Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Maduro’

Venezuela: US to sanction chavistas

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

U.S. House Passes Bill To Penalize Venezuela
Move Ratchets Up Pressure on President Nicolás Maduro’s Beleaguered Government.

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill Wednesday to penalize Venezuelan government officials found to violate human rights in that country’s crackdown on a protest movement, ratcheting up pressure on President Nicolás Maduro’s beleaguered government.

The bill calls for President Barack Obama to draw up a list of Venezuelan officials who are alleged to have violated human rights, freeze any assets they might have in the U.S., and bar them from entering the country by either withdrawing or denying visas.

A similar bill has been approved by a Senate committee, and is headed for a vote on the Senate floor in coming days.

Passage of the bill also raises pressure on the Obama administration, which has been wary of passing any kind of sanctions for fear it could create a backlash by allowing Mr. Maduro to mobilize supporters against the U.S. and distract from Venezuela’s growing homemade troubles. The administration also fears that the sanctions could jeopardize attempts at reaching a negotiated solution between the government and the opposition.

What negotiated solution? The o-called “negotiations” fell apart already.

14 Dems opposed the sanctions:The

Democrats led by Michigan Rep. John Conyers wrote a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday backing his administration. They also urged an exchange of ambassadors with Venezuela after a four-year hiatus.

Does this sound like a government willing to exchange ambassadors?

Venezuela alleged on Wednesday that the U.S. ambassador to Colombia has plotted to destabilize President Nicolas Maduro’s rule, adding to tensions between the two countries as the U.S. House approved a measure calling for sanctions on officials in the South American nation over human rights abuses.

A couple of days earlier, Mind your own business, Venezuela foreign minister tells Kerry.

In Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro welcomed the Democratic lawmakers’ initiative, saying he hopes “there is a bit of wisdom” in Washington. This wisdom from the guy who talks to a bird he thinks is Hugo CHavez.

Never mind, the Russian Foreign Minister says all problems should be solved on the constitutional basis, without threats of sanctions. In theory, they should; in reality . . .

Yleem D.S. Poblete posits that, in addition to the human rights violations,

For the sake of U.S. national security interests, the United States needs to act swiftly and resolutely to hold the Chavez-Maduro apparatus accountable.

The bill is now headed for a vote on the Senate floor.

Silvio Canto and I talked about this and other LatAm topics in last night’s podcast:
Elections in Colombia PLUS other US-Latin America stories of the week

Venezuela: Leopoldo Lopez’s jail birthday

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Opposition leader Leopoldo López turned 43 years old on Tuesday. He’s still in solitary confinement without a trial and his wife was told that he is not allowed visitors for the next 15 days at Ramo Verde military prison. His attorney considers him a political prisoner.

Emiliana Duarte describes,

His cell, where he spends 22 hours a day, is a minuscule 9 square meter space containing a bed and a sink. Ever since he was jailed, López has been kept in a maximum security area known to prison wardens as “the annex, ” on the second floor of the building. When he was first interned in his cell, “the annex” seemed to have suffered a small fire: the walls were covered in soot, the lamps were melted, and there was very little light. His legal team says some maintenance has been performed since then to improve at least that aspect.

When Leopoldo was sent to the annex, the authorities at Ramo Verde immediately set about increasing security there. A series of fences were added between each stairwell, as well as several additional cells, since assigned to mayors Enzo Scarano and Daniel Ceballos, as well as San Diego municipal police chief Salvatore Lucchese.

Leopoldo remains in solitary confinement with no end in sight. He can only receive visits from close family members and his lawyers. Access has been denied to his priest for confession, and he has not been allowed to attend mass. It’s worth noting that the Committee Against Torture, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have made it clear that solitary confinement should be an exceptional measure of limited duration that is subject to strict judicial review when applied and prolonged.

Leopoldo’s legal team has had repeated problems with correspondence, since he is forbidden from sending written messages to the outside. All letters sent to him are extensively scrutinized and in several instances, have been retained altogether.

His legal team has also had problems with legal documents, which are also subject to extensive review by the prison guard, an issue which violates client-attorney privilege and professional standards of privacy. These revisions have been carried out to such an extent that sometimes legal council has been strip searched on their way out of meetings with their client, in order to make sure that no information is being leaked.

The prison authorities restrict access to any material deemed “politically sensitive.” He may not receive books, flyers and other documents that may be considered forms of political proselytism [sic].

Journalist Ludmila Vinogradoff for Spanish newspaper ABC reports that she and a photographer, along with Lopez’s were detained for three hours and López is now denied visitors for two weeks as punishment for the journalists’ visit.

So, has Leopoldo Lopez self sacrifice been worth something?

Of course the regime want Lopez, and many other, to rot forever in jail, or dead if they could get away with it. The main reason for that hatred with Lopez is that represents all that they are not, educated individuals, rational, sensible, not seeking revenge for real or imaginary hurts, even good looking. That in addition he made it clear to the world that the regime is a dictatorship managed by thugs is, of course, unforgivable.

What is more troubling is that some in the opposition are not running over each other to make a grand stand and demand Lopez freedom or else. This, in a way, is harder to forgive. But the reason is also simple to understand: the revolt that Lopez represents is the one from a group of Venezuelans who think that they have no future, nothing to lose anymore. But inside the MUD there are people that have something to lose, little perhaps, but something nevertheless. As such people like Ramos Allup, leader of the fading AD old party, are ready to do anything to lower social tensions. Not because it is good to lower social tensions, something we can almost all of of us agree on, but because social tensions are bad for him since he will never lead them.

The opposition is dealing with Venezuela’s Security Forces: A Killer Elite Beyond the Law
As violent protests return, the death toll is down, but families are struggling hopelessly to find justice for their loved ones killed in demonstrations earlier this year.

At the height of the protests an engineer was beaten to death by National Guard troops on the road to a hospital. A crazy firefight started by a bodyguard of the “peace” minister ended with a bullet in a student’s head. A 20-year-old cook was detained for threatening national security, but no proofs whatsoever were presented in court. Four guys were tortured with electricity applied to their testicles. In one jail where people were detained illegally the wakeup call was made with teargas bombs.

The human rights abuses in the increasingly despotic dictatorship continue as Protesters Point to Their Scars.

In CNN interview, Bolivarian National Guard Captain calls on Cuba-backed dictatorship to step down

Maduro’s trying to lock up internet access but a New online project seeks to leverage social media in coverage of Venezuelan crisis

Venezuela Decoded gathers information found on Twitter, groups it by source (either from government or opposition sources) and separates them by language (Spanish and English). It also features a timeline created with the online tool Timeline JS that shows the most important events of each day.

You can find the timeline here.

Elsewhere in the country, the agricultural industry’s dying: Chavez’s Farming Utopia Withers as Pet Projects Abandoned, which is hardly surprising, considering their origin,

Chavez’s plans for agricultural communes began with a visit to Belarus in 2007, when his counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko took him on a tour of projects dating from the Soviet Union’s 1930s collectivization, said Perez, who now advises the president of Venezuela’s state agriculture fund.

Capital flight in Venezuela 103% of GDP as Venezuelans have syphoned $405.8 billion away from the country.

Maduro’s latest populist ploy for fixing systemic economic woes: Raising the minimum wage.

In the past few weeks particularly the regime has been trying to tamp down on the unrest, and last week, the country’s Supreme Court imposed new regulations limiting citizens’ right to protest with some trumped-up permitting process

Critics say that while the new minimum salary amounts to $675 at the government-set exchange rate, it adds up to little over $67 at the black market rate.

Related: El plan detrás del caos en Venezuela


Venezuela: Inspired by Marx!

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Marxist Nicolas Maduro’s making a fashion statement inspired by Marx.

Groucho Marx, that is:

Nicolás Maduro introduced the new symbol of the revolution: The mustache cap.
The Venezuelan president surprised all during at event by showing the new icon of chavismo, by which all his followers can have his mustache.

Nicolás Maduro presentó el nuevo símbolo de la revolución: la “gorra del bigote”
El presidente venezolano sorprendió en un acto al mostrar un nuevo dispositivo del chavismo, gracias al cual sus seguidores pueden tener su bigote

The cap has a detachable mustache you can place under your nose.

I’m not making this up,

Maduro wore a blue one, but it’s also available in red or green.

Just in time for Mother’s Day!

Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!

Venezuela: No amnesty for jailed opposition

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Certainly not a khaki scout.

Venezuela rejects amnesty for jailed protest leaders

The Venezuelan government has dismissed calls by the opposition for an amnesty for jailed protest leaders.

Government and opposition representatives met for a second time on Tuesday to try to put an end to two months of anti-government protests.

Following the meeting, Ramon Aveledo of the opposition MUD coalition said his proposal for an amnesty law had been rejected.

It’s all par for the course: Having put the Cubans in charge of Venezuela’s public notaries and civil registries, and of the computer systems of the presidency, ministries, social programs, police and security services as well as the national oil company,

Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, has deepened Caracas’s dependency on Havana even further. As students have taken to the streets in protest against an increasingly authoritarian regime the government has responded with a brutal repression that relies on many of the tools and tactics perfected by the police state that has run Cuba for too long.

Among those who would be denied amnesty are 30 military officials arrested for conspiracy to topple Cuba-controlled dictatorship

Among those arrested are the brothers Riviera Lago, one a colonel and the other a lieutenant colonel. Also two members of the National Guard, two from the navy, and one from the army. These are added to the generals arrested three weeks earlier, Oswaldo Hernandez Sanchez, Jose Machillanda Diaz, and Carlos Millan Yaguaracuto. The generals are all from the air force, like the majority of those involved in the alleged conspiracy.

Up to now, there have been very few military showing support for the protesters.

Other Venezuela items:
[T]he supply of currency in the economy [has] dried up almost completely.

Venezuela’s delusional leader

Media Ignore How Maduro’s Death Squads Operate with Impunity Thanks to Gun Control

Venezuela: No food in the shops, but 3 jets for Raul

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

It’s a matter of priorities, people!


I can fly higher than an eagle,
’cause you are the wind beneath my wings
.

Venezuela gives Cuba three aircraft to transport Raúl Castro
The aircrafts –two Dassault Falcon 50 and one Falcon 900– are worth some USD 100-110 million

The aircraft –two Dassault Falcon 50 and one Falcon 900– are worth some USD [$]100-110 million, and are regularly used for transporting ministers and even Cuban President Raúl Castro, sources said as reported by the Miami Herald reported.

And now for a Venezuela roundup

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Late on Thursday night, Nicolas Maduro held a televised “crisis talk” with members of the opposition. The Beeb says

Mr Maduro met his bitter rival, opposition leader Henrique Capriles, for six hours. More talks are scheduled for Tuesday.

The meeting was brokered by foreign ministers from South American nations.

The spokesperson of the Vatican, Federico Lombardi, noted he had “nothing to say” about the invitation sent on Wednesday by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Pope Francis for the Vatican to act as a mediator in talks between the Venezuelan government and the opposition.

No matter the foreign ministers or the Vatican, the farce went on as expected: a guarimbalogue.

Francisco Toro calls it A Night of Epistemic Closure (emphasis added)

Fifteen years of sitting in front of a VTV screen have taken their toll. Chavismo has zero interest in reality outside the deep, cozy grooves of its ideological comfort zone. We’re talking about a movement that, when faced with a prominent figure claiming that Jews were using newspaper crossword puzzle clues to send each other coded messages, actually promotes the guy.

These people have all the power, all the money, all the rents, and all the guns. It’s going to take a lot more than having the Papal Nuncio sit through a six-hour meeting to get them to step outside that bubble.

In a way, chavismo doesn’t have an epistemic bubble - it is an epistemic bubble. The obdurate refusal to confront a reality it cannot control, to honor opposing points of view without necessarily sharing them, to treat others’ points of view as basically legitimate even if possibly wrong…these things aren’t features of chavismo as a belief system, they’re its essence.

Which is why, all told, there was just one figure who came out of last night looking relatively good: Maria Corina Machado, who called bullshit on the whole sad charade before it even started.

Miguel Octavio is more optimistic,

Short term, this is largely irrelevant, clearly Chavismo is stuck in its own imaginary world, trapped in its slogans and has no intention of yielding on anything, despite the scheduling of another session on the 15th., right in the middle of a nationwide vacation.

But the fact that this was shown on nationwide TV and the opposition had some very good interventions, is very important long term.

The Chavista militias known as “colectivos” are continuing their rampage.

Maduro’s latest slogan is “Venezuela is a country where the rich protest and the poor celebrate their social well-being,” which he stated to a Guardian reporter but was echoed by a chavista woman on the street.

While the protests are a recent development, the chavista disinformation war continues,

A chavista mouthpiece, infamous Minister of Housing Ricardo Molina, said, from Cuba of course, that there were two Venezuelas. In that, he is absolutely right. Indeed there are two Venezuelas: the imaginary one that exists only in chavismo’s ethereal world, and the other one. There’s no doubt, or disagreement about that. Maduro “lives” in a Venezuela where everything is rosy. So do his henchmen and cronies. Every other one of the 29 million Venezuelans, lives in a Venezuela of scarcity, uncontrolled crime, unemployment, abuse, corruption, uncontrolled inflation, crumbling infrastructure, and a long list of etceteras. I think one example will suffice to illustrate this point: in chavismo’s world, Hugo Chavez was “infected with a brutal and aggressive cancer in 2011​“; in the real world, well, you get the point.

I’ve been reading Casto Ocando’s new book, Chavistas en el Imperio: Secretos, Tácticas y Escándalos de la Revolución Bolivariana en Estados Unidos (Chavistas in the Empire: Secrets, Tactics, and Scandals of the Bolivarian Revolution in the United States). The depth and breath of the chavista disinformation war is beyond what I even imagined. Ocando reports on the hundreds of millions of dollars Chavez spent in the propaganda war.

Out on the street, the police mark people waiting in line to buy milk,

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


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!


#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


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!

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.