Saturday, March 28, 2015

Don't be Fooled by Faux Democracy, America!

from ABC News
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is readying a gift for President Barack Obama when the two leaders cross paths at a regional summit next month: a petition containing millions of signatures denouncing U.S. aggression.

For the past week, Venezuelans have been lining up in plazas, government offices and even prisons to add their signatures to a manifesto against the Obama administration's recent decision to sanction seven Venezuelan officials over human rights abuses during anti-government protests.

To date more than 4 million signatures calling on Obama to reverse the order have been collected, and Maduro has set a goal of gathering 10 million ahead of the Summit of the Americas taking place April 10-11 in Panama.

On Friday, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the signatures would be presented at the summit.
If 10,000,000 Democrats on Welfare signed a petition denouncing the RNC, would the numbers impress anyone? America is the "Great Satan" ally of the Venezuelan "opposition" (Little Satan). Blaming "America" for all of Venezuela's problems is the only thing keeping the Maduro regime in power.

The Year of Venezuelan Protest in Review

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spreading the Socialist Pain...

from the Miami Herald
Venezuela has cut in half its subsidized shipments of crude oil to Cuba and Petrocaribe member nations to 200,000 barrels per day, down from 400,000 shipped in 2012, a Barclays report says.

Also, the British investment bank’s report considered it “ironic” that Venezuela would ship any oil at all, highlighting that while the country is going through extreme difficulties, it continues to subsidize oil sales to countries that have healthier economies.

Because of the cuts in oil shipments to the Caribbean, the firm reduced its deficit forecast for Venezuela to $22.6 billion, down from more than $30 billion predicted for 2015.

“The oil agreements have been a heavy burden for Venezuela. These deliveries reached 400,000 bpd at their peak in 2012, though Venezuela only received payment for 200,000 bpd,” said the Barclays report, citing figures from Petrologistics, the firm that follows tanker movements. “In the last decade, the agreements have cost Venezuela up to $50 billion,” added the report, titled Reducing Generosity.

Surprisingly, Cuba, the most important ally of Nicol├ís Maduro’s regime, has not been exonerated from the cuts, which deepened after August 2014, when crude-oil prices began to drop.

“Cuba has received about 55,000 barrels per day since September, nearly half of what it received in 2012,” the report says.

The cuts in deliveries to Cuba are more important than those of the other countries benefiting from Venezuela’s generosity, because unlike member countries of the Petrocaribe program, which at least pay a portion of the deliveries, Havana’s regime does not make cash payments for the exchange.

Under the cooperation agreements in place between both countries, Cuba pays for oil with the services of doctors and sports trainers for the social programs launched by the Venezuelan government, as well as with the island’s intelligence services.

However, shipments to Petrocaribe member countries have also been reduced significantly.

Shipments to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, which account for about half of the program, have dropped 56 percent and 74 percent compared to 2012.

Venezuela, which had recently enjoyed one of the most pronounced and prolonged oil bonanzas in its history, is now immersed in one of the worst economic crises due to the systematic destruction of the national production structure and the dramatic plunge of oil prices, economists say.

Venezuelans, who today face a scarcity index of more than 50 percent, are forced to spend hours in food lines to enter supermarkets with half-empty shelves.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's Raining Dollars for the Children of the Boligarchs!

Money rains Upon the Son of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ruse Worked. Dictator AGAIN!

from the AFP and Yahoo News
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan lawmakers voted Sunday to give socialist President Nicolas Maduro special powers to go it alone in defense and public safety, amid an escalating confrontation with the United States.

The decree powers were approved by a show of hands in the National Assembly -- which is packed with Maduro allies -- after two hours of one-sided debate. They will be in effect until the end of the year and will raise fresh fears about abuse of power.

"This Assembly declares this law approved," declared speaker Diosdado Cabello.

"We are going to head over there in front of Miraflores (presidential) Palace to deliver the law to the people and comrade Nicolas Maduro," Cabello added.

Carlos Luna, an international affairs analyst and university professor, called the law "highly dangerous."

It allows Maduro to issue decrees on civil rights which are "constitutionally guaranteed rights of the individual, which are meant to be a containing wall against abuse of power," Luna said.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter that Venezuela's "crisis has nothing to do with (the United States) or economic wars" that Maduro repeatedly says that Venezuela faces.

An anti-US march was called by the Cuban-allied socialist government at the palace.

Venezuela is in the midst of 10 days of nationwide military exercises, as the country faces a deepening economic crisis and rampant shortages of the most basic goods.

Maduro recently accused Washington of backing an opposition plot to overthrow him in a coup that he says would have involved bombing the presidential palace. The US government has dismissed the charges as baseless.

Relations hit a new low last week when US President Barack Obama slapped new sanctions on the Venezuelan government, calling the country "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States.

An angry Caracas responded by recalling its envoy to Washington and ramping up its military preparedness.

Maduro's late mentor, the longtime president Hugo Chavez, was also a harsh critic of the United States, slamming Washington for failing to cooperate with the leftist government after it came to power in democratically held elections.

But critics and the opposition say that the government under Chavez and now Maduro has acted to curb dissent in the legislature and on the streets.

In April 2002, when Chavez was briefly ousted for two days, the United States did not come to his aid but instead threw its support behind an adversary, in a move that cost the US much credibility in Venezuela and in some of Latin America.

A Failing Dictator Scares Up a Bogeyman to Save His Incompetent Regime

Wouldn't the US attack FROM the sea? With an amphibious assault, it looks like they're practicing for an INVASION of one of Venezuela's neighbors, to me.

from AFP and Yahoo News
Caracas (AFP) - Rolling out tanks, missiles and 100,000 men, Venezuela launched 10 days of military exercises, amid sky-high tensions over US sanctions slapped on officials accused of an opposition crackdown.

President Nicolas Maduro's socialist, Cuban-allied government -- struggling with sliding oil prices, the region's highest inflation, desperate shortages and rising discontent -- threw the spotlight on its Chinese amphibious tanks, Russian-built missiles and other military hardware.

"Congratulations to the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, and to the people, for the joint exercises," tweeted Maduro, who in two years time has alleged over a dozen coup bids against him and his government by the United States or local opposition members.

"Civilian-military union to keep having a Fatherland," Maduro added. "And may our sacred fatherland never have a (US) imperial boot set foot on it. Long live Venezuela!"

- Civilian-military union emphasis -

The nationwide exercises, covered for hours on end on local television, will last 10 days and enlist the participation of 20,000 civilians, in addition to government troops in the South American OPEC member with the world's largest crude reserves, officials said.

The maneuvers come at a time of heightened tensions with the United States, which Venezuela has labeled an imperial brute since the time of Maduro's late mentor, longtime president Hugo Chavez.

Both elected socialists, they have been harsh critics of the United States, which they slam for failing to cooperate with leftists when they win democratically-held elections.

But critics note that the government under Chavez and Maduro has acted to curb dissent in the legislature and on the streets.

And Venezuela, closely allied with communist Cuba, is now experiencing severe shortages of even the most basic needs, such as milk, toilet paper or diapers.

Maduro recently accused Washington of backing an opposition plot to overthrow him in a coup that would have involved bombing the presidential palace. The US government has dismissed the charges as baseless.

In April 2002, when Chavez was briefly ousted for two days, the United States did not come to his aid but instead threw its support behind an adversary, in a move that cost the US much credibility in the country.

Relations hit a new low on Monday, when US President Barack Obama slapped new sanctions on the regime, calling Venezuela "an extraordinary threat to the national security" of the United States.

- How does Venezuela threaten US? -

Caracas responded by angrily recalling its envoy to Washington and ramping up its military preparedness.

The South American bloc UNASUR labeled Obama's executive order an "interventionist threat," with Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino saying it "violates Venezuela's sovereignty."

Despite the frosty ties, the United States is still the biggest consumer of Venezuela's oil.

Venezuelan Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino Lopez said that the military maneuvers, many of which were to be held in the south of Caracas, were meant to prepare soldiers for "their mission, their goal and with the will to be victorious."

Other exercises in the show of might focus on Venezuela's oil-producing areas, including the Caribbean coast and an oil field some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west of Caracas.

Military officials said they will also test the nation's air defenses and will ensure that its anti-aircraft systems are ready to be deployed if needed.

Interviewed on television about the exercises, the officials echoed Maduro's line that the "civilian-military union" was defeating "imperialists," "people who have no fatherland" and "invaders."

Now Maduro is seeking extraordinary powers from the legislature that would allow him to rule by decree.

His popularity has sunk in the past year amid the economic crisis.

Elected to succeed his late mentor Hugo Chavez in April 2013, Maduro had obtained yearlong powers to impose economic laws by decree.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Maduro Makes Another Martyr

from Reuters via Yahoo News
CARACAS (Reuters) - An opponent of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro committed suicide in jail, where he had been locked up on charges of fomenting street violence against the socialist government, the Interior Minister said on Friday.

An outraged Venezuelan opposition demanded details surrounding the death of commercial pilot Rodolfo Gonzalez, 64, who was imprisoned in April on accusations of seeking to overthrow the government via massive demonstrations. He had not yet been sentenced.

"Rodolfo Gonzalez took his life by hanging himself," said Interior Minister Gustavo Gonzalez. The state prosecutor's office said it is investigating the death.

The pilot's daughter said he had been anxious about an upcoming transfer to a common Venezuelan jail. Such jails typically are rife with gangs, weapons, drugs and violence.

Reports of a jail transfer are false, said Interior Minister Gonzalez, whom the United States sanctioned earlier this week for alleged human rights violations as head of state intelligence service Sebin.

Opponents say Maduro is cracking down on dissent as his popularity plummets and a severe economic crisis takes a heavy toll on Venezuelans ahead of parliamentary elections this year.

They point to last month's arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma for allegedly seeking to topple the president, as well as the killing of a teenage boy during a protest in the Western city of San Cristobal.

Maduro charges local opposition leaders are in league with the United States to bring him down and get their hands on the OPEC country's oil wealth, an accusation foes decry as a ludicrous smokescreen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It isn't "Given". It is "Earned".

from Yahoo News
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The United States on Tuesday pushed back against Venezuela's demand for a dramatic cut in the American diplomatic mission in Caracas.

During a rare meeting Monday with the top American diplomat in Caracas, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez gave the U.S. two weeks to come up with a plan to slash the size of its embassy from around 100 diplomats to 17.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had said over the weekend that he would seek parity between the number of U.S. diplomats in his country and Venezuelans in the United States. "They have 100 functionaries here. We have 17 there," told what was billed as "The Great Anti-Imperialist March."

On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. had noted in the meeting that Venezuela was wrong about the number of diplomats it has working in the U.S.

"The numbers the Venezuelan government has offered regarding the size of its mission in the United States dramatically understates the number of Venezuelan diplomats," she said.

In addition to its embassy in Washington, Venezuela has eight consulates in the U.S. A roster of Venezuelan functionaries on the State Department website lists 43 staffers: 19 diplomats in Washington and 24 in the other offices around the country.

Harf said no American diplomats had been ordered to leave Venezuela. The U.S. was only ordered to submit a plan within 15 days on how it would reduce staffing at the embassy in Caracas and would respond "after due consideration of their request," she said.

In the evening, the U.S. Embassy issued an advisory calling attention to the recent detention of several U.S. citizens in Venezuela, and warning that if arrested, Americans might be refused the right to speak with consular representatives. Venezuela detained four missionaries last week for reasons that remain unclear. They returned home to North Dakota Tuesday.

The U.S. and this socialist-governed South American country have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010. Maduro regularly rails against the U.S., accusing it of meddling in his country's affairs, and he has taken to leading weekly chants of "Gringo, go home!" He said the most recent crackdown on opponents was a response to the "continual coup" the U.S. has been supporting against his government, a charge that the U.S. calls a red herring to distract from domestic problems.

On Tuesday night, Maduro announced that the group of South American nations known as UNASUR will send a delegation to the county on Friday for the purpose of promoting peace and dialogue.

On Tuesday morning, Venezuela published regulations removing the U.S. from a list of countries whose citizens can travel here without obtaining a visa. It's unclear how Americans will apply for their newly required tourist visas, which are expected to cost about $200.

The same official notice also formally banned entry by a list of conservative U.S. politicians, including former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

While few tourists choose Venezuela as their vacation spot, the visa restriction is likely to have wide-ranging implications, said Dan Hellinger, professor of International Relations at Webster University,

"It could notably decrease movement back and forth," he said. "That's going to be a hassle for the oil companies and related firms, exporters, and academics like me."

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Delusions of Venezuela and Argentina

from the Bloomberg View
For about a decade, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and, to a lesser extent, Argentina under the Kirchners were popular models for leftists seeking an alternative to the neoliberal consensus. The Chavez program of dramatically expanding social spending and the Kirchner refusal to kowtow to foreign investors finally offered alternatives you could point to when the neoliberals started chattering about market confidence and budget balances.

Those neoliberals frequently pointed out the problems with those policies. Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, diverted oil-investment funds into social spending, causing Venezuela's oil production to fall; the only thing propping up the economy was the rapidly rising price of oil. Argentina cut itself off from world capital markets, and over the years it had to resort to increasingly desperate fiscal strategies; the only thing propping up its economy was a big commodities boom, driven by the same Chinese demand that was causing oil prices to soar. But these arguments failed to convince those who were gaga for Chavismo; all that free-market cant was just theory, and the Chavez acolytes could point to real, tangible advances in reducing poverty and boosting economic growth.

All that ended a few years ago, of course. Both countries are in recession and suffering import shortages, including tampons in Argentina and condoms in Venezuela. Latin America's social progress has stopped, thanks partly to a sharp uptick in Venezuelan poverty. The question of whether government redistribution or a commodities boom was responsible for Venezuela’s advances against poverty now seems to be resolved in favor of the commodities boom. If oil prices don't recover, Venezuela's government is headed for fiscal crisis very soon.

That's not to say that government transfers played no role in addressing poverty. But such transfers do not cause economic growth, at least not in a short enough time frame to cover their costs. And if you want to make people at the bottom better off, there is simply no substitute for economic growth. Policies that undercut the sources of that growth -- such as investment capital or oil production -- will ultimately make the people you are trying to help worse off. And while it's bad enough to be losing ground in the war on poverty, it's even worse that Venezuela has tried to shore up its regime against the resulting popular discontent with such anti-democratic measures as curtailing freedom of the press.

There's a good lesson here for people on both sides of the policy aisle -- I mean, beyond "don't eat your seed corn." That lesson is "never forget that you are not in control of everything." The global economy is far bigger and more powerful than the policy levers you have at your control -- which means that broader trends can fool you into thinking that what you've done must be "working." Unfortunately, when things start moving in the other direction, you're apt to return to reality with a pretty harsh bump.

Repression in San Cristobal