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ccp
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« Reply #500 on: September 21, 2017, 09:04:23 PM »

It is the NYT : 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/opinion/trump-castro-venezuela.html?mcubz=1
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #501 on: October 24, 2017, 01:22:54 PM »

•   Venezuela:  Venezuela has entered the grace period for $321 million worth of coupon payments tied to the debt incurred by PDVSA, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, that were due to be canceled on Oct. 12. The government has until Oct. 27-Nov. 2 to pay roughly $2.3 billion in debt. The total amount of debt owed in the fourth quarter is $3.5 billion. There is increasing concern over a potential default. What happens if Caracas defaults?
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DougMacG
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« Reply #502 on: December 21, 2017, 12:51:21 PM »

The young men had already been tortured at an army base when soldiers piled them into two jeeps and transported them to a wooded area just outside the Venezuelan capital.

Stumbling in the dark, with T-shirts pulled over their faces and hands tied behind their backs, they were steered to an open pit. Soldiers then used machetes to deliver blow after blow to the base of their necks. Most suffered gaping wounds that killed them before they hit the ground.

Others, bleeding profusely but still alive, crumpled into the shallow grave as their killers piled dirt over their bodies to hide the crime.

“We think they were alive a good while as they died from asphyxia,” said Zair Mundaray, a veteran prosecutor who led the exhumation and investigation that pieced together how the killings unfolded. “It had to be a terrible thing.”

For Mr. Mundaray and his team of investigators, the massacre in this area east of Caracas in October 2016 was the most bloodthirsty of killings by security forces in a country riven by unspeakable violence.

Prosecutors, criminologists and human-rights groups say it was only one of many recurring and escalating lethal attacks carried out by police or soldiers.

The full scope of the alleged atrocities is beginning to surface publicly now.

WSJ excerpt from PJmedia: https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/283971/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-brutal-crime-crackdown-executions-machetes-and-8-292-dead-1513792219

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G M
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« Reply #503 on: December 21, 2017, 08:21:41 PM »

The young men had already been tortured at an army base when soldiers piled them into two jeeps and transported them to a wooded area just outside the Venezuelan capital.

Stumbling in the dark, with T-shirts pulled over their faces and hands tied behind their backs, they were steered to an open pit. Soldiers then used machetes to deliver blow after blow to the base of their necks. Most suffered gaping wounds that killed them before they hit the ground.

Others, bleeding profusely but still alive, crumpled into the shallow grave as their killers piled dirt over their bodies to hide the crime.

“We think they were alive a good while as they died from asphyxia,” said Zair Mundaray, a veteran prosecutor who led the exhumation and investigation that pieced together how the killings unfolded. “It had to be a terrible thing.”

For Mr. Mundaray and his team of investigators, the massacre in this area east of Caracas in October 2016 was the most bloodthirsty of killings by security forces in a country riven by unspeakable violence.

Prosecutors, criminologists and human-rights groups say it was only one of many recurring and escalating lethal attacks carried out by police or soldiers.

The full scope of the alleged atrocities is beginning to surface publicly now.

WSJ excerpt from PJmedia: https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/283971/
https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-brutal-crime-crackdown-executions-machetes-and-8-292-dead-1513792219



Marxists murdering people in pursuit of eutopia? I think this may have happened a time or two before...

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DougMacG
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« Reply #504 on: January 18, 2018, 09:18:00 AM »

https://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2018/01/15/venezuela_maduro_chavez_russia_china_112682.html
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DougMacG
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« Reply #505 on: January 18, 2018, 10:05:52 AM »

Oil production and revenues are declining - right when they really need the cash.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-oil-industry-takes-a-fall-1516271401

Venezuela’s Oil Production Is Collapsing
Sharp drop in output increases the odds of a debt default, worsens economic crisis
----------'

But they did get rid of the capitalists and the greedy oil companies.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 10:33:29 AM by DougMacG » Logged
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #506 on: January 25, 2018, 09:29:10 AM »

After the turn of the millennium, Venezuela enjoyed a windfall thanks to high oil prices that bankrolled massive public spending. Fast-forward a decade, however, and the situation is bleak: An insolvent central government and high inflation are impoverishing a whole generation of Venezuelans. The current situation will likely force any new administration to attempt major structural reforms to stabilize the economy over the next decade, beyond the current stopgap measures of slashing imports and printing more bolivars.

In the short term, the overriding political question centers on whether embattled President Nicolas Maduro will step aside to allow others to begin addressing the crisis. But even after any immediate solution to Venezuela's political impasse, the country's leaders will face the difficult task of fixing a broken economy. Venezuela's leaders may succeed in taming inflation within the decade, but they are likely to bequeath a country that is deprived of much of its energy revenue, professional talent and political stability.

A Long To-Do List for Reformers

Inflation is rising ever more quickly in the country, putting food and medicine beyond the reach of ordinary Venezuelans. In 2017, year-on-year inflation was 2,600 percent, according to estimates by the opposition-controlled legislature. The figure, however, is likely to rise throughout 2018, because a drop in imports, reduced access to foreign currency and the rapid expansion of the country's monetary base through the printing of new bolivars will all spur faster inflation. According to the International Monetary Fund, year-on-year inflation in 2018 could exceed 4,500 percent. Such high levels of inflation will continue to drive people to emigrate, will discourage foreign direct investment and other economic activity, and will lead to greater security problems, such as more looting and armed robberies. In fact, the country's economic catastrophe could evolve into a full-blown humanitarian crisis as increasing numbers of citizens seek a better life in neighboring states and as food becomes scarcer and more expensive.

If Maduro vacated his position, a new president and government would likely impose corrective measures to resolve the country's economic imbalances. Any solution to its inflationary woes will include measures to balance the country's budget (the budget deficit is running at approximately 20 percent of gross domestic product) and to downsize its overstaffed public sector. Another key task that awaits prospective economic reformers is the elimination of currency allocation mechanisms. The government's policy of strictly controlling the distribution of foreign currency has driven up the value of the dollar on the black market and consumer prices for food, medicine and other essential items. Authorities have so far hesitated to terminate the controls, probably because they provide an important source of profit for officials. The government has likewise been loath to slow the printing of bolivars because any such action would necessitate a heavier austerity program, which would result in mass public sector layoffs and would shrink the federal budget.
The Oil Well Runs Dry

But even if Venezuela succeeds in dampening hyperinflation, the country will find itself in the unenviable position of attempting economic recovery with a diminished energy sector. Oil production — which paid for everything from imported luxury goods to periodic handouts to the poorest citizens for decades — will likely continue to drop below its current lows. Venezuela produces about 1.9 million barrels of crude oil per day (almost half of what it produced in the late 1990s), and that output is expected to decline in the coming years, although the exact figure will depend on the amount of financing the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), can obtain and the degree to which global oil prices recover. Declining oil production is a side effect of the social policies pursued by the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in the early and mid-2000s, when the party effectively created the conditions for the state and private citizens to spend the oil windfall of the era, setting aside little for a rainy day. Currency control mechanisms, which were originally designed to exercise greater control over the flow of foreign currency to businesses and private citizens, became gateways to mass corruption due to the misallocation of government revenue. According to one estimate, corrupt individuals who fraudulently obtained dollars misappropriated approximately 28 percent of all oil revenue between 2003 and 2012. Instead of being used to finance imports, the money was embezzled.

Venezuela's serial loan defaults will also create a problem for any new government; ultimately, Caracas may have to settle with creditors on billions of dollars in outstanding debt, including the Chinese government and private bondholders. Settling these debts will entail years of legal battles and negotiations between the government and its creditors. Outside of oil production, Venezuela has historically pursued few economic activities that can fund high levels of government spending. Accordingly, by the time the country is back on the path to recovery, it will find itself eking out an existence with the lowest prospective oil revenue in several decades to fund such services as security, electricity, sanitation and roadwork. Investment in such public works as roads, electricity and sanitation will also trail the standards set by its neighbors. At the same time, any new government is likely to attempt to impose stricter conditions on the use of PDVSA revenues for social spending.

Even as Venezuela drags itself out of recession, it will have relatively few economic opportunities to offer its citizens.

Even as Venezuela drags itself out of recession, it will have relatively few economic opportunities to offer its citizens. Oil and natural gas will remain by far the largest source of foreign revenue, though growth in that sector will directly benefit few Venezuelans. Even if the country's extremely low salaries (the monthly minimum wage currently amounts to $3 at the black market exchange rate) attract some investment, such problems as poor transportation networks, rampant crime and an unreliable electrical grid will deter all but the most determined new investors in low-end manufacturing, retail and services. Larger foreign companies that have remained in the country throughout the crisis (such as auto manufacturers and food producers) will slowly recover, but the likelihood of continued endemic poverty will limit their ability to sell more valuable products, such as cars, to consumers in the country.
The Political Pushback that Awaits

Political tumult is also likely to accompany Venezuela's period of economic stabilization. The country's opposition is too weak to force Maduro from power, so any departure will depend on the president negotiating a deal with the U.S. government or a military coup by dissidents within the armed forces. If Maduro leaves power in the coming years, a new government will likely feature a hodgepodge of opposition and PSUV figures grafted on to a bureaucratic structure heavily linked to individuals within the current ruling party. Such a government would seek to implement economic recovery measures, but reversing the course on specific measures is likely to ignite great controversy. Any moves to fire nonessential government staff from the large public sector will likely spark protests and become fodder for the PSUV in an attempt to roll back the reforms. PSUV officials could also resist the elimination of well-oiled mechanisms for corruption, such as the currency allocation mechanisms. And because such graft has become so deep-rooted, any robust reforms to end such activity could fail.

Hyperinflation, violence, economic mismanagement and political turmoil are all likely to drive many of Venezuela's best and brightest overseas and impoverish those who stay in the decades to come. Acknowledging that the only way to go is up will compel any new government to implement painful reform measures to improve the perilous state of the economy, but the harmful consequences of today's inflation will live long into the future, relegating Venezuela's coming generations to a worse standard of living — regardless of any government's best efforts.
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DougMacG
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« Reply #507 on: January 25, 2018, 11:59:42 AM »

Kind of a long silence from Denny S.  I hope all is well.

We were looking for the failure of socialism as a way to rid the country of these tyrants and their policies through the ballot box.  We got the former without the latter.

Maduro thugs are (still) using murder to stay in power:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-venezuela-suffers-1516566034

At what point the US offers aid, and how?  It would seem to me that starvation is the breaking point and we are there, yet the dictator and his thugs keep pushing forward (backward).

Venezuelan Entropy - A closed system tends to disorder.  Looting and stealing food from markets destroys the incentive for the merchant to re-stock food, for example. The hyper-inflation is a losing spiral.  I don't see a solution from the inside that is fast enough to save the country without outside help. 

For the US to act, we would need:
1. Clear confirmation that the people want that.
2. A new, free election that removes Maduro and all thugs from power.
3. Full free market reforms that reverse socialism and make the assistance temporary.
4. Is the above even possible and is the chaos reversible?

If we don't act, Russia or China will?  Or no one will?  Where is the rest of Latin America on this?  Broke or immersed in their own problems?  If US private charities (or governments) send food and assistance without conditions, does that bolster the regime - guaranteeing more of the same?

Hyper-inflation: Is it really inflation or just a failed currency?  The US$ retains its purchasing power in Venezuela.

We hear silence from Trump so far, but what did the Obama administration do in 8 years other than prop up the regime?

Trump is a businessman and Venezuela is rich in resources.  Is there a way to help without fleecing our taxpayers and our own budget.  Foreign aid is not high on Trump's agenda but a win-win solutions should be.

Venezuela's source of outside currency is the oil they aren't producing.  The US is now the world's number one producer of oil.  If we could prop up their oil industry in a global market it would be to the detriment of ours?

Does someone see a way forward?  Stratfor frames the problem but not the solution.
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captainccs
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« Reply #508 on: January 25, 2018, 01:22:26 PM »

Denny is fine, thank you! Just tired of talk, talk, talk and no action. The Venezuelan opposition has been utterly useless. Maduro is NOT in charge, he is a puppet of the military. Chavez named him vice president because he was the safest, tamest, least dangerous lackey he could find. The military are in control, not Maduro. In the attached article Ricardo Hausmann says as much.

In an about face Ricardo Hausmann is calling for military intervention in Venezuela, something I was and still am against in principle. Ricardo Hausmann is no light weight!

Ricardo Hausmann, a former minister of planning of Venezuela and former Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank, is Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University and a professor of economics at the Harvard Kennedy School.

D-Day Venezuela
Jan 2, 2018 RICARDO HAUSMANN

As conditions in Venezuela worsen, the solutions that must now be considered include what was once inconceivable. A negotiated political transition remains the preferred option, but military intervention by a coalition of regional forces may be the only way to end a man-made famine threatening millions of lives.

CAMBRIDGE – The Venezuelan crisis is moving relentlessly from catastrophic to unimaginable. The level of misery, human suffering, and destruction has reached a point where the international community must rethink how it can help.

Two years ago, I warned of a coming famine in Venezuela, akin to Ukraine’s 1932-1933 Holomodor. On December 17, The New York Times published front-page photographs of this man-made disaster.

In July, I described the unprecedented nature of Venezuela’s economic calamity, documenting the collapse in output, incomes, and living and health standards. Probably the single most telling statistic I cited was that the minimum wage (the wage earned by the median worker) measured in the cheapest available calorie, had declined from 52,854 calories per day in May 2012 to just 7,005 by May 2017 – not enough to feed a family of five.

Since then, conditions have deteriorated dramatically. By last month, the minimum wage had fallen to just 2,740 calories a day. And proteins are in even shorter supply. Meat of any kind is so scarce that the market price of a kilogram is equivalent to more than a week of minimum-wage work.

Health conditions have worsened as well, owing to nutritional deficiencies and the government’s decision not to supply infant formula, standard vaccines against infectious diseases, medicines for AIDS, transplant, cancer, and dialysis patients, and general hospital supplies. Since August 1, the price of a US dollar has added an extra zero, and inflation has exceeded 50% per month since September.

According to OPEC, oil production has declined by 16% since May, down more than 350,000 barrels a day. To arrest the decline, President Nicolás Maduro’s government has had no better idea than to arrest some 60 senior managers of the state-owned oil company PDVSA and appoint a National Guard general with no industry experience to run it.

Rather than taking steps to end the humanitarian crisis, the government is using it to entrench its political control. Rejecting offers of assistance, it is spending its resources on Chinese-made military-grade crowd-control systems to thwart public protests.

Many outside observers believe that as the economy worsens, the government will lose power. But the organized political opposition is weaker now than it was in July, despite massive international diplomatic support. Since then, the government has installed an unconstitutional Constituent Assembly with full powers, deregistered the three main opposition parties, sacked elected mayors and deputies, and stolen three elections.

With all solutions either impractical, deemed infeasible, or unacceptable, most Venezuelans are wishing for some deus ex machina to save them from this tragedy. The best scenario would be free and fair elections to choose a new government. This is Plan A for the Venezuelan opposition organized around the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, and is being sought in talks taking place in the Dominican Republic.

But it defies credulity to think that a regime that is willing to starve millions to remain in power would yield that power in free elections. In Eastern Europe in the 1940s, Stalinist regimes consolidated power despite losing elections. The fact that the Maduro government has stolen three elections in 2017 alone and has blocked the electoral participation of the parties with which it is negotiating, again despite massive international attention, suggests that success is unlikely.

A domestic military coup to restore constitutional rule is less palatable to many democratic politicians, because they fear that the soldiers may not return to their barracks afterwards. More important, Maduro’s regime already is a military dictatorship, with officers in charge of many government agencies. The senior officers of the Armed Forces are corrupt to the core, having been involved for years in smuggling, currency and procurement crimes, narco-trafficking and extra-judicial killings that, in per capita terms are three times more prevalent than in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines. Decent senior officers have been quitting in large numbers.3

Targeted sanctions, managed by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), are hurting many of the thugs ruling Venezuela. But, measured in the tens of thousands of avoidable deaths and millions of additional Venezuelan refugees that will occur until the sanctions yield their intended effect, these measures are too slow at best. At worst, they will never work. After all, such sanctions have not led to regime change in Russia, North Korea, or Iran.

This leaves us with an international military intervention, a solution that scares most Latin American governments because of a history of aggressive actions against their sovereign interests, especially in Mexico and Central America. But these may be the wrong historical analogies. After all, Simón Bolívar gained the title of Liberator of Venezuela thanks to an 1814 invasion organized and financed by neighboring Nueva Granada (today’s Colombia). France, Belgium, and the Netherlands could not free themselves of an oppressive regime between 1940 and 1944 without international military action.1

The implication is clear. As the Venezuelan situation becomes unimaginable, the solutions to be considered move closer to the inconceivable. The duly elected National Assembly, where the opposition holds a two-thirds majority, has been unconstitutionally stripped of power by an unconstitutionally appointed Supreme Court. And the military has used its power to suppress protests and force into exile many leaders including the Supreme Court justices elected by the National Assembly in July.

As solutions go, why not consider the following one: the National Assembly could impeach Maduro and the OFAC-sanctioned, narco-trafficking vice president, Tareck El Aissami, who has had more than $500 million in assets seized by the United States government. The Assembly could constitutionally appoint a new government, which in turn could request military assistance from a coalition of the willing, including Latin American, North American, and European countries. This force would free Venezuela, in the same way Canadians, Australians, Brits, and Americans liberated Europe in 1944-1945. Closer to home, it would be akin to the US liberating Panama from the oppression of Manuel Noriega, ushering in democracy and the fastest economic growth in Latin America.2

According to international law, none of this would require approval by the United Nations Security Council (which Russia and China might veto), because the military force would be invited by a legitimate government seeking support to uphold the country’s constitution. The existence of such an option might even boost the prospects of the ongoing negotiations in the Dominican Republic.

An imploding Venezuela is not in most countries’ national interest. And conditions there constitute a crime against humanity that must be stopped on moral grounds. The failure of Operation Market Garden in September 1944, immortalized in the book and film A Bridge Too Far, led to famine in the Netherlands in the winter of 1944-1945. Today’s Venezuelan famine is already worse. How many lives must be shattered before salvation comes?

Ricardo Hausmann

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/venezuela-catastrophe-military-intervention-by-ricardo-hausmann-2018-01
 
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Denny Schlesinger
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« Reply #509 on: January 25, 2018, 02:20:28 PM »

 shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked

Glad to hear you are well Denny!
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DougMacG
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« Reply #510 on: January 25, 2018, 03:24:09 PM »

"Glad to hear you are well Denny!"

Likewise!

If the military is in charge and Maduro is the puppet, and that makes sense to me, then his resignation or a free election alone doesn't change anything. 

From the RICARDO HAUSMANN piece:
"Rather than taking steps to end the humanitarian crisis, the government is using it to entrench its political control. Rejecting offers of assistance, it is spending its resources on Chinese-made military-grade crowd-control systems to thwart public protests."

"...it defies credulity to think that a regime that is willing to starve millions to remain in power would yield that power in free elections."

"the National Assembly could impeach Maduro and the OFAC-sanctioned, narco-trafficking vice president, Tareck El Aissami, ...and constitutionally appoint a new government, which in turn could request military assistance from a coalition of the willing, including Latin American, North American, and European countries. ...  According to international law, none of this would require approval by the United Nations Security Council (which Russia and China might veto), because the military force would be invited by a legitimate government seeking support to uphold the country’s constitution."


This is the first, real solution I have seen.  I like this plan because it involves assistance and force by legitimate invitation and would not be the US acting alone when we aren't directly threatened.  I hope they do it soon before the military closes the assembly.
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captainccs
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« Reply #511 on: January 25, 2018, 06:07:39 PM »

I believe one is duty bound to vote in a democracy. Until Chavez took power I had never missed an election. I even voted in the primary of a party I don't belong to (I never have been a party member). I abstained in one election when the opposition advised abstaining which turned out to be a mistake. Last year I didn't vote because elections are openly rigged, candidates are banned, gerrymandering has been raised to an art form giving some people two votes, and to top it all, the opposition is feckless.

A curious incident happend on a corner near where I live. A street vendor was selling home made ice cream. A group of street walkers bought some but failed to pay. Half a block away were stationed some soldiers supposedly to keep order. The ice cream vendor asked them for help. They made fun of him and sided with the street walkers. This happened across the street from a tire shop I have been using for over 25 years and they gave me these details.

There are no police on the streets, they are patrolled by various military groups whose mission is not to protect the people but to protect the government from the ire of the people. On one such military outpost there is a slogan that says "Socialist Justice." Is there more than one kind of justice? It's all sloganeering. The theft of a country. I've been saying since 2012 that the only way to remove these gangsters is by force and it will come to that, sooner or later. Ricardo Husmann's turnabout is a clear sign that this idea is finally taking root.

Denny Schlesinger
 
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Denny Schlesinger
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« Reply #512 on: February 08, 2018, 05:34:12 PM »

 
       

Feb 8, 2018 | 20:54 GMT
5 mins read
Would Venezuela Invade Guyana?
According to an unconfirmed report, a Brazilian government delegation plans to meet with Guyana and Suriname about a possible Venezuelan military incursion into Guyana.
(BEYHANYAZAR/iStock)



    According to an unconfirmed report, a Brazilian government delegation plans to meet with Guyana and Suriname about a possible Venezuelan military incursion into Guyana.
    For Venezuela, entering Guyanese territory could delay an International Court of Justice border ruling and even grant Caracas a bargaining chip in amnesty negotiations with the United States.
    The incursion would come with great risks for Caracas, as it may invite a harsh response from Washington.

A Brazilian delegation's quick trip to Guyana and Suriname suggests things are moving beneath the surface of the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana. On Feb. 7, Brazilian President Michel Temer approved a trip by Defense Minister Raul Jungmann, Justice Minister Torquato Jardim and Institutional Security Cabinet Chief Sergio Etchegoyen to Guyana and Suriname. According to Agencia Estado, the visit's purpose is to discuss border security with the Guyanese and Surinamese governments. However, an unconfirmed report in Brazilian paper O Antagonista claimed the real reason behind the visit was to share information that Brazil's intelligence services had learned about Venezuela considering a military incursion into Guyana.

Venezuela has claimed ownership over the Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River since 1962. But recently, the U.N. Secretary General referred the border dispute issue to the International Court of Justice, which may issue a binding decision on the matter within the next several years. According to the O Antagonista report, Brazil's information claims that the Venezuelan government is considering siezing that territory. On Feb. 8, the Brazilian ministers visited their country's Roraima state, an area bordering Guyana and Venezuela that has seen tens of thousands of Venezuelan refugees pour across the border in recent months as unrest in the country grows.
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captainccs
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« Reply #513 on: February 09, 2018, 07:50:00 AM »

When in trouble, make war!  evil
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Denny Schlesinger
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« Reply #514 on: February 17, 2018, 01:12:17 PM »

 




Iran, Russia, and China's Central Role in the Venezuela Crisis
by Joseph M. Humire
Gatestone Institute
February 14, 2018
http://www.meforum.org/7206/iran-russia-and-china-central-role-in
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 U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just completed, by most accounts, a successful visit to Latin America. He began his five-nation tour by invoking the Monroe Doctrine and suggesting the Venezuelan military could manage a "peaceful transition" from the authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro. This reminded several regional observers of President Trump's suggestion last year of a possible "military option" for Venezuela, hinting at possible U.S. or multilateral intervention to stop the country's collapse.
Any party in the Western Hemisphere seeking to undertake military intervention in Venezuela— including Venezuela's own military—must take into account the role Iran, Russia and China have played in the crisis. Russia and China were prominently mentioned by Tillerson during his visit to the region; Iran, however, was notably absent from his remarks.

Most regional analysts will likely agree that Venezuela has become a Cuban-occupied country. With more than 30,000 Cubans embedded in Venezuela, many of whom are part of the intelligence and security apparatus, it's clear that the Castro brothers played an integral role in the country's collapse. However, this narrative of Cuban intervention misses two key points. First, it fails to identify precisely Cuba's role in Venezuela, and, secondly, it ignores the presence and influence of other key extra-regional actors.

External support from China, Russia, and Cuba has contributed significantly to propping up the Venezuelan government during the last decade.

Of these, Russia and China are perhaps the two most visible. As in Syria, and, historically, in Central America, Russia is the primary supplier of military aidand technical support to the Venezuelan armed forces. Venezuela represents 75% of Russia's total foreign military sales in the region, accounting for more than $11 billion in arms sales.

Additionally, the Russian state-owned energy firm, Rosneft, has provided Venezuela with an estimated $17 billion in financing since 2006. Moscow has leveraged its collateral deals to acquire expanded stakes in Venezuela's oilfields—specifically, the heavy-crude Orinoco belt—providing Russia greater control of Venezuela's strategic energy assets.
Russia is not alone in translating Venezuelan debt into strategic assets. According to the International Institute of Finance, China holds more than $23 billion in Venezuela's foreign debt, making it the country's largest creditor. Through these credits and loans, Beijing is the primary benefactor and principal banker to the South American nation, yielding enormous leverage over the state.

Chinese energy companies are also gaining an increasing share of Venezuela's most lucrative oil field, the Faja Del Orinoco (FDO). China secured a 25-year land grant to the FDO. In exchange, China has used its checkbook to fund many of the nation's social programs, such as subsidized housing and free medical clinics.
 
Pictured: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro visits Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Iran on October 22, 2016.

External support from China, Russia, and Cuba has buoyed the Venezuelan government during the last decade. Cuba's robust counterintelligence and human intelligence networks, which permeate Venezuela's highest political and military levels, are indispensable to China and Russia because of their operational knowledge of Russian-supplied equipment, along with their longstanding ties to communist clandestine networks.

In this context, it is hard to imagine a strategy that would remove Havana's presence from Venezuela without first passing through Moscow or Beijing. Iran, on the other hand, can operate independently in Venezuela because it taps into a separate, more robust clandestine network that has been developing in Latin America for more than half a century.

Approximately 60% of the population of the city of As-Suwayda in southwestern Syria (pop. 139,000, according to the 2004 census) are Venezuelan-born dual citizens. Many more have arrived since 2009. The district of As-Suwayda (same name as the city) has been dubbed "Little Venezuela." Estimates indicate that upwards of 300,000 Syrians from the As-Suwayda Governorate currently live halfway around the world in Venezuela. According to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, more than a million Syrians reside there. This Syria-Venezuela connection could represent a clandestine network managed by Iran and critical to the advancement of Chavez's "Bolivarian revolution."

As in the Syria conflict, Iran's primarily role is preparing the Venezuelan battlefield through a range of operations in irregular warfare, using non-state actors and surrogates to gain influence over the population. Its influence is often not visible on the ground, but it was evident when Iranian-trained forces helped repress anti-regime protestors in 2017. During anti-Maduro demonstrations, the motorcycle-riding members of the Venezuelan civilian militias known as Collectivos were clearly modeled on and trained by Iran's paramilitary Basij militia. The role of the Basij in crushing Iran's Green Revolution in 2009 provided lesson for dealing with anti-regime protestors half a decade later in Venezuela.

Strong evidence suggests that Venezuela used its immigration agency (SAIME) to provide Venezuelan identities and documents to several hundred, if not thousands, of Middle Easterners.

The extent of Iran's influence in Venezuela has long been a source of debate among U.S. and regional security analysts. In many ways, Iran has positioned itself in Venezuela to capitalize on China's economic clout and Russia's military footprint. For instance, Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) used a variety of joint projects with Venezuela's military industry (CAVIM), as well as Russian and Chinese oil contracts with PDVSA, to shield it from international sanctions.
Iran's most salient expertise, however, is in the development of clandestine structures through surrogate forces and proxy networks. Its most prominent proxy force, Lebanese Hezbollah, is known to deploy to global hotspots on behalf of Iran. Meanwhile, the Qods Force (the extra-territorial arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps - IRGC) works with Hezbollah to increase social pressure in these hotspots to exacerbate conflicts. The Hezbollah and IRGC-QF cooperation is an important component of the Syrian civil war.

In Venezuela, long-standing clandestine networks from Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East are playing a similar role behind the scenes in shaping the narrative and ultimately directing the actions of the country's key players. These networks have provided the Venezuelan regime with the know-how to control the population and propagate its narrative. Their influence is evident from the prominence of Arabs in the Venezuelan government.
 
Protesters have taken to Venezuela's streets to condemn unprecedented levels of oppression.

The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela began with severe shortages of food and medicine, prompting a a popular uprising last year. Syria faced a similarly severe drought before its civil war that contributed to the violent uprisings that began in 2011. As in Syria, Venezuela faces a humanitarian crisis that exacerbates refugee outflows with serious counterterrorism concerns and a strong Russian and Iranian presence. Unlike Syria, however, this crisis rests much closer to U.S. shores.

Strong evidence suggests that Venezuela used its immigration agency (SAIME) to provide Venezuelan identities and documents to several hundred, if not thousands, of Middle Easterners. Unless our regional allies have proper vetting and verification measures in place, as well as a high degree of counterintelligence support, they will not know if the Venezuelan refugees spilling across their borders are legitimate refugees or members of a transregional clandestine network between Latin America and the Middle East.

As Secretary Tillerson calls upon regional allies to increase support to resolve Venezuela's humanitarian crisis and apply more pressure to the Maduro regime, it would also make sense for the Trump administration to help U.S. allies by enhancing their counterintelligence and counterterrorism capabilities against Iran and Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere. It appears that some of this cooperation is already beginning to take place, as evidenced by a new agreement between the U.S. and Argentina to tackle Hezbollah's illicit financing in the Southern Cone.

Dealing with the tragedy that has transpired in Venezuela over more than two decades will require a better public understanding of the central role of extra-regional actors, particularly Iran, in the country's crisis.

Any intervention in Venezuela -- military, humanitarian or otherwise -- will not work unless it is aimed at removing the external influences, especially Iran, Russia and China, that have turned Venezuela into the Syria of the Western Hemisphere.

Joseph M. Humire is the executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS) and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. This article has taken excerpts from a forthcoming special report by Mr. Humire on "Venezuela's Crisis: A New Global Paradigm." You can follow him on Twitter at: @jmhumire.
Related Topics:  Joseph M. Humire



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