cuba and Venezuela to the U.S. makes the two countries ideal platforms for anti-American activities, specifically in the event of a U.S. conflict with Iran. These two allies may be called upon to support Iranian policies and objectives.

You can read the ICCAS’s Cuba Transition Project report by Pedro Roig below the fold:
(more…)

Today’s WTH moment: Venezuelan vet arrested for smuggling heroin in puppies UPDATED

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Venezuelan news have become the stuff Werner Herzog movies are made of. Exhibit 1, today’ s WTH moment:

Venezuelan vet arrested for smuggling heroin in puppies
Puppies

Spanish police arrest man who allegedly sent liquid heroin from Colombia to the United States by implanting it in puppies

More headlines from Venezuela:
Sources tell me Leopoldo Lopez may suspend his hunger strike. He won’t be long of this world if he persists in starving himself. UPDATE: Indeed, he ended his hunger strike.

An election was announced – Good luck with that:

In her announcement today, Venezuelan elections chief Tibisay Lucena implied that only UNASUR would be invited, and then only to “accompany” the elections.

There are multiple problems with that. First off, UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations – was founded by Chávez and is widely seen as pliant to the Venezuelan regime. What’s more, “accompaniment” is not “monitoring”.

Elections Are Coming! Elections are Coming!

Hunger strike succeeded? Elections on December 6

Venezuela Vote, in Doubt, Is Now Set
Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections Dec. 6, the country’s National Electoral Council announced, ending months of speculation that the vote may be postponed.Vote is being closely watched as polls show ruling Socialist party is suffering a major setback

In Venezuela, Elections Are the Lesser of Two Evils

Venezuela’s government is a complex web of interlocking political relationships built during chavista rule. Several groups and individuals merit closer observation to determine how Venezuela’s immediate future will develop. The first person to consider is Cabello. As National Assembly speaker, he stands to lose immunity if the opposition sweeps the December elections — a possibility that is growing more likely as a majority of opinion polls show the ruling party trailing the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable. Cabello faces an investigation for cocaine trafficking through Venezuela to the United States — a crime entailing potential arrest and extradition if Cabello loses his immunity. Consequently, Cabello has joined Maduro in reaching out to the United States on the modest goal of appointing ambassadors, and Cabello likely will remain involved in this outreach to reduce his personal risk. Initially, Cabello was publicly absent from the negotiations. But in the face of growing political challenges from Maduro, Cabello seems to have inserted himself in the negotiations for the long run.

$5 says the die has already been cast: The date is a symbolic one for Venezuela. Maduro’s charismatic predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, who founded the populist “Chavismo” movement, was first elected to the presidency on Dec. 6, 1998.

Desperate Venezuela 3: Will China Learn The Value Of Friendship?

It’s not clear that a leadership change in Caracas will negate the goodwill China has built up, since Maduro might be replaced by a colleague from the USP. The political opposition might come into power at some point, but the next presidential elections are far off, and it seems hardly likely that Maduro will survive that long. Of course, few would want the thankless task of attempting to clean up the mess that is Venezuela, which might be the only thing preventing a palace coup.

However, even if Maduro is replaced by someone in his party who regards China favorably, there will almost certainly be a demand for debt renegotiation, simply because the Venezuelans can’t afford to repay what they owe.

Venezuela’s learning from China, though: Colombia Condemns Venezuela’s South China Sea-Style Caribbean Territory Grab, and Guyana says Venezuela threatens ‘peace and security’ over oil and border row
Potentially valuable oil discovery in waters claimed by Guyana sets up conflict as Venezuela extends territorial claims further into Atlantic Ocean
.

Last, but not least, Maduro blames Exxon-Mobil for his regime’s attacks on its neighbors (video in Spanish),

Any similarities between the new aggression and the Argentinian attack on the Falklands are purely coincidental.

[Post corrected to include omitted links]

UPDATE 2:
Linked to by Dustbury. Thank you!

Venezuela: Next stop on the Obama administration’s “normalizing” with dictators?

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Thomas Shannon (left in the above photo), a senior counselor to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, met with Venezuela’s National Assembly president Diodado Cabello (right) in Haiti earlier this month.

As you may recall, Diosdado is being investigated by the U.S. Justice department for drug trafficking and money laundering.

Jackson Diehl asks, why?

Cabello and his nominal boss, President Nicolás Maduro, were quick to trumpet their versions. The meeting, Maduro said, was part of a “normalization” of relations between his increasingly beleaguered regime and the Obama administration. Cabello offered it as proof that the reports that he is a U.S. criminal suspect are false. U.S. officials, meanwhile, sounded confused. Both the White House and State Department spokesmen said they were unaware that Cabello had met with Shannon.I heard another story: that the meeting was part of what has become an increasingly urgent attempt by the administration to broker a soft landing for a collapsing Latin American state.

Diehl speculates that Kerry intends to prolong Leopoldo Lopez’s life, and aim for “fair elections” (whatever that means in Venezuela at this point, since there is no reason why the Venezuelan regime would want a real election). Mary O’Grady has more,

A State Department official told me last week that the issues discussed with Mr. Cabello in Haiti included the treatment of the Maduro government’s political prisoners, the importance of setting a date for parliamentary elections this year, and providing internationally credible observation.

While Shannon has traveled twice to Venezuela this year,

when asked at a State Department briefing about Mr. Cabello’s role in Port-au-Prince, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said “I was not aware of a meeting with him.”

And yet,

A State Department spokesperson told me in an email last week that the [Haiti] meeting was “positive and productive.” Translation: Nothing to see here; move along. In fact there’s a lot riding on these negotiations. The end of the chavismo dictatorship would be a good thing. But a descent into chaos of African proportions would take with it the frail democracy movement.

Venezuela News and Views agrees,

The fact of the matter is that Venezuela is a problem big enough that negotiations are a must because the alternative, not negotiating and waiting to see what happens is even worse.

There is a lot riding on these negotiations, for both Venezuela and Cuba.

And then there is a fourth party not mentioned by Diehl and O’Grady: Iran.

Emili Blasco, in his book Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela, details the many and extensive ties between Iran and Venezuela. Not to be ignored is how Iran milks the difference between the black market and official bolivar-dollar exchange rates and drains Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves. An easing of commercial ties between the U.S. and Venezuela will benefit Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves.

Iran, for one, will be watching closely.

The globally warmed encyclical Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Oblivious to current scientific data, pope Francis I, under the advice of German climate activist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, threw the Catholic Church into the global warming morass and a tailspin of pessimism, thereby making headlines across the world. Francis also banned skeptic Philipe de Larminat.
(I hope to throw in enough metaphors to make it to Taranto one of these days.)

ARGENTINA
Argentine Presidential Race Comes into FocusArgentine Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo bowed out of the race for the ruling party’s 2015 presidential nomination, leaving Buenos Aires provincial Gov. Daniel Scioli as the only candidate

BOLIVIA
Facebook Signs Agreement with Bolivian Telecom to Promote Free Internet

CHILE
Chilean grandma carried mummified foetus for 50 years92-year-old Chilean grandmother has been bearing large mummified foetus for at least 50 years in what is a rare condition known as lithopedion, doctors have discovered

COLOMBIA
[Video show the FARC using schools to train minors and store explosives in Putumayo]

Colombia’s Farc blows up oil pipeline in Catatumbo

CUBA
Obama Admits Cuba Sponsors Terrorism, But…

By Carlos Eire: A Father’s Day Tribute

Stella McCartney’s Anti-Cruelty Fashion Line Celebrates Marxist Killers Fidel Castro & Che Guevara

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The DR makes deportation plans but Dominican Deadline Passes Without Mass Expulsion of Haitian Migrants

ECUADOR
No skin off Correa’s back: Julian Assange’s three-year stay in Ecuadorean embassy has cost taxpayer £11.1mThree years ago the WikiLeaks founder fled bail and sought asylum in Ecuador – resulting in millions being spent on policing the embassy

GUATEMALA
Lone protester ends Guatemala marchA lone protester in Guatemala receives a hero’s welcome after covering more than 200 km (125 miles) in a protest against corruption.

MEXICO
Mexico beer centre attack leaves 10 dead

NICARAGUA
Why is a Chinese Tycoon Building a $50 Billion Canal in Nicaragua That No One Wants?

Remaking world trade?

PANAMA
Panama Ready to Help Normalize Relations Between OAS, Cuba

PERU
Peru Inflation Churns as Consumer Confidence Falls

PUERTO RICO
5 Indicted for Bid-Rigging in Puerto Rico School Bus Auction

[US court orders seizure of Puerto Rico’s Department of Health accounts]

VENEZUELA

Brazilian senators forced out of Venezuela after failed solidarity missionVenezuelan opposition prisoners Leopoldo Lopez, Daniel Ceballos and Antonio Ledezma were due to be visited by a delegation from Brazil – until their path was blocked, and their bus was attacked

Swiss embassy warns Venezuela’s golf players its balls could killMembers of the exclusive Caracas Country Club have reacted with anger to a sign posted by the Swiss embassy warning that stray balls could be in breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations



Venezuela: The FAO gets fooled

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Food and Venezuela
Let them eat Chavismo
The UN honours Venezuela for curbing hunger—which is actually getting worse

According to the FAO, which presented the diploma on June 8th, Venezuela is one of 72 countries that have reached the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of their populations suffering from hunger. But the prize, based on government data up to 2012, comes amid growing evidence that the trend has reversed.

As of June 2014, Venezuela ranks 182 out of 189 in the World Bank Economy Rankings. The International Monetary Fund keeps a List of IMF Member Countries with Delays in Completion of Article IV Consultations or Mandatory Financial Stability Assessments Over 18 Months. As of the writing of this post, Venezuela hasn’t held an Article IV consultation with the IMF in 114 monthsThe Venezuelan government has not allowed its own numbers to be verified for almost a decade.

Click to enlarge

And the FAO fell for the Venezuelan government’s data, hook line and sinker.

The Mexican Nazi cheerleaders Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, June 15th, 2015

LatinAmerOf all the odd news I’ve read in the past decade or so, the Mexican Nazi cheerleaders take the cake for crassness and ignorance (and I’m being kind), but they’re an example of the abysmal lack of history education in our hemisphere.

ARGENTINA
More contradictions: Nisman’s laptop not accessed after his death

Argentina president attacks ‘ill-mannered’ Cameron over FalklandsCristina Kirchner condemns David Cameron after PM tells Argentine foreign minister to stop ‘threatening’ residents on South Atlantic islands

BOLIVIA
Bolivia Urges OAS to Approve Declaration of Indigenous Rights after 18 Years

BRAZIL
Brazil $800m money laundering network broken up

CENTRAL AMERICA
CentAm aid cut back

CHILE
Chilean Teachers Vote to Continue Unlimited Strike

COLOMBIA
Colombia Farc rebel attack leave 500,000 without powerColombia’s Farc rebels have shot dead three police officers and cut off power to almost half a million people, the military has said.

CUBA
U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to End Cuba EmbargoThe Cuba Trade Act of 2015 would give private firms, including financial institutions, the right to conduct business with the Communist-ruled island.

Next Phase of the US-Cuba Faustian Bargain Goes Unchecked by Congress

Cuba’s Web Entrepreneurs Search for U.S. Clients, and Reliable Wi-FiAs the United States opens up to Cuba, a little-advertised circle of software developers, web designers and translators are selling their skills long-distance.

CUBA REPORT FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

ECUADOR
Ecuador Gets OPEC’s Support in Dispute with Chevron

GUATAMALA
Guatemalan Supreme Court Rules Pérez Molina Must Face the MusicJudiciary Greenlights Congressional Probe, Removal of Immunity

Guatemalans Demand Resignation of President Accused of Corruption

GUYANA
Economic war (a real one)

HAITI
Time to dissolve the UN: UN peacekeepers ‘barter goods for sex’UN peacekeepers regularly barter goods for sex with people in the countries the world body is meant to be helping, a draft UN report says.

HONDURAS
Wave of Protests Spreads to Scandal-Weary Honduras and Guatemala

JAMAICA
Despite doctor’s advice … J’CAN WOMEN RUSHING ‘VIRGIN SOAP’

MEXICO
Mexico’s mid-term electionsPunishing bad behaviourThe mainstream political parties suffered setbacks. That is no reason for the government to retreat from reform

PANAMA
Panama Canal Expansion Surges Forward into New LocksDouble-Capacity “New Panamax” Ships to Pass from April 2016

PARAGUAY
Fifa crisis: Paraguay ends immunity for ConmebolParaguay is ending the diplomatic immunity of the headquarters for South America’s Conmebol football association, the latest fallout from the corruption scandal engulfing Fifa.

PERU
Visa-Free: Peruvians, Colombians Can Pack Their Bags for the EUOld World Opens Up to 90-Day Visits

PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico’s economy matters in the 2016 presidential race

SURINAME
Presidential pardonVoters overlooked Desi Bouterse’s dodgy past, hoping for a better future

VENEZUELA
Venezuela: Running on Fumes?

De genocidas y huelgas de hambre

Spain Brings Pain to Venezuela’s Leftists

The week’s posts:
Mexico: Springtime for Hitler

Cuba: Marielito blood on Fidel’s hands

Mexico: House Votes to Remove Country-of-Origin Labels on Meat Sold in U.S.

Ecuador: Hotlanta PR doesn’t come cheap

Cars: Private enterprise vs. government-owned

Venezuela: And now for the Iranian cars

2 en español: Lucio Gutierrez, Emili Blasco en el show de Bayly

Cuba: “For both sides”?

There was an election in Mexico

Rubio Vice

Argentina: Cristina visits Francis, for the fifth time

Puerto Rico: Flaming June at the Frick

Today at Drudge

The week’s books:

Cars: Private enterprise vs. government-owned

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Private enterprise vs. government-owned: A consumer economy beats a command economy, all the way down the road.

Read my article here

Venezuela: And now for the Iranian cars

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Venezuela, where gasoline is almost free but the cars are lousy.

Jesus Silvia’s report on Press TV:

Iran’s car industry has shown signs of enhancing its share in Venezuelan market. The sale of US cars in Venezuela’s market has decreased dramatically since President Nicolas Maduro banned American automakers from using dollars for transactions. Iranian vehicles made by Venirauto group seem to be an alternative to Venezuelans in times of a troubled market.

VENezuela + IRan + AUTO = Venirauto, which is also a handy pun for “coming by car” (venir en auto)

Video:

At the 0:40 mark, Francisco Espinoza, president of Venirauto group, “Our achievement is based on inspiration given by our late commander, Hugo Chavez. He wanted Venezuela to ally with Iran, and we’re doing so.”

Compare and contrast the very low-tech plant shown in the video with a Hyundai assembly plant at Kancheepuram district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu October 4, 2012,

or the Volvo trucks assembly plant in South Carolina

One of the reasons Iran is willing to build cars in Venezuela when foreign automakers are leaving is that, as early as 2007, Iran agreed to build platforms in a US$4 billion development of Orinoco delta oil deposits in exchange for Venezuelan investments.

As you would expect from a government-forced monopoly, the cars don’t look jazzy (emphasis added),

The company Venirauto, which is 51% Iranian and 49% Venezuelan, is producing two different models. The first model, the Turpial at a price of Bs. 17 million (US$7,906), is a 4-door sedan based on the old Kia Pride model. The second is the Centauro, at a price of Bs. 23 million (US$11,069), and is based on the Peugeot 405 given that the French firm is the main supplier of engines and technology to the Iranian company. Both models are exempt from Venezuela’s sales tax IVA (Value-added tax), due to a government program to subsidize cars that include Venezuelan production.

The goal is to eventually produce 100% of the cars in Venezuela.

The Peugeot 405 was introduced on 1987 and, according to Wikipedia, is still produced under license in Iran and Egypt but ceased production in France in 1997. The old Kia Pride (not to be confused with the Kia New Pride) was in production from 1987 to 2000.

Don’t expect to find those in Kelley’s Blue Book Top 10 anytime soon.

Parting question,
Can the Venirautos be bullet-proofed?

2 en español: Lucio Gutierrez, Emili Blasco en el show de Bayly

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Lucio Gutiérrez, ex-Presidente de Ecuador,

Emili J. Blasco, corresponsal de ABC y autor del libro Bumerán Chávez: Los fraudes que llevaron al colapso de Venezuela (Amazon.com #1 Best Sellerin Caribbean & Latin American Politics)

Venezuela: Maduro gets the [chicken?] flu

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today, madam
Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today
She is sorry to be delayed

Cole Porter

Unlike Miss Otis, Nicolas Maduro didn’t stray down Lover’s Lane. Instead, the Venezuelan dictator cancelled a previously-scheduled and well-publicized audience with Pope Francis due to flu and otitis, which is what brought Miss Otis to mind.

Of course, Maduro had to say it in a cadena (which is broadcast on all licensed TV and radio stations in the country).

The news report states that the cancellation

comes as the Catholic Church in Venezuela has been stepping up criticism of human rights abuses in the country.

The Venezuelan Catholics are stepping up the pressure; however, Pope Francis has yet to speak in behalf of Leopoldo Lopez, who is still rotting in jail and killing himself with a hunger strike,

Good evening. It’s Lillian [Lopez’s wife]. Leopoldo sent me an important message. Today is his 12th day in hunger strike. Please RT.

Considering how Pope Francis’s own-brokered Cuba/U.S. deal left Cuban dissidents flapping in the wind, and how chummy Raul and Francis got along, perhaps Maduro could have claimed a miraculous cure and gone on his Vatican junket with no adverse side effects.

Related:
Dictatorship and the Nature of the Vatican