Author Topic: Venezuela  (Read 237172 times)

DougMacG

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Re: Venezuela, The Left embraces anti-freedom
« Reply #600 on: May 02, 2019, 08:43:37 AM »
Heritage index of Economic Freedom, the last 3:
...
178  Cuba
179  Venezuela
180  North Korea

How to make a nation richer or poorer is not a mystery.
-----------------------------------------------

Socialism started in the ballot box, but people thought they were only voting to take away other people's rights, the rich, the capitalists, and they did.   

How did they take the rest of the freedoms?
https://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1307.msg117063#msg117063
Nothing says freedom like "give us all your guns".

And now it's lights out, water not running, food shelves empty, the currency is worthless and your free health care can't buy a band aid.  All that remains is the continuing admiration of the American Left.  Capitalism is out, mission accomplished.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 09:02:04 AM by DougMacG »

Crafty_Dog

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Crafty_Dog

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George Friedman on Venezuela
« Reply #603 on: May 11, 2019, 06:21:29 PM »


It’s time to take a break from my search for the meaning of the nation and turn my focus to specific countries. I will start with Venezuela, which has been experiencing a political and economic crisis for several years.

I spent a good deal of time in Venezuela in the 1990s. The reason for my being there was not clear, then or now, but it gave me some perspective on what’s happening in the country today. My first flight into Maiquetia airport was at night. On the approach, I could see a mountain, all lit up with what appeared to be lights lining the streets of the capital, Caracas. As we landed and deplaned, I realized that it was not Caracas at all that I was looking at.

It turned out that I was quite a distance from the capital, and the marvelous city I thought I had been watching was actually a shantytown, or a barrio. The mountain was actually a hill and the lights were lining the jagged paths between the settlements. They were powered by stolen electricity, as hundreds of illegally attached cables hung from electrical wires, running into the barrio randomly scattered. The possibility of catastrophic fire seemed a certainty, yet the residents managed to live their lives, diverting water in pipes and handling sewage the best they could. The barrios housed the unemployed and criminals, but it was also the place where working stiffs raised families. They mingled with the rest of the city during the day and then went back to the barrio and their families at night.

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On occasion, I was invited to have lunch at one of the most beautiful places I have been in my travels. It was an exclusive club, historic and meticulously maintained, that overlooked the city. The men and women were dressed to perfection in a way that spoke of old money. I was told that this was the club of the “owners of the valley.” I was also told that Caracas had once belonged to only a few families. On my visits, I could see business being conducted at one table, politics at another, and the next generation being introduced to each other at the third. I remember the hush that enveloped the club. There were no loud voices, nor any tension to be seen. It was a place of casual power.

I also had the opportunity to visit the state-run oil company, PDVSA, which was the engine powering the Venezuelan economy. The facility was well-maintained. The people who worked there were engineers, marketers, financial managers and public affairs personnel. But when I spoke with the people at the top, the illusion of technocracy vanished. These were not the owners of the valley or inhabitants of the barrio. They were tough, smart politicians who knew surprisingly little about the petroleum business but a great deal about how PDVSA fit into the rough-and-tumble world of Venezuelan politics. That was why they were there. A few floors down you could talk to a petroleum engineer who graduated from Texas A&M. On the top floor were what I would call the well-connected “hard men” who ran the company.

Some were clearly part of the established elite, but others had muscled their way to the top in alliance with the elite, an alliance that was clearly tilting to the hard and not particularly quiet men. But the entire edifice was built on two foundations. One was the experts who kept the oil flowing. The other were those living in the barrio, needed for the grunt work of the economy but excluded from any of the pleasures.

There is much more to Venezuela, from Lake Maracaibo to the deep jungle that covers much of the country. But in the 1990s, the barrios, the descendants of the owners of the valley, the hard men who controlled PDVSA, and the technocrats who kept it running seemed to me its center. But the center couldn’t and didn’t hold.

Hugo Chavez became president through the support of the people of the barrios. But the barrios had their own political leaders – the heads of the gangs that controlled the neighborhoods. Chavez couldn’t win the support of the barrios without the approval of the gang leaders, and so Chavez had no choice but to deal with them.

The people of old money were beyond Chavez’s reach. Much of their wealth was in the United States, where they also had citizenship. Many of them worked with Chavez; having gone through many chapters of Venezuelan history, they saw Chavez as just another chapter.

Chavez, however, had trouble bridging the gap between political promises and social reality. He came to power speaking for the barrios, but his debt to the powers in the barrios was substantial. They wanted money, and they wanted it now. Chavez didn’t fully trust the military command structure (he blamed them for not preventing the 2002 coup). He therefore needed the barrio toughs, who would support him only to the extent that he funneled aid to them. A new ecosystem emerged, dominated by the alliance of Chavez and the rulers of the barrios. The problem for Chavez was getting money to maintain this system.

Gutting the old money that remained had to be done gently. It maintained the all-important international financial relationships Venezuela had always relied on, so Chavez had to turn to the same source that the old political elite used, PDVSA. But Chavez’s need for money was more intense than in the old regime. He had to keep the barrios happy, and that was expensive.

Chavez started diverting more and more money from PDVSA, and in so doing, he cut into the standard of living of its employees. They were at first hopeful about Chavez, then resigned to more of the same, then frightened by the empowered barrios and the people sent to squeeze PDVSA. There was a vast diaspora of PDVSA employees, who can now be found in oil companies around the world. The problem this left for Chavez was that without PDVSA’s professionals, the company declined. The harder Chavez squeezed, the less he got. His supporters expected rewards he increasingly could not deliver.

The barrios were restless, and the middle class and the old money had fled. Enter the Cubans. In exchange for discounted oil, Cuba acted as a bodyguard for Chavez’s regime. The Cuban operatives were tough, trained and not eager to be obvious. And so, his regime, now led by Nicolas Maduro, survives to this day, supported by the Cubans and those in the barrios who still expect to be rewarded for their loyalty.

In the end, the barrios of today are similar to those I saw when I first arrived. The owners of the valley now sit in clubs in California or France, having timed their exits wisely. It was the deterioration of PDVSA that did the regime in. But Chavez had no choice. He was elected by promising more than he could deliver to men who didn’t like to be disappointed.

Perhaps the best ending in this story is the tale of the hard men at PDVSA and their political allies. In 2002, they arranged a coup d’etat against Chavez. Chavez was held on an island off the Venezuelan coast, until he suddenly showed up back at Miraflores Palace. The story goes that the coupsters had been arguing over what cabinet positions they would take. They didn’t make certain Chavez was safely under guard, so Chavez got back onto the plane and had himself flown back to the capital. The coup failed, and Chavez continued to rule until his death in 2013.

And that story tells us a great deal about the realities of Venezuela

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Brazil and Colombia respond to Venezuela
« Reply #604 on: May 11, 2019, 06:34:13 PM »
second post

Brazil and Colombia: Responses to the Venezuelan Crisis

As countries that share borders with Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil are most vulnerable to the fallout from the crisis.
By
Allison Fedirka -
May 9, 2019   
Download this article as PDF

Summary

Colombia and Brazil have adopted similar approaches to Venezuela and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Both countries have followed the United States’ lead in opposing the Maduro government but for different reasons. Their responses to the crisis stem from their individual interests and the geopolitical forces driving their behavior.

Venezuela has been mired in an economic and political crisis for years. Hyperinflation, corruption, oil sector mismanagement and plummeting energy exports have spelled disaster for the country’s economy. The U.S. has led the international response against President Nicolas Maduro, but two of Venezuela’s neighbors – Brazil and Colombia – have been critical partners in the campaign to remove Maduro from office. Their role in opposing his government stems from the fact that they are the most vulnerable to the mass migration and general instability resulting from the crisis. They have approached the issue in similar fashion so far, calling for Maduro’s removal but rejecting military intervention.

But what’s really driving their responses to the crisis? And why have they been among the region’s most vocal opponents of the Maduro government? Before we can answer these questions, we need a geopolitical basis for understanding South America’s place in the world and Brazil’s and Colombia’s most pressing geopolitical interests. South America is a region that gets little attention in geopolitical discussions, in part because the continent lies on the edge of the global system. It interacts with major geopolitical players but generally doesn’t drive major shifts, disruptions and developments. This doesn’t mean, however, that the basic rules of geopolitics aren’t at play in South America. In fact, they can help us identify the interests of neighboring countries and foreign powers in a country like Venezuela and, therefore, how they may respond to the unfolding crisis. Using models developed by some of the top geopolitical theorists, this Deep Dive will lay out a framework for understanding South America’s connection to the global system and the Brazilian and Colombian reactions to the upheaval in Venezuela.

South America’s Model Behavior

Geopolitically, South America is part of the periphery of the global system. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, which accounts for roughly one-third of the world’s landmass and one-tenth of its population, the continent is fairly removed from the rest of the world. It’s separated from the Eastern Hemisphere by the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and connected to Central America by a short 140-mile (225-kilometer) border between Colombia and Panama.

In analyzing the behavior of South American nations, there are two common pitfalls. First, many tend to dismiss events on the continent as unimportant based on the erroneous belief that the periphery doesn’t matter. Second, there is a tendency to overemphasize politics and political leaders and treat them as geopolitically relevant. To avoid these pitfalls, we need to look at how some of the founding fathers of geopolitical theory – Alfred Thayer Mahan, Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman – framed South America in the global context.

As a former U.S. naval officer, Mahan believed that if a country could dominate the world’s oceans, it could dominate the world. This view served as the basis for the expansion of U.S. interests across the Western Hemisphere at the turn of the 20th century – which included the creation of a security perimeter that stretched into the Caribbean. The first step in this project was to reduce Spanish influence in the Caribbean so that the U.S. could emerge as the dominant power there, which was accomplished in part through the Spanish-American War. The second was to control the Isthmus of Panama, a strategic land bridge between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. The U.S. supported construction of a canal at the isthmus, which opened in 1914, so that it could control transit between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, a power that had enormous economic value.

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In contrast, English geographer Mackinder took a more European approach to geopolitics. He focused on land power rather than sea power as the determinant of a nation’s global status. Mackinder formulated the heartland theory, which defined the center of Eurasia as the world’s heartland and argued that the dominant global power would come from this region. Its coastal areas – much of Europe, the Middle East and East Asia – were seen as secondary powers and areas beyond Eurasia, including the entire Western Hemisphere, as largely irrelevant. Mackinder updated his model following the two world wars, elevating North America and the North Atlantic to a status almost equivalent to that of the heartland. South America, however, still played a minimal role in Mackinder’s updated model.

Spykman believed that Mackinder overemphasized the importance of the heartland and instead posited that the center of global power was in the rimland, the coastal areas around Eurasia. He viewed the Caribbean Sea and surrounding areas as the American Mediterranean because of their central location in the Western Hemisphere. He also believed that the dividing line between north and south in the Western Hemisphere was not the Isthmus of Panama but the northern edge of the Amazon. According to Spykman, then, the northern part of South America, including Colombia and Venezuela, was essentially part of North America and included in the American Mediterranean. He believed the U.S. needed to dominate the Caribbean to establish regional security and that the construction of the Panama Canal further increased the importance of the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean in U.S. strategy. For Spykman, the U.S. faced few challenges in the Western Hemisphere, but any threat to its domination of the hemisphere come from the southern cone.

There are two important takeaways from these three models. First, the Caribbean, which includes the northern coast of South America, plays a key role in U.S. maritime security. This explains why the U.S. has intervened in Caribbean conflicts and why developments in South America can be critical to U.S. interests. Second, the northern nations of South America represent a borderland between North and South America. Conflicts and instability in this region threaten to draw in countries from both continents, and the Venezuelan crisis is one key example of this.

Brazil’s Territorial Integrity

Geographically, Brazil is defined by three key features: its large size, its natural boundaries and its north-south divide. Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world by landmass and has long faced the challenge of filling and controlling that space. Portugal was forced to colonize northeast Brazil (rather than use it as a trading post) and move south for both security and economic reasons. Shortly after the Portuguese arrived in the Americas, other European powers followed. While it had an agreement with Spain on how to divide their respective territories, no such deal existed with the U.K., France and the Netherlands – all three of which challenged Portuguese claims in the New World. The colony also needed land, labor and resources. Portuguese pioneers therefore pushed west for land on which to grow sugar cane and to find indigenous populations for enslavement.

Natural geographic barriers, however, limited Portuguese expansion beyond Brazil’s current borders. But in terms of security, its geography actually worked in its favor. Natural barriers insulated the country from the rest of South America and protected it from external threats. In the north, the Amazon’s dense forest and vast size prevented major military incursions from Venezuela, Colombia and Peru. Farther south, the massive Pantanal swamp fortified borders with Bolivia and Paraguay. In the east, the Atlantic Ocean protected Brazil from outside powers. The one area of geographic vulnerability is its flat southern border, though Uruguay provides some strategic depth there as a buffer state.

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Brazil’s north-south divide is a result of its climate, unevenly distributed natural resources and river systems. The south, which has a more hospitable climate than the northeast, is the location of the country’s major population centers and the vast majority of its wealth. Its two major river systems – the Parana River and the Amazon River – split the country between north and south. The Amazon system passes through dense jungle and flows into the North Atlantic, while the Parana system generally flows south where it merges with the Rio de la Plata, though some of its tributaries flow directly into the South Atlantic. The two systems do not cross paths and have fostered their own economic and population centers with little connection between them.

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These geographic features play critical roles in the models developed by the pioneers of Brazilian geopolitical theory, Carlos de Meira Mattos, General Golbery do Couto e Silva and Therezinha de Castro, in the mid-20th century. All three theorists emphasized the importance of territorial integrity – which is most at risk in the sprawling Amazon basin – and Brazil’s control over the South Atlantic.

This is where the Venezuelan crisis could have implications for Brazil’s broader geopolitical imperatives. Venezuela is just north of the Amazon, one of the most poorly integrated regions of Brazil. In fact, Roraima state isn’t even connected to Brazil’s electrical grid and gets its power from Venezuela. If Venezuela’s political crisis leads to military conflict or foreign military intervention, it could result in foreign forces pushing against Brazil’s borders. Any spillover into Brazilian territory could destabilize the area and disrupt connections to ports, making it even harder to reach and control this region. In the past, Brazil has opposed foreign involvement in management of the Amazon and permitted development and mining projects there because the government wants to maintain control over the whole region that falls within Brazil’s borders. This strategy helps Brazil repress any potential internal rebellion and provides strategic depth should an attack or blockade be waged on coastal areas.

Venezuelan migrants fleeing the crisis are also a challenge for Brazil. The flow of migrants toward and across the Brazilian border risks creating a borderland between the two countries that could pull the outer reaches of Brazil further away from its core. Another concern is that migrants who settle along the Brazilian border will compete with Brazilians for resources and jobs. Thus, early relief efforts involved flying Venezuelan migrants to areas farther south and settling them in larger cities. Brazil is also wary of delivering foreign humanitarian aid to Venezuelans from Brazilian territory, concerned that it could invite other kinds of external involvement in regional affairs. Brazil has therefore refused to deliver humanitarian supplies from other countries (including the United States) to Venezuela, insisting on providing only its own support.

Trade is another issue. Brazil has direct access only to the Atlantic Ocean, but its top trade partner, China, is a country that can be reached by sea only through the Pacific. To access the Pacific, therefore, it depends on sea lanes that run past Venezuela and the Caribbean to the Panama Canal. Any potential disruptions in this route – as a result of a conflict in Venezuela or a blockade to further isolate Maduro – could have major implications for the Brazilian economy.

Colombia’s Geographic Constraints

Unlike Brazil, Colombia is a bicoastal nation, meaning it has access to both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. But this status is not nearly as advantageous as one might expect. When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it became the most important corridor between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the Western Hemisphere. Colombia never developed into a good alternative to the canal because its various mountain ranges dissect the country, making overland transportation between coasts difficult. In addition, the vast majority of Colombia’s exports and imports transit through the Atlantic Ocean, so Pacific ports and infrastructure have been relatively neglected.

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Colombia’s two defining geographic features are the Andes Mountains and the Magdalena River. The Andes comprise roughly half of Colombia’s territory. (The other half is composed of the Amazon and Orinoco basins.) Just beyond the country’s Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, three distinct ranges of the Andes run across the entire length of the country’s territory, stretching from Ecuador to Venezuela. The majority of its population resides in different mountain valleys, which are poorly connected by land. The Magdalena River, however, helps integrate these disjointed parts of the country. An estimated 70-80 percent of the population lives near this river or one of its tributaries. It also facilitates the transport of goods between the interior and the Caribbean port cities of Barranquilla and Cartagena, both of which are relatively close to the Venezuelan border.

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Colombia has several geographic constraints that are difficult to overcome despite the country’s strategic location. According to leading Colombian geopolitical thinker Julio Londono Paredes, it was South America’s general disjointedness and difficult terrain that gave North America a substantial power advantage over its southern neighbor. Londono Paredes believed the formation of five confederations including Gran Colombia – which united present-day Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador into one entity from 1819 to 1831 – were necessary to ensure peace in South America.

But without such a union, Colombia remains weak in relation to other large Caribbean countries, particularly Mexico and Venezuela. Both countries have influence over the region in ways that Colombia does not. Mexico has historical ties to Central America (many Central American nations belonged to the same viceroy as Mexico during colonial times) and has used these links to help protect its interests on the western edge of the Caribbean. Venezuela’s islands in the southern Caribbean Sea give the country strategic depth and influence over sea lanes. Venezuela is also situated farther east along the Caribbean coast, giving it greater access to the sea and beyond.

Colombia has overcome some of these challenges by aligning with the United States on a number of issues, including how to handle Venezuela. The U.S. welcomes Colombia as a close ally in a region where it has had few in the past, and Colombia’s alignment with the U.S. gives it a boost in the regional power balance.

It’s an advantage Colombia needs given that it shares borders with five different countries and has three three-country borders. Colombia has had territorial disputes with each of its neighbors in the past, but tensions have run deepest with Venezuela, whose disputes over land and sea borders with Colombia have focused on resource-rich areas. The Venezuelan crisis threatens to reignite these tensions. Mass migration has forced Colombian authorities to dedicate more resources to border security, though thus far, it hasn’t prevented irregular crossings. For the most part, Colombia has welcomed the migrants, but it has also struggled to cope with the sheer number of Venezuelans, about 1.5 million in total, who have fled across the border. In fact, the influx has cost Colombia 0.5 percent of gross domestic product (or roughly $1.5 billion) per year, according to Colombian President Ivan Duque. Organized crime and drug trafficking are also concerns as groups involved in illicit activities operate more or less with impunity along the Colombia-Venezuela border, raising the possibility of military involvement from both sides. The country’s two major ports, Barranquilla and Cartagena, are close to the Venezuelan border, so any spillover violence or instability could disrupt some of Colombia’s most important trade hubs.

Considering all these variables, it makes sense that Colombia has taken the strongest stance against Maduro of any country in the region. It has joined the U.S. and several other nations, including Brazil, in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. Bogota doesn’t want the crisis to escalate into a full-blown civil war, but unlike other countries in the region, it can’t completely rule out military intervention because of the history of border disputes between the two countries, as well as the risk that the violence might spill over into Colombian territory.

Colombia needs U.S. support to protect its interests. Brazil, on the other hand, doesn’t have that same dependency on the U.S. For now, however, both Brazil and Colombia will cooperate with U.S. efforts to orchestrate Maduro’s departure because it aligns with their own national interests.

Crafty_Dog

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O'Grady: Squeeze the Cubans
« Reply #605 on: May 12, 2019, 03:14:56 PM »
How to Liberate Venezuela
The free world needs to squeeze the power behind Caracas’s police state: Cuba.
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
May 12, 2019 3:20 p.m. ET
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks in Havana, Dec. 14, 2016 Photo: yamil lage/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Venezuela’s fearsome intelligence service struck another blow against the democratic opposition last week by arresting Edgar Zambrano in Caracas. In detaining the vice president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, the thugs surrounding presidential pretender Nicolás Maduro not only put another hostage in their dungeon but also thumbed their noses at U.S. ultimatums to respect the rights of the opposition—or else.

They know that while the U.S. says the use of force is on the table, President Trump is loath to use it. With the rest of the region opposed to military intervention, Mr. Maduro’s minions feel safe from outsiders. They would feel far less secure if the international community put pressure where it belongs: on their homeland, Cuba.

Interim President Juan Guaidó remains free, but the regime now holds some 870 political prisoners, according to the Venezuelan nongovernmental organization Foro Penal. Since a failed uprising April 30, Mr. Maduro’s henchmen have doubled down on repression. The opposition is powerless to respond. Mr. Guaidó said Saturday he would seek U.S. military support.

Rescuing Venezuela starts with the recognition that the country is occupied. Russian military support is troubling—as is the Venezuelan-Iranian relationship, which I wrote about in November 2014. Tehran has likely planted sleeper cells throughout the country.

Yet it is Havana that has the most to lose if Mr. Maduro goes down. And it is Havana that is executing an aggressive daily ground game to protect him. This must first be acknowledged by the democracies that have recognized Mr. Guaidó as the rightful chief executive under the Venezuelan constitution. Then, to follow through, they need a strategy to squeeze the Cubans.

Cuban-born writer Carlos Alberto Montaner described the secret behind Mr. Maduro’s survival in a May 5 column for Miami’s El Nuevo Herald. “Loyalty and obedience emanate from respect or fear and Maduro is neither respected nor feared,” Mr. Montaner wrote. “Not only is this the attitude of the opposition. It is shared by military leaders, the regime’s apparatchiks and those people who serve them. That’s why Maduro only trusts ‘the Cubans.’ They made him the heir of the ‘eternal Commander’ ”—Hugo Chávez—“and they keep him in power.”

The main levers of power Cuba wields in Venezuela are its sophisticated intelligence apparatus and its crack military counterintelligence. The former head of the Venezuelan intelligence service, Manuel Christopher Figuera, trained and worked closely with Cuba. It was a mark of Cuban power that after he turned against Mr. Maduro during the April 30 showdown with Mr. Guaidó, he was forced to flee for his life and now is in hiding.

Cuba is thoroughly invested in Mr. Maduro’s survival because it needs Venezuelan subsidies. The money-grubbing Castros have wrecked the Cuban economy. What hasn’t been stolen has been destroyed through decades of brutal repression.

As Cuban-American economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago observed in March, Castro’s Cuba has been a dependency for 60 years. The Soviet Union poured $65 billion into the island from 1960-90. With the dissolution of the Soviet empire, aid to Cuba dried up and the 1990s were an extremely difficult period. But Venezuela picked up the subsidy slack when Chávez came to power in 1999. “At its peak in 2012, Venezuelan aid, subsidies and investment amounted to $14 billion, or close to 12% of gross domestic product,” Mr. Mesa-Lago wrote.

“Cuba is now facing its worst economic crisis since the 1990s,” Mr. Mesa-Lago explained. It refuses to reform its sclerotic economy—because economic power gives way to political power. Now its Venezuelan sugar daddy is cutting back on aid. Oil shipments to the island have been halved in recent years, and Caracas no longer has unlimited resources to pay the Castro regime for the tens of thousands of Cuban doctors, teachers, sports trainers and managers of ports and airports—not to mention security forces—in Venezuela.

Things will go from bad to worse for Havana if Mr. Guaidó is allowed to hold elections. This is why the Cubans are ruthlessly cracking down on the opposition while making the absurd proposal to the Lima Group that Havana ought to mediate a compromise solution. As if the fox ought to decide the fate of the hens. Defectors repeatedly testify that Cubans are behind the Venezuelan police state. It’s why the U.S. and its allies must shift their focus to Havana.

The Trump administration has been adding sanctions against the Cuban regime. Ships that carry oil from Venezuela to Cuba can no longer enter U.S. ports; Americans can now sue in U.S. courts over property confiscated by Cuba; and the ceiling on remittances from the U.S. has been reduced. Havana is feeling some heat. But it isn’t enough.

To persuade Cuba to exit Venezuela, the price of staying has to be higher than any benefits it still receives. That’s a hemispheric project, and it’s the best way to liberate Venezuela from tyranny.

ccp

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Re: Venezuela
« Reply #606 on: May 14, 2019, 07:04:53 AM »
"Cuba is the main player in Venezuela.  Anyway, if we want to discuss, let's take it to the Venezuela thread."

yes they have thousands of troops there
I hope we don ' t militarily intervene in V because we are worried about kooba

that said Russia and China may be supporting Kooba as proxies to stir up trouble
and protect investments in V

just surmising
otherwise except for the humanitarian travesty thanks to Maduro and mafia soldiers and his Kooban mafia allies I am trying to figure why the heck we are considering our intervening militarily.

Another possibllity is the military option is just a bluff to pressure Maduro to hide in the mountains looking on how to escape to a villa in Switzerland or something

To me the murderous drug cartels south of our border are a far bigger threat.
I wish we could send in the tanks and drones to blast them to hell where they belong for what they do to us and the South of the border countries peoples

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Venezuela
« Reply #607 on: May 14, 2019, 08:24:42 AM »
My understanding is that there are 20-25,000 Cuban troops/intel officers etc and that without them Gordo Maduro would be gone in a matters of days.

ccp

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Re: Venezuela
« Reply #608 on: May 14, 2019, 09:31:40 AM »
"My understanding is that there are 20-25,000 Cuban troops/intel officers etc and that without them Gordo Maduro would be gone in a matters of days."

So do we invade Kooba?

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DougMacG

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Re: US commander says Maduro is a mafia
« Reply #611 on: May 23, 2019, 06:24:46 AM »
https://thehill.com/policy/international/445127-top-us-commander-says-maduro-mafia-poses-threat-beyond-venezuela

As it turns out, Cuba helping to enforce the tragedy in Venezuela, was also a threat beyond their own borders.  Of course the communist, socialist, militarist oppressionists are a threat beyond their own borders.  Good to see people in high places recognizing real threats.

ccp

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cuba part of Venezuela mafia?
« Reply #612 on: May 23, 2019, 07:38:05 AM »
you mean Kooba still stirring up trouble?

but the Nobel prize winner (for peace) told us this just wasn't so that all we need to do is be friends?

I just don't get it.    :wink:

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia in Venezuela
« Reply #613 on: June 03, 2019, 10:07:53 AM »


Russia in Venezuela. Russia is withdrawing key defense advisers from Venezuela and Russian state defense contractor Rostec has cut its staff in Venezuela from 1,000 to just a few dozen, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The report also suggested that, after Rostec had completed construction of a helicopter training center in March, other projects such as the construction of a Kalashnikov production facility had been put on hold because the company doubted the Maduro government’s ability to pay up. Rostec told Interfax news agency on Monday that there was no truth to the report – that its presence in the country hadn’t changed. Russia’s ambassador to Venezuela also said the story was unfounded, telling RIA Novosti there had been no talk of backing out of commitments or cutting back Russian personnel. In the absence of reliable information either way, we would add that it would not make sense for Russia to withdraw in this manner now, especially considering the resilience the Maduro regime has exhibited in recent months.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Corruption lies at the heart
« Reply #614 on: July 25, 2019, 07:48:30 AM »
Corruption Lies at the Heart of Venezuela's Chaos
By Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran
Board of Contributors

Numerous people wearing caps in the colors of the Venezuelan flag take part in a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro on Venezuela's day of independence.
(RAFAEL BRICEÑO SIERRALTA/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Contributor Perspectives offer insight, analysis and commentary from Stratfor’s Board of Contributors and guest contributors who are distinguished leaders in their fields of expertise.

Highlights

    Venezuela is suffering from unique humanitarian, economic and institutional crises, but the common root of all three problems is the country's widespread corruption.
    Officials in President Nicolas Maduro's government have absconded with billions of dollars from the public budget by abusing the official exchange rate.
    As the links between the humanitarian disaster and graft become more evident, it will increasingly become harder to stabilize Venezuela in the long run.

It's a humanitarian, economic and institutional crisis that has grabbed the world's attention. According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than 4 million Venezuelans left their country between 2015 and June 2019, seeking refuge in Colombia, Peru and Brazil. In the economic field, the International Monetary Fund projects that Venezuela's hyperinflation will reach a whopping 10 million percent this year. And in terms of institutions, the country has had two presidents since January: Nicolas Maduro, who is supported by the Venezuelan security forces but lacks diplomatic recognition from most of the West, and Juan Guaido, who enjoys Western support but lacks local military support.

But lost amid Venezuela's dire humanitarian, economic and institutional crises is the underlying cause that is fueling the country's chaos: corruption. Deeply ingrained at all levels of Maduro's government, corruption is devouring Venezuela's wealth as it exacerbates Caracas' other problems and complicates the prospect that the country will overcome its woes for some time to come.

Bringing Up the Rear

Since 2015, Venezuela has plumbed the depths of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI), ranking 168 out of 180 countries and scoring no more than 17 or 18 points out of 100. By way of comparison, Burundi — whose long-time president has drawn criticisms for hanging on to power and clamping down on the opposition — ranked higher than Venezuela, earning 22 points in 2017.

In last year's CPI, in fact, Venezuela had Afghanistan (16 points), South Sudan (16) and Chad (19) to share for company. All three are countries that are characterized by weak and small economies, and none of them boast massive oil reserves — unlike Venezuela.

High levels of opaqueness, egregious public mismanagement, legal uncertainty, an overconcentration of power in Maduro's hands and a profound lack of checks and balances lie at the root of Venezuela's low CPI. Today, the country provides the perfect institutional conditions to foster graft on a macro scale unseen anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. Even so, Venezuela's CPI score doesn't reflect the magnitude of the country's situation and the scandalous sums of money that have gone missing from the budget during the past decade. Indeed, no other country in the Americas has witnessed such a convergence between massive injections of cash due to booming oil prices and cases of money laundering, corruption and drug trafficking involving high-level officials.

Today, Venezuela provides the perfect institutional conditions to foster graft on a macro scale unseen anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere.

In a recent report, the Venezuelan chapter of Transparency International reviewed cases of corruption and money laundering against Venezuelan officials and businesspeople in the United States, Colombia, Andorra and other countries in which Maduro's government has used the financial system to channel and launder profits gained through corruption.

And because of Maduro's extensive powers, the Venezuelan judiciary focuses on partial prosecutions that benefit the regime, meaning that real cases of graft involving the government never make it before a judge. As a result, it is only foreign jurisdictions that prosecute money laundering cases related to corruption in Venezuela.

Absconding With Billions

Brazil's "Lava Jato" (Car Wash) scandal, one of the biggest cases of transnational corruption ever recorded anywhere, drew international attention because of the huge bribes that changed hands — some of which reached $100 million. The Brazilian case, however, pales in comparison to what has happened in Venezuela.

To understand the magnitude of Venezuelan corruption, consider the amount of the public budget that went missing when authorities manipulated and abused official exchange rates to overpay loans to privileged companies involved in corruption. In one scheme that occurred in December 2014 and May 2015, Venezuela's national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), acquired a loan of $41 million — corresponding to 7.2 billion Bolivars — from a certain firm before paying it back for a huge markup of $600 million, according to an indictment at the Southern District of Florida. According to the prosecution, payments like these went to companies that then used other fictitious firms to channel the money to friends and conspirators of officials inside PDVSA and Maduro's government. Ultimately, the shady dealings allowed officials in the national oil company and the government to abscond with $1.2 billion from the Venezuelan public budget as part of two loans.

But this is just one case. In another that the Southern District of Florida is also hearing, officials allegedly engaged in improper conduct that cost the budget more than $2.4 billion. Together, these two cases account for $3.6 billion in lost funds for Venezuela's public budget.

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shown, the convergence of massive corruption and abundant natural resources will almost inevitably degenerate into a situation in which people are victimized on a widespread scale. With Venezuela's crisis set to deepen — to the extent that it might result in famine and send millions of refugees streaming into the country's neighbors — the spotlight will soon fall more on the causal links between the humanitarian catastrophe and unprecedented corruption. Such a perfect storm of endemic corruption and humanitarian disaster will throw formidable obstacles in the way of any stabilization effort in the country or the region — thereby hindering even further the chances of a regime change promoted by the United States.

Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran is the director of Scientific Vortex Foundation Inc., a transnational research group and nonprofit that develops concepts, methodologies and inputs for public policy under integrative science principles. He is currently developing transdisciplinary research on transnational criminal networks in Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico.

DougMacG

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Re: Venezuela, China, Russia, Cuba, but no foreign intervention?
« Reply #615 on: August 19, 2019, 11:52:45 AM »
https://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2019/08/14/venezuela_china_russia__oh_my_110466.html
Extend  the waivers indefinitely.
-------------------------------------
Denny S, Hope all is well, please check in with us.
-------------------------------------
American reporting of Venezuela has been relatively quiet as at least 20 Democrats propose various elements of the Venezuela plan for the US economy.
-------------------------------------
How rich did they used to be?
"By 1950, as the rest of the world was struggling to recover from World War II, Venezuela had the fourth-richest GDP per capita on Earth. The country was 2x richer than Chile, 4x richer than Japan, and 12x richer than China!"
https://money.visualcapitalist.com/richer-poorer-venezuela-economic-tragedy/

G M

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Re: Venezuela, China, Russia, Cuba, but no foreign intervention?
« Reply #616 on: August 19, 2019, 07:45:25 PM »
You can vote your way into socialism, but you usually have to shoot your way out. This is why they disarmed Venezuela and want to disarm Americans now.


https://www.realclearenergy.org/articles/2019/08/14/venezuela_china_russia__oh_my_110466.html
Extend  the waivers indefinitely.
-------------------------------------
Denny S, Hope all is well, please check in with us.
-------------------------------------
American reporting of Venezuela has been relatively quiet as at least 20 Democrats propose various elements of the Venezuela plan for the US economy.
-------------------------------------
How rich did they used to be?
"By 1950, as the rest of the world was struggling to recover from World War II, Venezuela had the fourth-richest GDP per capita on Earth. The country was 2x richer than Chile, 4x richer than Japan, and 12x richer than China!"
https://money.visualcapitalist.com/richer-poorer-venezuela-economic-tragedy/

Crafty_Dog

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Russia-Venezuela
« Reply #617 on: October 02, 2019, 08:14:22 AM »


Oct. 2, 2019


What Moscow Really Wants From Venezuela


Russia has both economic and domestic political reasons for supporting the Maduro government.


By Ekaterina Zolotova


Throughout Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis, Russia has been among its staunchest supporters. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, hoping for some reassurances of the Kremlin’s continued support for his administration amid the ongoing turmoil in his country and international pressure for him to step down. In September, the United States imposed new sanctions (against four shipping companies registered in Cyprus and Panama) aimed at stopping Venezuelan oil exports headed for Cuba. The U.S. also promised last week to provide the Venezuelan opposition with $52 million in aid. The European Union, meanwhile, introduced sanctions against seven members of the Venezuelan security and intelligence forces. Russia, however, hasn’t wavered in its support for Venezuela. Indeed, Moscow has not only foreign policy reasons to maintain strong relations with Caracas but domestic ones, too.
The two countries are long-time allies, but their ties peaked around 2012. Moscow considered Venezuela among its main strategic partners, provided generous loans and supplied a wide range of goods. Several Russian companies were involved in the development of Venezuelan oil fields, Russian-made KAMAZ trucks were in wide supply, and Russia participated in a pro-government housing construction program in Venezuela. But geopolitical tensions, as well as tough sanction policies against both Russia and Venezuela, significantly complicated Russia-Venezuela relations. High inflation and the risk of default in Venezuela also affected the willingness of Russian investors and exporters to do business with Venezuela and the ability of Venezuelan companies to sell their goods to foreign customers.
Nonetheless, the Kremlin has chosen to seek greater cooperation with Caracas for several reasons. First, from an economic perspective, Russia and Venezuela have much to gain from maintaining close ties. Both have large markets and production potential.


 

(click to enlarge)


Trade between the two has fluctuated over the years, however. When it comes to oil, Russian companies of course have an interest in Venezuela – the country, after all, has the largest oil reserves in the world, exceeding 300 billion barrels, according to OPEC. Some Russian oil companies have therefore invested in the Venezuelan energy sector. But in recent years, many Russian oil companies have left Venezuela, put off by the political uncertainty, security risks and general low quality of Venezuelan oil, not to mention the threat of sanctions. Yet a small group of companies, including Rosneft and Gazprom Neft, remains, despite U.S. threats to impose new penalties. In early September, for example, Washington said it was considering sanctions against Rosneft for its involvement in the Venezuelan oil sector; Rosneft, however, continues to purchase oil and develop fields in Venezuela.
Russia also sees Venezuela as a potential market for Russian wheat (wheat exports to Venezuela in 2018 increased by 33 percent year over year), mechanical engineering products and medical supplies. Such products could provide some relief from the scarcity issues plaguing Venezuela since the crisis began. For its part, Venezuela sees Russia as a potential buyer of its agricultural products. Russia already buys food products from other Latin American countries – these tend to be cheaper than Russian food products despite logistical costs and tariffs. In fact, Uruguay and Argentina account for 7 percent and 5 percent respectiely of Russian dairy imports. In addition, Argentina is the second-largest supplier of cheese to Russia after Belarus.
The Kremlin also has domestic political reasons for wanting to increase cooperation with Venezuela. It sees an opportunity to boost its approval rating by backing the Maduro government because Russian public opinion tends to be favorable toward Venezuela, and Latin America in general. A survey released in February by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that 57 percent of respondents were interested in current events in Venezuela. It also found that 20 percent of Russians see the deteriorating political and economic situation in Venezuela as a result of actions by other countries, particularly the United States. When it comes to the Venezuelan opposition and anti-government protesters, 15 percent said they felt indifferent, 12 percent felt distrust and 11 percent condemned them. Thus, if Moscow were to refuse to help Maduro, it might experience some backlash from the Russian public. Moreover, the amount of support Russia has provided – food supplies and a small number of troops for nonmilitary support – doesn’t carry a huge financial burden for Moscow anyway. Considering that it, too, has seen a recent wave of anti-government protests, it has been inclined to help Caracas in its time of need.


 

(click to enlarge)


In addition, Russia has an interest in increasing its presence in the Western Hemisphere, in the United States’ own backyard. It has done so primarily by getting close to Cuba – given its proximity to the U.S. – a country the Russian prime minister is scheduled to visit later this week for the first time since 2013. But maintaining strong relations with Venezuela could also help the Kremlin boost relations with Cuba. It has been difficult for Russia to gain a substantial foothold in Venezuela, partly because the U.S. would react strongly to any Russian military involvement in the country. For this reason, not to mention the expense and logistical requirements, it’s extremely unlikely that Russia would set up a military base in Venezuela, but it did send roughly 100 troops there in March, and a group of Russian military personnel arrived in Venezuela a week ago to carry out maintenance on Russian-made equipment.
Venezuela used to be one of the largest buyers of Russian weapons; it had purchased Russian tanks, Grad multiple rocket launchers, Pechora-2M missile systems, S-300 air defense systems and many others. But today, Venezuela is no longer considered a major market for Russian arms. In the past, these goods were purchased mainly using Russian loans, and Moscow can no longer rely on Caracas to pay back its debts given the state of its economy. Moscow too is short on funds and reluctant to offer loans it can’t be sure will be paid back. Thus, Russia’s defense-related activity in Venezuela today is limited mostly to fulfilling old contracts and maintaining assets that have already been delivered under previous agreements.
Russia has unquestionable long-term economic and geopolitical interests in Venezuela. But its ability to increase its presence there is limited, in part by its own economic obstacles, which include falling oil prices, reduced federal budget revenue and deteriorating living conditions for the Russian people. Still, Moscow will continue to make gestures of increased cooperation with an eye toward strengthening ties in the long term, not only because of the potential economic benefits but also because the Kremlin knows this is a popular policy position at home.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Putin outfoxes Trump in Venezuela
« Reply #618 on: January 27, 2020, 09:54:21 PM »

By Jessica Donati, Andrew Restuccia and Ian Talley
Jan. 27, 2020 10:22 am ET

The Trump administration’s bid to replace Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro hit a roadblock after a meeting with Russian officials in Rome last year—and has never recovered.

U.S. envoy Elliott Abrams arrived at the Westin Excelsior hotel hoping to persuade Russia to withdraw its support for Mr. Maduro and to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov instead demanded the U.S. back down from military threats and lift the economic sanctions intended to force Mr. Maduro’s hand.


Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in September. PHOTO: SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

In the months that followed, the U.S. campaign spiraled into a foreign-policy debacle, thwarted by familiar adversaries, Russia and Cuba, as well as allies, Turkey and India—all countries that one way or another helped Venezuela sidestep U.S. sanctions, according to current and former U.S. officials and Venezuelan opposition activists. The European Union watched from the sidelines.


The Trump administration, confident Mr. Maduro would fall, didn’t foresee Russia leading the way for other countries to eclipse the sanctions. In turn, administration reluctance to impose sanctions on Russian enterprises and others kept Venezuela’s oil and gold flowing to buyers.

This month, in a sign of how much the opposition is floundering, Venezuela security forces blocked Mr. Guaidó from entering the National Assembly building, where he was seeking re-election as leader. Mr. Guaidó, in a blue suit, tried and failed to scale the spiked iron fence.

Russia now handles more than two-thirds of Venezuela’s crude oil, current and former administration officials said, including helping to conceal export destinations. The lifeline has helped Mr. Maduro slow the economy’s free fall, consolidate his grip on power and weaken the opposition.

Almost half of the $1.5 billion in Venezuelan crude exported to India in the nine months after the U.S. sanctions was purchased by an Indian joint venture with Russia’s oil giant, Rosneft, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data compiled by trade database Import Genius.

The United Arab Emirates has imported around $1 billion in gold from Venezuela since gold sanctions were imposed in late 2018, according to Venezuela trade records. U.S. intelligence officials say the actual amounts are far higher, based on evidence that Venezuelan gold is leaving the country masked as originating from Colombia, Uganda and elsewhere. The exports land in Turkey, the U.A.E. and other gold-trade hubs.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington denied any oil or gold trade with Venezuela that breached U.S. sanctions. “The allegations do not reflect the facts, and they are only speculative and hearsay,” a spokesman said.

The Russian Embassy in Washington declined to comment. It referred to past foreign-ministry statements criticizing the U.S. for interfering in Venezuela’s affairs. Officials from India and the U.A.E. didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Administration officials acknowledge President Trump’s frustration and say the White House continues to press for Mr. Maduro’s ouster. Mr. Trump, pointing to America’s superior economy and military, suggested in a recent interview with the Journal that the U.S. had the resources to outlast Mr. Maduro. “We have a lot of options,” the president said.

Yet with an election, impeachment and attention turned to the Middle East, Venezuela has for now moved to a back burner, an administration official said.

The stalemate allows Mr. Maduro to take a star turn as David to America’s Goliath. He makes speeches and appearances nearly every day to show he remains comfortably in charge. He chided Mr. Abrams and other U.S. officials, saying they misled Mr. Trump that a regime change would be easy.

“They’re trying to save their jobs because Trump is furious with the lies they’ve fed him on Venezuela,” Mr. Maduro said in a recent address. “They failed, and Venezuela triumphed.”

Mr. Maduro’s hold on the presidency has been costly for what was once Latin America’s most-prosperous economy. Hyperinflation, high infant mortality rates and a shortage of medical supplies contribute to the humanitarian crisis there. Food, electricity and water shortages have driven an exodus of 4.5 million people.

Mr. Abrams, the U.S. envoy, acknowledged this month that the yearlong U.S. effort to remove Mr. Maduro hit unexpected obstacles. “We underestimated the importance of the Cuban and Russian support for the regime,” he said. “The Russian role in the economy, particularly the oil economy, is larger and larger.”


Elliott Abrams, the U.S. envoy to Venezuela. PHOTO: ERIK S LESSER/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK
Mr. Guaidó, in an interview, sounded a similar note. “I think we did underestimate things,” he said. He called on countries to help block gold exports from Venezuela. “You have to try to bring pressure on those who support the regime,” he said. “Sanctions today are the only real tool we have.”

Mr. Guaidó’s approval rating had fallen by more than 20 points to 38%, according to Venezuelan pollster Datanalisis. Allegations against opposition members, including accepting bribes from Maduro cronies, have eroded confidence.

Despite the setbacks, administration officials said there are no plans to abandon Mr. Guaidó. Vice President Mike Pence last month summoned senior administration officials to a meeting in the White House’s Situation Room. U.S. officials later hosted a conference with opposition leaders to try to reinvigorate them, people familiar with the gathering said.

Mr. Guaidó’s backers see Russia as their principal obstacle and want the U.S., Europe and other allies to take a harder line on sanctions loopholes.

“Russia in my view has become the most important partner of Maduro,” said Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuela ambassador to the U.S. for Mr. Guaidó. “A multilateral approach on sanctions is critical.”

The EU hasn’t introduced sanctions or prevented Maduro officials from traveling to the eurozone to raise money and support.


Charles Shapiro, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela who is now president of the nonpartisan think tank World Affairs Council of Atlanta, said the Trump administration’s predicament showed the difficulty of regime change without military force.

“And if you use military force,” he said, “there are all sorts of other problems.”

The U.S. has warned officials in Russia, Turkey, the U.A.E. and India about sanctions violations in private meetings, U.S. officials said, but hasn’t moved to blacklist companies or individuals suspected of breaking the sanctions.

Policy options have split the administration. Some officials believe sanctions on Russia’s oil firm Rosneft and other companies doing business with intermediaries could close loopholes that have allowed Mr. Maduro to survive.

Others say they could undermine U.S. interests elsewhere, including Iran. India agreed to stop importing Iranian crude as part of Washington’s pressure campaign against Tehran, but it continues to import Venezuelan oil. India pays for the deliveries in gasoline, a trade that the nation says doesn’t violate U.S. sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hasn’t ruled out negotiations with Mr. Maduro.

“We will continue to tweak our policy to get the strategy just right, but we’ve seen no evidence that Maduro is remotely interested in having free and fair elections,” Mr. Pompeo said recently about direct talks. “As far as our strategy, the tack we’ll take, I’m sure that will change over time.”

Long road
Mr. Guaidó, 36 years old, was virtually unknown in Mr. Trump’s circles before he came to Washington with a delegation in December 2018. Administration officials and opposition leaders made a plan to put Mr. Guaidó in charge, and Mr. Pence was given a central role.

Administration officials targeted Venezuela, in part to punish Cuba and win support among Cuban Americans, a potent Republican voting bloc in Florida. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mauricio Claver Carone, the National Security Council’s head for Latin American affairs, had roles in forging Venezuela policy.

Crafty_Dog

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Wild Capitalism in Venezuela
« Reply #619 on: February 07, 2020, 02:52:29 PM »
I thought Guaido looked very uncomfortable at the SOTU.

I've also wondered how things have held on so long given the reports of hyperinflation, no drinking water, people rooting through garbage and the like:

February 7, 2020   View On Website
Open as PDF



    ‘Wild Capitalism’ in Venezuela
By: Allison Fedirka

In a development that would have been unheard of just a few years ago, the government in Caracas is slowly and quietly loosening its control over the Venezuelan economy. Markets are opening, regulations are being relaxed, and foreign countries are participating in its flailing state oil company. Various Venezuelan media have dubbed this unexpected period of transition “wild capitalism” and “chaotic capitalism,” but whichever name sticks, the strategy of the government is clear: adapt or die. It’s a fairly pragmatic response to the actions of the U.S., which hoped that economic pressure, widespread public protests and international support would bring an end to the Maduro administration. Instead, Caracas has simply become more creative and resourceful as it seeks to remain in power – this time by integrating its informal economy with its formal one.

Economic Pressure

For nearly 20 years, the United States has opposed the Venezuelan government on political and security grounds. But Washington grew more impatient as the Venezuelan economy tanked, thanks largely to low oil prices, high social welfare spending and economic mismanagement. The social instability that followed was a perfect opportunity for the U.S. to tackle what it saw as a security threat head on to try to facilitate regime change. It employed a strategy of heavy economic pressure for three reasons. First, U.S. military intervention in Latin America is risky, unpopular and historically counterproductive. Second, the strategy corresponds with a broader shift in national strategy away from military action as the force to bring about change. Third, the U.S. is the largest economy in the world and formerly Venezuela’s single biggest customer, so changes in trade patterns would disrupt the Venezuelan economy.

Initially, things went according to plan. Increasingly heavy sanctions aggravated the underlying weaknesses of the country’s economy. Working conditions and quality of life went from bad to worse for the vast majority of Venezuelans as hyperinflation, power outages and food shortages became commonplace. The economy has contracted for the past six years, losing roughly two-thirds of its gross domestic product from 2013 to 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund. Projections for 2020 remain bleak as GDP is expected to contract by another 10 percent.

Emigration – particularly among oil industry experts – was a problem even during the Chavez administration, but economic decay over the past two years has accelerated the trend. As of this year, an estimated 4.7 million people – out of a population of 28.4 million – have fled the country.
 
(click to enlarge)

Washington also enacted a political strategy of supporting Maduro’s enemies to capitalize on public discontent and usher in a new government, culminating with Juan Guaido, the president of the opposition-led National Assembly, declaring himself the president in 2019. For a brief moment, it seemed that pressures were aligning such that the U.S. would deliver the intended results.

Except it didn’t. Economic restrictions and lack of availability of goods expanded a robust parallel market that became essential for procurement of basic public goods. Before the U.S. levied its sanctions, economic hardship taught Venezuelans the value of acquiring and saving strong foreign currency, namely the U.S. dollar. Those who could established bank accounts in the U.S. Meanwhile, early expatriate Venezuelans, many of whom were educated and/or wealthy enough to find work abroad, provided a steady flow of U.S. dollars directly to their fellow Venezuelans. Indeed, remittances to Venezuela have risen sharply since 2016, totaling an estimated $3.7 billion-$4 billion in 2019, according to Ecoanalisis. (The increase owes to both the number of transactions and value of transactions.) According to a Consultores 21 survey, some 40 percent of the population has received remittances at some point in time and another 32 percent receive remittances on a regular basis. When government restrictions made it harder to get or use U.S. dollars, more informal or electronic means were employed to get dollars into the country. This rendered the local bolivar essentially worthless as bartering and foreign currencies have become the preferred choice for commercial transactions.
 
(click to enlarge)

Rather than fight the dollarization of the economy, the Maduro government embraced it. It relented on some currency controls and allowed a freer circulation of dollars because doing so would help to normalize the economy. After all, a recent Ecoanalitica report estimated that over half of the country’s transactions occur in U.S. dollars and that there are likely more dollars circulating in the country than bolivares. Changes in fiscal policy now allow for some purchases of foreign currency with a 25 percent value-added tax. This allows for fees and goods to be purchased and sold in foreign currency on a larger scale, making them more accessible to those with foreign currency. Businesses have also resorted to dollar-denominated transactions. Over the past few months, banks have begun to offer custodial services for holding billions of U.S. dollars and euros in cash for businesses that want to avoid ties with the government and thus evade sanctions. This may not be much help to those without access to dollars, but it has lowered inflation in the dollar-denominated economy while giving more access to more people for basic goods.

The Maduro government has eased off other areas of the economy too. It has let imports in and lifted restrictions on certain exports. Goods can now be shipped out of Cabello Port in Carabobo without the requisite red tape. Price controls have also been lifted on many goods, and companies have been allowed to invest what small funds they have.

But the most notable changes pertain to state-run oil company PDVSA. The lack of funds to repair dilapidated equipment, improve production and support business operations like refining has led PDVSA to look for support from foreign oil players, particularly Rosneft, to conduct its business. The government is also in talks with Spain’s Repsol and Italy’s ENI on how to partner or take a share in the company in exchange for capital and assistance in a scheme of virtual privatization.

Saving Face

All these measures demand a certain political flexibility to mitigate whatever risks they could pose, considering they fly in the face of Maduro’s previous policies. By allowing for reform, he has tacitly admitted that those policies have failed.

Caracas has made sure to sell the changes without losing face. In some cases it downplayed them. In others, such as dollarizing the economy, it simply passively allowed it to happen. The government has also attempted to employ traditional revolutionary rhetoric when publicly speaking of the changes, framing them as measures necessary to help the poor in Venezuela and respond to economic attacks. (The regime’s roots are buried deep in Hugo Chavez’s legacy; echoing him lends Maduro some legitimacy.)

Still, Venezuela is long past the point where it can downplay or ignore its plight. When Maduro opened the judiciary session this year, he acknowledged that the U.S. isn’t entirely to blame for everything wrong in the country – a pretty significant rhetorical departure for him – adding that more work was needed to transform the country. He received a standing ovation.

But Maduro still has to tread carefully. He shares a delicate balance of power with Diosdado Cabello, the head of the Constituent Assembly (the pro-government legislature) and current #2 in the governing PSUV party, and Vladimir Padrino Lopez, the minister of defense. (Economic liberalization would be particularly galling to a dyed-in-the-wool Chavista such as Cabello.) There are also two competing legislatures that would be involved in whatever economic change is made into law.

Which is to say that Maduro’s hold on power is still precarious. “Wild capitalism” hasn’t solved any problems – things are still very expensive, and not everyone benefits from access to foreign currency – and Maduro risks alienating his supporters by seemingly turning his back on the legacy of Chavismo. This means he is still vulnerable to losing power and opening a path for a more moderate Chavista to step in, rather than someone like Guaido who marked a complete departure from the regime. This is the opposite of what the U.S. had in mind.   





Crafty_Dog

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Lock him up!
« Reply #620 on: March 26, 2020, 12:21:50 PM »
U.S. Charges Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro With Drug Trafficking
Trump administration charged more than a dozen other current and former Venezuelan officials with money laundering and other offenses; $15 million reward

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro speaking at a news conference in Caracas on March 12.
PHOTO: MANAURE QUINTERO/REUTERS
By Aruna Viswanatha, José de Córdoba and Ian Talley
Updated March 26, 2020 12:50 pm ET
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U.S. authorities charged Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with drug trafficking and offered a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest, in a sweeping set of actions that targeted more than a dozen current and former Venezuelan officials and escalated the Trump administration’s effort to unseat the leftist regime.

Prosecutors unsealed a series of criminal cases in New York, Florida and Washington on Thursday that they described as the product of a decadelong investigation and accuse Mr. Maduro and others of coordinating with a Colombian drug-trafficking guerilla group to flood the U.S. with tons of cocaine for the past 20 years.

Attorney General William Barr described the Venezuelan regime as “plagued by criminality and corruption,” saying that it was dominated by a “system constructed and controlled to enrich those at the highest levels of the government.” He spoke at a Thursday press conference held online because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Mr. Maduro remains in control of Venezuela, the U.S. and nearly 60 countries last year recognized the then-president of the country’s national assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the country’s legitimate president.

The Venezuelan government didn’t have an immediate reaction to the indictments. In the past, Venezuela has rejected any U.S. accusations of drug trafficking, corruption or support for terrorist groups as part of a U.S. plot to destabilize the Maduro government.

The indictment comes at a time when Venezuela and the Maduro government are reeling from the global collapse of oil prices and U.S. economic sanctions that have shriveled the country’s crucial oil shipments.

The country, already five years into a depression that last year saw economic growth contract by 35%, also faces the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic amid a collapsed health-care system and a population suffering from widespread malnourishment.

In another case, filed in federal court in Miami, prosecutors accused the sitting chief justice of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, Maikel José Moreno Pérez, with taking millions of dollars in bribes related to cases he was overseeing and spending the funds on luxury goods and real estate in southern Florida.

The case against Mr. Maduro is the first time that the U.S. has charged a sitting head of state since Florida prosecutors indicted Panamanian strongman General Manuel Noriega in 1988 on drug trafficking and money-laundering charges. The U.S. invaded Panama the following year.

Mr. Noriega was tried in Miami and convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering. He served a long prison sentence in the U.S. before being extradited to Panama, where he died in 2017.

Mr. Maduro is unlikely to ever be in U.S. custody and face the charges inside a U.S. courtroom, but the Justice Department uses such “name and shame” cases to publicize allegations of wrongdoing that prosecutors believe they can prove to the standard of criminal cases—beyond a reasonable doubt.

U.S. officials said Thursday they remained optimistic that they would be able to eventually prosecute some of the officials, who could face arrest if they travel overseas.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF: Russia anally raped in Venezuela oil play
« Reply #621 on: March 30, 2020, 08:33:51 PM »


•   On March 28, Russian state oil company Rosneft announced the end of its operations in Venezuela. The company said it will receive a liquidation payment worth 9.6 percent of its capital.

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Eliot Abrams: A New Path to Venezuelan Democracy
« Reply #622 on: March 31, 2020, 04:31:16 AM »
A New Path to Venezuelan Democracy
The U.S. State Department proposes Maduro and Guaidó both step aside and make way for free elections.
By Elliott Abrams
March 31, 2020 5:00 am ET

As the coronavirus spreads around the world, it’s easy to forget the Venezuelan people’s suffering at the hands of Nicolás Maduro’s regime. The Trump administration hasn’t. Today we are announcing a Democratic Transition Framework to help Venezuelans escape from the national crisis that falling oil prices and the coronavirus have now deepened.

We present this framework as a path for Venezuela to emerge from years of repression and political conflict. It proposes that both Mr. Maduro, the former president who has clung to power, and Juan Guaidó, the interim president, step aside so that the elected members of the National Assembly from both sides can create a Council of State to serve as the transitional government, which would hold free and fair presidential elections. In last year’s negotiations, the team representing Mr. Guaidó and the National Assembly proposed this path forward toward the restoration of democracy.

Democracy isn’t only about elections. A new, balanced and independent National Electoral Council is also critical, and an independent Supreme Court must replace the current one, which is but an arm of the Maduro regime. A vibrant democracy also demands a free and independent media with an end to the regime’s pervasive censorship.

The U.S. doesn’t support any particular political party in Venezuela. We support a return to democracy and believe that every party—including the regime’s party, the PSUV—should be able to compete on a level playing field in free and fair elections. This means an end to the unjust prosecutions that have left dozens of members of Parliament in exile, four in prison, and many more barred from running for office—including Mr. Guaidó, who would continue as president of the National Assembly until new parliamentary and presidential elections. The U.S. will recognize the results of a free and fair election, no matter which party wins; what we oppose is the abuse of state power that enables one party to rule indefinitely.

For the Maduro regime, the deep cuts in income due to falling oil prices compound the crisis of a medical system that it pushed into slow collapse over two decades. U.S. pressure hasn’t prevented food or medicine from reaching Venezuelans. The purpose of sanctions is to deprive the regime of the income it uses for repression—or steals through vast corruption—and force the regime to agree to presidential elections. Mr. Maduro has never negotiated in good faith about that central issue. National Assembly elections alone do not constitute a political solution.

The military will play an essential role in bringing about peaceful change and shaping Venezuela’s future. Venezuelan soldiers, along with police officers, are suffering as civilians are; they can barely afford to feed their families and can’t afford medical care or medications. Venezuela faces a great security challenge from drug traffickers, terrorist groups and criminal gangs, and it needs security forces that are better paid, trained and equipped to secure the nation’s borders and maintain peace. The military and police must abandon the role the Maduro regime has forged for them—carrying out the repression of the Venezuelan people. The military must also join in expelling the Cuban intelligence agents who spy on them and all citizens and serve as the regime’s true shield. The armed forces’ support of the Democratic Transition Framework would be a key step in this direction.

Free and fair presidential elections are the path out of Venezuela’s crisis. Because Mr. Maduro cannot be trusted to organize them, establishing the Council of State is an essential step. We are prepared to work with all Venezuelans and with other nations and lift sanctions when the necessary conditions are met. The Democratic Transition Framework paves the best path to a restoration of democracy through fair participation of all parties, and an end to the brutality, repression and political turmoil that have marked Venezuela’s recent past.

Until that objective is achieved, our pressure will strengthen. We look forward to the day when elections have been held, a new democratic government is in place, and sanctions can be lifted. We look forward to restoring once-close Venezuela-U.S. relations, to helping Venezuelan migrants and refugees displaced by the crisis return to their beloved country, and to seeing Venezuela’s children able to share again in their country’s natural bounty.

Mr. Abrams is special representative for Venezuela at the U.S. State Department.


Crafty_Dog

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Re: Venezuela
« Reply #623 on: April 01, 2020, 11:14:32 AM »
In Venezuela, the U.S. Offers Sanctions Relief for a Power-Sharing Deal
4 MINS READ
Apr 1, 2020 | 17:46 GMT
HIGHLIGHTS
In a notable shift from its hardline anti-Maduro rhetoric, Washington has called on both sides of Venezuela's political battle to step aside for a new transitional government and free elections....

The Big Picture

The U.S. State Department has called on both sides of Venezuela’s ongoing political battle to stand down and make way for a new transitional government and democratic elections, marking a notable shift from Washington’s more hardline, pro-opposition rhetoric. But the United States' primary goal of undermining elite support for President Nicolas Maduro nonetheless remains in place.

See Venezuela's Unraveling

What Happened

To break Venezuela’s ongoing political stalemate, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a plan on March 31 that outlines a path to a power-sharing framework and free elections in exchange for the potential removal of U.S. sanctions. Dubbed the "Democratic Transition Framework," the proposal specifically calls for both President Nicolas Maduro and U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido to step aside for the formation of a new “inclusive transitional government acceptable to the major factions” without either leader. Elected by the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, this transitional government would remain in power until it oversees free elections, ideally held in six to 12 months.

To put the plan into motion, the United States has offered the quick removal of sanctions on individuals who resign from their posts within the Maduro regime. The removal of broader U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry and state-owned energy company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), however, are contingent on Maduro himself leaving office, as well as the withdrawal of all Cuban and Russian forces currently deployed in the country. In a separate statement, the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, notably added that the proposal does not have a mechanism to reject the U.S. Department of Justice’s recently announced indictment of Maduro and other Venezuelan officials over so-called "narco-terrorism" charges.

Why It Matters

The fact that the new proposal is less overtly Guido-centeric marks a notable shift in tone for the United States, and could indicate that Washington has concluded that its former hardline rhetoric against the Maduro regime has failed to quickly oust the leader from office as intended. But the core of the White House’s strategy in Venezuela is still the same — that is, driving a wedge between Maduro and his loyalists in both the United Socialist Party and the military so that they eventually turn on the leader in some fashion. The U.S.-led push to oust Maduro was always going to inherently require a transitional government; this plan just formally plots the course to reach that end.

However, Washington’s move to indict a number of Maduro’s allies less than a week ago — and that the newly proposed transition plan does not include dropping those charges — could backfire on this goal by hardening solidarity among the regime’s top indicted officials who now all find themselves in the same boat. It will thus be critical to monitor whether non-indicted officials begin to come out against Maduro in response to the new U.S. plan, and if those who do have enough political sway to encourage other officials to follow suit.

While the proposed power-sharing deal marks a notable shift in tone, Washington's primary goal of undermining elite support for President Nicolas Maduro nonetheless remains the same.

There’s also a chance Maduro would still be eligible to run in the new elections: While Pompeo stressed Maduro would "never again" rule Venezuela in his statement, Abrams also noted that he could "theoretically run." Indeed, there is significant concern among Venezuela hawks in the United States that the new proposal could effectively pull the rug out from Guaido’s feet, and it remains unclear whether there's a different opposition figure who could replace him to challenge Maduro.

What’s Next

The U.S. offer for a transition will entice some non-indicted officials to turn against Maduro, but those pathways have always been there. So far this year, Maduro’s security forces also have continued to successfully block attempts by Guaido’s opposition movement to access the National Assembly building. Stratfor thus maintains its assessment that Maduro’s government will remain in power through the end of 2020, despite the mounting financial strain brought on by U.S. sanctions, the collapse in oil production and now coronavirus-related drops in global oil prices and demand. The more likely timetable for those fissures to metastasize into pushing out Maduro is 2021 or 2022, with the long-term health of Venezuela’s oil industry and oil prices still the most important force that could eventually result in a government transition.


Crafty_Dog

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Re: Venezuela
« Reply #625 on: April 04, 2020, 03:52:25 PM »
   
    Rosneft Leaves Venezuela
By: GPF Staff
 
(click to enlarge)
Russian oil company Rosneft announced last week that it would cease all its operations in Venezuela. The decision was not a surprise; the U.S. had imposed sanctions against two Rosneft subsidiaries – TNK Trading International and Rosneft Trading – for continuing to buy oil from Venezuela despite sanctions against such purchases. The move could, however, negatively affect the company's image as well as its performance. Moscow remains heavily dependent on oil sales, and the recent fluctuations in oil prices have hit the country's finances hard.

But Russia isn't leaving Venezuela completely. Rosneft's Venezuelan assets have been sold to a Russian state-owned company, which will acquire shares in the Petromonagas, Petroperija, Boqueron, Petromiranda and Petrovictoria oil fields as well as Rosneft's trading operations. Venezuela is one of Russia's few remaining partners in Latin America, so Moscow was prepared to buy up Rosneft's assets to help support the Maduro regime. Moscow also owns a 49.9 percent stake in U.S.-based Citgo, giving it some leverage in future talks with Washington.