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Venezuela News And Views



A blog about surviving the Chavez and heirs neo-dictatorship



 



The maelstrom is forming

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 20:34:59 PST

For readers of this blog it should not be a surprise that the regime has chosen naked repression. The nomination of Tareck El Aissami as vice president was a clear indication of that. The man is a born killer, in search of a vengeance as early as his days in college.It is not that Tareck IS the man, he is just the willing agent, the front of the "civilian" radical wing of chavismo, the one closely tied to Cuban interests to which Maduro, Jaua and some other belong. They may or may not be die hard communists, some do not have the intellectual baggage to know what Marxism is truly about. But they all have a mean anti system streak and if they have joined totalitarian regimes from the left side it is strictly a matter of historical moment.So what has pushed that radical side to act? And act it did. Plenty of opposition leaders accused of conspiracy are being detained illegally as I type. And as I type the regime is also starting to clamp down on the embers of private enterprise. And one can expect any time that the very few independent papers left will close. And Internet is getting worse by the day and it is quite likely that the regime will block it any time soon.So what triggered that angry regime reaction? Many things are listed next in no particular order except for the last one which is our T time.The regime has managed to kill the recall election against Maduro. Now that it has two solid years ahead one could have expect some form of quiet. But no. The truth is that recall election or not the regime remains on shaky grounds. On the economic front leaked data would seem to indicate that the Central Bank of Venezuela is dealing with a 20%+ drop in the GDP while inflation for 2016 may have reached 800%+. The refusal of the regime to take any serious action to counter that implies further degradation and the regime, controlled by Cubans, know that. They may actually wish it as a way to control the populace through starvation diet. But there would be a cost.The military remains an enigma even for the regime. That it has also started this week a purge in military ranks can only confirm such suspicions. Maybe the regime knows that the army was not going to fire at hungry crowds and it needed to purge it fast before the economy grew worse. Maybe it is just scared of a coup for which many motives exist. Let's remember that not all in the military are implied in drug trafficking and those do not see any reason to sacrifice themselves for those who did partake in drug traffic.The international scene is not good either. Today the dialogue regime-opposition was supposed to restart but nothing happened and nobody was surprised. Even the foreign "pressure" on dialogue has become a lip service of sorts. As a matter of fact in a very late coming moment of lucidity the Obama administration has decided today to maintain in place the measures against the Venezuelan regime, extending them by a year. Surely this is something that will be of help for the coming Trump administration.All of these developments have been known for a while by the regime. And even though the recall election has been killed the constitution clearly states that last December we should have had governor elections, followed by mayors. They were promised for the first semester of 2017 on flimsy reasons. Since the regime is sure to lose them these elections have not been convoked yet, and by now the logistics rule out these elections before June 2017. Which basically means that these will be held when convenient, preferably when the opposition has been made illegal so that we will have some form of one party electoral system. Even losing only half of states is simply unacceptable for the regime.The regime was simply looking for an excuse to start its repression and the National Assembly gave one by declaring the political responsibility of the crisis on president Maduro, in a legal figure here called "abandono del cargo" which does not mean that Maduro is AWOL of Miraflores Palace but that he is not performing his job according to his constitutional obligations. That [...]



2017 perspectives

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 20:11:37 PST

Certainly it is a fool's errand to make any predictions for 2017, even if it is this time of the year when pundits dust off their crystal balls. Yet, this week has seen enough action that we can confidently describe the engines that will drive the political year. With a 97,63% odds for the country to crash in a wall.The regime is cornered. So Maduro, trying to rise above chavismo divisions and his fears that the military may not be fully behind him, did his ultimate provocation: to name a radical cabinet where the intentions are clear. Those are to break anything that is not already fully controlled by the regime. The short list is the opposition leadership, the rump private sector still existing (least they would fund a political campaign for dog catcher), universities and private education. That is all I think, there is nothing else left.For this he has named avowed communists to economic posts, and radical narko and/or terrorists at the security levels. The military still control the key posts of defense and food, those where the money is. Not to improve these sectors, but to make sure that they are the ones to take their slice first. Journalists Hannah Dreier and Joshua Goodman had a wonderful, frightening piece about how corrupt is the Venezuelan army at all levels. I can vouch from my own experiences, personal ones and those of my clients and providers they these writers are not exaggerating a bit. In fact I could tell worse stories if I were not afraid of my own security and of those involved. Remember: this is a dictatorship and I write FROM Venezuela. Besides, even if I were to report on such things to which Venezuelan court should I go? This will have to wait for better days when it will become possible to prosecute criminals. Meanwhile there is plenty of work to be done elsewhere.Faced with the perspective of more repression, more looting, more ruin, more misery, more hunger, more disease, the National Assembly did the only thing it could do, throw away any pretense of dialogue and challenge the regime.  The challenge is simple; let's have general elections for everything and see who "el pueblo" is with. That is truly the only thing the opposition can do as the high court of Venezuela has stripped it unconstitutionally of its prerogatives. Never mind that Maduro has even cut any funds for the Assembly as representatives have not gotten a pay check in months, apparently.The opposition also threw a direct challenge at the Venezuelan Army by telling them they should chose between a narco/terrorist regime or democracy.  The army replied swiftly with the expected words from Defense minister Padrino as to Maduro being inside the constitution and the opposition not (he counted the votes in 2015, he knows first hand who is on top even if he pretends to the contrary). But his words of fealty to Maduro are not interesting, the speed of his reply is. Clearly in front of such a challenge a careful worded answer would have needed a couple of days. Certainly an immediate buzz Trump-like tweet could have been sent, but the reply with all necessary arguments should have taken longer. That it was so speedy and so incomplete and almost besides the point tells me that the army is now controlled by a tight small committee that does not consult any one else in the ranks. I am taking here at most of a couple of  dozen generals and admirals (note that Venezuela has more generals than the US). Far from reassuring, that Padrino letter raises more doubts about what is really going on inside the army and what hold he has at this point.Thus in front such stern positions there is no point in awaiting for a renewed dialogue. The opposition has stated clearly that it does not plan to attend on January 13 and thus the regime sent the bro/sis team to the Vatican in a hurry to try to have the Vatican seat the opposition leadership. At least Jorge and Delcy did have time for some lingerie shopping, they do have dollars you see. yet, note that mediators are not back in town and that they had to go to Ro[...]



And the year starts with a bang

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 21:11:08 PST

Today the National Assembly sessions for 2017 started, without the regime dissolving it. Actually chavismo representatives attended though they denounced that the Assembly was illegal, and that they would not even bother naming their whip. The chair for this year sessions is Julio Borges, replacing Ramos Allup. In his inaugural speech he took no gloves. He said that the objective of the Assembly was to find a way to get rid of the terrible government of Nicolas Maduro. And he demanded that the army faced up to its responsibilities: either support Maduro and its narco state, going down with him in infamy, or force him to accept elections and restore constitutional rule. Borges could have not been any clearer, and challenged the regime just as this one named the most leftist, castroite, communist narko cabinet since 1998.So let's see what this all means.But first, a little summary of what is the legal role of the Assembly now, and what the vice president of Venezuela is good for. (1)The TSJ high court of Venezuela has ruled that the National Assembly is working outside the law because it has recognized the election of three representatives of Amazonas state whose election has been challenged. I am not going into the legalese here. Suffice to say that the election has been held thirteen months ago and the TSJ has yet to rule about the validity of the election. In no democracy such a delay in deciding an election is acceptable. Most democracies can hold by-elections in a matter of weeks, and correcting the electoral problem, like reviewing voter registry, does not take more than an extra month or so. There is absolutely no excuse for these by elections not to have been held by June 2016. The trick here is that as long as the validity of that election is not decided then the National Assembly does not have the 2/3 majority needed for some laws since the TSJ does not recognize the Amazonas representatives EVEN THOUGH they refuse to rule on their election. But the TSJ goes further than the 2/3 requirement: it is an excuse to throw out any legislation passed by the Assembly.In short, the regime has no interest in settling the electoral issue since it is a perfect excuse to overthrow any action the Assembly may vote. It has nothing to do with democracy, it is all about retaining power even though the people has decided other wise on December 6.As such the challenge speech of Borges is very simple to explain: since the regime will not recognize the Assembly under any circumstance, since the regime will not accept an electoral solution, then the only thing left is to challenge and force the regime to go to the logical conclusion of its totalitarian nature and dissolve the Assembly once and for all. Or quit. There is no dialogue, no nothing. The regime made it an either or situation.In case you do not get it yet, it means that the Assembly is getting ready to organize protest all time, everywhere until it finally calls for the application of article 350 of the constitution which gives people the right not to recognize branches of government that do not follow the constitution. Yes, that crazy provision exists and will surely lead us to civil war.The other thing in this game of thrones is the vice presidency. As of January 11, who ever has been APPOINTED without an election to the office of the vice president will become the automatic successor of Maduro if something were to happen to him. Otherwise the office of vice president of Venezuela is not even comparable to the one of prime minster in a parliamentary system. The Venezuelan Vice President is merely a super minister that takes care of the shop when the president is busy with something, like a trip overseas. The vice can be named and removed at will. The vice is, well, a bureaucrat who just becomes important after the president passes the 4 year mark of the 6 year term. Hence the importance this time around of Tareck El Aissami appointment yesterday. (2)Putting Tareck at that positon has several political meanings. One is t[...]



Maduro names the cabinet from hell

Wed, 04 Jan 2017 21:28:15 PST

The news came as a surprise. Not that a new cabinet was unexpected: around January 10 everyone expected Maduro to name a new Vice President, the one that would succeed him as president if he resigns, or is resigned. But no one expected Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah to become that vice-president. This is truly awful. And if you look at who is being named along to some key portfolios it gets worse.So let's start with our Tareck boy.Before we read into the nomination importance, let's look at his career. He is from a Syrian Druze family. Nothing wrong with being a Druze. Except that they support Assad and Chia and that sort of assorted terrorism (while those in Israel are well integrated in the state structure, go figure).When young he militated with the left and was on board with Chavez, with a quick ascent (through Chavez brother who was a teacher of him it seems).He was associated for 5 years with the Interior ministry, eventually becoming the minister himself before Chavez placed him in the crucial state of Aragua as governor. This is extremely important because Tareck was always at hand when the drug traffic system of Venezuela was organized big time. It was also the period when Chavez became interested in paramilitary ventures from the bolivarian militia to the dreaded colectivos of today. Amen of the close links to Iran and Syria, such as the weekly flight to Teheran for which there was no way to get a seat.As a result Tareck El Assaimi was named in the Wall Street journal among those officials in Venezuela investigated by the DEA and what not for illicit activities. There is no doubting why Tareck easily deserves a spot there. In Spanish here, with pic included.Since he has been governor he has the reputation to spend more time in Caracas than Maracay. It is to be noted that at first Chavez wanted him far in Tachira but Tareck had ways to impose his presence close to the action, Indeed he has been quite vocal in particular against any dialogue or any concession for the opposition. That he lost badly, real bad in Aragua assembly vote in December 2015 certainly angered him. Let's note that his own election in 2012 was with a surprising 55% in a state that normally historically gives 60% or more to leftist parties. He is clearly an imposed figure there, but his time has come.There is only one reading possible in naming Tareck El Assaimi vice president of Venezuela at a time where he could become president until 2019 without an election if something were to happen to Nicolas Maduro. An appointed president, without a vote anywhere. Think about this: a terrorist sympathizer, milita and paramilitary organizer, likely drug trafficker, indicted in the US, is now the vice president of Venezuela. A vice president that cannot travel in any country with Interpol.The message is clear, the regime has appointed somebody that has no problem to dip his hands in blood. Why do you think this is for? What would be the regime's intentions for the next few months?How come he made it to such a position above so many big sharks in the pond? Because Tareck represents several groups. The terrorists with unsavory links across the world, but not the largest of chavismo group. But surely he has the contacts. He also represents the civilian narco economic wing. The wing that became drug trafficker by cupidity and pleasure rather than following geopolitical orders from Fidel and Hugo. I am not making any excuses for the military who "followed orders": all drug capos end up in the same gutter of violence. He is also a voice for the radical commie left civilian section (more below). He also has links with the corrupt bolibourgeoisie though if I were them I would think about leaving the country because Tareck knows where and how to get money if he needs it. As such his main ally in the regime is Diosdado Cabello and we could almost assume that he is the anti military establishment candidate, having only those deeply in drug trafficking on his side. Is this a provocati[...]



A vision of 2017

Sun, 01 Jan 2017 21:57:13 PST

While Diosdado Cabello was scheming to dismiss once and for all the National Assembly, on January 3 while on a flight to Punto Fijo a plane mechanical problem forced him into emergency landing in Curaçao. During the protocolar routine registry of the plane weapons and money were found, forcing Curaçao gouvernement to hold Cabello in the island and giving time to the US to officially demand extradition on January 5, with a duly request to the Netherlands. On December 6 the Venezuelan Navy decided to blockade Curaçao but as the first ship arrived in view of Willemstad a US fighter dropped a charge a few hundred meters ahead showing that they were determined to get their man this time around. This coupled, of course, with the US Navy receiving orders to protect the shipping lanes to and from Curaçao. On December 10 Cabello was flown to the US as relations were totally severed between Venezuela and Canada, USA and the Netherlands.Meanwhile in Caracas the MUD opposition broke over supporting Diosdado Cabello since the US had released evidence against Cabello and by a one vote majority installed as a new chair to the National Assembly that refused to support Cabello. The regime declared the National Assembly in treason to the fatherland and on December 19 the TSJ high court dissolved it while the army seized the National Assembly at night.Even though a blackout in communication was established the MUD managed to call for massive demonstrations on January 23, the anniversary of 1958, the year when democracy returned to Venezuela. If the extensive rallies were pacific in nature the "colectivos" did manage provocations and the Nazional Guard with Maduro, in fear of future such displays of street power decided to repress. This one got out of hand and by January 25 we could count more than 200 killed, scores of injured and jailed people.Mercosur struck back first and in an unanimous vote expelled Venezuela on January 30. Venezuela severed relations with Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. But Uruguay decided to sever relations anyway on February 2, annulling a ridiculous attempt at division by Venezuela playing favorites. At the same time on February 2 the chair of UNASUR was disowned by 5 countries who refused to gather for a summit unless Samper was ousted and a condemnation against Maduro's regime violence was unanimous and public. Thus died UNASUR, useless from day one of its existence.Meanwhile as the Obama administration faded the new State Secretary made no bones in pressuring the OAS to condemn Venezuela by implementing once and for all the Democratic Charter in its full force. Sensing that this could mean the end of the OAS just as UNASUR unraveled, consensus build fast for this outcome and by February 9 it was clear what the vote at the OAS would be. Amen of the European Union condemnation of Venezuela for its attempted attack against one of its members state in late January.The regime was unable to deal with the situation not only because its crimes could not be excused but also because its foreign service made mistake over mistake. In spite of Cuba's help and threats by February 8 six countries in the Americas had broken with Cuba as the US reversed all signs of ouverture left from Obama's rapprochement policy. It was time for the regime to take a dose of Realiticum. On February 10 Maduro appointed Vladimir Padrino as president, replaced Delcy Rodriguez at the foreign ministry dispatching in a hurry Timoteo Zambrano as new minister to the OAS assembly, and resigned.If Padrino could not stop the OAS from suspending Venezuela he did get a few days before sanctions were fully decided upon. But democracy was not going to return just like that. After all, half of the National Assembly was either in jail or in exile and two dead. Besides the corrupt military was ready to repress further thinking, naively, that removing Maduro was enough. As a consequence of that army division on February 20 a limited agreement was sig[...]



And now what?

Mon, 26 Dec 2016 18:27:48 PST

I have been avoiding it, but it is time to think about what these last weeks mean for Venezuela. Whether we like it, political tectonics are at work and January announces itself as a very difficult month, though January may start before December 31. To try to simplify this a little bit let's start with what apparently not even tectonic forces can change.The premise of the political crisis is that a group of gangsters have taken over the country and there is no way they are going to forgo control because they know that any improvement in governance means that they will end up in jail. It is that simple, it explains it all. It even explains why the outside world is not doing much because they know that gangsters can only be disposed off through violence. After all, the democratic West did nothing for Aleppo, why should we assume they would do something for Caracas? I am looking at you Obama, by the way.The other factor that is not changing and makes the above one the worse is the economic crisis. The nature of this one at this point is such that only a change of personnel at Miraflores Palace can offer a faint hope of improvement. What happened in December with state sponsored confiscations, reaction looting and currency debacle should carve that in.Thus we can discuss the options for each side.Chavismo has a Maduro problem. His erratic behavior and his absolute incompetence keeps making the crisis worse by the day. Until now he had the legitimacy that Chavez gave him which was replaced fast by the need for a figure head to preside over the country while corrupts, gangs, Cubans and the like fought it out over controlling Venezuela. This will not do anymore.Maduro (or the people he spoke for) have made two grievous mistakes. The first one was to pass a budget without it being voted as a law by the National Assembly. That unconstitutional fiat was bad enough, as no one would lend money without a legal process of state guarantee.  But it got worse for would be lenders, if any. The stupendous crass management of the banknote change early this month has killed any credit or authority he may have had inside chavismo. That is, deciding that the 100 banknote was illegal, then shortening the time for exchange and deposit the notes, and THEN offer a spectacular neck breaking U-turn once rioting started is the kind of political mistake that will kill the love of your most ardent supporters. While making sure that no one will lend you a penny. Not a slight petty problem for a bankrupt country.Maduro is done, he cannot rule anymore. In any country with a semblant of normal he would have resigned by now, or asked to do so by his own party. Nobody will willingly obey him anymore. For Maduro and chavismo there are only two paths ahead, either go the massive repression way as of right now, or resign mid January to let a newly named vice president, likely a general, to deal with the last two years of the presidential term. I am going on record that by March first 2017 we will either have a new president or hundreds of new political prisoners with possibly hundreds of killed folks. Though the two are not exclusive, unfortunately....On the opposition side the ability to resit and offer solutions seems gone to naught. The dialogue forced upon it by Obama though Thomas Shannon has proven its undoing. It should not have been so but it has. We have reached the point were the leadership of the opposition is admitting that they underestimated the resolve of the regime. Clearly, they would have benefited from reading this blog.The reason for such paralysis is that some inside the opposition alliance will not agree on any hard measure of active resistance unless the result ensures them to be on top. If that is not possible then these people have no major problem in helping the regime survive until the time comes for them to be on top. How extensive is this inside the opposition leadership I do not know. But it [...]



Such a sad Christmas

Sat, 24 Dec 2016 15:21:32 PST

This is the saddest Christmas I have ever seen in Venezuela. Admittedly Christmas may be sad for some according to family or health issues, but the country as a while still somehow manages to get into the spirit. But this year people gave up. They just gave up.How could it be otherwise? People do not even have enough cash, literally, for shopping the Christmas essentials. In Venezuela that would be to build up an Hallaca, the Christmas dish. And even if you had enough banknotes, or a well furbished checking account, there are so many staples that cannot be found or are so far out of reach that many this year will have no hallaca on their plates. And many will simply have little on their plate. Period.Last week was a frantic obstacle course for yours truly, combining a chimio session for the S.O. to buy enough food basics to hold out until January 15 at the very least. Thus I saw Caracas first hand.Christmas decorations, to begin with, are limited to perfunctory ones in banks and the like. Rare are the private homes or appartements with any light hanging in front. In fact, in my street only one house has the full gaudy display. NO OTHER neighbor put even a light on a window.But if you think that my choice of starting with decorations is frivolous, let me tell you that it is on purpose, to delay my writing on the other nasty stuff. The lines have been humongous all week, For food, for a few banknotes at the banks, What was worse is that the regime after stealing all the toys from the main Caracas importer has decided to also steal the clothes from EPK, a business on children clothes, etc. I cannot tell you how pathetic, how a feel-terrible experience is to watch hundreds of people standing in long lines to benefit of that loot. What a miserable populace this country has become.Traffic has been almost as horrendous as in normal days. Few left on holiday. Few can travel over seas. Few will bother to travel visit their relatives as the food and services situation outside of Caracas is much worse than in Caracas. It would be an unfair imposition on your relatives. You'll have to do without family reunion this year.Sadder still is the amount of people scavenging, everywhere it seems. The worst for me was when I stopped at a given pharmacy in the never ending search for this or that. When I came back to my car I was startled to see somehow sitting down at the opposite corner of my car. Having been robbed three times this year I was duly concerned. And then I realized that the chap, a late teenager, skinny but with a baseball cap and bermudas, was eating something he had found in the trash bags next on the sidewalk. I do not know how I did not puke. Maybe I was so angry, with such a need to cry that it cancelled....This is really getting awful, and the "needs" of the season make you more aware of your everyday misery and the hopelessness that settles everywhere. Even the regime in spite of a continued stream of cheap propaganda with people dancing folk dances, I suppose to let us get used tot he idea that soon we will lose communication with the outside world, cannot convince "el pueblo" who looks the saddest. How is it possible that you spend December 23 in line to get, say, a liter of oil? That there will be nothing for the kids?  Not even food in some cases? What TV propaganda show can make up for that? How cynical the regime can get?But Christmas is also a thanksgiving time for those of us who live outside the US.  I am thankful that I get to spend one more with my SO and that I ruined myself but was able to get him the curent chimio treatment. He will not join, yet, the list of those who have stopped treatment in a country where you cannot even find morphine to assuage your last days.Not in VenezuelaI am thankful that my elderly parents are safe and confortable in France and got used to the idea that they will never be able to return to Venezuela. In fac[...]



The Grinch that DID steal Christmas

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 20:14:47 PST

On November first Nicolas Maduro announced that Christmas had started and he went as far as already lightening up the traditional cross on the Avila mountain which is normally turned on December 1. Well, since then he did his utmost to wreck the Christmas of joy he promised in spite of shortages, crime and what not. After what happened this week, he has definitely wrecked Christmas for all, without possible redemption by December 24.The news of today are dramatic, and even tragic as there is at least one dead protester/looter. At this point people are hungry and frustrated enough so the line between looter and protester is easily crossed.Reports of looting and protests from all around Venezuela came in. They included even the looting of banks in the belief that the regime kept inside the new bills that are not appearing anywhere. And that is the crux of the problem, the regime has not made available the proposed new bills as it was taken away all the ones that were the blood line of a wrecked economy.For your understanding. A large portion of Venezuelan everyday economy is run through cash transactions, in particular outside of Caracas. There is a very large sector of the population that does not hold a real job and do not even have a savings account. And even if they have one, they probably do not have an ATM card (not that this matters much as ATM are not delivering bills these days). And in many small towns and villages there may not even be a bank, and if they have electronic payment points those are limited to very few stores and do not work well due to the distance and bad communications with rerouters and the like.As a consequence of that a large chunk of the population did not deposit their 100 banknotes because they had nowhere to deposit them. They had to wait for today when the banknote exchange would officially start at the state owned banks and the Central Bank. But it did not happen and the population were furious when the only thing offered, if at all, was a certificate of deposit to be honored when the new bills would arrive.  How would these people buy food? Take the bus? Buy something for their child's fever? Even less, prepare for Christmas?  No wonder we had serious stuff happening all through the day (I re tweeted some, you can find them on my time line on the right).What is quite amazing is how tone deaf the regime has been. Last night Maduro pushed his chutzpah at reducing the number of days allowed for exchange at the Central Bank, probably assuming that most people had deposited. It is simply amazing that a government of "el pueblo" ignores the real life conditions of that "el pueblo". But tonight we learned that in spite of Maduro words the Central Bank will open this week end...  We'll see, and at any rate in an unsafe area of Caracas at 10 PM people were in line at the Central Bank building. Also, additional proof of the regime utter mess is announcing that the subway would be free which is like applying a small bandage on a large open broken bleeding leg.To finish this post, there is no point in dwelling on how fucked up the regime is, how lost Christmas are, you just need to watch the news or read twitter to understand the magnitude of the disaster. Journalists are having a field day with a furious population that has unusually harsh words against Maduro. Let's instead try to perceive why the regime took such an idiotic, ill planned measure.From what I can gather, the leftist economic counselors of Maduro, from Cuba and Spain Podemos, suggested that a spiraling black market rate of the dollar could be countered by merely reducing the monetary mass.  That simplistic of a theory is believed, ignoring that the structural inflation of Venezuela is its lack of production due to a decade and a half of wrong headed economic decisions. To which you may add internal chavista infighting where [...]



And give us our everyday chaos

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 20:00:47 PST

This could well be the chavista prayer because these people truly thrive in chaotic conditions. Well, not always but they certainly manage better than most.As expected it was pandemonium today. Banks were closed Monday as per legal banking holiday several Mondays a year. So we had to wait for this morning to appreciate fully the effect of the crazy measure of last Sunday when Maduro annulled the 100 Bs, banknote, the highest denomination of a country deep in inflation.  Let me put it this way: the bank next to our office had a long line outside all day long, and that line was almost as long as the line for toilet paper that happened to arrive at the grocery store next door.Let's not get into the minutiae. The regime already backpedaled some by extending the time at which people will be able to deposit their bills, though not wanting to put Maduro into further ridicule the fiction of the 72 hours validity of the bill was kept. Yet many as of yesterday refuses to accept 100 bills. Though I suspect that at least some will keep accepting bills until Thursday now that they know they will be able to deposit these next week without having to trek downtown Caracas to the Central Bank offices.What has not happened is a coherent explanation for the measure. If you take individually any of the excuses presented by the intense propaganda machine, each and everyone can be taken down with ease. At this point my initial supposition written last Sunday is that this craziness originates into some intra-chavista gang dispute. Since they are all narko-crooks, they have no qualm in taking down the country with them if they can get their loot back, or avenge themselves, or ruin the guys that conned them. This is the way mafia wars work out.If you need proof you just need to observe that in spite of the calamitous situation of the country the high Court TSJ managed once again today to flout the constitution by naming the new Electoral Board above the will of the National Assembly. This story would deserve a full post so let's not get bogged down in that issue. My point here is that the country is falling appart, literally, and these people can only think about political treachery to keep their hold on power. That is their lone obsession. This example illustrates the issue the more so that elections are not even a solution to the problem anymore. Who truly cares who leads the CNE at this point?That deconnexion of the regime with the country reality is becoming an embarrassing gap for a regime that was born out of their alleged love of the lumpen. A deconnexion that is shared, by the way, with many of the opposition elites. One of the things I wrote Sunday night was the impact of the measure on the large portion of Venezuelan society that lives on cash, the lower economic classes that will suffer the most from the withdrawal of the 100 bills. But you had to wait for Monday to have this considered by opposition writers, most focusing first on money loads, reserves, amount of banknotes and other brainy issues that do not make an arepa appear on your plate this week.  In that way bizarrely rejoining the regime equally disconnected claims of economic agression and contraband of paper notes to Switzerland.......At least the regime today started realizing its gross political mistake among its followers, For example they have decided to force banks to open accounts with a mere ID card so people can deposit.  And they of course decided to extend the exchange period though not doing the real measure that would have helped them the most with their natural electorate, to disown Maduro 72 days death certificate of the 100 bill.  But the regime has a bigger problem on its hand. Among the news and videos circulating today on twitter we saw the looting downtown Caracas of a corn flour truck. From Barquisimeto we saw a furiou[...]



Recall Election gone. So what?

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 15:25:14 PDT

I suppose I should write about the annulation of the Recall Election.  I had guessed long ago that it would not happen. The intensity of the dislike toward Maduro is so strong, even among chavistas, that the regime could not allow CNN document the huge lines that would have formed for three days this week.  They had no stomach for that, it was better to use an idiotic legal sophistry and send it all ad patres.

To concur with the prevalent head line this week end that Venezuela is officially a dictatorship is an hypocrisy. I have long said it so and I am actually upset at some people having trying to avoid the D world finally pouting it. As if annulling the Recall Election was more despicable than, say, having political prisoners, forcing those freed into exile, stealing the budget of the nation, and more,

I will just comment on how ridiculous the pretext to kill the Recall Election was. In short, a sub judge in Podunk decided that the CNE had not done its job to vet all the signatures for the 1% collection to start the process. The ridicule, of declaring themselves incompetent through their beloved electoral ministry, CNE, is something they cannot worry about anymore. The obsessive objective is to never leave office. All considerations be dammed.

That is all that there is to it.

Now what?



So? Can we all agree on the D word?

Sat, 15 Oct 2016 19:37:46 PDT

This is kind of a melancholy post. For years now I have been calling this a dictatorship. It took sometime to start seeing it expressed in the foreign press. And even as I type there are some in Venezuela or overseas (I am looking at you, Zapatero just for today's denialist) that still refuse to use the D word, expecting who knows what leniency from who knows where.For me the D word applies since Chavez closed Radio Caracas in 2007. Or if you want a more material date you can use early 2013 when the constitutional coup of the moment allowed Maduro to become Chavez successor. And many other moments you may prefer. It really does not matter much, the dictatorial nature of the regime has been obvious from the start, from the very first social program of Chavez "Plan Bolivar 2000" that established the Venezuelan army as a discretionary manager of public money, and thus corruption.I remember it all. Try me.This year the dictatorship has been forced to become more frontal, more classical. Until this year the excuse that Venezuela was an autocratic regime and not a dictatorship was that the opposition did manage some electoral victories, that there were still an opposition paper here and there, albeit on trial. Etc. But all those were mere excuses. For the left there was no way that the beloved populist could have generated such a monstrously corrupt and inefficient system.  For the right it was that declaring Venezuela to be a dictatorship would mean taking action for which democrats seem to have lost the taste for, and for quite a while now. The last outrage and successful international take, if I remember well, was against Fujimori who in my book is not any worse than Chavez, and certainly less calamitous for the general welfare of the people. Honduras and Paraguay were mere side shows where the changes eventually prevailed because, well, these changes had a true legal foundation.But never was Chavez to be sternly criticized until Argentina's Macri made it to office. And yet, with more bark than bite so far.But now things have become unacceptable and Venezuela is preparing to be suspended from Mercosur in a little bit more than a month while the OAS may suddenly decided to make a concrete Democratic Chart application. Only Erdogan receives Maduro.Since last December the regime has proceded to the following:*Using the judicial power to block almost all actions from the National Assembly*Rule through a state of emergency system bypassing any legal control*Go through a wave of arrestations and creation of political prisoners without any legal supervision, with "evidence" planted directly by the people performing the arrest*Sue the last two remaining national daily papers*Block any control activity that the National Assembly has in the constitution*Suspend any election, going as far as saying that elections were not an important right*Dispose of national assets to find fresh cash*Decree that all remaining private companies must sell 50% of their production to the government*Etc...... including heavy intelligence insulting propaganda to pretend that all is fine and dandy in VenezuelaBut the latest was in my opinion a fatal mistake for the regime. Maduro decided that the National Budget would be approved by decree law, with the support of course of the Judicial Constitutional Court. Now, I am not going to go into the unconstitutional and illegal ways in which the regime decides taxation and how it disposes of the funds through appointed folks.Trust me, the case is clear against the regime. Since "No taxation without representation", and we know how that ended, it has been the rule in any and every democracy that the budget must be validated by a parliament. Even if that parliament is elected under fraud, but there must be a Parliament Act. Why is such a par[...]