Author Topic: Venezuela Politica  (Read 382616 times)

captainccs

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PNB ataca a opositores con gas pimienta en Los Cedros
« Reply #400 on: April 04, 2017, 11:06:21 AM »
Estoy tratando de averiguar como anda la confrontación entre la Asamblea Nacional y el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.

El centro de Caracas está trancado, sin servicio de metro. Al regresar a mi casa vi algo de los gases lagrimógenos o de  gas pimienta. El el este donde estuve esta mañana todo anda normal y en calma. El solo indicio fue los anuncios del metro de las estaciones que no están prestando servicio.



PNB ataca a opositores con gas pimienta en Los Cedros
Abr 4, 2017 9:57 am
Publicado en: Actualidad



Este martes en horas de la mañana la oposición venezolana se concentra en Los Cedros, en la avenida Libertador para emprender marcha hasta la Asamblea Nacional donde comenzarán el proceso de remoción de los magistrados del TSJ.

Efectivos de la Policía Nacional Bolivariana (PNB) lanzaron gas pimienta a los manifestantes para intentar dispersarlos.

A través de la red social Twitter se dio a conocer la noticia, asimismo reportaron que la PNB no permitirá ningún tipo de concentración.

El concejal de Chacao, Alfredo Jimeno infomó que un grupo de diputados fue rociado con gas pimienta en la avenida Libertador.

Foto: @menamary
Foto: @menamary


Ver las fotos en en artículo original

https://www.lapatilla.com/site/2017/04/04/pnb-ataca-a-opositores-con-gas-pimienta-en-la-avenida-libertador/
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Denny Schlesinger

Crafty_Dog

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WSJ: Policia en busca de salida
« Reply #401 on: May 18, 2017, 01:23:20 PM »

By Anatoly Kurmanaev
Updated May 17, 2017 5:52 a.m. ET
266 COMMENTS

CARACAS, Venezuela—When Ana, a five-year veteran of the national police, finishes her night shift patrolling this city’s dangerous slums, she often arrives home only to pick up her riot gear and head out again to confront rollicking protests against Venezuela’s embattled government.

On those front lines, she and her colleagues use tear gas and rubber bullets against increasingly desperate protesters armed with stones, Molotov cocktails and even bags of feces. The showdowns take place in scorching heat, and she says the authorities provide her with no food, water or overtime pay.

Ana, who along with others cited in this article asked that her last name not be used for fear of official retribution, is one of about 100,000 Venezuelan security officers, mostly in their 20s, shielding the government of increasingly unpopular President Nicolás Maduro from escalating unrest.
Venezuelan National Guard members shielding themselves from a jar of fecal matter thrown at them by antigovernment protesters in Caracas, Venezuela, earlier this month.
Venezuelan National Guard members shielding themselves from a jar of fecal matter thrown at them by antigovernment protesters in Caracas, Venezuela, earlier this month. Photo: Fernando Llano/Associated Press

She and many of her exhausted colleagues say they are wavering as protests enter a seventh week with no end in sight.

“One day I will step aside and just walk away, blend into the city,” she said. “No average officers support this government anymore.”

The security forces’ once fierce loyalty to Mr. Maduro’s charismatic predecessor Hugo Chávez has largely given way to demoralization, exhaustion and apathy amid an economic collapse and endless protests, said eight security officers from different forces and locations in interviews with The Wall Street Journal.

Most of them say they want only to earn a steady wage amid crippling food shortages and a decimated private sector. Others say fear of a court-martial keeps them in line.

“We’re just trying to survive,” said Caracas police officer Viviane, a single mother who says she shows up for protest duty so she can feed her 1-year-old son. “I would love to quit but there are no other jobs.”
Opposition supporters using a giant slingshot to throw a ‘Poopootov’—a bottle filled with feces—during a rally last week against President Nicolás Maduro.
Opposition supporters using a giant slingshot to throw a ‘Poopootov’—a bottle filled with feces—during a rally last week against President Nicolás Maduro. Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

A full-time Venezuelan police officer or member of the National Guard, the country’s militarized police in charge of riot control, makes the national minimum wage of about $40 a month at the black-market exchange rates, the same as a cafe waiter.

“The security forces suffer the same as the rest of society from the economic crisis,” said retired Maj. Gen. Miguel Rodríguez Torres, who commanded national police in the last wave of antigovernment unrest in 2014.

The current round of protests, triggered in late March by an attempt by judges allied to Mr. Maduro to dissolve the congress, have led to 43 deaths so far, mostly of protesters. Thousands of demonstrators have been arrested and hundreds are being tried in military courts for treason.

The epicenter of the protests has been the line where downtown Caracas meets the opposition-run eastern boroughs of the capital. Both sides view control of the city center as vital. The last large antigovernment march that managed to reach the presidential palace there led to a short-lived coup in 2002 against Mr. Chávez. The opposition says the increasingly isolated government is scared of losing control if a rally breaches its stronghold.
A police officer looks on as opposition supporters confront her colleagues at a protest against Mr. Maduro in Caracas on Friday.
A police officer looks on as opposition supporters confront her colleagues at a protest against Mr. Maduro in Caracas on Friday. Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

“This is a war of attrition,” said Luis García, a student activist who has been at the forefront of the protests. “Whoever tires first will lose.”

Most days follow the same pattern: An initially peaceful demonstration disintegrates into violence as security forces fire tear gas and rubber bullets to block the protesters’ advance. The bulk of the demonstrators then flee, leaving the field to hundreds of hooded youths who call themselves the Resistance, build barricades and battle officers into the night.
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“I don’t fear death, because this life is crap,” said Agustín, a 22-year-old Resistance member who blames Mr. Maduro for the collapse of education and job opportunities for young people.

Most guardsmen in Caracas have been confined to barracks since the protests erupted in late March, without seeing their families, according to several guardsmen interviewed.

“I feel exhausted from it all: the lack of sleep, the constant barrage of stones and Molotovs,” said Gustavo, a 21-year-old national guardsman, adding he has to keep performing riot duty despite a leg injury from a broken bottle thrown by a protester. “We’re being used as cannon fodder.”

Officers stopped giving time off in Gustavo’s barracks after 18 guardsmen deserted during the last break last month, he said.
Police officers firing tear gas during a protest against President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month in Caracas.
Police officers firing tear gas during a protest against President Nicolás Maduro earlier this month in Caracas. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Image

Guardsman Juan, 21 years old, said he has been getting up at 4 a.m. daily in his barracks outside Caracas for the past month. He gets a boiled carrot or a potato for breakfast and is sent out to protest duty, sometimes until near midnight. Back at the barracks, dinner sometimes consists of a plain corn patty known as an arepa. On a lucky day, there will be butter, Juan says.

Riot duty is sometimes followed by emergency nighttime shifts to contain looting outbreaks. Guardsmen and policemen can increasingly be seen napping on Caracas’s streets in the mornings before protests gather pace.

As the unrest drags on, both sides are escalating violence to try to break the deadlock. Videos on social media have shown policemen and soldiers firing tear-gas canisters directly at protesters at close range, running them over with armored vehicles and beating them with shotgun butts.

Some protesters throw Molotov cocktails at National Guard vehicles to try to set them ablaze and others aim for soldiers’ heads when they launch rocks from giant makeshift slingshots.

    ‘I’m ashamed to say I’m a police officer. God willing, this government will fall soon and this will end.’
    —Ana of Venezuela’s national police

Armed pro-government paramilitaries add to the chaos, driving their motorbikes into protests to disperse them. Shots fired by paramilitary gangs have hit both protesters and policemen, according to opposition leaders and security officers.

The violence is driven by adrenaline, fear and self-preservation instincts rather than hatred, say both security officers and Resistance members interviewed by the Journal.

“These are my countrymen, I cannot hate them,” said protester Agustín of the guardsmen. “But when [gas] bombs start falling, what is there left to talk about?”

Police officer Ana says she no longer wears her uniform on the way to or from work to avoid being spit on or insulted by passersby.

“I’m ashamed to say I’m a police officer,” she said. “God willing, this government will fall soon and this will end.”

—Sheyla Urdaneta in Maracaibo and Maolis Castro in Caracas contributed to this article.

Corrections & Amplifications
Ana, who along with others cited in this article asked that her last name not be used for fear of official retribution, is one of about 100,000 Venezuelan security officers, mostly in their 20s, shielding the government of increasingly unpopular President Nicolás Maduro from escalating unrest. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of security officers. (May 17)

Write to Anatoly Kurmanaev at Anatoly.kurmanaev@wsj.com

Appeared in the May. 18, 2017, print edition as 'Venezuelan Riot Police Tire of Front-Line Duties.'

Crafty_Dog

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300,000
« Reply #402 on: June 01, 2017, 06:54:30 AM »
!Este hilo ha estado leido mas que 300,000 veces!

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Se quema el edificio de la Suprema Corte
« Reply #403 on: June 14, 2017, 11:15:30 PM »

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #404 on: July 06, 2017, 09:27:24 AM »

captainccs

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Leopoldo López de la carcel a arresto domiciliario
« Reply #405 on: July 08, 2017, 05:42:24 AM »
¿Que pretenderá Maduro con esta concesión?


El opositor venezolano Leopoldo López sale de la cárcel


El dirigente opositor venezolano Leopoldo López en el momento de entregarse a los miembros de la Guardia Nacional

- López continúa en arresto domiciliario, ha informado su abogado: "Leopoldo López está en su casa de Caracas con Lilian y sus hijos. Aún no es libre".

- Su salida de la cárcel "fortalece su liderazgo", ha añadido su abogado.

- Según el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de Venezuela, la medida de arresto domiciliario otorgada a López se ha debido a "problemas de salud".

- Su mujer pudo visitarle este viernes en prisión.

- Las reacciones de los políticos españoles a la liberación de Leopoldo López


El opositor venezolano Leopoldo López ha salido de la cárcel, según ha informado su abogado, Javier Cremades, en redes sociales. López, que llevaba encarcelado desde 2014 cumpliendo una condena de casi 14 años, ha pasado a arresto domiciliario. "Leopoldo López está en su casa de Caracas con Lilian y sus hijos. Aún no es libre, sigue bajo arresto domiciliario. Le sacaron de madrugada", ha dicho Cremades en Twitter.

"La salida de la cárcel de Leopoldo fortalece su liderazgo", ha indicado el abogado del opositor venezolano, que ha insistido en la idea de que "hay que restablecer aún todos los derechos civiles y políticos de Leopoldo López. Además quedan 300 presos políticos en mazmoras bolivarianas". Cremades ha añadido que "dar casa por cárcel  a Leopoldo López indica cuán desesperados y divididos están, una muestra de debilidad de un régimen acorralado".

Según ha informado el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) de Venezuela, la medida de arresto domiciliario otorgada a López se ha debido a "problemas de salud". "Magistrado Maikel Moreno, Presidente del TSJ, otorga medida humanitaria ajustada a Derecho a Leopoldo López el viernes 7 de julio", ha indicado el Supremo en Twitter.

López, líder del partido opositor Voluntad Popular, se encontraba en la prisión de Ramo Verde, a las afueras de Caracas, desde hace poco más de tres años. El líder opositor fue condenado en 2015 a casi catorce años de prisión por delitos de instigación pública, asociación para delinquir e incendio, en relación con los incidentes violentos registrados durante una marcha antigubernamental que había convocado en febrero de 2014.

López se entregó el 18 de febrero de ese año a las autoridades venezolanas para responder ante la Justicia. Desde entonces estaba preso en la cárcel militar de máxima seguridad Ramo Verde. La oposición, gobiernos extranjeros y organizaciones de defensa de los Derechos Humanos le han calificado de "preso político".

Su esposa, Lilian Tintori, logró este viernes visitarlo en prisión después de 32 días sin verlo y de que se filtrara hace dos semanas un vídeo en el que López gritaba desde su celda que lo estaban torturando. "Lilian, me están torturando. ¡Denuncien, denuncien! Lilian, denuncia", grita López a Tintori según se escucha en el vídeo que fue grabado desde las cercanías de la prisión.

En su papel de mediador de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (Unasur), el expresidente del Gobierno español José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, visitó varias veces en el último año a López en prisión, la última el pasado 4 de junio. En esa visita estuvo acompañado de la entonces canciller venezolana, Delcy Rodríguez, y el alcalde del municipio Libertador de Caracas, Jorge Rodríguez, ambos representantes del gobierno para el proceso de diálogo con la oposición.

Consulta popular de la oposición venezolana

Esta liberación se produce una semana antes de que se celebre el plebiscito convocado por la oposición venezolana contra el Gobierno de Nicolás Maduro, el próximo 16 de julio. En esta consulta, los ciudadanos deberán responder si aprueban o no la elección de la  Asamblea Nacional Constituyente (ANC), prevista para el 30 de julio, así como si demandan a la Fuerza Armada y a los funcionarios cumplir la actual Carta Magna y las decisiones de la Asamblea Nacional (Parlamento), controlada por la oposición.

Además, los votantes del plebiscito podrían dar el sí para que se proceda a la renovación de los Poderes Públicos, mayormente afines al Gobierno, y "a la realización de elecciones libres y transparentes, así como la conformación de un gobierno de unión nacional para restituir el orden constitucional".

El presidente del Gobierno español, Mariano Rajoy, se ha declarado en Twitter "feliz" por la liberación de López.

Por su parte, la presidenta de la Comunidad y del PP madrileño, Cristina Cifuentes, ha dado la enhorabuena a Lilian Tintori por la liberación de López.

El secretario general del PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, también ha expresado en Twitter su satisfacción por la liberación de Leopoldo López: "Hay que felicitarse porque Leopoldo pueda estar en casa con su familia, es un paso adelante. Aún quedan muchos presos polticos en Venezuela".

http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/3086033/0/leopoldo-lopez-sale-carcel-venezuela-opositor/
 
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captainccs

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Leopoldo López tendrá casa por cárcel
« Reply #406 on: July 08, 2017, 05:53:01 AM »
El Tribunal Supremo de [IN]justicia no hace nada que no le ordene el presidente Maduro. Solo son pretensiones de democracia que no existe hoy día en Venezuela.


Leopoldo López tendrá casa por cárcel


Leopoldo López

La Sala Penal del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) dictó casa por cárcel para el dirigente opositor Leopoldo López, quien permanecía en prisión militar en Ramo Verde desde 2014.

El TSJ declaró que la medida fue otorgada "por problemas de salud". Además, el máximo ente del Poder Judicial explicó que la medida humanitaria fue tomada "en virtud que existían serios señalamientos de irregularidades sobre la distribución del expediente a un Tribunal de Ejecución, asimismo y en virtud de información recibida sobre la situación de salud del dirigente político".

http://globovision.com/article/liberado-leopoldo-lopez
 
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Stratfor: US and Russia almost agree on Venezuela
« Reply #407 on: July 13, 2017, 12:36:57 PM »
The U.S. and Russia Almost See Eye to Eye on Venezuela
Protesters run from tear gas during an anti-government demonstration on during February in Caracas, Venezuela. A confrontation between government elites and a dissident faction of the ruling party is threatening to balloon into a wider conflict.
(JOHN MOORE/Getty Images)
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The political interests of Russia and the United States intersect in nations across the world, and Venezuela is no exception. Both global powers want political stability in the country, although for different reasons. The United States wants to avoid an escalation of violence there, and the Russians, as well as the Chinese, want to protect oil investments and the repayment of loans. And Washington and Moscow have ample reason to be concerned about Venezuela’s stability. A confrontation between government elites and a dissident faction of the ruling party is threatening to balloon into a wider conflict. Opposition-led protests have lasted more than 100 days, and unrest spurred by food shortages, inflation and deep dissatisfaction with the government is spreading. And because of the growing risk of a coup, middle-ranking officials in the armed forces are under increased surveillance. To further complicate matters, oil prices remain low and Venezuela's public finances are depleted, meaning that an economic recovery will take decades. In short, there is no simple way out of the crisis.
 
However intractable the country's long-term economic problems are, Russia or Cuba – a security ally to Caracas — may eventually provide some relief for Venezuela's immediate political problems through an offer of political asylum. Venezuela's deeply unpopular president, Nicolas Maduro, risks losing his office in an election scheduled for November 2018. The country’s ruling elites see this potential loss of power as an unacceptable risk to their political privileges and personal safety. In response, Maduro and political and military elites are pushing to rewrite the country’s constitution and purge dissenters from their ranks in an effort to cling to power. However, reports from Stratfor sources indicate that Maduro has also explored seeking political asylum. For more than a year, Stratfor has received persistent reports that he has considered asking for refuge in Russia or Cuba. He may have sweetened his request to Russia with offers of mineral concessions. But even if Maduro eventually secures an exile deal with Russia or Cuba, other military and political officials at risk of arrest in Venezuela or extradition to the United States will rely on the constitutional rewrite to improve their chances of political survival.
 
The talks on asylum appear to be part of larger discussions in which the interests of the United States, Cuba, Russia and China converge. According to a Stratfor source, Cuba is a key part of indirect talks between Russia and the United States on Venezuela. The government of Raul Castro conveys Russian and Chinese positions (as well as Maduro's) to the United States. And former Spanish prime minister and mediator Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero represents U.S. interests. Maduro ordered the release of opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez from prison on July 8 after months of negotiations involving Cuba and Zapatero. His decision, an apparent concession to the United States and the opposition, did not include input from key Venezuelan leaders like Vice President Tareck el Aissami or Diosdado Cabello, leader of the ruling party. Lopez's transfer to house arrest – a minor move compared to the larger forces affecting Venezuela — was likely intended to soften street protests. Lopez's release could also help Cuba curry favor with Venezuela's opposition. Given Cuba's reliance on access to Venezuelan fuel, Havana may hope that Lopez's release will help it curry favor with Venezuela’s opposition in case the Maduro government falls and the opposition finds itself in control.
 
For Moscow, its desire for a peaceful resolution in Venezuela likely lies in its vested interest in the country's resources. Russian oil company Rosneft owns stakes in joint ventures with the Venezuelan government in the Orinoco Belt. Separate reports from Stratfor sources suggest that the Russian government would like additional mineral concessions, although their nature and location are unclear. And an asylum deal may also have strategic implications. Brokering the departure of Maduro may give the Russians leverage in their broader negotiations with the United States on other contentious topics, such as Syria, Ukraine or the European borderlands. On the other hand, China is willing to work with any government in Caracas, as long as it respects China’s investments and repays loans made to the Venezuelan government, according to a source.
 
In contrast, specific U.S. interests in Venezuela are far clearer than those of the Russians. Although Venezuela is a secondary issue for Washington, a peaceful resolution is better than a violent confrontation. The United States would also like to see timely, fair elections in Venezuela, and the drug trafficking conduit through the country is also a continuing concern. However, Washington has few policy tools with which it can directly influence the political confrontation in the country. Aside from indirect discussions with Venezuela, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be relying on the limited avenues its predecessors used. In February 2017 the Department of the Treasury sanctioned Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his suspected role in cocaine trafficking to the United States. Additional sanctions may be implemented against individual Venezuelan political leaders. The Trump administration is still deciding whether to adopt a more aggressive stance, and the possibility of sanctions against the oil sector have been floated as a means of pressuring the government to hold free elections. The White House has also moved to tighten sanctions on Cuban entities controlled by its armed forces. In the near term, that move will drive the Cubans to continue to support the Maduro government.
 
A negotiated transition from the Maduro government — in which power passes to the vice president — could temporarily reduce confrontation between the opposition and the government. However, it is no guarantee of long-term political stability. According to a Stratfor source, the Russian or Cuban governments would be willing to accept the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, but not other political figures. Cuba may be willing to take in Maduro and his entourage, but large numbers of Venezuelan political figures could become a liability, given the potential for U.S. demands for extradition. In the absence of a political solution that protects their interests, vulnerable officials, who include El Aissami, Cabello, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol and members of the Francisco de Miranda Front, will keep pushing for an assembly to rewrite the constitution. And barring a drastic event, such as a successful military coup, this drive will move forward and remain a trigger for unrest. So, despite U.S. and Russian hopes, there is no easy way out of the turmoil in Venezuela.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Washington weighs sanctions
« Reply #408 on: July 22, 2017, 01:27:57 PM »
As the United States considers what sanctions to levy against Venezuela, measures on financial transactions could be the most effective, Reuters reported July 22. Targeting financial transactions gives Washington the ability to drastically increase pressure on Caracas by threatening punishment of any U.S. firm doing business with state oil firm PDVSA or U.S. banks processing any of its transactions in dollars. The measures under discussion are similar to those imposed against Tehran, which halved Iran's oil exports and prevented top crude buyers from paying for Iranian oil. If enacted, such a move could be a crippling blow to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, effectively starving the government coffers.

captainccs

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #409 on: July 22, 2017, 02:18:51 PM »
Quote
The measures under discussion are similar to those imposed against Tehran

which did NOT topple the Teheran government, they just made people suffer more.

ese tipo de sanción no derroca gobierno, solo hace sufrir mas al pueblo.
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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #410 on: July 24, 2017, 09:00:41 AM »
Venezuela's Predominate Source of Revenue Could be in the Crosshairs

Washington has drawn a red line on Venezuela. If the government in Caracas moves forward with elections on July 30 to elect members of a Constitutional Assembly to rewrite the country's constitution, the Trump administration will likely implement some sort of sanctions against it. The effect those sanctions will have on the political confrontation between the government, opposition, and dissident members of the ruling party largely depends on their severity. Individual sanctions targeting Venezuelan politicians will likely have little effect. But if the United States implements sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil sector, it would have an immediate and drastic impact on the country, especially given that Venezuela depends on oil for virtually all its export revenue. If Venezuela's energy sector is sanctioned, it could rapidly reduce oil production because the state-run energy company PDVSA depends heavily on the U.S. market, as well as on U.S. companies for services and crude oil imports to blend with its own oil. Sanctions would, however, also lead to a sharp reduction in food imports, a wider migration of Venezuelans abroad and greater political instability in the country.

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #411 on: July 27, 2017, 07:15:54 PM »
The U.S. Department of State has ordered family members of government employees at the embassy in Caracas to leave Venezuela because of the worsening security situation, AFP reported July 27. The voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees has also been authorized. U.S. citizens are also advised to avoid traveling to Venezuela because of social unrest, violent crime, and pervasive food and medicine shortages.

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #412 on: July 28, 2017, 02:56:33 AM »
segundo del dia:

Venezuela's political and economic crises may soon go from bad to drastically worse. Within weeks, the U.S. government could implement sanctions against Venezuela's vital oil sector to prevent the government in Caracas from formally starting down the path to a one-party state. In their most severe form, the sanctions would wreck Venezuela's ability to export oil to the United States by denying the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) access to the U.S. financial system. And U.S. companies would also be barred from doing business with the PDVSA. That would lead to a quick and steep drop in Venezuela's already declining oil production. In turn, imports would contract sharply and inflation would skyrocket, spurring the mass migration of millions of Venezuelans. But the United States could also resort to lesser sanctions limited to individuals in the Venezuelan government. Either way, the unrest in Venezuela will continue.
 
The government's approval of an assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan Constitution would immediately trigger heavy sanctions. The assembly election is set for July 30. But this is just the latest in a series of security solutions the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has used to try to hold on to political power amid rising discontent from citizens. In other moves, the administration of President Nicolas Maduro began in 2015 to expand the size of civilian paramilitary units (known colloquially as colectivos) controlled by the ruling party elite. The government also increased internal surveillance of midranking military officers, for fear that they could mobilize troops against the government. And Maduro also began planning for a new paramilitary force drawn from the ranks of party supporters — although this initiative has yet to materialize.
Long-Ranging Effects
The president and his allies are pushing for the constitutional rewrite to cement their hold on power. Amending the document could allow them to create a one-party state in which the ruling PSUV eliminates formal avenues for opposition dissent. According to a Stratfor source, the assembly originally had been intended as a way to delay the 2017 regional elections and 2018 presidential elections. Diosdado Cabello, a potent figure within the ruling party, saw the assembly process as a way to expand his political power. So what began as a makeshift solution to delay elections has now turned into a trigger for sanctions that would most likely push the PDVSA into financial default.
 
The assembly vote could also affect events outside Venezuela. If the drive for a constitutional assembly advances, Cuba could lose a key source of leverage it has over the United States. Heretofore, Havana has used its intelligence-gathering capabilities in Venezuela, as well as its influence with the Maduro government, as a way to shape talks with the Washington over lifting the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Cabello and his faction — who have opposed Cuban influence on the government — could try to use the assembly to expand their control over government offices while shutting Cuban supporters out of key positions. For their part, the Cubans are trying to place Maduro's wife, Cilia Flores, in a position to lead the constitutional assembly to keep them from being sidelined later. However, serious U.S. sanctions could threaten either Flores or Cabello's ability to control the country.
 
In Washington, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has at least two reasons to oppose the constitutional assembly. Politicians such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey who oppose the Cuban government (and, by extension, Venezuela's) have heavily lobbied for the administration to take a firmer stance against the measure. But the White House's opposition to the assembly likely rests on the long-term implications of a one-party Venezuelan state. Even if the constitution is changed, the opposition would continue its protests, and dissent within the armed forces could threaten to boil over into a coup attempt. Those developments could potentially prove to be bloody and spark a lengthy armed confrontation among different factions of the government. So in deciding on the oil sanctions, Washington likely would be weighing an authoritarian state against a bloody coup.
Many Avenues of Pressure
The Maduro government is facing pressure from too many parts of society to effectively defend itself. Domestic resistance in Venezuela is strong, and it is not motivated solely by the political opposition, which is generally ideologically opposed to the government. Since the collapse of oil prices in 2014, Venezuela's population has turned increasingly against the administration because of rising inflation and food shortages. Social unrest has been persistent and widespread over the past four months, even in areas where the opposition has traditionally held less sway. This unrest raises the possibility that neither Maduro nor a substitute from the ruling party could win the next presidential election.
 
The second source of pressure comes from former allies of the government, whether in the military or civilian sides of the party. These former supporters don't like the thought of losing power and have turned against the state. Individuals such as Attorney General Luisa Ortega form part of this front, which is pressing for a change of government.
 
The third source is the armed forces themselves. Some commanders have an interest in maintaining the status quo because they receive relatively high wages and profit from criminal activities, such as drug trafficking or gaming the country's currency controls. But the threat of action by the military is a crucial risk. A military rebellion would likely be motivated by the belief that regime change would help ease the immediate hardships faced by the people, whose resistance and dissatisfaction are only growing. Although Venezuela's armed forces are notoriously opaque, the government's concerns can be seen in its response to military dissent since the start of the year. Counterintelligence authorities have heavily monitored potential troublemakers and arrested more than 100 members of the military.
 
The United States is the fourth — and most important — source of pressure. Severe sanctions from the U.S. government represent an existential threat. Harsh measures by Washington could cause Venezuela's oil production, estimated by OPEC at about 2 million barrels per day, to decline, possibly by hundreds of thousands of bpd, denying the country vital oil export revenue. Washington is considering sanctions that would block Caracas' ability to process oil payments through the U.S. financial system and that would effectively end U.S. private sector cooperation with the PDVSA. Within a matter of months, these restrictions would cause significant cash-flow problems for the PDVSA and eat into the country's imports.
The Downward Spiral
As the sanctions kicked in, shipments to U.S. refiners, which amount to 750,000 bpd, would be rapidly disrupted, and Venezuela would have to find new buyers for its oil, leading to lasting damage. U.S. services businesses such as Halliburton Co. and Schlumberger Ltd. would pull out of Venezuela, and the government would have to quickly find substitutes to prevent a sharper production decline in the long run. U.S. refiners would cease exports of fuel, as well as the oil that Venezuela blends with its own crude for refining. And the PDVSA would have to try to sell oil that was bound for U.S. refiners at a discount elsewhere, further cutting its revenue. With less oil revenue, food imports would drop sharply and prices would spike, possibly driving millions of Venezuelans to abandon the country. The refugees would arrive first in Brazil, Colombia and the Caribbean islands near the Venezuelan coast, such as Trinidad and Tobago. And with the long-term decline of the economy, Venezuelans could be pushed even farther away, with some resorting to traveling along smuggling routes through Colombia to eventually reach the United States.
 
For now, Maduro's government is committed to the constitutional assembly vote as its last line of defense. But if the government elites around him try to hold on despite an oil sanctions package, a major, violent confrontation between them and ruling party dissidents could follow. The constitutional assembly could also turn into a political dead end and lead government elites to the negotiating table with their foreign and domestic opponents under the threat of sanctions. And if Maduro gives in to U.S. pressure, the ruling party will likely fragment further between those who see the constitutional assembly as a safeguard and those who seek to coexist with the political opposition. But, in the end, it's not clear that the United States or the government's political opponents can reach a deal that satisfies the elites trying to hold on to power. What is clear is that U.S. sanctions could make Venezuelan politics take a turn for the worse.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #413 on: August 02, 2017, 10:15:51 AM »
If Venezuela Were Stable
Aug 2, 2017

 
By Allison Fedirka
It’s easy to understand why the crisis is Venezuela gets more attention than it deserves. The country is spiraling out of control, and every time it appears to reach its tipping point, it spirals further downward, defying expectations on just how far it could sink before the crisis ended.

The most recent protests concern the vote over the constituent assembly, which would have the power to change the constitution, dismiss officials and dissolve institutions. These protest won’t be what makes or breaks the country – that honor belongs to the security forces. But the political, economic and social problems that plague Venezuela won’t continue in perpetuity. Few things in geopolitics do. The Soviet Union dissolved. China ascended. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

The Venezuela crisis will pass too. A parallel government run by the political opposition is taking shape. Some countries are no longer recognizing the actions of President Nicolas Maduro. The Venezuelan economic model is unsustainable. Anti-government protests are unrelenting. Something has to give and, according to our 2017 forecast, it will be the Maduro government.

A Marginal Power

It wasn’t so long ago that Venezuela was stable, and its stability, along with ample oil reserves, made it wealthy. But even the richest country in South America is hamstrung by the fact that it is in South America, which is at best a marginal power in geopolitics.

No South American country can dominate the continent, but Venezuela is particularly ill-suited to do so. It has a population of just 31.5 million people. According to the World Bank, it has a gross domestic product of $371 billion – roughly 20 percent the size of South America’s largest economy, Brazil. Only about 25 percent of the country’s land is suitable for agriculture (the world average is roughly 36 percent). It has had to import food to sustain its population.
 
(click to enlarge)

But even under improved socio-economic conditions, Venezuela would struggle to reach greater heights, so broken is it by its own geography. The country can be divided into four main regions. In the northwest, a lowlands region surrounds an inlet of the Caribbean Sea, on which sits the city of Maracaibo, the heart of the Venezuelan oil industry. East of the lowlands is the northern coast, along which the tail end of the Andes Mountains runs to nearly the westernmost reaches of the country. The capital of Caracas is in this region. Central Venezuela is a thinly populated area known as the Llanos. It consists of flat plains through which the Orinoco River flows and was used primarily for ranching before oil was discovered there. Last, the Guiana Highlands in the south is marked by dense, tropical jungles.

The country’s geography discourages mass settlement in the central and southern regions, so the vast majority of Venezuelans live along the northern coast or in valleys within its mountain ranges. It creates areas along Venezuela’s borders that are difficult to pass through (with some exceptional points along the border with Colombia). And though the combination of these barriers has prevented instability from spilling over the borders, it would also prevent Caracas from projecting power throughout the region. Assuming that Venezuela does reclaim stability, it wouldn’t change the balance of power in South America.

Tempered Expectations

Nor would it change the balance of power in the Caribbean. The security of the Caribbean is a vital interest to the United States, which would be exposed to the south in the presence of a foreign power. At the turn of the 20th century, Venezuela played an important role in making sure that never happened.

This is why the U.S. sided with Venezuela in 1895 during a territorial dispute with the United Kingdom. Pursuant to the Monroe Doctrine, which discouraged foreign involvement in the Western Hemisphere, Washington funded a commission that would ultimately establish new borders and pressure the U.K. into accepting international arbitration that upheld them. This is also why the United States provided support when, in 1902, Venezuela was blockaded to force payments of debt it owed to Italy, Germany and the U.K. The United States dispatched a naval fleet to Venezuelan waters and convinced the Europeans to participate in an arbitration resolution hosted by Washington. At the time, this move was as much in Venezuela’s interests as it was in the United States’. The young, post-colonial nations all feared European attempts to regain their claims or influence over former colonies in the Americas. The U.S. could not allow a foreign power to have a foothold in a place like Venezuela. But the country is no longer as important to Caribbean security because the probability of its occupation by a foreign power is practically nonexistent and the U.S. has one of the most powerful navies in the world.

Venezuela’s major link to the global system is its oil, and even here it does not hold as much influence as it used to. Venezuela is a member of OPEC, but over the past few decades producers such as Russia and the United States have diminished the prestige OPEC membership once had. OPEC currently puts Venezuela’s proven crude oil reserves at 302.25 billion barrels. Its production levels, however, have steadily declined because of bad management, poorly maintained infrastructure and a political and economic environment that discourages investment. In 2009, Venezuela produced 3 million barrels of oil per day. Today, production is closer to 2.1 million barrels per day. Low oil prices have compounded the problem by lowering government revenue. Better management and heavier foreign investment in technologies that could extract Venezuelan oil more efficiently is never a bad thing, and it’s possible that the added revenue could help stabilize the country in the long term. But more immediately, it would not appreciably affect the global oil market, which has largely already factored in Venezuelan instability for the last couple of years.

Venezuela will not be in disarray forever. But given that geopolitics is the study of how nations behave, and how their behavior shapes the global dynamics of power, the study of Venezuela is a study in tempered expectations.

captainccs

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #414 on: August 02, 2017, 11:04:46 AM »
If Venezuela Were Stable
Aug 2, 2017

By Allison Fedirka

Sorry, Crafty_Dog, Allison Fedirka is lame and should get her head out of her geopolitical hole.

Try this for size:

Why was Venezuela the most prosperous and stable country of Latin America during the 50s, 60s, and 70s?
5 Answers
Juan Pérez, Forty happy years in Venezuela - then 10 more around the world
Answered Aug 21, 2016
I’m glad you’ve asked this question!

For people under 40’s or whom never heard or read about Venezuela in the 50’s, 60’s or 70´s (or simply have just forgotten) it might difficult to imagine that Venezuela was on those years the BEST country to live in all South America - and even better than many European countries. You can see for example a spectacular photo reportage by American photographer Cornell Cappa from LIFE magazine in 1953 in Caracas - then known as “the capital of the opportunities in South America”: FOTOS | Así de hermosa era la Caracas de 1953 según LIFE.



More, MUCH MORE, at  https://www.quora.com/Why-was-Venezuela-the-most-prosperous-and-stable-country-of-Latin-America-during-the-50s-60s-and-70s


I arrived in Venezuela in 1946 and I'm an eyewitness to much of this story. I even had a part to play in the nationalization of the Orinoco deepwater channel which was operated by US Steel. The story about Arturo Uslar Pietry is incomplete. Here is the rest of it:

August 6, 2006
Uslar Pietri, Venezuelan Democracy's Undertaker

Arturo Uslar Pietri was considered one of the leading Venezuelan intellectuals of the 20th century. He certainly was entertaining and educational on TV where he addressed his "invisible friends." He was also a failed politician who ran for president and lost badly. Carlos Andrés Perez (CAP) was of the opinion that, having failed to reach power via elections, Uslar Pietri was trying to reach a position of power through machination.

More at http://softwaretimes.com/files/uslar%20pietri,%20venezuelan%20d.html
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Denny Schlesinger

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WSJ/O'Grady: The Guns of Venezuela
« Reply #415 on: August 07, 2017, 07:58:40 AM »
The Guns of Venezuela
Castro is calling the shots in Caracas. Sanctions have to be aimed at him.
Cuban President Raúl Castro with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5.
Cuban President Raúl Castro with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, March 5. Photo: carlos garcia rawlins/Reuters
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Aug. 6, 2017 4:56 p.m. ET
183 COMMENTS

In a video posted on the internet Sunday morning, former Venezuelan National Guard captain Juan Caguaripano, along with some 20 others, announced an uprising against the government of Nicolás Maduro to restore constitutional order. The rebels reportedly appropriated some 120 rifles, ammunition and grenades from the armory at Fort Paramacay in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state. There were unconfirmed claims of similar raids at several other military installations including in Táchira.

The Cuba-controlled military regime put tanks in the streets and unleashed a hunt for the fleeing soldiers. It claims it put down the rebellion and it instructed all television to broadcast only news of calm. But Venezuelans were stirred by the rebels’ message. There were reports of civilians gathering in the streets to sing the national anthem in support of the uprising.

Note to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Venezuelans want to throw off the yoke of Cuban repression. They need your help.

Unfortunately Mr. Tillerson so far seems to be taking the bad advice of his State Department “experts.”

The same bureaucrats, it should be noted, ran Barack Obama’s Latin America policy. Those years gave us a rapprochement with Havana that culminated with the 44th president doing “the wave” with Raúl Castro at a baseball game in 2016. Team Obama also pushed for Colombia’s surrender to the drug-trafficking terrorist group FARC in a so-called peace deal last year. And it supported “dialogue” last year to restore free, fair and transparent elections in Venezuela. The result, in every case, was disaster.

Any U.S.-led international strategy to liberate Venezuela must begin with the explicit recognition that Cuba is calling the shots in Caracas, and that Havana’s control of the oil nation is part of its wider regional strategy.

Slapping Mr. Maduro’s wrist with sanctions, as the Trump administration did last week, won’t change Castro’s behavior. He cares only about his cut-rate Venezuelan oil and his take of profits from drug trafficking. To affect things in Venezuela, the U.S. has to press Cuba.

Burning Cuban flags, when they can be had, is now practically a national pastime in Venezuela because Venezuelans understand the link between their suffering and Havana. The Castro infiltration began over a decade ago when Fidel sent thousands of Cuban agents, designated as teachers and medical personnel, to spread propaganda and establish communist cells in the barrios.

As I noted in this column last week, since 2005 Cuba has controlled Venezuela’s citizen-identification and passport offices, keeping files on every “enemy” of the state—a k a political opponents. The Venezuelan military and National Guard answer to Cuban generals. The Venezuelan armed forces are part of a giant drug-trafficking operation working with the FARC, which is the hemisphere’s largest cartel and also has longstanding ties to Cuba.

These are the tactical realities of the Cuba-Venezuela-Colombia nexus. The broader strategic threat to U.S. interests, including Cuba’s cozy relationship with Middle East terrorists, cannot be ignored.

Elisabeth Burgos is the Venezuelan ex-wife of the French Marxist Regis Debray. She was born in Valencia, joined the Castro cause as a young woman, and worked for its ideals on the South American continent.

Ms. Burgos eventually broke free of the intellectual bonds of communism and has lived in Paris for many years. In a recent telephone interview—posted on the Venezuelan website Prodavinci—she warned of the risks of the “Cuban project” for the region. “Wherever the Cubans have been, everything ends in tragedy,” she told Venezuelan journalist Hugo Prieto. “Surely we have no idea what forces we face,” Mr. Prieto observed—reflecting as a Venezuelan on the words of Ms. Burgos—because, as she said, there is “a lot of naiveté, a lot of ignorance, about the apparatus that has fallen on [Venezuelans]: Castroism.”

Cuban control of citizens is as important as control of the military. In Cuba this is the job of the Interior Ministry. For that level of control in Venezuela, Ms. Burgos said, Mr. Maduro must rely on an “elite of exceptional experts” Castro grooms at home.

Cuba, Ms. Burgos said, is not “simply a dictatorship.” For the regime it is a “historical political project” aiming for “the establishment of a Cuban-type regime throughout Latin America.” She noted that along with Venezuela the Cubans have taken Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and are now going after Colombia. “The FARC, turned into a political party and with all the money of [the narcotics business], in an election can buy all the votes that it wants.”

Mr. Tillerson is forewarned. Castro won’t stop until someone stops him. To get results, any U.S.-led sanctions have to hit the resources that Havana relies on to maintain the repression.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Is the Army beginning to turn?
« Reply #416 on: August 07, 2017, 04:46:54 PM »
    By itself, the theft of arms from Fort Paramacay won't be the downfall of the Venezuelan government.
    The incident does indicate, however, that parts of the military could be turning against Maduro.
    The possibility of a coup isn't the only threat to the government. Steady military defiance could weaken it against the opposition and complicate its efforts to rewrite the constitution.
    But the Maduro government won't go down without a bitter fight.

Something big happened at Venezuela's Fort Paramacay military base early Aug. 6, but the only clear thing about the event is that it's significant. Piecing together information from the Venezuelan government and independent media reports, we can gather that around 5 a.m. local time a group of people entered Fort Paramacay in Valencia. It's unknown how the individuals gained access to the base, but according to government reports they made their way to the armory and stole more than 90 AK-103 rifles and four rocket-propelled grenades. Security forces responded, and two of the intruders were killed in a shootout. Eight people, whom the government accused of being involved, were presented to the press later the same day.

At first it was unclear whether the event actually took place or whether it was merely a government public relations stunt. (All initial reports came from the embattled, increasingly authoritarian administration of President Nicolas Maduro.) However, as the day wore on, it became clear that a theft did occur at Fort Paramacay, and the central question became: What does it mean?

The obvious threat at the top of Venezuelan security planners' minds is the possibility that the stolen weapons will be used against loyalist forces. But by itself this wouldn't be enough to truly threaten the government's hold on power. Widespread military disloyalty, however, would. It's unclear how the group got into the base, but government reports say a first lieutenant at the base colluded with the raiders. And if this means broader dissent within parts of the military, the Venezuelan government is in trouble.

It's a critical time for the Maduro government. Already-rough conditions in Venezuela are rapidly deteriorating even further. The government could soon default, the United States is mulling sanctions on the country's oil sector, and at current rates, inflation could reach 4,000 percent year on year by 2020. As inflation worsens, an increasing number of military members and their families will experience food shortages and economic difficulty. Higher-ranking officials in the armed forces are insulated from the economic crisis, but thousands of lower-ranking members and their families are not. This decline in their standard of living raises the risk that they might openly defy the government, which would undermine the its ability to rule without taking popular opinion or its political opponents into account.

And it couldn't be a worse time for the Venezuelan government. Maduro's loyalists are trying to plan a National Constituent Assembly meeting to rewrite the constitution in their favor and to delay elections — partly in the hope that oil prices will rise and provide the economy (and therefore the government) a needed boost. And the government is counting on the military's support. If enough members of the military become disillusioned, the possibility of a coup cannot be ruled out. However, that's not the only threat posed by a disloyal military. Instead of a sudden coup, groups of military dissenters lacking the ability to remove the government outright could begin a lengthy process of attrition, either through attacks or acts of defiance.

The Maduro government has shown that it intends to cling to power however it can, despite low approval ratings. But it has been able to do so this long only because of the military. Over the past year and a half, the government has successfully fended off an attempt to hold a recall referendum against the president and has virtually ignored the demands of the opposition-controlled congress. It has also pushed forward on a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution and effectively turn Venezuela into a one-party state. But without the support of the military, Maduro will be unable to make progress with the assembly without risking rebellion. Put simply: The Venezuelan government needs a critical mass of loyalty from the military to survive.

Still, even if members of the military turn on Maduro and his government, the government will not abandon the constituent assembly without a fight. Challenges from the military will be met with force by parts of the military that remain loyal. And if enough dissidents pit themselves against the government, there could be a prolonged and possibly violent standoff. It's important to recognize that military dissidents would not necessarily be guided by or aligned with the political opposition, and their disloyalty could create a tangle of politically motivated violence that would have to be unraveled before the country's substantial economic problems could even begin to be addressed.

captainccs

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Prohibición de importación
« Reply #417 on: August 20, 2017, 05:30:25 PM »
Necesito su ayuda. Por favor reporte la lista de prohibiciones a blogs y a la prensa para que el mundo conozca lo cruel y absurdo que es el régimen de Nicolas Maduro

ARTÍCULOS PROHIBIDOS

Con Maduro ahora tenemos una nueva prohibición, importar cualquier cosa que pueda defendernos de la policía anti-motín y de las fuerzas armadas, por ejemplo mascaras de gas, chalecos antibalas, bolas de metal y metras (canicas), cuchillos, protectores deportivos, cascos, etc.

Pero lo absurdo va mas allá, primeros auxilios prohibidos:

Antiácidos, gasas, cremas para quemaduras, vendas, colirios, bicarbonato, etc

Le pedí a un importador médico que me trajera leche de magnesia ya que no lo hay locamente. "Lo lamentamos, antiácido, ARTÍCULO PROHIBIDO! Mi problema no es con la policia antimotín, estoy ESTREÑIDO. Jódete, come ciruelas pasas.

A continuación la lista de los artículos prohibidos suministrada por mi courier. Le agradecería que lo notifique a blogs y a servicios de noticias para exponer aun mas la crueldad del régimen del dictador Nicolas Maduro.



Los transportistas están a cargo de hacer cumplir estas prohibiciones SIN EXCEPCIÓN. Las inspecciones requeridas por este reglamento están demorando considerablemente las importaciones y aumentado su costo ademas.

Es un abuso de los derechos humanos.

Denny Schlesinger
 
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Denny Schlesinger

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #418 on: August 29, 2017, 07:47:00 AM »
•   Mexico: Mexican government sources told Reuters that their government is studying the possibility of stepping in to replace Venezuelan oil program Petrocaribe if the government of President Nicolas Maduro were to fall. Petrocaribe is a trade initiative that provides subsidized oil to friendly countries. Cuba, a beneficiary of the initiative whose shipments have declined, has already had to limit retail fuel sales and request help from Russia. Mexico’s foreign minister was in Havana last week and reportedly tried to persuade Cuba to help fix Venezuela while reassuring Havana that Mexico will support it if Maduro falls. We need a better understanding of Mexico’s role in this situation. Is this the first sign of a more assertive Mexico?

Crafty_Dog

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GPF
« Reply #419 on: October 24, 2017, 11:22:08 AM »
•   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?

Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #420 on: January 25, 2018, 07:29:41 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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Stratfor: Would Venezuela invade Guyana
« Reply #422 on: February 08, 2018, 03:33:21 PM »
Stratfor Worldview

 
      

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.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 12:24:02 PM by Crafty_Dog »

captainccs

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #423 on: February 09, 2018, 05:50:41 AM »
When in trouble, make war!  :evil:
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Denny Schlesinger

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Gatestone Institute: Iran, Russia, and China's Role in Venezuela Crisis
« Reply #424 on: February 17, 2018, 11:13:01 AM »


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

captainccs

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #425 on: February 19, 2018, 09:42:37 AM »
This is the most accurate narrative of the current Venezuelan situation I have yet read. Many of the topics covered have been circulating for years but have not been covered by the US mainstream media which covers only the superficial "shelves are empty and people are starving" that any idiot can see with his own two eyes. The US mainstream media isn't worth the paper it's printed on and much less the screens it's displayed on.

I want to comment on the Arab presence in Venezuela because if you don't know anything about it the article might give you the wrong impression.

Venezuela has a very large Arab presence that goes back a very long time. I don't have an explanation for it but it is a historical fact. This is a well integrated community in no way related to Islamic extremism. There is a sector in downtown Caracas, El Silencio, where Arabs and Jews (collectively called Turks by the locals) have retail businesses side by side in perfect harmony. Some of the most polite shop keepers in Caracas are Arabs. In the aftermath of the Six Day War there was a comment circulating in Venezuela that captures perfectly the spirt of our melting pot culture. "Had Golda Meir and Gammel Abdel Nasser shared a cup of coffee in El Silencio, there would not have been a Six Day War." That war happened in 1967, more than 30 years before the assent of Chavez. To drive the point home, let me add that a friend of mine had a furniture factory with lots of Arab shops for customers. For a time I helped him out by selling and delivering the furniture which gave me the opportunity to interact with these people and I have the highest regard for them based on that personal experience.

None of the above has changed except that it is the perfect cover for Iran's ambitions in Venezuela. I have not spoken to these people about this subject as I keep my relation with them on a strictly non-political basis. What I do know is that Arab shopkeepers, like all other Venezuelan shopkeepers, are very unhappy with the economic situation.

Denny Schlesinger
 
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Denny Schlesinger

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Pravda on the Potomac weighs in
« Reply #426 on: February 24, 2018, 07:26:02 AM »
By Editorial Board  Washington Post




February 23 at 6:40 PM   

THE LONG-RUNNING crisis in Venezuela, which has undergone a catastrophic economic collapse even as its authoritarian regime has consolidated power, has now spread across its borders. The president of neighboring Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, said this week that his country’s most serious problem could be the mass influx of desperate Venezuelan refugees: More than 600,000 are now in the country, and thousands more are arriving every day. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have swamped the Brazilian Amazon city of Boa Vista, 140 miles from the border. More than 60,000 have asylum appeals pending in the United States.

This human outflow, which the United Nations says amounts to more than 1.1 million people, is the largest displacement of people in Latin American history. But Venezuela’s refugees are attracting far less attention or international aid than those fleeing Burma or Syria. That needs to change.

The reason for the exodus is simple: Once proud citizens of the richest nation in Latin America, Venezuelans now are starving. A social survey released this week  showed that more than 90 percent say they do not have the means to buy sufficient food, and 61 percent say they go to bed hungry. Though it controls the world’s largest oil reserves, the regime founded by Hugo Chávez has wrecked not just oil production but the economy as a whole, leaving stores empty of food and hospitals deprived even of common medicines. Inflation is skyrocketing above the 2017 rate of 2,600 percent, and rampant homicide has made Caracas one of the most dangerous cities in the world.




Compounding the crisis is the refusal of the Chavista government, now headed by Nicolás Maduro, to accept humanitarian aid, which it describes as a means for foreign invasion. Rather than take basic steps to feed people or stabilize the economy, Mr. Maduro, steered by Cuban advisers, is preparing to stage a rigged election for every office in the country in April, which would allow for the elimination of all formal political opposition. The regime already put down a pro-democracy uprising last year with mass repression that led to more than 120 deaths.

Latin American nations that for years avoided addressing the collapse of democracy in Venezuela now are reaping the consequences in a very human form. Foremost is Colombia, which for years pandered to the Chavista regime and now finds its border cities overrun with desperate refugees, some of whom are reduced to sleeping in parks and begging on the streets. In an effort to stem the tide, Mr. Santos suspended border passes for 1.5 million Venezuelans and deployed 2,000 troops to block informal entry routes into the country. That may slow the refu­gee arrivals but at the cost of denying relief to hungry people.


Mr. Santos said his government is ready to accept international aid. But though the United Nations’ refu­gee agency is on the ground in Colombia and Brazil, the response has been nothing like that devoted to servicing refugees from Syria or Burma. Many Venezuelans are finding shelter with family or friends in other nations, but as Mr. Santos said, “the number of people that need to be attended to is growing exponentially, and no state has the capacity to absorb it.” With no solution to the crisis inside Venezuela in sight, it’s time for the United States and other nations to do more to mitigate its external impact.

Crafty_Dog

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VERY long article: POTH: Can Venezuela be Saved?
« Reply #427 on: March 02, 2018, 10:42:50 PM »

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/01/magazine/can-venezuela-be-saved.html?emc=edit_ta_20180302&nl=top-stories&nlid=49641193&ref=cta

Since the publication of this article, armed guards from the Venezuelan intelligence service have raided and occupied the residence of Leopoldo López. Members of the Venezuelan National Assembly gathered in front of the house, along with local media and citizens, to protest the invasion and threats by the Venezuelan government that López will be returned to military prison.

There’s a page in a book in a stack on the floor at the house of Leopoldo López that I think about sometimes. It’s a page that López revisits often; one to which he has returned so many times these past few years, scribbling new ideas in the margin and underlining words and phrases in three different colors of ink and pencil, that studying it today can give you the impression of counting the tree rings in his political life.

The book is not set out in a way to invite this kind of attention. Almost nobody is allowed to enter the López house, for one thing, being surrounded all day and night by the Venezuelan secret police; but also, for all his flaws and shortcomings, López just isn’t the sort to dress up his library for show. Pretty much every book in the house is piled up in a stack like this one — row upon row of stacked-up books rising six to eight feet from the dark wood floors, these gangly towers of dog-eared tomes, some of them teetering so precariously that when you see one of the López children run past, you might involuntarily flinch.

The particular book I have in mind is a collection of political essays and speeches. It was compiled by the Mexican politician Liébano Sáenz, with entries on the Mayan prince Nakuk Pech and the French activist Olympe de Gouges. The chapter that means the most to López begins on Page 211, under the header “Carta a los Clérigos de Alabama.” This is a mixed-up version of the title you know as “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” which was written by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963. King was in Birmingham to lead nonviolent protests of the sort that everybody praises now, but it’s helpful to remember that in 1963, he was catching hell from every quarter. It wasn’t just the slithering goons of the F.B.I. wiretapping his home and office or the ascendant black-nationalist movement rolling its eyes at his peaceful piety, but a caucus of his own would-be allies who were happy to talk about civil rights just as long as it didn’t cause any ruckus. A handful of clergymen in Birmingham had recently issued a statement disparaging King as an outside agitator whose marches and civil disobedience were “technically peaceful” but still broke the law and were likely “to incite to hatred and violence.”
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Leopoldo López last July. He had been released to house arrest on the condition that he keep silent. Credit Carlos Becerra

On the page in the book at the López house, King fires back. Writing from a cramped cell without a mattress or electric light, he scrawled a response on scraps of paper for his cellmate to smuggle out. Near the top of the page, López has underlined a passage in pencil where King condemns the complacency of “the white moderate” and the suggestion that peaceful protesters are responsible for the violent response of others. “We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension,” he writes in a passage López marked with green: “We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.” King then compares civil disobedience to the lancing of a boil, before culminating in a passage that López has flagged at least half a dozen times — with some words underlined in red, others highlighted pink, a handful of phrases boxed in green and three large arrows drawn into the margin beside the words: “Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates.”
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At a certain level, it’s unremarkable when a politician studies King, and among the people López tries to emulate, I wouldn’t put King at the top. He is more directly influenced by the former Venezuelan president Rómulo Betancourt or, for that matter, by his own grandfather Eduardo Mendoza, who was Betancourt’s adviser. But when you consider the path that López has followed these past few years in prison, the choices he’s made, the compromises and blunders, the price he has paid to speak his mind and the price now of his silence, if you want to understand the impact of four years in captivity and nine months in solitary confinement, the message from King in Birmingham is a very good place to start.

López was arrested in February 2014 after leading a public protest that turned violent. Prosecutors acknowledged in court that López was technically peaceful, but they accused him of inciting others to hatred and violence. Before his arrest, he was among the most prominent and popular opposition leaders in Venezuela. Polling suggested that he could defeat President Nicolás Maduro, the unpopular successor to Hugo Chávez, in a free election. At trial, he was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison. Since then, he has become the most prominent political prisoner in Latin America, if not the world. His case has been championed by just about every human rights organization on earth, and he is represented by the attorney Jared Genser, who is known as “the extractor” for his work with political prisoners like Liu Xiaobo, Mohamed Nasheed and Aung San Suu Kyi. The list of world leaders who have called on the Venezuelan government to release López includes Angela Merkel of Germany, Emmanuel Macron of France, Theresa May of Britain and Justin Trudeau of Canada; it is that rarest of political causes on which Barack Obama and Donald Trump are in agreement. In Venezuela, López has become a kind of symbol. His name and face are emblazoned on billboards, T-shirts and banners — but there’s widespread disagreement on precisely what he represents. The Venezuelan government routinely disparages him as a right-wing reactionary from the ruling class who wants to reverse the social progress of chavismo and restore the landed aristocracy; the Venezuelan right, meanwhile, considers López a neo-Marxist, whose proposal to distribute the country’s oil wealth among the people would only deepen the chavista agenda.

For three and a half years in prison, López refused to let anyone speak for him. Though he was prohibited from granting interviews or issuing public statements and was often denied access to books, paper, pens and pencils, he managed to scribble messages on scraps of paper for his family to smuggle out, and he recorded a handful of covert audio and video messages denouncing the Maduro government. From time to time, he could even be heard screaming political slogans through the bars of the concrete tower in the military prison where he was kept in isolation.

López was released to house arrest last July on the condition that he fall silent. He promptly climbed the fence behind his house to rally a gathering crowd, then issued a video message asking his followers to resist the government. Three weeks later, he was back in prison; after four days, he was released again. Ever since, to the great bewilderment of his supporters, he has vanished from public view. While the country descends into an unprecedented crisis — with the world’s highest rate of inflation, extreme shortages of food and medicine, constant electrical blackouts, thousands of children dying of malnutrition, rampant crime in every province, looting and rioting in the streets — López has said nothing.
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Venezuelan families forced to leave their homes because of economic conditions now live in Colombia under a bridge that connects to Venezuela. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times

Today his critics include not just the hard-line left and right but much of the Venezuelan majority that once saw him as a future president. They don’t understand what López is doing inside that house, tucked away on that leafy street in the wealthy suburbs of Caracas, but they suspect that he has grown comfortable there, reunited with his wife and children; that his family’s wealth insulates him from the economic crisis; that the secret police who surround his home protect him from rising crime; and they can’t help wondering if Leopoldo López has finally given up. They know, as he knows, that if he issued a public statement or released another video message, if he climbed the fence behind his house to address his followers again, the secret police would swoop in to haul him back to prison. But López never let the risk of prison stop him before. He would have at least one chance to speak, and they wonder why he hasn’t.

There’s a flicker onscreen whenever López connects, then a blur of pixelated color as his face comes into view. On different days, at different times, he can look very different. There are mornings when he turns up in an old sweatshirt with unkempt hair and a weary smile, and others when he appears in a pressed oxford shirt with parted hair and black-rimmed glasses that do nothing whatsoever to obscure the haunted air of a sleepless night.

I think of a Saturday in October. It was a few minutes after noon. I was out for a walk with my kids when a message from López popped on my phone. “The situation is very delicate,” he wrote. “I may be on the borderline of going back to prison.” Scrambling home, I opened my laptop and after a minute, he appeared onscreen. López is 46, 5-foot-10 and fit. He was sitting at the desk in his living room with his hair poking off at angles, and the cast of his expression was an admixture of fear, fatigue and fury.

When the audio clicked on, I asked what was happening. López took a deep breath. He propped an elbow on the desk and rested his head in his hand. “Last night around 7:30, they came to my house — more than 30 officers of the political police,” he said. “They had more than 10 cars. They closed the entire street. And then they came into my house.” For more than a decade, López has employed a private security detail, as political opponents stormed his events with masks and guns, sprayed his car with bullets and murdered one of his bodyguards. Under house arrest, he is allowed to maintain a small guard outside. During the raid, López said, the police took his chief of security into custody, and no one had heard from him since. “There was absolutely no reason, legally, they could take him, and they have not allowed any lawyers to go in to see him,” López said. He looked down at his desk and shook his head. “So that’s the situation,” he said quietly. “And I wanted to tell you that I’m willing to go forward with this, what we’re doing.”

At that point, we had a very different sense of what we might be doing. We had been in contact for only a few weeks. I first reached out to López through an intermediary in August, not long after his return to house arrest, and by September we were talking a couple of times a week, usually for a couple of hours at a time. This was a clear violation of his release. An order from the Venezuelan Supreme Court specifically forbid him to speak with the news media, and we didn’t expect to get away with it. At a minimum, it was safe to assume that his house was bugged for sound, but there were probably hidden cameras as well, and his computer was surely hacked and his internet activity monitored.

The world is full of byzantine methods to communicate through encrypted channels, but most of them are obviated for a person who is trapped in a digital glass house and surrounded by the state security of an authoritarian regime. We did what little we could to be discreet, knowing it wasn’t much. Rather than connect on Skype or FaceTime, we used an obscure video service, which seemed at least marginally less likely to be a platform the police had practice hacking. Whenever we spoke, López wore a pair of headphones, so a conventional audio bug would only pick up his side of the conversation, and we adopted the general posture of old friends catching up. This was not as much of a stretch as it may seem. López is three years older than I am and a graduate of Kenyon College, where we briefly overlapped but never met. From time to time, one of us would mention the school or someone we both knew there, and our kids would periodically wander onscreen to wave hello.

All of this seemed hopelessly primitive in the face of state surveillance, but then again, it seemed as if it might be working. Once in a while a big white van would appear in front of his house and the connection would go dark, but within an hour or two, the van would leave and we’d get back online. Neither of us could explain why, if government agents were listening, they hadn’t shut us down or come inside to arrest him. There was every reason to believe that they would. In our conversation that day in October, López mentioned that the agents raiding his home had given just one reason: They believed he was talking to a reporter and recording a video message. This led to a curious moment in our conversation, as the recording system on my end of the interview captured his denial. “It’s not true,” he said to anyone listening. “I’ve had no contact with any journalist!”

I don’t mean to make light of the situation, but the truth is, we often did. Venezuela was coming off a summer that promised change. In July, the opposition movement sponsored a nonbinding referendum on the government’s plan to rewrite the Constitution. With more than seven million ballots cast, 98 percent of voters opposed the government. Soon after that, emissaries from the government approached opposition leaders to begin a formal negotiation, with a primary focus on the release of political prisoners. Even as we spoke that day in October, the country was preparing for regional elections in which opposition candidates were expected to win by a landslide.

There were contradictory signals, of course, but the trajectory was toward transition. This was a time when headlines everywhere predicted a “turning point” for Venezuela, and I think on some unspoken level, López was counting on it. It was a gamble to speak publicly, but it wasn’t crazy to imagine that by the time this article appeared, the political landscape could be transformed — that the opposition, which already held a supermajority in Congress, could win a similar proportion of governorships; that a regional victory would carry into the municipal campaign in December; that they would enter this year’s presidential race with momentum against a deeply unpopular president, polling at 25 percent; that the negotiation for political prisoners might even allow López to challenge Maduro himself. Polls at one point suggested he could win the presidency by a margin of 30 percent.

This was the conversation that I think we expected to have last summer: a look at the next chapter for Venezuela and the role he might play. Instead, with each passing day, the possibilities grew more slender. When voting began on the morning after that October call, nothing went as expected. The polling places for more than 700,000 citizens had mysteriously moved, in some cases so far that it would take hours for them to travel on crowded buses. Even so, by evening, officials were reporting overwhelming turnout and a breathtaking upset: Candidates from the ruling party had swept all but five of the governor’s races. Amid a global outcry of fraud, several opposition parties withdrew from the municipal elections — and the government responded by invalidating those parties. The scheduled negotiation with opposition leaders began in November. In January, the talks collapsed. In February, officials dissolved the whole coalition of opposition parties.

Political leaders of every stripe were being detained by the secret police. The second-ranking member of Congress went into hiding at the Chilean Embassy, and about a dozen mayors fled the country. The state, the economy and the social fabric were unraveling all at once. Everywhere, people were leaving Venezuela any way they could. They piled into ramshackle boats and died at sea. They walked the highway toward Brazil, collapsing in heat and sun. They poured into Colombia, tens of thousands each day, a refugee crisis comparable in number to the flight of the Rohingya to Bangladesh. It seemed that every time I spoke with López, another friend had taken sanctuary in an embassy, gone to prison or fled.
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Venezuelans crossing into Colombia in February. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times

I asked him one day recently how he was managing the pressure. The secret police had just returned to his house with another order to arrest him, and he was saying goodbye to his wife, Lilian, who was eight months pregnant, when one of the agents received a phone call to suspend the arrest. It wasn’t clear when they might return.

“How are you feeling?” I asked.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough after what happened. Every day I think is the last day I have to be with my kids.”

I asked if he ever thought about trying to escape. “Most people tell me that I should,” he said. “But I believe a commitment to the cause means that I need to take the risk.” As he spoke, I realized that what we had actually been talking about all these months, what he had been trying to communicate through this portal from his silence, was never really about the future of Venezuela or the role he hoped to play, and it wasn’t about political ambition or the next chapter in history. It was something fundamental that kept coming up in offhand remarks. It was something that he learned in prison about the history we’re always in.

The line of people waiting to leave Venezuela begins to form an hour before dawn. Migrants drift through unlit streets in the border town of San Antonio to gather at the foot of the Simon Bolívar Bridge, where they wait beneath a huge red banner that reads, “Don’t speak ill of Chávez.” When the checkpoint opens at 6 a.m., they push forward, moving shoulder to shoulder down the two-lane highway into Colombia. There will be no tapering off through the day; there is no end to the people coming. Some have traveled more than a week to get here. It only takes a glance to see what sort of people they are: every sort, of every age, from every profession and social stratum — young families and older couples and clusters of itinerant boys and solitary young women looking several weeks overdue. If you stop for a moment on your way across the bridge, you can almost feel the deflating wind of the Venezuelan exodus at your back.

Historians have come up with all sorts of arguments about the arc of Venezuelan history and how things went so wrong. A couple of points strike me as indispensable to any case: Venezuela is the birthplace of Latin American independence and sits on the largest proven reserves of oil in the world. How you interpret the role of these factors in any given historic event is a matter of personal politics and granular debate, but you can’t have a serious discussion about Venezuela without taking both into account. For most of the past century, the country has whipsawed between political movements that court and reflect and sometimes renounce the legacy of anti-imperialism and the towering glut of riches.

Like most of its neighbors, Venezuela endured a succession of caudillo strongmen in the early 20th century and responded with a radical leftist movement in the 1950s and ’60s. Unlike its counterparts in neighboring countries, the Venezuelan left didn’t get very far. Some of them took up arms in the mountains and limped through a series of gunfights, but by the end of the ’60s, most had returned to a marginal place in conventional politics. One of the few who stayed in the fight was a guerrilla named Douglas Bravo, who called his nationalist political ideology “Bolívarianism.” Bravo finally settled in Caracas in the 1980s, where he developed inroads with disaffected citizens and soldiers in the Venezuelan Army. Two of the acolytes he courted were the brothers Adán and Hugo Chávez, who welcomed the idea of leading a Bolívarian coup.

It took about a decade of recruitment and planning, during which time the Venezuelan establishment seemed to be doing everything possible to help them. For decades, the two major parties essentially passed the presidency back and forth in a power-sharing agreement that gave little heed to the country’s swollen underclass. Venezuela’s economic fault lines had become so fraught that in 1989 a rise in bus fares helped trigger deadly riots. By the time the Chávez brothers were ready to attempt their coup in 1992, a lot of Venezuelans were just happy to see the establishment take a hit. Although the coup failed and Chávez spent two years in prison, he emerged as a minor celebrity. By 1998, he was running for president.
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Gas smugglers from Venezuela on one of the dozens of rural routes that connect Venezuela and Colombia by crossing the Táchira River. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times

It’s easy now, with the country in turmoil, to dismiss the whole project of chavismo. But the election of Chávez in 1998 coincided with a groundswell of social and political movements for whom Chávez, with his energy and outrage, pledging to crack down on corruption and raise the minimum wage, seemed a natural ally. Whatever else Chávez became, he delivered on many of his promises. During his tenure, unemployment fell by half, the gross domestic product more than doubled, infant mortality dropped by almost a third and the poverty rate was nearly halved. You can chalk this up to other factors, like a tenfold increase in the price of oil that showered his administration with revenue, and you can argue that Chávez failed miserably to anticipate the next downturn in oil prices, but you can’t really accuse him of making promises to the poor and then delivering to the rich, or keeping all the money for himself. Under his watch, income inequality dropped to one of the lowest levels in the Western Hemisphere. Chávez didn’t have to steal elections. He was wildly popular among the poor and put his proposals up for election almost every year. He introduced touch-screen voting, with thumbprint recognition and a printed receipt, an electoral system that Jimmy Carter described as being, among all the countries he had monitored, “the best in the world.”

Chávez also possessed an autocratic impulse that was jarring from the start. Over the course of 14 years in office, he dismantled the country’s democratic institutions one by one. There’s an interesting debate among political theorists about what to call a leader who destroys a democracy with democratic support. It’s possible to think of Chávez as a totalitarian or a tyrant for suppressing his opponents while rejecting the term “dictator” to describe a popular president. Chávez made no secret of his contempt for the country’s extant political system; he couldn’t even get through his first inauguration without ad-libbing, in the middle of the swearing-in ceremony, a promise to rewrite the Constitution — which he promptly did, consolidating power over the Legislature and the courts.

Any limit that Chávez might have been willing to accept on his power vanished in April 2002, when a junta of military officers and right-wing leaders tried to oust him in a coup. For about 36 hours, they installed as president a man named Pedro Carmona, who was the director of Venezuela’s primary business consortium. Carmona’s government proceeded to undermine institutions at a clip that would make even Chávez blush. In the single day of his presidency, he dissolved the Legislature, the Supreme Court and the Constitution and began to cleanse the Venezuelan military of anyone loyal to Chávez. This was too much even for critics of chavismo. The streets of Caracas exploded in protest, and crowds descended on the presidential palace. Soon Chávez was back in office, consolidating power more quickly than ever. He persecuted rivals and stacked the courts and levied so many restrictions on industry that the private sector essentially disappeared.

You can think of the decade between the coup and his death in 2013 as a gradual process of bleeding out public resources for public consumption. At a basic level, Chávez just wasn’t very good at managing an economy. His budget spent the revenue from skyrocketing oil prices, and his control of the state oil company proved disastrous. Chávez believed that because oil reserves are a finite resource, it made sense to limit production and drive up the price of every barrel. This way of thinking is widely disputed, if not debunked. Producers are constantly developing new ways to find and access oil; between the American shale revolution and rising competition from alternative energy, most oil companies today want to pump as much oil as quickly as they can.

When Chávez took power in Venezuela, the state oil company was producing about 3.4 million barrels per day. Its leadership planned to almost double the volume. Instead, through a combination of Chávez’s misguided theories and a general failure to invest in the company and installing his personal henchmen to run it, production of Venezuelan oil has fallen by nearly half. Oil prices have also dropped considerably over the past few years, but the country has little else to sell. According to the most recent data, oil accounts for about 95 percent of Venezuelan export earnings. Much of that oil is being shipped to Russia and China in exchange for help with the national debt, giving both countries expansive claims on Venezuelan production. The more desperate the Maduro regime becomes, the more these countries stand to gain.

What you’ve got then is a domino cascade: less and less oil, at lower and lower prices, with nothing else to sell, and a dependence on foreign money at the expense of future income. The final chip in the cascade has been Venezuela’s currency. As national revenue plunged, leaving a gap in the annual budget, Chávez and Maduro turned to the central bank to print more money. The number of Venezuelan bolívars has grown exponentially in recent years. When Maduro took power in 2013, the country’s monetary base was about 250 billion bolívars. Today, it’s more than 60 trillion. For a sense of scale, imagine if you had $5,000 yesterday, and today it was $1.2 million. I don’t mean to suggest any meaningful comparison between your savings account and a national economy, but it’s not difficult to imagine how a huge increase in money distorts the way people spend it.

Most countries around the world produce official inflation reports. The Venezuelan government has essentially stopped. One of the world’s leading experts on hyperinflation is a professor at Johns Hopkins University named Steve Hanke, who has advised governments around the world on runaway inflation, including Venezuela in 1995 and ’96. Hanke has been tracking the Venezuelan economy closely for the past five years, producing a daily estimate of the country’s annual inflation. As I write this, his most recent estimate was 5,220 percent. The International Monetary Fund has predicted that inflation in Venezuela will reach 13,000 percent this year.
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A Venezuelan gas smuggler. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times
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Joint operations between the police and the Colombian military try to stop smuggling. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times

This is what you see in the faces of the people on the bridge leaving Venezuela. You see people trying to escape a country where basic supplies are nearly impossible to find and prohibitively expensive, where the price you paid for a car a few years ago won’t buy a loaf of bread today. You see families with roll-aboard luggage and no plans to go back, and children who are crossing just for the day with nothing but a bunch of bananas. They will sell the bananas for a pittance in Colombian pesos, then return home to convert the cash into a small fortune of Venezuelan currency — at least for a few days, when their money will be worthless again.

López was born to privilege in the wealthy enclaves of northeastern Caracas. His father, Leopoldo López Gil, was the head of an international scholarship program who sat on the editorial board of a center-left newspaper. His mother, Antonieta Mendoza, was a distant relative of the first president of Venezuela, Cristóbal Mendoza, and of Simon Bolívar. Each side of the family had long traditions of political activism and dissent. López grew up hearing about his great-grandfather’s 17 years in prison and his grandfather’s role in the underground resistance. “We always heard those stories,” his sister Diana told me. “I think it was always in Leo’s memory.” López said he relished the history in part because it felt so alien, snapshots of a country that he couldn’t quite imagine. “I saw it as a faraway past of black-and-white pictures,” he told me. “I never thought that in the 21st century, my own reality could be similar.”

The Venezuela that López inhabited was the wealthiest country in Latin America. It welcomed tens of thousands of immigrants every year and had been a democracy since 1958. Skateboarding, swimming, crazy for girls, López at 13 was largely removed from the country’s systemic inequities. He was on a school trip to the rural state of Zulia, passing through the region’s oil fields, when he found himself unexpectedly moved by the destitution around him. “I was shocked by the poverty level,” he recalled, “and the fact that below these very humble barrios and dramatic poverty, we had huge potential.” Diana told me that López began making trips into western Caracas “to try to understand the dynamics of the city.” At school, he immersed himself in student leadership, becoming vice president of the student government and captain of the swimming team.
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After college, López briefly enrolled at Harvard Divinity School but left after one semester to enroll in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He completed a master’s thesis on the legal and economic framework of oil production in Venezuela and traveled through Nicaragua and Bolivia to study the impact of microloans. In 1996, he returned home for a job in the strategic planning office of the state oil company.

Watching the ascent of Chávez in 1998, López was unimpressed. “Ever since the establishment of the Venezuelan republic in 1830, for the most part we’ve had military in the government,” he told me. “And that has created a militaristic way of governing.” I asked López if there was ever a point when he reconsidered his opinion of Chávez. “For one day,” he said with a laugh. “When he spoke about microcredits to the poor.”

As Chávez took office and began making plans to rewrite the Constitution, López campaigned for a seat in the constitutional convention. He lost that election but rallied with two other failed candidates to create a new political party, then he entered the 2000 campaign for mayor of the city’s most affluent borough. He won with 51 percent of the vote.

Over the next eight years, López gained international attention as mayor of Chacao. He began by raising business taxes while offering incentives for companies to move into the district. With revenue up, he commenced a series of public works, building health clinics and schools, a theater, a public market and a recreation center. Still unmarried and in his early 30s, he was comically hands on, forever rolling up his sleeves at groundbreaking ceremonies and appearing, in Cory Booker fashion, at predawn crime scenes to consult with detectives in the blinking red light. In a city notorious for crime, he implemented policing measures that were popular in the United States — think “zero tolerance” and “broken windows” and “compstat” multivariate analysis. His platform, then, was a heterodox mash-up of initiatives that span the political spectrum, from lefty measures like raising corporate taxes to conservative models of policing. Residents loved it. In 2004, he was re-elected with 81 percent of the vote, and during his second term he met and married a prominent television personality named Lilian Tintori. In 2008, López left office with 92 percent approval and a ranking from the City Mayors Foundation as the third-best mayor in the world.

Skimming this résumé, you can see why people often regard López in a gauzy half-light, but even as he thrived as mayor of Chacao, he was becoming a polarizing figure. By the end of his second term, he was one of the most promising young politicians in Venezuela and one of the least capable of getting along with others. Within the opposition movement, López represented a radical wing. The word “radical” is often used about López in a misleading way. He favors a mixed economic model of expansive social services in health care, education and housing, offset by a large private sector of manufacturing and industry. On the spectrum of American politics, he would probably land in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Where you can describe López as a radical is the way he approaches political activity. He believes that a relentless campaign of street demonstrations and civil disobedience is essential to challenge an authoritarian government. On any given day in 2002, a person walking through Caracas had a good chance of spotting the mayor of Chacao standing on a bench in some public park, bellowing at a crowd through a megaphone. How useful this was to the project of building a mature political party with governing potential was a matter of opinion, but López believed that the movement would get nowhere by relying on decorous party mechanics.

One way to measure the success of a strategy is to study its response. López became a frequent target of physical and administrative attacks. From 2002 to 2006, there were three major attempts on his life, one of which left him cradling a bodyguard dying of a gunshot meant for López. During his tenure as mayor, he was accused by the comptroller’s office of paying municipal expenses from the wrong part of his budget and barred from seeking public office until 2014. López appealed the decision and prepared to run for mayor of Caracas. He was leading with 65 percent of the vote when the Supreme Court upheld the comptroller’s decision. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled the ban illegal and ordered Venezuela to let López run, but the government ignored the order and López has been forbidden to hold public office ever since.

By 2008, he was also clashing with other opposition leaders. He left the party he helped found, joined another and soon had issues with its leadership as well. In August, that party expelled him, and he began making plans to create yet another. American diplomats in Caracas weren’t sure what to make of López. A classified cable to Washington described his “much-publicized rebelliousness,” noting that López “will not hesitate to break with his opposition colleagues to get his way.” Another referred to him as “a divisive figure” who was “often described as arrogant, vindictive and power-hungry.”
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Venezuelan migrants in Cúcuta. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times

In 2012, still barred from running for office, López threw his support behind an opposition candidate in the presidential election. Chávez beat that candidate by a 10-point margin but died soon after, opening the door for a repeat campaign against Maduro. When the electoral board announced that Maduro had won by a single percentage point, López suspected fraud. He pushed for the opposition movement to stage a public demonstration. Most of the other opposition leaders dismissed the idea, but in January 2014, López called for his supporters to take the streets.

By February, protests were springing up in every province. On Feb. 12, López rallied thousands of students at the edge of a park in Caracas. After his speech, they marched to the office of the attorney general a mile away. Some of the protesters began throwing rocks at the building. Security officers emerged, and two protesters were shot. Though López was gone before the violence began, officials accused him of being the “intellectual author” of the skirmish, and the attorney general issued a warrant for his arrest.

López and Tintori took refuge that night in a friend’s apartment. They recorded a video message for the public. “I want to say to all Venezuelans that I do not repent,” López said. He spent a few days in hiding, then recorded another video asking his supporters to gather at a downtown plaza on Feb. 18, dressed in white as a sign of peace, to bear witness as he turned himself in.

That morning, he climbed on a motorcycle and rode into the city. A large crowd was gathering, and the police had set up checkpoints to intercept him. López tried to find a way around the checkpoints but couldn’t. He finally rode up to a cluster of police officers from the Chacao district and removed his helmet. The officers recognized him, saluted and waved him through. López saw the crowd extending in every direction. Thousands upon thousands of people had come dressed in white. He waded through them to a statue of the Cuban independence hero José Martí and climbed the pedestal to look over the sea of faces. Someone handed him a megaphone, and he raised it. “If my imprisonment helps to awaken a people,” he called out, “then it will be worth the infamous imprisonment imposed on me.”

After a short speech, he climbed down from the pedestal, where soldiers were waiting to arrest him. They pulled him inside an armored vehicle, but the crowd pressed in, rocking it. Minutes passed, then half an hour. The truck was trapped by the crowd. Someone gave López a handset connected to the vehicle’s outside speakers. He called to the crowd that he was safe and that they should clear a way for the truck to get through. Slowly, almost grudgingly, they parted the path for López to prison.
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An opposition demonstration in Caracas in February. Credit Carlos Becerra for The New York Times

Officials placed López in a concrete tower on a military base outside the city, charging him with terrorism, arson and homicide. Amnesty International condemned his prosecution as “an affront to justice” and “a politically motivated attempt to silence dissent.” For his initial arraignment, he was taken from his cell in the middle of the night and marched outside to face a judge on a bus. The rest of the proceedings took place at the Palace of Justice in Caracas, a five-story edifice that sprawls across 1.5 million square feet downtown. Over the next 19 months, he traveled there nearly 100 times, in a motorcade of armored S.U.V.s, wearing a bulletproof vest, with his hands shackled together, wedged between two guards armed with machine guns and two more behind him. Each time López appeared in court, the Palace of Justice shut down.

The trial hinged on speech. No one accused López of being violent himself. Prosecutors scaled back the charges, arguing that he inspired violence in others. They brought in a linguistic expert to examine transcripts of his speeches and claimed that his message of peaceful protest disguised a “subliminal” call to violence. They introduced more than 100 witnesses, some of whom testified that they had received the subliminal messages. López tried to introduce his own witnesses, but the judge wouldn’t allow it.

A few words about the judge who signed his arrest warrant and a lead prosecutor and attorney general: They all repent. The judge who signed the warrant later admitted that she had been forced to do so. The lead prosecutor, after fleeing the country, denounced the case against López as “a farce,” saying “100 percent of the investigation was invented.” The attorney general, Luisa Ortega, escaped to Colombia last summer and says that the vice president of Maduro’s party instructed her to pursue López. I tracked Ortega down a few weeks ago, and we met for coffee in Bogotá. When I asked her about the criminal charges against López, she shook her head in dismay. “Without a doubt,” she said, “Leopoldo López is a political prisoner.”

Ortega told me it had been illegal to hold a civilian like López in a military prison. Over the course of three years, his conditions grew progressively worse. In the early stage, he was allowed to read and write, and a local university devised a program of study. He read Venezuelan poets, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the diary of Ho Chi Minh and a biography of Nguyen Van Thuan. He was consuming several volumes a week, until officials began to restrict what he could read. Eventually, they prohibited everything except the Bible. He read it from Genesis to Revelation. Then they took the Bible, too.
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A migration center run by the Catholic Church in Cúcuta. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times
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Outside the refuge in Cúcuta, Colombia. Credit Sebastián Liste/NOOR, for The New York Times

He was moved to a new cell, then another. He spent months in solitary confinement in a room that was six feet by 10 feet. He would sit in silence trying to pray or meditate and summon any possible reason for gratitude: that he could feel himself breathing; that his wife and children were safe; that through the window he could hear the commotion of the outside world — a passing truck, a twisting wind, some emphatic bird.

Without his books, he reflected on those he had read. He remembered biographies of nonviolent leaders and the Birmingham letter from King, and he began to wonder if what they had in common wasn’t just a commitment to resistance but some deeper observation about the character of history. This came through most clearly in King. His goal was never just to provoke or confront. It was to locate the elusive fulcrum between conflict and mediation — to produce an onslaught of pressure that forced officials to react while preserving an almost irrational faith in their capacity for good will.

“I had an illumination moment,” López recalled. “One night, I couldn’t sleep, and I was tossing from one side of the bed to the other, thinking about the son-of-a-bitch director of the prison. I was very, very angry, and I woke up the next morning, and I said: ‘What am I doing? This guy is taking away my tranquillity, my sleep.’ ” He realized that the buildup of anger threatened to distort his thinking. He began trying to separate his outrage from his fury. He continued to defy the arbitrary rules of prison — composing and smuggling a stream of subversive messages to the outside — but when the guards would charge into his cell to look for contraband, shouting and tearing through his things, he searched for calm. He would stand back, lifting his hands in a posture of self-defense and say in the most measured tone he could muster that he would protect himself if necessary. In the hours between, the interminable stretches of solitude, he tried to be honest with himself about what anger had cost him. It wasn’t just a threat to his state of mind but to his politics, his movement and the way he conceived the future.

“In the past, I was in confrontation with different views,” he told me. “Now I understand that everybody is needed in order to reach a way out of this disaster.” He thought of books he had read on postwar Europe and the South African emergence from apartheid, and he realized that Venezuela would never find stability if it were cleaved into disparate sectors. It would be necessary to forge, like Mandela with F.W. de Klerk or King with Lyndon Johnson, some tentative confianza between the opposition and supporters of chavismo. “A lot of people in the opposition have resentment, and I understand that,” he told me. “But I think our responsibility is to move beyond the personal resentment. Four years in prison have given me the possibility of seeing things a different way, of putting rage in its perspective.”

A few nights ago, I was speaking with López a little before midnight. His family was asleep, and in the quiet hours he was bracing for the possibility that appearing in these pages could trigger his return to prison. This was something we had talked about many times. His eldest daughter was a toddler when he first went to prison and is now a little girl. His son had been less than a year old and was just now getting to know his father. At the end of January, López and Tintori had a second daughter, and it troubled him to think that years could pass before he saw any of his children again.

“It’s not easy,” he said quietly. “It’s not easy, but I have the responsibility to speak my mind. I’ve been in prison four years now because of speaking my mind, and if I self-censor, I’m beaten by the dictatorship.” López said he still believed that with the right leadership, Venezuela could rebound. He thought of postwar Japan and South Korea and Europe. He knew that stabilizing the bolívar could be accomplished by attaching its value to a foreign currency, and that under a new government, the private sector would return. He believed the country’s oil production would recover under good management, and he had been working for nearly a decade on a plan to convert the national oil company into a kind of Social Security trust, with investment shares assigned to the public for retirement, education and emergencies.
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López with his children, Manuela (left) and Leopoldo, at home in January. Credit Diana López for The New York Times

The challenge was to reach a point where any of that work could begin. As the crisis in Venezuela deepened, the path to a transition seemed more obscure than ever. Politicians, historians, think-tank pontificators — everyone had some sort of proposal, but the problem, if you studied each of them, was that none had very much chance of happening, or of working.

Start with the Trump administration, which has lately suggested a military coup. Speaking in February, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mused that in a situation like Venezuela’s, “it’s the military that handles that,” to which Senator Marco Rubio later added on Twitter that the Venezuelan military should “restore democracy by removing a dictator.” Apart from the obvious fact that removing a dictator is no guarantee of democracy, there aren’t many people in Venezuela who consider a coup likely. A few weeks ago, I met up with the leader installed by the last military coup, Pedro Carmona, who told me the military has been purged of dissent, with senior officers monitored for ideological purity by the Cuban intelligence service. “The G2 has a facility in Caracas, spying on the Venezuelan military,” he said. “So on the military side, the best I could hope would be for them not to repress the people.”

Pressure from outside Venezuela has also been slow to coalesce. Critics accuse the members of the Organization of American States of failing to constrain the Maduro government, which showers oil bounty on several member nations. A smaller coalition of Latin American countries has joined with Canada to create the Lima Group, whose vociferous condemnation of the political repression has not converted to much concrete action. American sanctions have been steadily tightening in recent years. After a protracted debate between the National Security Council and the State Department, the Obama administration imposed limited sanctions in 2015, primarily targeting the financial assets of individual Venezuelan leaders. Mark Feierstein, who assumed responsibility for N.S.C. policy in the Western Hemisphere later that year, told me the administration had missed a critical opportunity to influence a 2016 negotiation between the Maduro government and the opposition. “The N.S.C., or at least I, was inclined to move more quickly,” he said, “and I think the negotiations largely failed because pressure was taken off.” The Trump administration has expanded the sanctions program, but how far to deepen sanctions, or expand them, or restrict the import of Venezuelan oil, is a brutal calculation about how much of the burden would be carried by the Venezuelan people, and whether adding to their misery is more likely to inspire an uprising or simply worsen the humanitarian disaster.

In recent months, there has also been rumbling about war. Trump has made oblique suggestions of a “military option” in Caracas, and even relatively moderate voices have begun to fantasize about cavalry. In January, the Harvard scholar Ricardo Hausmann, who served as Venezuela’s minister of planning from 1992 to 1993, published a proposal suggesting that the Legislature invite a multilateral invasion force to help support a new government, making a comparison to the liberation of Europe. I spoke with several opposition leaders who welcome this idea, but this might say more about the country’s desperation than the wisdom of the proposal. It’s difficult to imagine Russia and China, after years of propping up the Venezuelan economy in exchange for oil, allowing a foreign invasion to threaten their investment. An even greater concern is internal: Maduro is polling at about 30 percent approval in a devastated economy, but nothing would rally former chavistas to his side like an occupying army. Venezuela is a heavily armed society and increasingly violent. To invite a military intervention is to welcome civil war.

A few months ago, it was possible to imagine an electoral path to change, but today nearly all the opposition parties have been disqualified from running. On the evening of Feb. 15, Maduro took this a step further, interrupting television and radio broadcasts to announce that the party López founded in 2009 is not a political organization but a “violent fascist group” operating “outside the law.” When I spoke with López the next morning, he said that 87 party leaders were already in prison. Those who remained were preparing to convert the party into a “clandestine organization.” Soon, he said, they could be reduced to secret meetings and tossing pamphlets on street corners from unmarked vans.

But even as conditions spiraled down, I watched López try to incorporate what he learned in prison to daily life. Unable to speak publicly, he developed a network of private channels — reconnecting with leaders of the political parties from which he’d split, making inroads with members of the Maduro government and with foreign ministers and heads of state. During the recent negotiation between opposition leaders and the government, López was in contact with all sides; even after his party withdrew from the dialogue, he continued to consult with leaders who remained at the table. When disputes spilled over among them, he provided a back channel, an invisible hub to which it seemed as if all spokes connected.

López was also flexible in his thinking about transition. Through most of our conversations, he strongly opposed the idea of military action, but when we spoke late the other night, he said he was beginning to think differently. An unwelcome mechanism can bring welcome change.

“In 1958, there was a military coup that began the transition to democracy,” he said. “And in other Latin American countries, there have been coups that called elections. So I don’t want to rule anything out, because the electoral window has been closed. We need to go forward on many different levels. One is street demonstrations; a second is coordination with the international community. But this is how I’m thinking now: We need to increase all forms of pressure. Anything, anything that needs to happen to produce a free and fair election.”

If it was jarring to hear this from López, it was matched by another development. For several months, the secret police had been coming to his front door about four times a day to photograph him with a copy of the day’s newspaper. Lately, López had begun to invite the agents in. He had recently spoken with one for more than two hours, offering him a slice of cake from his daughter’s birthday and talking about the inflation crisis and the recent massacre of a small rebel group. “We’ve developed — I wouldn’t say a good relationship, but a relationship,” he said.

Thinking about these developments together, it seemed to me that López was trying to strike an increasingly difficult balance. He was willing to entertain proposals that he found abhorrent six months ago, but he was also making a greater effort to open the door for dialogue. The struggle he faced was a heightened version of the tension in all history. It was to locate the elusive fulcrum between his rage and faith.

Wil S. Hylton is a contributing writer for the magazine. His last story was about Breitbart News.

A version of this article appears in print on March 4, 2018, on Page MM30 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: Can Venezuela Be Saved?. Today's Paper|Subscribe

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STratfor: Between Bad and Worse
« Reply #429 on: April 06, 2018, 01:32:04 PM »
Highlights

    Venezuela's government will try to use the U.S. citizens in its custody as leverage in talks with Washington.
    If Washington chooses to seriously engage in negotiations with Caracas, it will probably try to steer the crisis in Venezuela away from a potentially violent military coup or to address the regional effects of emigration from the country.
    Domestic factors, such as opposition in the White House and among voters in Florida, could prevent the talks from even starting.

An answer to the pressing question of what to do about Venezuela may be starting to take shape. U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions traveled to Venezuela for an unannounced meeting with President Nicolas Maduro on April 5. The day before, Sen. Dick Durbin quietly met with unspecified members of the Venezuelan government and opposition on a trip to the country. A former U.S. official — a Cuba expert in President George W. Bush's administration who had previously negotiated with Venezuelan officials in the wake of an attempted coup in 2002 — visited Venezuela to meet with Maduro in February. The same month, the governor of Carabobo state, a close confidant of Maduro, came to the United States and delivered a message to U.S. lawmakers that Venezuela was willing to discuss freeing Joshua Holt, a U.S. citizen in its custody. The reason for the series of meetings is clear: Caracas is trying to begin substantive negotiations with Washington, starting with Holt's release.

But it will be difficult for the United States to broach the subject of his return (or that of several other U.S. citizens held in Venezuela) without the Venezuelan government making its own demands. Caracas, for example, could ask Washington to remove the sanctions against it or try to get the United States to promise not to implement heavier restrictions on its oil sector. The United States, meanwhile, is unlikely to agree to a deal that would leave Maduro in power, since keeping him in office will do nothing to address the country's political standoff or resolve its economic crisis. Any discussion between the United States and Venezuela will eventually come around to what it will take to get Maduro out of power.

The Big Picture

Venezuela's crisis is a festering regional problem, and the United States and its allies in Latin America see President Nicolas Maduro's administration as the main impediment to solving it. A recent series of meetings between U.S. and Venezuelan officials suggests that Caracas is ready to talk. But as we noted in our 2018 Second-Quarter Forecast, even if the United States persuades Maduro to leave power, members of his administration will ensure that a "candidate of their choosing" takes his place.
See Americas section of the 2018 Second-Quarter Forecast

See Venezuela's Unraveling

For Maduro to give up the presidency — for instance in the election slated for May 20 — the United States would, paradoxically, have to agree to drop its demands for a free and fair vote. Washington has long backed the Democratic Unity Roundtable — the opposition political coalition that Maduro in December barred from running — and has demanded that the Venezuelan government allow it to contest the election. Now the United States would have to acquiesce to Venezuela's holding the election with Henri Falcon as the only opposition candidate in the running, and holding it in such a way that he could stand a chance of winning. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) would rather Maduro slowly turn power over to a known quantity such as Falcon than lose his office suddenly and leave the administration at the mercy of the opposition and the United States. A delay in the election would be a likely signal that discussions along these lines are underway.

If the United States goes through with the talks, however, it may well open up a Pandora's box of competing interests that would hamstring the negotiations. Maduro is pursuing talks probably because of pressure from members of his own administration, but plenty of other Venezuelan officials may want to attach themselves to the discussions, too, to see what they can get. Immunity from criminal prosecution — whether in Venezuela or in the United States — would be at the top of the list. Maduro himself also may bring demands to the talks that would delay a resolution. He could, for example, demand his nephews' release from the United States on cocaine smuggling charges. And Washington would try to insist that the Venezuelan government recognize the opposition and involve it in policymaking.

The negotiations' complexity, the changes in the U.S. administration's foreign policy team and the realities of domestic politics will all work against a resolution. Arranging a transition away from Maduro, after all, would require Washington to sideline the Democratic Unity Roundtable. Doing so may not sit well with hawkish foreign policy officials such as incoming national security adviser John Bolton, and it definitely won't sit well with Cuban-American politicians such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Unlike Barack Obama, who undertook his controversial outreach to Cuba during his last term in office, President Donald Trump has his re-election campaign to think about. Trying to negotiate with the Maduro administration would risk alienating voters in Florida, a battleground state in the next presidential race.

Allowing the PSUV to undertake a slow transition away from Maduro and toward political coexistence with the opposition may be the safest and most expedient way to curb Venezuela's chaos.

For these voters, U.S. government officials and Venezuelan opposition members, the main sticking point with such a negotiation is that it would leave the PSUV in power. Separating Maduro from the government would be an elegant way to stop the party's oppression of opponents and its inaction on the economy. But the PSUV would still control the country's most powerful institutions, such as the military, the government bureaucracy and the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela. As a result, the United States would have a hard time squaring the outcome with its stated intent to remove Maduro's administration from power.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration may resort to this solution, for want of a better one. Washington has few options to effect political change in Venezuela without deepening the plight of the population and driving more Venezuelans into Colombia and Brazil. At the same time, if Maduro simply stays in power, a violent nationwide coup could unfold. Allowing the PSUV to undertake a slow transition away from the president and toward political coexistence with the opposition may be the safest and most expedient way to curb the country's chaos.

The obstacles to reaching a deal are numerous. What's more, the Venezuela crisis is still a low enough priority for Washington that it won't have to engage in a negotiation with Maduro's government if it doesn't want to take the risk. Caracas' attempt at dialogue with the United States may fail, but the Maduro administration is trying all the same.

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The Bloody Grab for Gold in Venezuela’s Most Dangerous Town
« Reply #430 on: April 09, 2018, 09:49:03 AM »
The U.S. Army has 315 General Officers. Generals (O-7 to O-10) comprise 0.06% of the Army. There is 1 General for every 1600 Soldiers.

https://www.quora.com/How-many-generals-are-there-in-the-US-...

The above is for perspective.

Maduro has promoted hundreds of officers since he became president in 2013 — there are now some 1,300 generals and admirals. High-ranking members of the military control legitimate industries, black markets and the nation’s security, creating a “perverse relationship,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, an Americas analyst at IHS Markit, a London consultant.


The Bloody Grab for Gold in Venezuela’s Most Dangerous Town
With free rein from Maduro, the military cuts a violent swath through the failing state. Dispatches from ground zero, El Callao.

By Andrew Rosati
April 9, 2018, 7:00 AM GMT-4

In Venezuela’s gold capital, national guardsmen block the roads. Military convoys and motorcycles circle while soldiers keep wary watch behind sandbag checkpoints or patrol with faces covered by balaclavas and rifles in hand.

The military has been fighting for months to master El Callao, the dangerous nation’s most dangerous town, and a beachhead in efforts to develop a mineral-rich region the government calls the Arco Minero del Orinoco. President Nicolas Maduro granted the army the handsome prize, a move that helps ensure the unpopular autocrat’s power. But the takeover has been punctuated by blood and bullets as soldiers raid neighborhoods and clandestine mines across 70,000 square miles from Colombia to Guyana, asserting themselves over gang lords and claiming revenue both legal and illicit.

On Feb. 10, the army seized weapons,  burned vehicles and killed 18 civilians — including a woman and a youth — in one of the deadliest clashes since the project’s inception. Many victims were shot in the head and face, according to police photos and death certificates obtained by Bloomberg.

Soldiers “know that they can benefit from the uniform they’re wearing,” said Miguel Linares, 31, a trucker who ran gasoline to mines — and whose 34-year-old brother, Tigue, and close friend Carlos Alfredo Brito were among the dead.

“You have to pay,” he said. “They can put you in jail.”

Maduro faces a May 20 election with support from only about a fifth of the population and he is turning over swathes of the economy to the 160,000-member military, the strongest power in a failing state. Active and retired officers hold 14 of 32 cabinet posts. Soldiers have replaced many of the 80 state oil company leaders whom Maduro has imprisoned since August. The ports have been militarized and the Defense Ministry oversees the hungry nation’s food supply.


The Arco Minero is another lucrative franchise granted by Maduro.

“It’s an incentive for loyalty,” said Rocio San Miguel, president of the Control Ciudadano watchdog group in Caracas. “It’s indicative of where the forces of power lie in Venezuela. Military power is hegemonic and in control of everything.”

Maduro has promoted hundreds of officers since he became president in 2013 — there are now some 1,300 generals and admirals. High-ranking members of the military control legitimate industries, black markets and the nation’s security, creating a “perverse relationship,” said Diego Moya-Ocampos, an Americas analyst at IHS Markit, a London consultant.

In El Callao, years of dwindling oil revenue and failed statist policies have the government craving gold deposits it claims total as many as 8,000 tons, which would be the world’s second-largest behind Australia. The Arco Minero produced 8.5 tons in 2017, while Maduro hopes to raise production to 24 tons by year-end, according to mining minister Victor Cano. Venezuela needs it desperately. The nation's gross domestic product is projected to fall about 15 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, a cumulative drop of almost half in five years.

Gold processing ground to a halt amid neglect and mismanagement after late President Hugo Chavez nationalized the industry in 2011, and gangs imposed themselves over illegal miners who descended by the thousands. Official production fell to a single ton in 2016, according to the CPM Group, a commodities researcher. But that year, Maduro granted the armed forces wide-ranging security powers and let them create a company that would provide mining services. He invited 150 companies to exploit diamonds, gold and coltan in the region, but few partners materialized.

Now, shootouts regularly erupt among soldiers and rival gangs. The miners are extorted by all sides, but still they flock to muddy pits and hand-dug shafts to pick and pan.

In a gang-run mine tunnel hundreds of feet below the outskirts of El Callao, Gregorio Aguilar was working a 36-hour shift lugging sacks of rocks and rust-colored soil. Weeks earlier, he had been bagging what few groceries there were in nearby Puerto Ordaz.

“You’re in God’s hands here,” said Aguilar, 28. “What’s the alternative? We came to survive.”

Many don’t. El Callao last year ranked as the country’s most-violent municipality, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, which estimated a homicide rate of 816 per 100,000 residents.

El Callao sits amid mountainous jungle along the Yuruari River, and gold brokers, jewelry and tool shops line its thoroughfares. Paved roads quickly give way to dirt tracks, where makeshift camps and tarp-covered tunnels are around every bend. Businesses cater to miners: Open-air bars stocked with cold beer are within walking distance of the pits, stacks of speakers blare salsa music and prostitutes ply the streets. In a country where cash is scarce, residents carry brick-sized wads of bills to bodegas and markets that offer meats, milk and imported pasta.

At the apex of this isolated economy sits the national guard. The force manages the flow of gasoline for generators and water pumps, and controls commerce. In the almost 120 mile (190 kilometer) drive from Puerto Ordaz to El Callao, there are more than a half-dozen military and police checkpoints.

“They control the territory, they control the legal system — the rules — and they have the guns,” said San Miguel of Control Ciudadano. “It’s an area that functions in a completely feudal sense.”

Low-ranking soldiers shake down individual miners and smugglers, while officers extract tributes from armed groups for the right to do business. Those gangs in turn extort anyone wishing to work.

Then, there’s the official business: The Venezuelan central bank purchases gold in El Callao from select brokers, mill associations and groups of registered miners, dubbed “mining brigades.” State gold processor Minerven melts the ore into bars, which military aircraft take to airbases around Caracas. Soldiers unload the riches into armored vehicles bound for the central bank.

The bank is selling off gold to keep the country afloat, drawing down its reserves of the metal to $6.6 billion from almost $20 billion at the beginning of 2012, according to a report from investment bank Caracas Capital Markets. “Venezuela has been running on fumes for years and hoping the reserve tank would get them to safety,” said Russ Dallen, managing partner of the bank.

When the gold arrives in Caracas, it is presented — sometimes to Maduro himself — in ceremonies broadcast on state television. The president, who has said he plans to launch a bullion-backed cryptocurrency, was shown kissing a bar with his eyes shut. Such ardor belies the brutal struggle in the Arco Minero. Over the past year, local news outlets have reported dozens of killings by state forces in El Callao and surrounding areas.

The Feb. 10 army raid that killed the civilians happened at a mine called Cicapra, about 25 miles from El Callao, according to a military communique seen by Bloomberg.

Carlos Alfredo Brito, 27, had recently begun delivering gasoline to wildcatters along with the Linares brothers. He had been making a pittance hauling vegetables, livestock and furniture but needed money to buy epilepsy medicine for his mother.

“I begged him to just go to Peru just like all the other young people in Venezuela,” said his mother, Petra Rodriguez, a 52-year-old from the small town of Soledad.

Brito’s last trip was a gamble, said Miguel Linares, who negotiated the deal with a gang leader for 20 barrels but returned home before the attack. The group of six would be paid in gold. They traveled in an SUV and two trucks, stopping repeatedly to repair a balky clutch and selling some of the gasoline to buy parts.

Brito’s mother last heard from her son Feb. 8. She had texted Brito to let him know she had managed to find 11 boxes of medicine and hoped God would watch over him.

“Amen, mommy!” Brito responded. “What relief. You have no idea how happy this makes me. I love you.”

The group stayed at the mine after night fell Feb. 9, surrendering their cell phones to the gangsters. The army arrived in the small hours.

After the violence, soldiers recovered assault rifles, pistols and grenades, according to the internal communique, which didn’t explain why the army came to the mine. It said the victims were resisting authority, but the families insist they were slaughtered.

A Ministry of Defense spokeswoman declined to comment on the killings. “They’re not going to make any statement, and there are no statements on the matter,” Kariandre Rincon said.

Cano, the mining minister, said in an interview the armed forces respect human rights, but miners must put themselves on the right side of the law. “If they’re doing criminal activities, they can’t be expected to be treated like saints.”

On Saturday, Feb. 10, Brito’s mother texted him, “God bless you, son! How are you? What are you doing?” No reply. The family heard of his death later that day.

By then, the army had delivered his body to a police station in southern Bolivar state, victims’ relatives said. From there, the remains were taken to an overheated morgue near Puerto Ordaz, where families came to collect them. The naked corpses were stacked head to toe on metal trays, with numbers taped to their chests.

Brito had been shot repeatedly in the chest. His family buried him that Monday in Soledad. The date was written with a finger on his concrete slab.

— With assistance by Fabiola Zerpa, Ben Bartenstein, Danielle Bochove, Luzi-Ann Javier, and Noris Soto

Lots of pictures in the orignal
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-04-09/the-bloody-grab-for-gold-in-venezuela-s-most-dangerous-town
 
--
Denny Schlesinger

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Stratfor: $2B ruling against Venezuela
« Reply #431 on: May 14, 2018, 09:42:33 AM »
    Foreign creditors and companies will try to seize Venezuelan oil assets, including export terminals and refineries, as compensation for arbitration claims and missed payments.
    The seizure of certain Venezuelan energy export assets will cause the country's oil production and export revenue to plummet quickly.
    Venezuela's tenuous political position will worsen, and some ruling party officials might consider a heavier anti-corruption purge at the state-owned oil company or a negotiation with the United States for a transition of power as ways out of the rising instability.

Old disputes over the nationalization of its oil industry 11 years ago are coming back to haunt Venezuela and further threaten its political stability. In April, an arbitration panel at the International Chamber of Commerce ruled that state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) owed ConocoPhillips $2 billion for seizing the U.S. company's assets in 2007. Complicating matters for Venezuela's energy company, other creditors and private companies are also looking for compensation, including Canadian energy contractor SNC-Lavalin, which has sued PDVSA for missing a $25 million payment.
The Big Picture

Venezuela is in the middle of a major economic decline. The country depends almost entirely on oil for export revenue. Three and a half years of low oil prices and more than a decade of financial mismanagement have effectively destroyed the country's foreign currency reserves. Now, the country faces a new threat: A U.S. company to which it owes $2 billion may soon seize its key oil export terminals in the Caribbean.
See Commodities: A Cautionary Tale
See Venezuela's Unraveling

To prod PDVSA into paying the $2 billion it owes, ConocoPhillips sought court orders from Dutch authorities to freeze assets, including crude oil, at Caribbean export facilities owned by PDVSA. Courts with jurisdiction over Bonaire and St. Eustatius enforced two of the orders; a Curacao court has authorized a third order, according to reports on May 12. The move disrupted Venezuelan activity on the three Caribbean islands administered by the Netherlands, and PDVSA directed tankers away from them for fear that Dutch authorities would seize their cargoes.

The court orders eventually may allow ConocoPhillips to take control of key PDVSA assets in the Caribbean. The facilities include the Isla refinery on Curacao and storage facilities on St. Eustatius and Bonaire. Together, the refinery and terminals account for about 25 percent of Venezuelan crude oil and refined product exports.
A map shows the locations of PDVSA assets at risk of seizure

ConocoPhillips does not necessarily intend to keep the refinery and terminals. Instead, the U.S.-based company likely is exerting legal pressure to get compensation from PDVSA sooner rather than later. PDVSA is strapped for cash, and its oil production has declined by nearly 500,000 barrels per day to 1.4 million bpd over the past year. Oil exports, which account for nearly all of the country's export revenue, will continue to drop. As a result, ConocoPhillips intends to be the first in line to get what PDVSA owes it before other creditors and companies seeking compensation from defaulted bonds or payments awarded by arbitration panels pile up.

But ConocoPhillips' aggressive approach may have domestic repercussions in Venezuela. If courts allow ConocoPhillips to take ownership of those Caribbean assets, PDVSA and the politicians who depend on its diminishing revenue to keep Venezuela stable will be in a bind. PDVSA's production already is declining because of labor shortages (caused by a decadelong brain drain and runaway inflation), extreme levels of graft, low foreign investment and a shortage of foreign financing. Losing assets at even one of the three Caribbean facilities would push PDVSA's export numbers even lower.

Such a loss would quickly turn into a major political problem for Venezuela. The government of President Nicolas Maduro is a confederation of officials interested in one thing: remaining in power. So far, the decline has been manageable for them. But a seizure of assets would exacerbate the country's economic crisis. In such a case, the most significant pressure on Caracas would be from its elites, not voters. Venezuelan leaders are not particularly responsive to the impact of the crisis on voters. Elections have been manipulated, and thousands of potential voters leave the country each month as the economic collapse worsens. But the prospect of rising, violent unrest among citizens losing access to food and basic utilities will be a concern. Losing access to oil revenue, both to line their own pockets and to keep political allies happy, will also be a risk some officials consider unacceptable.
A chart shows Venezuelan oil production

If ConocoPhillips successfully seizes Venezuelan oil export assets, confrontations between elites in the country likely will grow. Corruption through fraudulent imports and outright theft have sapped PDVSA of billions of dollars in revenue since the United Socialist Party of Venezuela began ruling. The prospect of governing over an increasingly unstable country with rapidly falling oil production may drive the government to try to purge PDVSA of egregiously corrupt officials. Unless such a purge is carefully coordinated and backed by the threat of incarceration or even violence, it will drive major internal political conflict.

Support may also grow among some ruling party officials for a negotiated settlement with the United States for a transition of power. This approach would allow Venezuelan officials to avoid heavier sanctions that would make the oil sector's recovery more difficult down the line. Some governing party figures may also feel they would benefit from a transition, since cutting a deal with Washington would be preferable to ruling a unstable, dilapidated state. But such talks would be complicated and involve dozens of key Venezuelan officials. And once started, there's no guarantee they would be fruitful.

Caracas faces a difficult path ahead. Instead of attempting politically dangerous anti-corruption purges or a complex negotiation, the government may opt to continue to rule over a declining country in an increasingly authoritarian manner. It's hardly the most favorable option — the crisis will only get worse before it gets better. But it's also the path of least resistance for the Maduro administration, and it may prove preferable to picking a fight with the elites who support his rule.

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GPF: Why Venezuela can't be more like Colombia
« Reply #432 on: May 22, 2018, 10:53:21 AM »
Why Venezuela Can’t Be Like Colombia
May 22, 2018
By Allison Fedirka

In 2013, Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela. In the ensuing five years, Maduro relied on populism, much like his predecessor did, while driving Venezuela’s economy to ruin. And yet he secured a second term over the weekend.

Just next door is Colombia, a country that stands out in South America for not having had a left-wing populist leader in over three decades. It also has an economy poised to challenge Argentina as the second-largest on the continent. With all that Colombia and Venezuela share, geographically and historically, this divergence is striking.

The Paradox of Plenty

The Colombia-Venezuela border is one of the few places in South America without geographic barriers delineating national boundaries. To the north, they share a sliver of lowlands. Both have expansive shores along the Caribbean Sea. Just south, the Andes extend from Colombia into Venezuela. Below that, the Orinoco Basin stretches from southeastern Colombia into central Venezuela. Their geographic similarities create an expectation that they would have similar natural advantages and disadvantages.
 
(click to enlarge)

Except that Venezuela has a lot of oil. The U.S. Energy Information Administration believes that at 307 billion barrels, Venezuela has the most reserves in the world. It funded the country’s economic development in the 20th century and into the 21st century. The oil business was so profitable that by the end of the 1920s, less profitable activities – even essential ones like agriculture – started to wither away. Today, the government depends on oil for about half its revenue.

More than that, the government depends on oil for its own popularity. When oil prices are high, as they were early in Chavez’s presidency, populist measures like high welfare spending are manageable. But when prices crash, they can bring down governments. The low prices of the ‘80s necessitated the austerity of the ‘90s, which Chavez capitalized on just as prices were rebounding. In mid-2014, just over a year after Chavez’s death (Maduro was his vice president), oil prices started to fall, and Venezuela has been unstable ever since.

Colombia was not blessed with Venezuela’s enormous oil reserves (though it has modest reserves of its own), something that forced the country to diversify. To help industrialize the country, the government resorted to import substitution, a policy in which the government heavily subsidizes and protects domestic industries from more advanced foreign competition so that they can grow. Industrialization and, later, services became a large part of the Colombian economy, but unlike in Venezuela, they didn’t drown out other economic activities. In addition to its modest oil reserves, Colombia has some of the largest coal deposits in the world and arable land capable of growing cash crops like coffee. Furthermore, oil didn’t become lucrative for Colombia until the 1980s. The absence of major discoveries in recent years has kept oil an important part of Colombia’s economy but never induced the government to abandon a more balanced approach to economic development.

Experiences With Colonialism

Besides their differences in natural resources, Colombia and Venezuela had vastly different experiences under Spanish colonialism, which shaped their respective visions for independence. Both Venezuela and Colombia were part of Spain’s New Granada colony. (And then, for a little over a decade, present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama formed the independent country of Gran Colombia.) In the latter half of the 18th century, Spain decided to divide its American holdings into smaller organizational territories to more efficiently govern and exploit the colonies. Venezuela was given more autonomy and military authority. And because Venezuela’s location makes it one of the first major points of contact with incoming ships on the Atlantic, it had more contact with Europe than other colonies. Colombia, meanwhile, was primarily used as a source of gold and other commodities bound for Spain. Its riches were heavily exploited, its outside interactions were more limited, and it had less autonomy than its neighbor to the east.

The initial fight for independence began with a military junta in Caracas and revolved around Simon Bolivar’s vision for a pan-American state. Bolivar’s political model combined monarchy, republicanism and federalism in an attempt to find the right balance between control, stability and unity. He feared that introducing too much liberty to uneducated masses would result in anarchy and thus believed in the necessity of a strong central authority. These were the views of a man raised in the Caracas elite. On the flip side, Colombia generally favored federalism immediately after independence, calculating that centralized control was too similar to the central control of Spain.
After independence, Colombia endured more than a century of disruptive competition between its liberals and conservatives. During a period known as La Violencia (1946-1958), political violence displaced the rural poor, who took up arms to try to defend themselves from constant aggression. These initial rural uprisings gave way to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and started a domestic conflict that would last over 50 years. Since then, the Colombian government has focused primarily on bringing peace to the country. This is a cause that transcends political parties and therefore has stifled extremism and prevented left-wing populists from arising.
Venezuela was living with its own kind of violence. In its first decades of independence, various strongmen fought for the right to rule. This culminated in the dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez from 1908 until his death in 1935. The next 15 years featured a series of coup attempts as political activists tried to introduce democracy to the country. Democracy was finally established in Venezuela in 1958, and since then, the staying power of any government has been intricately linked to the performance of the economy, which essentially means oil prices.

Despite their comparable geography and similar origins, forces guided both Caracas and Bogota toward economic management and political structures that are very different from one another. Venezuela has been set in a cycle of boom or bust with its problems buried too deep – both in its history and quite literally underground. Meanwhile, Colombia’s need to bring about domestic political stability after decades of infighting and to seek a more measured approach to economic development has created a comparatively less volatile political and economic system.

The post Why Venezuela Can’t Be Like Colombia appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #433 on: June 24, 2018, 05:18:05 PM »


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WSJ: Monetary chaos in Caracas
« Reply #435 on: August 20, 2018, 07:12:21 AM »
Monetary Chaos in Caracas
Maduro’s decrees and devaluation produce a financial meltdown.
A man counts money to buy popsicles during a protest of healthcare workers in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 16.
A man counts money to buy popsicles during a protest of healthcare workers in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 16. Photo: miguel gutierrez/epa-efe/rex/shu/EPA/Shutterstock
74 Comments
By The Editorial Board
Aug. 19, 2018 6:45 p.m. ET

This promises to be quite a week in Venezuela. President Nicolás Maduro is rolling out his economic recuperation plan, which is supposed to rescue the once-wealthy nation from the economic damage that socialism has delivered. But on the evidence of the plan Mr. Maduro announced Friday, Venezuela could be in for a monetary meltdown.
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The main feature of the Maduro plan is a giant devaluation. The new fixed rate for what he calls the “strong bolivar” is 6,000,000 to the dollar. The preferential price from the central bank had been 4,000,000 to the dollar. If all those zeros make your head spin, fear not. On Tuesday the government will launch a new currency, the “sovereign bolivar.” It will contain five fewer zeros, so it will be pegged at 60 to the dollar.

As monetary face-lifts go, this looks like a back-alley job. Venezuela is in the throes of a hyperinflation that economist Steve Hanke says has surged to another all-time high of 61,463% on an annual basis. The International Monetary Fund says inflation could reach 1,000,000% this year. The new bolivar rate, which is closer to the black market rate, is an attempt to stop the price spiral and restore confidence in the currency.

The problem is that the same people will be running the central bank, and they’ll still answer to Mr. Maduro, who on Friday also decreed an increase in the minimum wage of 6,000%. For those holding the ID card of Mr. Maduro’s United Socialist Party, the government will pay a bonus equivalent to 600,000 old bolivars. Perhaps the money to pay for the bonus will come from printing more bolivars.

Mr. Maduro also declared that there will be a nationwide price freeze, date uncertain. Venezuelan businesses have been laboring under price controls for years, but there have been mechanisms for small adjustments. It isn’t clear how strict the new price controls will be, but good luck to businesses trying to pay the new minimum wages when they can’t raise prices.

Even Mr. Maduro seems to understand that this is a problem, so he has declared that the government will pay the wage increases for small- and medium-size businesses for 90 days. Some of that cash will come from raising the value-added tax in September to 16% from 12%, if there’s much of anything left of the economy beyond the black market.

Not surprisingly, hyperinflation has led to an acute shortage of cash to perform even basic transactions. Gasoline stations, buses and many informal markets require cash, but small change is difficult to find. Adjustments under the new currency using old bills will mean sharp price increases for everyday business.

All of this adds up to a full-blown financial panic and the breakdown of economic order. Mr. Maduro has destroyed confidence in the country’s institutions and currency, and his new plan will make it worse. The only way to stop the descent into chaos might be to dollarize the economy. Meantime, be prepared for the worst as the people and capital of a degraded nation flee the wages of socialism.

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GPF
« Reply #436 on: August 20, 2018, 11:03:29 AM »
second post of the day

•   Brazil deployed soldiers and extra police to quell riots in Brazil against Venezuelan refugee camps, while Ecuador attempted to stem the tide of Venezuelan migrants by enforcing new entry requirements.

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GPF: Deep Dive on Venezuela
« Reply #437 on: September 07, 2018, 07:18:01 AM »
Coping With Venezuelan Migration
Sep 6, 2018
By Allison Fedirka

Summary

For years there have been stories from Venezuela about food shortages, import cuts and dwindling international reserves. The Venezuelan economy has crumbled before our eyes. President Nicolas Maduro’s downfall has been a question of when, not if. We’re still waiting for the collapse, but Venezuela has finally reached a tipping point.
Initially, when the formal market failed, an informal market appeared to fill the void. Where bartering and the black market couldn’t meet basic needs, people would cross into other countries like Colombia to buy what they needed before crossing back. As goods became scarcer and income fell, people stopped coming back. Many opted to go to Colombia, while those with the will and the means frequently opted for faraway places like the United States or southern Europe.

In the past year, the informal market has apparently started to fail too. A June 2018 survey by Venezuela’s Consultores 21 found that Venezuelans of every social standing and political persuasion want to leave the country. It found that 54 percent of the upper-middle class and 43 percent from the lower class want to emigrate, as well as 66 percent of Chavistas, 63 percent of supporters of the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition and 58 percent of other opposition supporters. Even 17 percent of Maduristas, the president’s loyalists, expressed a desire to leave. Leaving is no longer just for the opposition or the wealthy.

Venezuelans’ hope for their country’s future is fading too. A strong opposition majority elected to the National Assembly in December 2015, combined with massive protests and rallies throughout 2016, failed to affect real change. Protests still occur, but not of the same magnitude as before. Since 2015, approximately 2.3 million people (7 percent of the population) have emigrated, according to an International Organization for Migration report, and most of those left in the past year. What matters now isn’t what this means for Venezuela – the answer to that question has been obvious for some time – but what it means for the South American countries now trying to cope with Venezuela’s migration crisis.

This Deep Dive will identify the countries experiencing the greatest disruption and explain how their governments are responding. It will then examine the broader problems affecting all affected countries – health risks, the job market, the costs of government responses and the political repercussions of mass migration. Finally, it’ll provide an overview of the challenges ahead. Ultimately, we aren’t optimistic about the abilities of these governments to coordinate a response, and though some will fare better on their own than others, every country for itself isn’t a recipe for a stable region in the future.

Regional Impact

International Organization for Migration data shows that of the 697,500 Venezuelans who left the country in 2015, 73 percent went to the U.S., Canada or southern Europe (Spain, Italy or Portugal). These were the ideal destinations for people who could afford to get there. But in the past two years, as the situation has reached a breaking point and the profile of those wanting to get out has broadened, the acceptable destinations have gotten much closer – putting South America at the center of the migration crisis.

Of the 1.64 million Venezuelans who left the country in 2017, 53 percent stayed in South America. The advantages of South American countries are their proximity, the relatively low cost of travel, their common language (save Brazil), their lower cost of living compared to the U.S. or Europe, and the fact that they have large informal economies, enabling immigrants to jump immediately into work.

But the South American countries suddenly facing an influx of Venezuelan migrants were overwhelmed. Over the past few years, the regional rhetoric against the Maduro regime has increased, but little concrete action was taken. Critics feared making things worse inside the country and the dangerous precedent that would come with supporting the removal of another leader in the region. But the flood of Venezuelans into other South American countries is putting a large political and economic strain on those countries that cannot be ignored.

Colombia

At the start of Venezuela’s economic downturn, neighboring Colombia was a place for struggling Venezuelans to go to buy goods that were scarce at home. People would cross the border for the day or the weekend into towns like Cucuta and then return home. As the situation worsened, they stopped returning home.

Colombia is now the largest destination for Venezuelan migrants and is a transit country along the way to South America’s west coast. The government has started sounding the alarm bells. The problem is the sheer volume of immigrants. Colombia’s director of migration reported that at the end of 2017, the country had more than 550,000 Venezuelans. Just six months later, he said the figure had risen to 870,093, accounting for 1.7 percent of Colombia’s population.
 
(click to enlarge)

By 2016, the Colombian government was already taking administrative measures such as a wildly unsuccessful border mobility card system to track the movement of Venezuelans. By 2017, Bogota had installed new border control checkpoints and introduced a Special Permit of Permanence, or PEP system, to help normalize the legal status of Venezuelans entering the country. Once they have legal status, Venezuelan migrants can work and access social services. In July, about 381,700 had some type of legal status. Just before leaving office in August, President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree to normalize an additional 442,000 Venezuelans and bring them into the PEP system. Though Colombia is coping, the foreign minister made it clear that his country can’t take the lead on a migration crisis and that Colombia would seek help from the international community.

Brazil

Brazil is a melting pot of immigrants, but even it was unprepared for the recent flood of Venezuelans. What started as a trickle into the state of Roraima around 2015 became a deluge in 2017. That year, the number of Venezuelans entering Roraima increased sevenfold to 35,000. From Jan. 1 to June 22, 2018, the Brazilian Federal Police received 16,953 applications for refugee status. Of those, 16,523 – more than 97 percent – were from Venezuelans. This is more than 20 percent higher than the total number of requests from Venezuelans for all of 2017 (13,583). Brazil’s Federal Police estimate that there are now at least 50,000 Venezuelans in Brazil. Half of them are in Roraima’s capital, Boa Vista, where they represent 7.5 percent of the city’s 332,000 inhabitants.
 
(click to enlarge)

In need of a government response, Brazil’s National Council of Immigration issued a resolution in March 2017 that permitted Venezuelans to apply for two-year temporary residency and eliminated migratory fees for people in need. In February 2018, President Michel Temer declared Roraima to be in a state of vulnerability because of immigration and increased the number of border guards to 170. In April, the government implemented its acclimation and relocation program, which provides legal status for Venezuelans in the country as well as medical exams, vaccinations, access to public health care, schooling for children, language courses and job training. In August, the government started trying to limit the entrance of Venezuelans through visa checks and additional military deployments to the border.

Peru

Peru, which boasts one of the most stable economies in South America, is an increasingly popular destination among Venezuelans. Many enter in the northwest through Ecuador and stay, while others continue on to Chile. In 2015, there were only 433 requests for refugee status in Peru. In 2016 and 2017, the government received a total of around 34,000 requests. And 2018 is on pace to rocket past those figures – to date, there are an average of 14,000 applications per month. In July 2018, the country’s National Superintendence of Migration reported that there were 368,000 Venezuelans in Peru and that as many as 46,000 had entered the country in 2018 alone. The foreign minister said at the end of August that there were now over 400,000 Venezuelans in the country.

The Peruvian government has had to move quickly to catch up with the influx of immigrants. In August 2017, the National Superintendence of Migration announced that it would activate a hotline to organize the issuance of temporary permits of permanence (a program started in January) to Venezuelans who had entered the country. The measure allowed Venezuelans to normalize their legal status, work legally, access social services, get a tax ID number and integrate into the tax system. This proved inadequate, and over the past year officials set up extra facial and fingerprint recognition systems along the border, revamped websites related to immigration services, and set up screening and processing modules throughout Lima, with plans to add 10 more throughout the country. Finally, on Aug. 25, the government said a passport would be required for entry in the hope that it will help stem the flow of immigrants.

Ecuador

Located between Peru and Colombia, Ecuador has mostly been used as a transit country. Since 2016, however, there has been a marked increase in Venezuelans living in the country’s central provinces. The National Secretariat of Communication reported that from January through August this year, 641,353 Venezuelans entered Ecuador. Of those, 525,663 left for other South American destinations. In other words, 115,690 – just under 20 percent – remain in Ecuador.
 
(click to enlarge)

Ecuador’s government was not prepared for more Venezuelans to stay in the country. Ecuadorian law provides temporary residence for those who can prove economic solvency and come from a member of the Union of South American Nations, meaning that Venezuelans with the means can automatically stay for two years. The government has now started taking steps to control the flow of Venezuelans. It has organized bus trips to bring Venezuelans from their point of entry down south to Peru. The government also tried changing the law so that Venezuelans would need to show passports to enter – currently, they need only to show national IDs – but that was overruled by a court. Ecuador has not ruled out instituting some type of quota system.

Common Challenges

The sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of desperate people poses unique challenges for each South American country, but some challenges are shared. The health risks that accompany mass migration rank as the most immediate concern among these governments. Basic sanitation is a serious issue. Many of the cities around entry points to these countries were not built to handle an influx of tens of thousands of people. The Ecuadorian and Peruvian governments declared localized states of emergency in areas of high migration to facilitate the allocation and delivery of government resources to these areas. Brazil has been sending extra doctors to Roraima since 2017. A secondary concern is the potential for disease to spread. Earlier this year, there was a measles outbreak in Venezuela. The Pan American Health Organization’s July update for measles said there are now 2,472 confirmed cases, up 45 percent from June, in 11 American countries. Venezuela accounts for 1,613 of the cases, and Brazil ranks second with 677. These two countries also accounted for over 92 percent of the new cases reported. Governments risk backlash from local populations if they are seen as being unresponsive to major health risks in the general populace.

There are also potential economic consequences. The biggest concern is labor. Informal labor markets are large in these countries: They serve as major revenue sources for the local population, but they also account for 70 percent of the work that Venezuelans find upon arrival in a new country, according to the International Organization for Migration. Job competition in the informal market is a concern, as is the suppression of wages in formal employment sectors. Many Venezuelan emigrants have university degrees or technical training. Though these concerns exist throughout the region, they are especially pronounced in Peru.

Another economic concern for governments is the cost of supporting mass immigration. Even basic operations such as providing security, administrative processing and sanitation measures at border crossings are expensive. Relocation programs, job training and health care for tens of thousands of people is even more so. Brazil still has not fully recovered from its 2015-16 recession, and the government has been struggling for the past two years to reduce spending. Ecuador is in the midst of recovering from low oil prices and transitioning the economy from high levels of government intervention to more open market conditions. And with so few resources to go around, governments must answer tough questions from voters about why so much is being spent on Venezuelans when the native poor populations have so much need for financial sustenance.

 
(click to enlarge)

Finally, there are the domestic political questions, which will vary for each country. Immigration is by nature a divisive issue. In the case of Venezuelan immigration, anti-immigrant sentiment and political instability will start in border locations with high concentrations of immigrants. Venezuelan immigration has had a huge impact on Brazilian politics, made stronger by the fact that there are elections in October. Tensions were already high between Roraima and the federal government. The state believes the federal government has not provided enough assistance. It also resents the fact that the courts denied its request to close the border with Venezuela. And the immigration debate ties into the national debate about the role of the military in society.

Courses of Action

For the affected countries, the solution involves managing the migration flow rather than trying to bring about regime change in Venezuela. In the short term, regime change would have the opposite of the desired effect. It’s a messy affair when governments fall – transition periods are chaotic, and there is always the rebuilding phase. Regime change would motivate people to leave and wait for stability to be restored before returning home. Moreover, are reluctant to use force to depose a leader out of fear that it would set a precedent that could one day turn against them. And the affected countries lack the spare resources and public support for such action anyway. For now, at least, governments will pursue solutions on the domestic level first.

Before taking any decisive measures, one major challenge must be overcome: figuring out the size and scope of the migration issue. Massive amounts of data need to be processed to track who enters and exits – often at different locations. In the case of irregular migration, it may take several months to estimate those figures. Many of the national institutions charged with this task were not designed to deal with issues of this magnitude. Peru’s immigration services are still processing temporary permits of permanence from 2017. Colombia and Peru exchanged basic data on registered Venezuelans, only to discover that some individuals were registered in both countries and reaping the benefits from both. All four countries have resorted to executive decrees to expedite the status of migrants, deploy security forces and/or free up other resources related to humanitarian aid.

Affected countries met on Tuesday to exchange ideas and assess the problem. They called for countries to find means to continue accepting Venezuelans, but joint statements won’t solve the problem. Each country has very different capacities to absorb new populations. Brazil is a huge country capable of accepting large numbers of people and with a long track record of integrating foreigners. This is not the case for Ecuador, which is about 30 times smaller than Brazil and has one-eighth the population. And the lack of any existing regional framework severely limits the ability to take a regional approach toward addressing Venezuelan migration. The urgency of the situation does not allow for time to be spent crafting such a framework.

Most important, each country will put its national interests ahead of regional cooperation. No country in the region can single-handedly absorb all the Venezuelan emigrants, nor is there a country that can foot the bill for supporting programs in neighboring countries. Cooperation will occur where it suits national interests, provided it doesn’t bind countries to specific courses of action. Where it will be easy for the region to find common ground is in the call for international support – ideally from a multilateral group like the United Nations – and aid to help mitigate the effects of the migration wave.

The post Coping With Venezuelan Migration appeared first on Geopolitical Futures.






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GPF: Coping with Venezuelan Migration
« Reply #438 on: September 16, 2018, 07:41:12 AM »

Coping With Venezuelan Migration

South American countries are ill-prepared to deal with the influx of more people.
Deep Dive

Allison Fedirka |September 6, 2018


Summary

For years there have been stories from Venezuela about food shortages, import cuts and dwindling international reserves. The Venezuelan economy has crumbled before our eyes. President Nicolas Maduro’s downfall has been a question of when, not if. We’re still waiting for the collapse, but Venezuela has finally reached a tipping point.

Initially, when the formal market failed, an informal market appeared to fill the void. Where bartering and the black market couldn’t meet basic needs, people would cross into other countries like Colombia to buy what they needed before crossing back. As goods became scarcer and income fell, people stopped coming back. Many opted to go to Colombia, while those with the will and the means frequently opted for faraway places like the United States or southern Europe.

In the past year, the informal market has apparently started to fail too. A June 2018 survey by Venezuela’s Consultores 21 found that Venezuelans of every social standing and political persuasion want to leave the country. It found that 54 percent of the upper-middle class and 43 percent from the lower class want to emigrate, as well as 66 percent of Chavistas, 63 percent of supporters of the Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition and 58 percent of other opposition supporters. Even 17 percent of Maduristas, the president’s loyalists, expressed a desire to leave. Leaving is no longer just for the opposition or the wealthy.

Venezuelans’ hope for their country’s future is fading too. A strong opposition majority elected to the National Assembly in December 2015, combined with massive protests and rallies throughout 2016, failed to affect real change. Protests still occur, but not of the same magnitude as before. Since 2015, approximately 2.3 million people (7 percent of the population) have emigrated, according to an International Organization for Migration report, and most of those left in the past year. What matters now isn’t what this means for Venezuela – the answer to that question has been obvious for some time – but what it means for the South American countries now trying to cope with Venezuela’s migration crisis.

This Deep Dive will identify the countries experiencing the greatest disruption and explain how their governments are responding. It will then examine the broader problems affecting all affected countries – health risks, the job market, the costs of government responses and the political repercussions of mass migration. Finally, it’ll provide an overview of the challenges ahead. Ultimately, we aren’t optimistic about the abilities of these governments to coordinate a response, and though some will fare better on their own than others, every country for itself isn’t a recipe for a stable region in the future.

Regional Impact

International Organization for Migration data shows that of the 697,500 Venezuelans who left the country in 2015, 73 percent went to the U.S., Canada or southern Europe (Spain, Italy or Portugal). These were the ideal destinations for people who could afford to get there. But in the past two years, as the situation has reached a breaking point and the profile of those wanting to get out has broadened, the acceptable destinations have gotten much closer – putting South America at the center of the migration crisis.

Of the 1.64 million Venezuelans who left the country in 2017, 53 percent stayed in South America. The advantages of South American countries are their proximity, the relatively low cost of travel, their common language (save Brazil), their lower cost of living compared to the U.S. or Europe, and the fact that they have large informal economies, enabling immigrants to jump immediately into work.

But the South American countries suddenly facing an influx of Venezuelan migrants were overwhelmed. Over the past few years, the regional rhetoric against the Maduro regime has increased, but little concrete action was taken. Critics feared making things worse inside the country and the dangerous precedent that would come with supporting the removal of another leader in the region. But the flood of Venezuelans into other South American countries is putting a large political and economic strain on those countries that cannot be ignored.

Colombia

At the start of Venezuela’s economic downturn, neighboring Colombia was a place for struggling Venezuelans to go to buy goods that were scarce at home. People would cross the border for the day or the weekend into towns like Cucuta and then return home. As the situation worsened, they stopped returning home.

Colombia is now the largest destination for Venezuelan migrants and is a transit country along the way to South America’s west coast. The government has started sounding the alarm bells. The problem is the sheer volume of immigrants. Colombia’s director of migration reported that at the end of 2017, the country had more than 550,000 Venezuelans. Just six months later, he said the figure had risen to 870,093, accounting for 1.7 percent of Colombia’s population.

(click to enlarge)

By 2016, the Colombian government was already taking administrative measures such as a wildly unsuccessful border mobility card system to track the movement of Venezuelans. By 2017, Bogota had installed new border control checkpoints and introduced a Special Permit of Permanence, or PEP system, to help normalize the legal status of Venezuelans entering the country. Once they have legal status, Venezuelan migrants can work and access social services. In July, about 381,700 had some type of legal status. Just before leaving office in August, President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree to normalize an additional 442,000 Venezuelans and bring them into the PEP system. Though Colombia is coping, the foreign minister made it clear that his country can’t take the lead on a migration crisis and that Colombia would seek help from the international community.

Brazil

Brazil is a melting pot of immigrants, but even it was unprepared for the recent flood of Venezuelans. What started as a trickle into the state of Roraima around 2015 became a deluge in 2017. That year, the number of Venezuelans entering Roraima increased sevenfold to 35,000. From Jan. 1 to June 22, 2018, the Brazilian Federal Police received 16,953 applications for refugee status. Of those, 16,523 – more than 97 percent – were from Venezuelans. This is more than 20 percent higher than the total number of requests from Venezuelans for all of 2017 (13,583). Brazil’s Federal Police estimate that there are now at least 50,000 Venezuelans in Brazil. Half of them are in Roraima’s capital, Boa Vista, where they represent 7.5 percent of the city’s 332,000 inhabitants.

(click to enlarge)

In need of a government response, Brazil’s National Council of Immigration issued a resolution in March 2017 that permitted Venezuelans to apply for two-year temporary residency and eliminated migratory fees for people in need. In February 2018, President Michel Temer declared Roraima to be in a state of vulnerability because of immigration and increased the number of border guards to 170. In April, the government implemented its acclimation and relocation program, which provides legal status for Venezuelans in the country as well as medical exams, vaccinations, access to public health care, schooling for children, language courses and job training. In August, the government started trying to limit the entrance of Venezuelans through visa checks and additional military deployments to the border.

Peru

Peru, which boasts one of the most stable economies in South America, is an increasingly popular destination among Venezuelans. Many enter in the northwest through Ecuador and stay, while others continue on to Chile. In 2015, there were only 433 requests for refugee status in Peru. In 2016 and 2017, the government received a total of around 34,000 requests. And 2018 is on pace to rocket past those figures – to date, there are an average of 14,000 applications per month. In July 2018, the country’s National Superintendence of Migration reported that there were 368,000 Venezuelans in Peru and that as many as 46,000 had entered the country in 2018 alone. The foreign minister said at the end of August that there were now over 400,000 Venezuelans in the country.

The Peruvian government has had to move quickly to catch up with the influx of immigrants. In August 2017, the National Superintendence of Migration announced that it would activate a hotline to organize the issuance of temporary permits of permanence (a program started in January) to Venezuelans who had entered the country. The measure allowed Venezuelans to normalize their legal status, work legally, access social services, get a tax ID number and integrate into the tax system. This proved inadequate, and over the past year officials set up extra facial and fingerprint recognition systems along the border, revamped websites related to immigration services, and set up screening and processing modules throughout Lima, with plans to add 10 more throughout the country. Finally, on Aug. 25, the government said a passport would be required for entry in the hope that it will help stem the flow of immigrants.

Ecuador

Located between Peru and Colombia, Ecuador has mostly been used as a transit country. Since 2016, however, there has been a marked increase in Venezuelans living in the country’s central provinces. The National Secretariat of Communication reported that from January through August this year, 641,353 Venezuelans entered Ecuador. Of those, 525,663 left for other South American destinations. In other words, 115,690 – just under 20 percent – remain in Ecuador.

(click to enlarge)

Ecuador’s government was not prepared for more Venezuelans to stay in the country. Ecuadorian law provides temporary residence for those who can prove economic solvency and come from a member of the Union of South American Nations, meaning that Venezuelans with the means can automatically stay for two years. The government has now started taking steps to control the flow of Venezuelans. It has organized bus trips to bring Venezuelans from their point of entry down south to Peru. The government also tried changing the law so that Venezuelans would need to show passports to enter – currently, they need only to show national IDs – but that was overruled by a court. Ecuador has not ruled out instituting some type of quota system.

Common Challenges

The sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of desperate people poses unique challenges for each South American country, but some challenges are shared. The health risks that accompany mass migration rank as the most immediate concern among these governments. Basic sanitation is a serious issue. Many of the cities around entry points to these countries were not built to handle an influx of tens of thousands of people. The Ecuadorian and Peruvian governments declared localized states of emergency in areas of high migration to facilitate the allocation and delivery of government resources to these areas. Brazil has been sending extra doctors to Roraima since 2017. A secondary concern is the potential for disease to spread. Earlier this year, there was a measles outbreak in Venezuela. The Pan American Health Organization’s July update for measles said there are now 2,472 confirmed cases, up 45 percent from June, in 11 American countries. Venezuela accounts for 1,613 of the cases, and Brazil ranks second with 677. These two countries also accounted for over 92 percent of the new cases reported. Governments risk backlash from local populations if they are seen as being unresponsive to major health risks in the general populace.

There are also potential economic consequences. The biggest concern is labor. Informal labor markets are large in these countries: They serve as major revenue sources for the local population, but they also account for 70 percent of the work that Venezuelans find upon arrival in a new country, according to the International Organization for Migration. Job competition in the informal market is a concern, as is the suppression of wages in formal employment sectors. Many Venezuelan emigrants have university degrees or technical training. Though these concerns exist throughout the region, they are especially pronounced in Peru.

Another economic concern for governments is the cost of supporting mass immigration. Even basic operations such as providing security, administrative processing and sanitation measures at border crossings are expensive. Relocation programs, job training and health care for tens of thousands of people is even more so. Brazil still has not fully recovered from its 2015-16 recession, and the government has been struggling for the past two years to reduce spending. Ecuador is in the midst of recovering from low oil prices and transitioning the economy from high levels of government intervention to more open market conditions. And with so few resources to go around, governments must answer tough questions from voters about why so much is being spent on Venezuelans when the native poor populations have so much need for financial sustenance.

(click to enlarge)

Finally, there are the domestic political questions, which will vary for each country. Immigration is by nature a divisive issue. In the case of Venezuelan immigration, anti-immigrant sentiment and political instability will start in border locations with high concentrations of immigrants. Venezuelan immigration has had a huge impact on Brazilian politics, made stronger by the fact that there are elections in October. Tensions were already high between Roraima and the federal government. The state believes the federal government has not provided enough assistance. It also resents the fact that the courts denied its request to close the border with Venezuela. And the immigration debate ties into the national debate about the role of the military in society.

Courses of Action

For the affected countries, the solution involves managing the migration flow rather than trying to bring about regime change in Venezuela. In the short term, regime change would have the opposite of the desired effect. It’s a messy affair when governments fall – transition periods are chaotic, and there is always the rebuilding phase. Regime change would motivate people to leave and wait for stability to be restored before returning home. Moreover, are reluctant to use force to depose a leader out of fear that it would set a precedent that could one day turn against them. And the affected countries lack the spare resources and public support for such action anyway. For now, at least, governments will pursue solutions on the domestic level first.

Before taking any decisive measures, one major challenge must be overcome: figuring out the size and scope of the migration issue. Massive amounts of data need to be processed to track who enters and exits – often at different locations. In the case of irregular migration, it may take several months to estimate those figures. Many of the national institutions charged with this task were not designed to deal with issues of this magnitude. Peru’s immigration services are still processing temporary permits of permanence from 2017. Colombia and Peru exchanged basic data on registered Venezuelans, only to discover that some individuals were registered in both countries and reaping the benefits from both. All four countries have resorted to executive decrees to expedite the status of migrants, deploy security forces and/or free up other resources related to humanitarian aid.

Affected countries met on Tuesday to exchange ideas and assess the problem. They called for countries to find means to continue accepting Venezuelans, but joint statements won’t solve the problem. Each country has very different capacities to absorb new populations. Brazil is a huge country capable of accepting large numbers of people and with a long track record of integrating foreigners. This is not the case for Ecuador, which is about 30 times smaller than Brazil and has one-eighth the population. And the lack of any existing regional framework severely limits the ability to take a regional approach toward addressing Venezuelan migration. The urgency of the situation does not allow for time to be spent crafting such a framework.

Most important, each country will put its national interests ahead of regional cooperation. No country in the region can single-handedly absorb all the Venezuelan emigrants, nor is there a country that can foot the bill for supporting programs in neighboring countries. Cooperation will occur where it suits national interests, provided it doesn’t bind countries to specific courses of action. Where it will be easy for the region to find common ground is in the call for international support – ideally from a multilateral group like the United Nations – and aid to help mitigate the effects of the migration wave.

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #440 on: November 09, 2018, 08:25:09 AM »
•   Venezuela has been unable to take out $550 million worth of its gold deposits from the Bank of England because doing so would violate anti-money laundering measures.

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #441 on: November 20, 2018, 11:58:04 AM »
Stratfor Worldview


        T
The Big Picture

Since the death of Hugo Chavez in 2013, a loose conglomerate of occasionally competing political elites have ruled Venezuela. But oil revenue is shrinking, inducing greater competition among political elites looking to secure their share from the embezzlement of government income. As the number of rivalries increases, President Nicolas Maduro will try to keep some of the more powerful figures in check by curtailing their control over key government institutions.
See Venezuela's Unraveling
What Happened

Venezuelan news website Noticiero Digital published a report on Nov. 16 claiming that military authorities had arrested or detained Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, the former director general of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), Venezuela's domestic and foreign intelligence agency. According to the report, the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence in Caracas had already been holding Gonzalez Lopez for several days before Nov. 16.
Why It Matters

The apparent arrest of a key former official is the latest sign of a brewing power struggle within Venezuela's political hierarchy that underscores the waning power of Diosdado Cabello, a leading figure in Venezuela's United Socialist Party. Until his removal as SEBIN director in late October, Gonzalez Lopez, who was also interior minister from 2014 to 2016, was Cabello's most influential ally in the country's domestic security services. With Cabello's clout now seemingly diminished, Economic Vice President and Industries Minister Tareck El Aissami — a powerful official feuding with Cabello — will find it easier to sideline the man once considered Venezuela's most powerful political figure behind President Nicolas Maduro. Cabello's lack of direct control over SEBIN will limit his ability to challenge his political rivals more directly for political power and, possibly, the presidency. Cabello's reduced influence will also hamper his ability to compete for a share of increasingly scarce government revenues.

The key question is what will happen next to Cabello. The Maduro government may try to simply sideline him for the time being to thwart his political ambitions. However, Cabello's loss of power raises the possibility that Maduro will eventually arrest him and use his potential extradition as a bargaining chip to launch negotiations with the United States in an attempt to delay sanctions against Venezuela's government.
Background

According to a 2017 report received by Stratfor, El Aissami has been helping Maduro erode Cabello's influence within the government. El Aissami sees Cabello as a potential rival for political power. By staying close to the higher echelons of power, El Aissami and his allies can continue to enrich themselves and maintain control of the levers of power so they do not face imprisonment in Venezuela or the risk of extradition to the United States on U.S. criminal charges. Such competition for power will worsen as oil revenue continues to shrink and the United States raises political pressure on Caracas in 2019. For example, Washington is considering designating Venezuela's government a state sponsor of terror. The designation would likely discourage companies from investing in Venezuela's oil sector, causing its oil production to fall further and increasing the incentives for the country's elites to grab a share of declining government income before it's too late.



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Stratfor: The explosive implications of Russian bombers in Venezuela
« Reply #444 on: December 12, 2018, 06:49:02 PM »
 

The Explosive Implications of Russian Bombers in Venezuela

The Big Picture
________________________________________
Stratfor's 2019 Annual Forecast said that Russia would seek to expand its ties and involvement around the world to push against Western hegemony and challenge the U.S.-led world order. News that Russia has sent strategic bombers to Venezuela and unconfirmed reports that Moscow is considering a long-term deployment suggest that the analysis was correct.
________________________________________
Eurasia
What Happened

Russia is reportedly considering a long-term military presence in Venezuela. According to a Dec. 11 report from Russian paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta that cited anonymous sources, Tu-160 strategic bombers could be based in Venezuela. The report says that Russian and Venezuelan officials agreed to put the planes at a Venezuelan military base on the island of La Orchila in the Caribbean Sea, where Russian advisers will reportedly be dispatched this week.

The report comes after two Russian Tu-160 jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed in Caracas on Dec. 10, prompting harsh criticism from the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to accuse the Venezuelan and Russian governments of misusing resources while their people suffer. Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Moscow claims the two planes will return to Russia by Dec. 14.

Background

The news of increased military cooperation comes after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the pair signed investment contracts in the energy and mining sectors worth over $6 billion. In addition, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu.

Russian strategic bombers have made flights to Venezuela in 2008 and 2013. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez even once offered to host Russian long-range aircraft on La Orchila, though an agreement never materialized. Venezuelan law does not permit foreign military bases in the country, but temporarily deploying foreign military aircraft is permissible, and the government could allow the deployment to become permanent through a decree.

More recent Russian and Venezuelan efforts to strengthen military ties come as relations between Moscow and Washington are at their lowest point since the Cold War. The United States has announced that it will withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a key arms control agreement. In response, Russia has warned that such a withdrawal would lead to a significant military buildup of immediate-range missiles.

Why It Matters

Russia has not, notably, confirmed the report that it intends to deploy strategic bombers to Venezuela for the long term. But if such plans were to materialize, they would push Russian-Venezuelan military cooperation to unprecedented heights.

As things heat up between the United States and Russia over arms treaties — as well as sanction expansions and the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria — Moscow could be using an increased military presence in Venezuela to boost its leverage in negotiations with Washington. To this end, Venezuela is a prime target for Russian influence because of its location and anti-American politics. And for Caracas, a stronger relationship could help shore up its deteriorating economy and keep the government from toppling.
In addition to political and symbolic benefits, stationing forces in Venezuela would enable Russia to challenge the United States in its own backyard — even if the forces remain relatively contained. Russia has only a few dozen Tu-160 bombers, but deploying some of them to the U.S. southern flank could force Washington to expend more resources in response and provide Moscow with greater leverage. And if Russia were to follow up a long-term bomber deployment with additional forces, the small deployment could punch well above its weight in sucking up U.S. resources if and when Washington reacts. Russia could also seek to draw comparisons between its own military buildup and the U.S. forces currently stationed near Russian borders in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.

What to Watch For

Russian Responses

A long-term deployment is currently just a rumor, so it will be important to watch for a confirmation from Russian authorities. In addition, further meetings between Russian, Venezuelan and even Cuban officials or movements of Russian military assets could provide insight into Moscow's plans.

Venezuela's Stability

If Russia decides to pursue a more permanent military presence in Venezuela, the South American country's domestic stability will become even more important to Moscow. As Venezuelan oil production continues to decline, Moscow may work to prop up Maduro's government by continuing to invest in Venezuela's energy sector or by adding mineral extraction projects to help the struggling country diversify its economy.

But even with Russian support, Venezuela will remain unstable. The government's ability to fend off challenges — particularly from dissident military forces — is steadily declining. Continued economic hardships will only provide more incentive for citizens and military commanders to challenge Maduro.

U.S. Action

If Russia does station bombers on Venezuelan soil that are capable of delivering a nuclear bomb, the United States would become concerned that further deployments will follow. Specifically, Washington will watch for the placement of the type of intermediate-range nuclear missiles that the INF treaty forbids. In addition, Washington's fears could prompt the United States to support opposition movements or military dissidents in Venezuela. As the great power competition and associated arms race between Russia and the United States continue, Washington will work to prevent Venezuela from becoming a weapon in Moscow's armory.

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GPF: Tracing the Origins of Venezuela's Crisis
« Reply #445 on: December 13, 2018, 07:25:52 AM »

Tracing the Origins of Venezuela’s Crisis

The country’s current predicament was centuries in the making.

Allison Fedirka |December 6, 2018

Summary

Just over a month from now, on Jan. 10, Nicolas Maduro is scheduled to be sworn in again as president of Venezuela. The occasion won’t be without controversy – some 50 countries failed to recognize the elections in May that set Maduro up for another term in office – raising familiar questions about his government’s staying power. For the past year, Maduro’s administration has appeared to be hanging on by a thread, and Venezuela’s various crises show no sign of abating.

It is, by now, an all too familiar story, that of the country’s seemingly inexorable slide deeper and deeper into chaos. Low oil prices are the scapegoat most commonly assigned to the country’s recent decline. The narrative explains how the economy can now be on the brink of collapse after flourishing for years under high oil prices, but it fails to account for all of Venezuela’s problems. The price of oil does little to explain, for example, the degradation of the country’s institutions, the tenacity of its despotic leadership or the lack of a united opposition despite the public’s resounding rejection of the government. To understand these phenomena, one must first understand the structural design that has been in place since the earliest days of modern Venezuela’s existence. The centralized power, military presence, weak institutions and economic overreliance on commodities that characterize current government are not unique to it. Rather, they are rooted in Venezuela’s colonial past and early years of independence. This Deep Dive examines the interplay between these factors that has dictated the behaviors and actions of governments past and present.

A Strongman’s Game

Venezuela’s precedent for totalitarian rule long predates Maduro or his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. In fact, in its nearly two centuries of existence, Venezuela has functioned as a modern, Western-style democracy for only 40 years, from 1959-1999. (Though Chavez won power in democratic elections in 1998, his presidency brought a decisive end to the period of democracy.) More often, the country has operated under a strong central government led by a single individual empowered through a patronage network, an idea that traces back to the caudillo system in the colonial period.

Caudillos were affluent men who owned or oversaw production on land and rejected Spanish rule. Because they were too few in number to fight on their own, they used their elite social status to enlist the help of the lower classes, whom they organized and led as militias against Spanish troops. The tradition continued even after Venezuela won its war for independence. Without their Spanish overlords or a reliable national government to provide security, local landowners established patronage systems and local fighting forces, which they used to seize control of assets, such as customs houses, and territory. The most successful caudillos became generals in their militias and could project power beyond their region to compete on a national level.

The caudillo system reinforced the need for a strong centralized government in Venezuela and gave rise to the dozen or so revolutions in the country’s history. The constant jostling for ascendancy made the caudillos in power, and those aspiring to it, vulnerable to attack. At the same time, the system’s emphasis on regionalism made it difficult for leaders in one area to secure buy-in elsewhere in the country. Maintaining power required a firm hand. Still, schisms and shifts in allegiance were common, and when an opposition group wanted to challenge the government for power, a revolution broke out. Strongmen rulers rose and fell in this way, for much of the country’s history. (A push for decentralized power among the caudillos led to civil war in the mid-19th century, followed by a brief period of federalism in the 1860s.) Even Venezuela’s first attempts at democracy began with an uprising, known as the October Revolution of 1945. Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution in 1999 built on this tradition – and today Maduro draws on that legacy through his rhetoric and invocations of the now-idolized late president.

Institutional Deficiencies

With this kind of turnover in the government, Venezuela has struggled to build firm and enduring institutions. Many dictators have managed it during their tenures, but usually by exerting strong influence over government institutions, which, as a result, were not accountable to the public. Furthermore, these institutions typically have lasted only as long as the government that put them in place. It became the norm in Venezuela that a revolution or major political transition would usher in a new constitution engineered by the new administration to suit its aims. Since independence, the country has had 27 different constitutions, the most recent of which came about in 1999, under Chavez. What institutions have emerged in Venezuela have rarely had a chance to take root, much less flourish.

Part of the challenge is the patronage system that has underpinned nearly all of Venezuela’s rulers, from the caudillos to Maduro. Throughout Venezuela’s history, leaders have incentivized loyalty among their constituents and officials by offering them various rewards. The practice has made corruption a rampant problem in the country. It has also made organizing political movements around issues difficult, since people are accustomed to looking not for the candidates who best represent their beliefs or concerns but for those who can give them the best deals. In the latter half of the 20th century, those deals centered on agrarian reform, public works in poor urban neighborhoods and military funding. Maduro has adapted to Venezuela’s current economic difficulties by offering followers preferential access to food and U.S. dollars and by allowing pro-government armed groups to operate in the country. The trouble, of course, is that if government revenue drops off and the country’s leaders don’t have enough money to subsidize their supporters, their fortunes can quickly turn.

Hooked on Commodities

And in Venezuela, government income depends largely on commodities prices – its economy has centered on commodities exports from the very start. Colonies like Venezuela served two purposes for the Spanish crown: to provide raw materials to feed nascent industry back home and to buy up Spain’s finished goods. To ensure that its needs were served, Spain restricted colonial trade, first limiting the colonies to trade with only Spain and then permitting them to trade with one another as well. So it was that coffee, cacao, sugar, tobacco and leather became the mainstays of Venezuela’s economy.

The pattern continued even after Venezuela won its independence, only with new trade partners. The United Kingdom and other European powers, eager to hasten the Spanish Empire’s decline, had funded Venezuela’s efforts against Spain, offered it flexible financing to promote economic recovery in the conflict’s aftermath, and opened trade with Venezuela. But the basis of their trade was the same exchange of raw materials for finished goods that Venezuela had had with Spain. In addition, the foreign financial assistance put Venezuela into debt, which continued to grow because of servicing costs and rollovers, along with the country’s attempts to modernize its agricultural sector. When commodity prices dropped – particularly for coffee as Brazil increased production – they set off Venezuela’s first major debt crisis in 1903. The discovery of oil reserves in the country a decade or so later alleviated its debt problem and gave Caracas a robust new source of revenue. In other words, the government found a new commodity to hitch the economy to.

Commodity price fluctuations have plagued Venezuela ever since, causing recurring debt crises. When oil prices are low, the government borrows to cover its costs; then in more prosperous times, it devotes much of its revenue to paying down its debts and fortifying its pillars of support. (During an oil boom in the 1970s, for example, Caracas focused its public spending on educational programs related to the oil industry.) This leaves the government with little money to invest in developing other areas of the economy, thereby perpetuating the cycle.

The combination of low commodity prices and mounting debt has been the downfall of numerous administrations over the years. Commodity dependence makes any government vulnerable to market forces beyond its control. But that goes double for the Venezuelan government, since it derives much of its legitimacy from the patronage system. A crash in coffee prices in the 1830s and 1840s brought down the administration of President Jose Antonio Paez, a hero of Venezuela’s war for independence. A similar fate befell President Rafael Caldera in the 1990s, when lower oil prices and higher debt levels sapped the popular support that had won him a second term in office, paving the way for Chavez’s rise to power. And today, Maduro – who assumed the presidency in 2013, just a year before global oil prices tanked – finds himself in the same position. Languishing oil prices, coupled with high debt, will eventually be his undoing.

(click to enlarge)

Defending the Government

In the meantime, Maduro is drawing on his ties with the military to maintain his grip on power – a time-honored tradition among Venezuela’s leaders. The bond between the country’s government and military, like its commodity dependency, also goes back to colonial times. Having conquered local forces and rival powers for control of Venezuela, Spain crafted a military-centric administrative structure for the territory to defend it and its resources against the many foreign competitors in the surrounding area. High-ranking generals took control of the territory in 1777, when Venezuela gained autonomy as a captaincy, and, after independence, the military continued to play a prominent role in the country. Most caudillos had at one time been commanding officers in the armed forces. Since then, plenty of leaders have turned to the military to help keep or restore order. Gen. Juan Vicente Gomez Chacon, for instance, depended on security forces to suppress the roughly 20 armed domestic rebellions he faced while in power. President Romulo Betancourt, likewise, had to rely on the military to repel attacks from leftist guerrilla groups even during Venezuela’s democratic phase. And Chavez came to power after a career in the military.

Though Maduro never served in the military, he has aligned himself with it and stayed close to it. He selected Vladimir Padrino Lopez, an officer loyal to Chavez, as his defense minister on taking office and has made sure to share the spoils of power with the security forces to ensure its support for his government. Over the course of his administration, Maduro has extended the military’s reach by giving it prominent roles in areas such as the energy sector and food distribution programs. He also has turned a blind eye to its illicit activities, including drug trafficking. In return, Maduro has used the military’s intelligence branch to imprison opposition leaders and suspected dissidents among the security forces. If the president’s favor hasn’t been enough to eliminate dissent in the armed forces, it has at least kept the military largely invested in the Maduro administration’s survival.

What Comes Next

Even so, the end of Maduro’s tenure is inevitable. Geopolitics tells us that, based on the forces and realities the president is up against, his days are numbered – at this point, even a sudden spike in oil prices wouldn’t necessarily save him. When and how his government meets its end is harder to say, but history may serve as a guide. Venezuela’s past is replete with examples of fallen governments and the many causes of their demise.

(click to enlarge)

Civilian-military coups have spurred government transitions on multiple occasions. Indeed, in 2017, brewing dissent in the security forces prompted the government to crack down on military personnel who broke rank. But Venezuela’s opposition is too divided to overthrow the government, despite its efforts to unify, thanks to infighting and institutional defeats. Each party in the opposition, like any other coalition, has its own views on the government’s ideal end state and is reluctant to subjugate them to those of another group. The daylight between conservative and liberal factions in the opposition has led to power vacuums and political chaos in the wake of even successful coups, such as the ouster of the Monagas brothers in 1858. The opposition in contemporary Venezuela, moreover, has struggled to wrest power from Maduro under better circumstances – like when it won a majority in the National Assembly in late 2015. (Parliament, after all, is only one of five branches of Venezuela’s government, and the rest are still firmly under the president’s control.) Having run itself ragged with public protests and fruitless dialogue with Maduro and his supporters, the opposition took a break over the past year to regroup. It’s expected to resume its protests in January, and if it pulls together, it may yet be able to push for a democratic transition.

Otherwise, any number of contingencies could bring Maduro down. Someone could seize power while he’s out of the country, for example, though the president’s several recent trips abroad suggest he’s not sweating that possibility. Direct foreign intervention also seems unlikely. And while Colombia and the United States will continue to increase pressure on the Venezuelan government through sanctions, doing so probably won’t be enough to cause its collapse, unless they take direct aim at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela. Instead, the eventual power transition in Caracas is liable to be a domestically driven affair. There is even the possibility that the current administration eventually comes around to orchestrate its exit and set the stage for a new government, as longtime Spanish dictator Francisco Franco did before his death and as the Brazilian military junta did before ceding power in 1986.

When a new government does take over in Venezuela, it will have its work cut out. The next administration will need to rebuild from the ground up, a task that may prove an opportunity to break the patterns that have shaped Venezuela’s government for most of its history. That it spent four decades as a democracy – the result of various political factions uniting to overthrow an authoritarian government and to rule instead by coalition – suggests Venezuela is not predestined for dictatorship. Breaking old habits and establishing new ones isn’t easy, but neither is it impossible, as countries such as South Korea, which managed to industrialize its economy decades after major Western countries had done so, can attest.

Institutions wax and wane over time. Even those that seemed infallible at one point in history, like the English monarchy or the Argentine military, invariably give way to others. These processes take time and effort, of course, and just as many countries fail at them as succeed. Nevertheless, these are the big pictures issues that will help determine Venezuela’s future.


Crafty_Dog

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Stratfor: Military intervention would not be easy
« Reply #447 on: January 25, 2019, 04:07:44 PM »
Trouble Awaits Any Military Intervention in Venezuela
Military troops during a ceremony at the Fuerte Tiuna Military Complex in Caracas on Jan. 10.
(FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

    Many lower-level Venezuelan military personnel could desert their positions if ordered to crack down on opposition demonstrators.
    At the same time, the country's armed forces could quickly muster a hasty defense to resist any outside intervention intent on overthrowing the government.
    Any intervening force would face numerous challenges, including difficult terrain, logistical issues, guerrilla attacks and the prospect of fighting beleaguered but well-equipped Venezuelan forces.

With the United States and much of Latin America recognizing Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president — declaring President Nicolas Maduro's government as "illegitimate" in the process — it appears that the country is heading toward a chaotic, violent transition of power. As the stakes rise, so does the possibility that Venezuela could witness an external military intervention (an option that Washington has so far refused to take off the table in its desire to see the back of Maduro), particularly if Caracas responds with mass violence against opposition protesters. But despite the weakened state of Venezuela's armed forces, any military intervention in the country is unlikely to be a simple and seamless affair.
The Big Picture

Venezuela's crisis appears to be approaching a head, especially after numerous regional states recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate president of the country. As countries such as the United States, Brazil and Colombia consider how they could force President Nicolas Maduro from power, the prospect of an external armed intervention in Venezuela remains on the table. Several factors, however, suggest that any outside force would experience great difficulty in intervening militarily in the country.
See Venezuela's Unraveling
A Military That Mirrors the Country

There is no denying that the Venezuelan military finds itself in a significantly weakened state following years of domestic economic trials and tribulations. The Maduro government may retain the loyalty of Venezuela's top military officers, but it cannot depend on support across all ranks. The men and women of the armed forces, after all, reflect wider Venezuelan society, which is deeply divided. If the government orders the military to conduct a violent and large-scale crackdown on anti-government protesters, many soldiers would likely desert, or even defect, in droves. In fact, concerns over the loyalty of the rank and file are likely discouraging Caracas from ordering troops to repress demonstrators, forcing the government to instead rely on more ideologically loyal paramilitary formations such as the National Guard.

The military also suffers from a spate of other problems, many of which existed well before Venezuela entered its crisis. Training, for instance, has never been a particular strength of the armed forces, but it is now a glaring problem because of the current dearth of food and fuel, which has largely kept military units idle in their barracks. Corruption, nepotism and cronyism have also eaten away at the overall efficiency of the armed forces. Increased factionalism exacerbates these shortcomings, which have begun to hinder command and control and cooperation among service branches. All things considered, the Venezuelan military might appear to be one of Latin America's strongest, but its deep-seated problems mean that it is in little position to defend the country effectively from a serious external attack; instead, it is far more likely to splinter under serious pressure.
The Challenge That Awaits

Nevertheless, there are several reasons why an external military intervention in Venezuela would be no cakewalk. For one thing, even if sizable portions of the armed forces might balk at turning their weapons on fellow citizens, an invasion could galvanize them to circle their wagons against an external aggressor. And in contrast to Libya's military on the eve of the 2011 intervention that ultimately toppled Moammar Gadhafi, Venezuela's armed forces are much better equipped and enjoy much more advantageous terrain. What's more, Venezuela could receive increased external support from allies such as Russia, which could further complicate plans for an intervention.

Any external military action against Venezuela would, in all likelihood, involve a significant air campaign whose first and foremost goal would be to gain air supremacy over the skies. The only country equipped to conduct such a campaign is the United States. Colombia and Brazil — two regional heavyweights that are staunchly opposed to the Maduro government — lack the aircraft necessary to neutralize the Venezuelan Air Force and its air defenses independently. And even if Venezuelan pilots lack the skills of their Brazilian and Colombian counterparts, they boast an advantage thanks to their superior combat aircraft, especially the Russian-made Su-30MK2. Brazil, for example, will only begin to address this technological imbalance this year, when the country acquires its first batch of Swedish JAS 39E Gripen fighters.

A military intervention could quickly snowball into one of the largest worldwide military operations since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

A U.S. air campaign would undoubtedly decimate the Venezuelan air force, but it would require a considerable effort to also suppress and destroy the country's surface-to-air missile batteries on the ground. This would be a complicated endeavor, particularly as Venezuelan air defense units, unlike Gadhafi's forces, would benefit from the mobility of their systems and the abundance of dense urban and jungle terrain. Furthermore, the Venezuelan army as a whole is very large — even before adding in various paramilitary formations — and relatively well-equipped with light and heavy weapons. With such forces also able to benefit from the same dense urban and jungle terrain, it would require an extended air campaign to grind them down if they were to continue active resistance.
Logistical Nightmares

Unless an intervention triggered a mass uprising that quickly toppled the government, any effort to accelerate the campaign with a ground invasion would face its share of problems as well. Given Venezuela's sheer size and population, an intervening country or countries would require a sizable military force. Such an army would then need to confront the problem of choosing a route into Venezuela. A direct intervention by sea is inherently risky because amphibious operations are one of the most complicated and dangerous military maneuvers. Overland invasion routes from Colombia or Brazil also face difficult terrain, complicated logistics and extended supply lines that would be vulnerable to guerrilla attack. In effect, a military intervention could quickly snowball into one of the largest worldwide military operations since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

All of these constraints highlight how a military intervention in Venezuela is not comparable to previous interventions in the region, such as Grenada (1983), Haiti (1994-1995) or Panama (1989-1990). Nor is it particularly similar to the 2011 intervention in Libya. Venezuela's size, population, terrain, and weaponry ensure that a long military campaign would be almost inevitable if the initial action doesn't quickly topple Maduro's government or trigger a collapse in the armed forces. And even if an attacking force were successful, the leaders of a military intervention would be faced with a very messy aftermath in which they would have to suddenly shift from offensive operations to propping up the new government and support its efforts to rebuild a broken economy and food distribution system — to say nothing about the prospect of dealing with possible attacks from disenfranchised Chavista forces in a protracted insurgency. And then there are other pressing issues, such as forced migration, the effect of conflict on the energy market or the potential proliferation of weapons and violence. Simply put, overthrowing Maduro through external intervention is unlikely to provide a shortcut to resolving Venezuela's myriad problems.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #448 on: January 26, 2019, 02:47:57 PM »
By GPF Staff


Daily Memo: The Struggle in Venezuela, Confusion From Iran, Kurdish Protest in Northern Iraq


All the news worth knowing today.


Here are some updates on the situation in Venezuela from the week:
•   Two people are claiming to be Venezuela’s president, and neither seems ready to back down. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who recently proclaimed himself acting president, says that President Nicolas Maduro must that amnesty may be an option if he cooperates. Maduro, meanwhile, has remained defiant, even saying in a live broadcast that he was willing to talk directly with U.S. President Donald Trump and to travel to the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York to argue his case. He also told military commanders to prepare to defend the country and announced nationwide military exercises to take place Feb.10-25.
•   The Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday morning that, according to a senior official in the Trump administration, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Guaido on Tuesday evening, the night before Guaido declared himself acting president. Pence reportedly called to assure him of the United States’ support if he seized control of the government. If the account is true – and considering what has happened, it seems probable – the U.S. played an active role in orchestrating the current opposition to Maduro.
•   Russia continues to support Maduro and to criticize the United States’ posture toward Venezuela. The Russian foreign minister described U.S. policy as “destructive,” and a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry accused Washington of repeating its interventionist policies. In addition, Russia’s ambassador to Mexico told a Mexican newspaper that Russia “appreciated very much” Mexico’s noninterference in Venezuelan political affairs and its continued recognition of Maduro’s administration, a position that puts Mexico City at odds with Washington. Finally, Reuters reports that private Russian military contractors have arrived in Venezuela to protect Maduro’s personal safety. The Russian and Venezuelan governments deny having any information about the story, and the contracting company in question, the Wagner Group, has not made a statement about it.
•   The Trump administration has named Elliott Abrams as special envoy to oversee U.S. policy toward Venezuela. Abrams is best known for pleading guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanor charges for withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra affair. (President George H.W. Bush pardoned him in 1992.) Back in 2002, the Guardian reported that Abrams had approved a Venezuelan coup attempt against Hugo Chavez under President George W. Bush. This isn’t the place to adjudicate Abrams’ past, nor is the man himself consequential. But his appointment, and U.S. statements on and policy toward Venezuela, suggests Washington increasingly using moral and ideological justifications in its foreign policy.ar, along with the sale of 85 dual-mode ra

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Venezuela Politica
« Reply #449 on: January 27, 2019, 07:31:06 PM »
Venezuela's Friends and Foes Square Off Over Maduro
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, left, meet at the Revolution Palace in Havana on April 21, 2018.
(ERNESTO MASTRASCUSA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Highlights

    Russia, China and Cuba will attempt to keep Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in office while the United States and its allies in Venezuela's political opposition ratchet up pressure to hasten his departure.
    Havana and Moscow will become directly involved in trying to safeguard or prolong Maduro's rule.
    Brazil and Colombia will work to force Maduro from power, but their ability to pressure Caracas will be limited compared to that of the United States.
    Events on the ground, as well as Maduro's ability to keep Venezuela's armed forces on his side, will determine whether the leader stays in place or soon leaves power.
    A formal negotiation period could delay Maduro's removal, so the opposition will try to win over as many military commanders and soldiers as possible in the short term.

The widespread international recognition of Juan Guaido as the legitimate interim successor to Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela has raised the stakes for Venezuelans — as well as nations with an interest in the troubled South American country. Those nations, chief among them the United States, Russia, China, Cuba, Brazil and Colombia, are sharply split between those that favor Maduro's rapid departure and those that — for largely financial and economic reasons — would prefer him to remain in place. Whatever their respective reasons, both camps will endeavor to mold events in Venezuela in their favor. For its part, the United States will rely on a combination of sanctions pressure and opposition demonstrations to turn key members of the armed forces against Maduro. But countries that have close ties with the current government will do everything in their power to delay — if not outright avert — Maduro's departure from power.
The Big Picture

The political crisis in Venezuela is domestic in origin but global in importance. Though Venezuela's geopolitical significance has declined in recent decades, it remains key to countries with specific interests in it — for financial, energy or security reasons. Some of these countries, such as Cuba, Russia and China, would prefer that President Nicolas Maduro remain in power. A new government would affect Moscow, Havana and Beijing, as a change could upset oil shipments and loan repayments. Russia and Cuba will seek to prolong Maduro's tenure for as long as possible to protect their interests.
See Venezuela's Unraveling
Fighting to Delay Maduro's Exit

The nation with the strongest short-term motivation for keeping Maduro in power is Cuba, which wants to maintain the status quo in Caracas to safeguard its own future political stability. After all, Cuba's gradual transition away from highly personalistic communist rule is going to be difficult enough without losing access to free Venezuelan fuel and crude oil shipments. Cuba currently receives about 50,000 barrels per day of fuel and crude oil from Venezuela — a figure that accounts for about a third of the island's consumption. The threat of losing these shipments is a serious one, as any new government in Caracas trying to maximize its oil export revenue and attract more foreign direct investment would likely reduce or entirely cease oil shipments to Cuba.

The Cuban government has significant military and intelligence assets at its disposal to keep Maduro in power. For nearly two decades, the Cuban government has assisted the Venezuelan state in military training and intelligence sharing on foreign and domestic targets. Venezuela's internal security services work closely with Cuba to closely monitor domestic political opponents. Though Havana may have already determined that Maduro's exit from power is just a matter of time, the island will make it its mission to delay that departure. To accomplish this, it might choose to deploy additional security forces to bolster the Venezuelan government's military and intelligence gathering capabilities. Nevertheless, Cuba is a comparatively small actor in Venezuela, meaning it will be powerless to turn the tide if key officials who head Venezuela's geographical military districts turn their guns on Maduro.

Russia also has no desire to see Maduro go quickly, though for far less immediate reasons. Like the oil gifted to Cuba, Venezuela's opposition does not view Caracas' loan agreements with Russia and China as legitimate, suggesting that a new government would significantly reduce or end oil-for-loan programs as part of reforms in the energy sector. As it is, Venezuela's current government has fallen far behind on payments to Russian lenders like Rosneft and others, with the former's CEO even rebuking Maduro privately two months ago because Caracas had failed to repay less than half of the total 380,000 barrels per day of crude oil that it owes to Russia. China, by contrast, was receiving about 460,000 barrels per day, or 60 percent of what Caracas owes to Beijing.

Maduro's fall would rob Moscow of an ally it can use to increase strategic pressure on the United States.

Aside from the possibility of a new Venezuelan government defaulting on Russian loans, Moscow has a strategic interest in the country. Venezuela fits neatly into Russia's global strategy of using even geopolitically minor conflicts to maintain strategic pressure on the United States. For nearly a decade, Russia flirted with the idea of establishing a more permanent strategic bomber presence in Venezuela. Maduro's fall would rob Moscow of an ally it can use to increase strategic pressure on the United States, meaning steps to keep the president in power will become a growing priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin. According to a report on Jan. 25, more Russian private military contractors have made their way to Caracas, possibly to increase personal security for Maduro. By using its forces to directly bolster the government, Moscow would complicate the Venezuelan military's attempts to overthrow Maduro and could even use the troops as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the United States on other strategic issues.

But of all the foreign powers with an interest in Venezuela, China likely faces the most financial exposure to the collapse of the Maduro government. Venezuela still owes China around $23 billion in loans that it is paying back with crude oil exports. At present, more than half of Venezuela's daily crude oil production goes directly toward repaying Chinese and Russian loans — making it likely that a new government would default on these agreements in its search for ways to bolster government revenue through oil exports. The rise of a pro-U.S. government in Venezuela would naturally cloud the prospects of Chinese military sales to Venezuela. Much of Caracas' military equipment comes from China, but a Venezuelan alliance with the United States would slowly shift the government's military procurement focus toward Washington. Still, the Chinese government is far less likely to directly intervene in Venezuela than Cuba or Russia, as such a step would hurt its trade relations with the United States at a delicate time and fly in the face of Beijing's overarching diplomatic focus on non-interference.
Fighting to Hasten Maduro's Exit

Arrayed against Cuba, Russia and China are Brazil and Colombia, two of Venezuela's neighbors that will adopt an ever-increasing role to tilt the country's balance of power away from Maduro. Brasilia and Bogota's interests in handing Venezuela to opposition rule are clear: Maduro's rule precipitated a food crisis that has forced millions of Venezuelans to seek relief in Colombia and Brazil. Caracas' support for illicit activities, such as militancy, drug trafficking and illegal mining, have also strengthened criminal groups in both countries. Thus, as Washington raises pressure on Caracas, Bogota and Brasilia are likely to do the same. The two neighbors, however, have less leverage over Caracas because they consume virtually no oil or refined products from Venezuela, while they possess almost no international clout that would allow them to impose punishing sanctions without assistance from the United States. Accordingly, they will likely follow the United States' lead in the coming weeks and months as they seek to achieve their aims.

In the near future, Venezuela's political situation will evolve largely in accordance with events on the ground. The United States and its opposition allies will try to raise pressure on military forces to switch sides against the government — if Washington doesn't engage in direct military intervention.

As the opposition tries to persuade military units and commanders to turn on the president, offers of amnesty will be crucial. As head of the National Assembly, Guaido can press his claim to the presidency by negotiating and offering to approve amnesty legislation toward blanket pardons or some sort of amnesty mechanism. The existence of such proposals — backed by guarantees that the United States will not enforce extradition requests against certain military commanders and political elites — will make it more likely that Venezuelan elites could consider a transition of power. Such an approach may bring enough commanders to the opposition's side to swiftly oust Maduro, but the incumbent still wields enough political and military influence to resist. He is likely to use any negotiations to buy time to stake his claim to the presidency (indeed, his foreign allies are likely to advise it). Such delays may keep him in power longer, but they could also intensify the violence of the protests and persuade dissidents in the armed forces to mount their own challenges.

Given Venezuela's tailspin, the likelihood of Maduro making an orderly departure is low. His exit, instead, is more likely to be violent and chaotic, as he has no desire to abandon power and his key domestic and foreign allies wish to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. Even if the opposition and government agree to formal offers to negotiate, the former will want to sit down for such talks with as strong a hand as possible. It's also a case of once bitten, twice shy: Maduro has previously roped his opponents into fruitless negotiations, so his opponents will be wary of any entering any new negotiations. For such talks to succeed, or even advance beyond the initial stages, they would require strong backing from key military officials or from the defense minister himself. Without their support, the situation in Venezuela will slide toward open insurrection, raising the prospect of more violence as Maduro's opponents square off against security forces intent on maintaining his rule.