Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ Category

The Juan Boria Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Juan Boria was an Afro-Puerto Rican poet, teacher and actor whose joyful performances on television I used to watch when I was a child growing up on the island. You couldn’t not have fun listening to him, even if sometimes you didn’t understand the words. I dedicate this Carnival to him, in thanks for the delightful moments his work still brings us. I have not found any YouTubes videos of his performances, only of his audios. Here’s one:

ARGENTINA
Argentina’s economy
Creeping toward normality

BRAZIL
Which Path Will Brazil Choose?

CHILE
Big Earthquake In Chile, Not Many Killed

COLOMBIA
Vote for peace, vote for Santos?

COSTA RICA
The election results are a given, after the challenger stopped campaigning – he’s still in the ballot, though (video in Spanish)

CUBA
AP Considers Twitter “Subversive” — for Cubans

ECUADOR
Chevron Takes Battle To Radical Environmentalist Lobby

JAMAICA
‘Ganga Future Growers’: Pot-growers group launched in Jamaica

MEXICO
Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez admitted to hospital in Mexico City
Colombian author, whose works have outsold everything in the Spanish language except the Bible, is being treated for lung and urinary infections

PANAMA
Mexico, Panama sign free-trade pact

PERU
Visit Choquequirao, Peru
Explore Peru’s famous Incan ruins in the lesser-known but still breathtaking city of Choquequirao.

PUERTO RICO
Ft. Hood: Puerto Rico friends, family of Ivan Lopez shocked

URUGUAY
Move aside, president of Uruguay: We have a new ‘poorest world leader’. He’s still the worst-shod, though.

VENEZUELA

Spain Halts Sale of Riot Gear to Caracas
Madrid Seeks to Avoid Fanning Violence, As 200,000 Spaniards Reside in Venezuela

30 Spaniards have been arrested by forces loyal to the socialist administration of President Nicolás Maduro.

(Related: Who Is Killing Venezuela’s Protesters?
New evidence suggests that Chávez recruited today’s political militia from among the army.
)

Are Race and Class at the Root of Venezuela’s Political Crisis?

Killing dissent? One of Leopoldo López’s aides, and the brother-in-law of an opposition mayor have been murdered. Matan a allegado de Leopoldo López y a cuñado de alcalde opositor
Un allegado del líder opositor venezolano Leopoldo López y un cuñado del alcalde del municipio caraqueño de Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, fueron asesinados en un parque de Caracas, se informó el domingo.

GM Takes $400 Million Loss in Venezuela as Ford Loses $350 Million

Crash dummy policies

NEWS FROM VENEZUELA

The Market For Common Sense

Caracas chaos: Venezuelan general [Antonio Rivero] on the run
Death in the streets, rationing by fingerprints and a general on the run: how oil-rich Venezuela has descended into chaos

NYT Gives Print Op-ed Space to Venezuela’s Maduro, Ignores Growing Repression

The week’s posts:
Ecuador: Pass the Ketchum

Annals of Papal gift-giving, UPDATED

Venezuela; about that Maduro op-ed in the NYT, UPDATED

We interrupt our blogging on Latin America to bring you the latest on Putin

Vargas Llosa going to Venezuela

Ecuador: Looking for fools wanting to part with their money

#SOSVenezuela: Testing Venezuela’s sincerity

The Most Interesting Man in the World has spoken,

At Da Tech Guy Blog:
What Eich means

A makeover for . . . cream cheese?


Venezuela; about that Maduro op-ed in the NYT, UPDATED

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The NYT published an article by Nicolas Maduro’s ghost writers, Venezuela: A Call for Peace on April 1.

Assuming it was not an April Fool’s joke, Maduro states

According to the United Nations, Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality: It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We havereduced poverty enormously — to 25.4 percent in 2012, on the World Bank’s data, from 49 percent in 1998; in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme poverty diminished to 6 percent from 21 percent.

And where did the UN’s numbers come from? The Venezuelan government – which has not allowed its own numbers to be verified for almost a decade. Not only has Venezuela not held an held an Article IV consultation with the IMF in 100 months, it also stopped reporting a number of standard indicators several years ago.

Daniel Wiser does a Nicolas Maduro Fact Check:
On inequality:

Chavez’s family now reportedly owns 17 country estates totaling more than 100,000 acres in the western state of Barinas, as well as assets of $550 million stored in various international bank accounts. Residents in the same region wait as long as three hours for basic provisions at grocery stores.

National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello, a close confidant of Chavez and member of Maduro’s United Socialist Party, has allegedly amassed “a private fortune” through corruption and ties to regional drug traffickers. TheMiami Herald reported accusations last week that Cabello received at least $50 million in bribes to overlook lucrative public contracts that were overpriced, according to a recent lawsuit.

On healthcare (I posted about it last year):

The Associated Press reported in November that Venezuela’s health care system “is collapsing after years of deterioration.”

About 90 percent of the country’s public hospitals lack vital supplies due to government-imposed dollar shortages and price caps. The government was forced to suspend organ donations, transplants, and non-emergency surgeries.

On “extending a hand to the opposition” (and keep in mind Maduro’s been threatening to bomb the state of Táchira),

Opposition lawmaker Maria Corina Machado has been expelled from the legislature and faces imprisonment. Protest leader Leopoldo Lopez remainsconfined at a military facility.

Two opposition mayors elected by large majorities have also been sentenced to several months in prison, according to the Human Rights Foundation.

Maduro posits that “claims that . . . current protests represent mainstream sentiment are belied by the facts.” Here’s an aerial video of “sentiment” taken on the March 22 demonstration

Francisco Toro writes about The Most Outrageous Lie in Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s New York Times Op-Ed

Fact-checking the entire piece would be enough to cause an aneurysm. Instead, to give a sense of the depth of historical falsification involved, let’s focus on one particular line: Maduro claims that the Bolivarian revolution “created flagship universal health care and education programs, free to our citizens nationwide.”

This is roughly equivalent to President Barack Obama claiming that he created Social Security. Venezuela first established free universal primary education (for both boys and girls) back in the nineteenth century. It was 1870, in fact, when President Antonio Guzmán Blanco—the visionary military dictator who dominated politics at the time—created a mandate for the state to teach all children ”morals, reading and writing the national language, practical arithmetic, the metric system and the constitution.”

Granted, universal education remained more an aspiration than an on-the-ground reality for several decades, but by 1946 Venezuela’s first elected, social democratic government rode to power partly due to a commitment to enact that vision. Free education, including at the university level, was an ideological cornerstone of successive governments beginning in 1958. Under the leadership of the great educational reformer Luis Beltrán Prieto Figueroa, the government created one of Latin America’s first adult education institutions, INCE, in 1959, and in the 1960s pushed to increase adult literacy through the famous ACUDE program.

Maduro’s mentor, Hugo Chávez, might have told him a thing or two about that: As a teenager in the ’60s, Chávez volunteered as an adult literacy coach at ACUDE—one of the flagship education programs that Maduro claims didn’t exist until Chávez created them.

It’s much the same story with health: Already in 1938, still in the era of dictatorships,landmark public hospitals were being built and treating patients free of charge. The 1961 constitution—the one chavismo insisted on replacing, seeing it as a vehicle for neo-imperial domination—guaranteed free public health care in article 76. Even today, virtually every major hospital in the country was built before the Bolivarian revolution, whose contribution was limited to a secondary network of outpatient clinics staffed by Cuban medics and located inside poorer areas that, in the view of many, ended up largely diverting resources that would have been better spent upgrading theincreasingly ramshackle legacy hospital network.

Yes, both the school system and the hospital network were overstretched, underperforming, and in need of reform by the time Chávez came to power in 1998, and yes, chavismo‘s reforms of both systems have been broadly popular. There’s an interesting conversation to be had about the successes and failures of those reforms.

But that conversation can’t happen when the government insists on a wholesale falsification of history, simply erasing the long, rich history of health and education reforms that in 1999 bequeathed Chávez the large and ambitious, albeit flawed, health and education systems that Maduro oversees today.

Maduro also mentions the “new market-based foreign exchange system, which is designed to reduce the black market exchange rate.” That ended up getting lost in translation:

See if you can spot the difference in MINCI’s official translation of the same OpEd. It describes SICAD II as ”un nuevo sistema de cambio de divisas que ya ha reducido la inflación durante las últimas semanas.” [Fausta's note: "a new foreign exchange system which has already reduced inflation over the past few weeks"]

Did you catch that? Either SICAD II is somehow more market-based in English than it is en español, or the system’s market-basedness is locked in quantum indeterminacy, cycling in and out of existence over time.

Continuing to assume the NYT article was not an April Fool’s joke, The real question isn’t “what” Maduro is saying, but “why?”(emphasis added),

Why does Maduro display such concern about international public opinion, while putting on a show about being so above caring about his domestic popularity?

Chávez battled external demons fictional or not – usually fictional – to give himself ammo for his political battle back home. With Maduro, it’s the battles on the home front that are being submitted to the court of international public opinion for international validation.

It’s like he doesn’t actually grasp that, in accepting Venezuelans’ discontent only in a foreign tongue to a foreign newspaper and then blatantly ignoring those complaints in his actions, then pleading with gringo readers to be spared from the consequences, Nicolás Maduro is only incriminating himself.

All the same, expect the usual apologists to endlessly repeat Maduro’s talking points. The joke’s on the Venezuelan people.

UPDATE: Alek Boyd takes a jackhammer to the NYT piece, 

According to unaudited figures we provide to the United Nations, Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality: It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We have reduced poverty enormously — to 25.4 percent in 2012, the World Bank’s data (again which no independent auditor has checked in the last 98 months), from 49 percent in 1998; in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme povertydiminished to 6 percent from 21 percent. This incredible reduction was achieved overnight, after our commander in chief called the National Statistics Office to order lowering the figures.

And that’s just the warm-up. Go read the whole thing.

Linked to by Hot Air. Thank you!


Vargas Llosa going to Venezuela

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Mario Vargas Llosa: ‘I feel the need to go [to Venezuela] to demonstrate’

Indeed, the BBC reports that Vargas Llosa to visit Venezuela to back anti-Maduro groups
The Peruvian Nobel Prize winning author, Mario Vargas Llosa, has said that he will travel to Venezuela to lend his support to opposition groups.

Mr Vargas Llosa said he was going to travel to Venezuela on 15 April to attend a conference organised by an opposition think-tank, Cedice.

“I will go with other liberals to lend our support and show our solidarity to those who are putting up a big fight against the dictatorship of Maduro,” he said.

As you may recall, when Mario and his son Álvaro attended a Cedice conference in 2009, they each were detained at the airport by the military.

#SOSVenezuela: Testing Venezuela’s sincerity

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Yesterday’s Miami Herald editorial:
Testing Venezuela’s sincerity
OUR OPINION: Government’s actions undermine calls for mediation

If his stated interest in reconciliation were sincere, the first thing President Nicolás Maduro would do is call off the dogs — the pro-government militants who have sown terror on the streets by intimidating, beating and shooting protesters.

Instead of putting them on a leash, though, Mr. Maduro has publicly praised these thugs as defenders of the “Bolivarian revolution.” Resorting to brute force to silence critics hardly sets the stage for mediation. Targeting high-profile government adversaries, including elected officials, only makes matters worse.

Shortly after the wave of protests began, the government ordered the arrest of outspoken government critic Leopoldo Lopez for allegedly inciting violence. On Friday, an appeals court rejected his plea for bail. Far from discouraging opponents, Mr. Lopez’s imprisonment has served only to raise his profile as a leader of the hard-line opposition and fueled further protest.

Apparently unable to learn from its mistakes, the government doubled down on its dubious tactic. On March 21, authorities jailed the mayors of two cities that have seen some of the most intense unrest — Daniel Ceballos of San Cristóbal and Enzo Scarano of San Diego. They were arrested, tried and sentenced within a matter of hours on trumped-up charges of failing to prevent violence.

Then, last week, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello announced that a prominent opposition deputy, Maria Corina Machado, had lost her seat and parliamentary immunity and could be arrested at any time. She courageously defied the government by leading a street protest days later and remains free as of this writing. But for how long?

While Maduro says he’s open to having a “facilitator” create a dialogue with the opposition, last month he was threatening to bomb the state of Táchira:

“If I have to decree a state of exception especially for the state of Táchira, I am ready to do so. I am ready to decree it, and I will send in the tanks, the troops, the Air Force, the entire armed forces of the fatherland, because we will preserve Táchira as Venezuelan territory, as belonging to Venezuela. I am ready to do it now! I have the constitutional authority to do it, I have the clear strategic vision for it, and ultimately, I have the Enabling Law. I have the Enabling Law. I am willing to do anything for Táchira, anything.”

That was in February; this is what Táchira looked like yesterday,

A top Venezuelan military commander says the security forces have retaken control of the streets in the western city of San Cristobal in Táchira,

The current wave of unrest started in San Cristobal on 4 February, when students took to the streets to protest against the alleged attempted rape of a university student.

Students Set Up Long Term Protest Camp In Front Of UN’s Office in Caracas

When you first talk to them,there are a number of surprises. First, they are not all from Caracas. Second, they are not middle class. Finally, they are not all students, as many of them are part of radical, left wing groups 8yes! [sic], real left wing not imitation Chavistas!) which oppose the Government. So, for fools that claim that these protests are somehow motivated by the US, driven my middle class students, please come down and talk to them. You will be surprised, really surprised.

Today Maria Corina Machado will attempt to attend the scheduled National Assembly meeting, after NA president Diosdado Cabello divested her of her elected position. The Venezuelan Supreme Court rubber-stamped Cabello’s decision.

Now the question is what the opposition will do. Is it still trying to pretend dialogue is possible? Will it make a show of force and try to enter with Maria Corina Machado in Parliament even if all may risk arrest? When are we going to start calling the regime a dictatorship and deal with it accordingly?

There’s a demonstration scheduled at noon to show her support.

We’ll see how it evolves.

Elsewhere, in “one of the most democratic nations on Earth”, the government announced it will begin fingerprinting customers who use state-run grocery stores. Supposedly to prevent hoarding,

Patrons will register with their fingerprints, and the new ID card will be linked to a computer system that monitors purchases. Food Minister Felix Osorio says it will sound an alarm when it detects suspicious purchasing patterns, barring people from buying the same goods every day.

Considering the precedent of the Tascón List and the Maisanta program, this does not bode well.

Update:
Re: the new ID cards for food purchases, it’s worth keeping in mind that just 2 days ago ABC.es was reporting that Cubans manage Venezuela’s ID system, its identity cards and passports.

What could possibly go wrong?

This just in,
Venezuelan president orders landlords to sell homes in 60 days or face fine of £24,000 in wild bid to plug housing shortage
Owners leasing for 20 years ‘must sell’, evicted if don’t pay fine in five days
Law dictates they must sell for ‘fair price’ to prevent dip in the market
Landlords must submit prospective sale prices to the government
Comes as ‘grocery ID’ scheme launched to monitor amount people buy


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.