Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

A Priceless WSJ Headline, But Does It Mean Much?

May 19, 2015

godgiven

While there is no question that seeing Godgiven’s face on the front of the WSJ’s website was extremely satisfying and priceless, particularly to those of us that have spent over a decade trying to unmask the hoodlums in the Chavista regime, we are unsure that this headline will have the immediate meaning that some believe it has.

I mean, it is not as if Maduro got his copy of the WSJ this morning saw the headline and said: “Oh my God, how could he do this?”. I mean, this is old news. How many members of the Venezuelan military close to this person have been declared drug kingpins in the past, including his buddy Carvajal? Who happens to be Maduro’s buddy too…

And this is a press report, not even an indictment. Can we get one, please?

People have many theories surrounding this, but I buy few of them. The first and obvious one is that the Secretary of State’s Emssary Tom Shannon asked Maduro to get rid of Godgiven, showing him proof of his activities and the US would normalize relations and thus the leak

Really?

Is Maduro so strong that he can get rid of the most powerful former military in Government just like that?

I am not so sure…

After all, Maduro comes from the civilian, ideological side of Chavismo, while Godgiven represents the connection to active military. How many of his classmates hold important positions in  Government? Maduro’s connection to them is tenuous at best.

In fact, if anything, this could be the spark for increased political instability in Venezuela. If Godgiven sees his political base undermined, he may decide to go for the whole enchilada. And this would bode badly for everything: Democracy, Stability, Human Rights and the future of Venezuela.

But my bet is that this will be turned into a Venezuela vs. the US battle. Another excuse to blame the problems of the country on Obama and his right wing Government. The Evil Empire trying to get rid of the expanding ideological influence of Madurismo and simply another battle in the economic war against the extremely successful economies policies of Chavismo and other stupidities like that.

In any case, we will know shortly who is right on this…

 

 

Maracay: Crime Thriving In Venezuela’s Military Enclave

May 14, 2015

raid

This week, the Venezuelan military and the police essentially took over the city of Maracay, attempting to restore order in the crime ridden San Vicente barrio. While most of the news has centered on the origins of this confrontation, what I find the most interesting is that this happens to be ocurring in Maracay of all places.

You see, the city of Maracay, located about 130 Km. South West of Caracas is as much of a military enclave as there exists in Venezuela. Look up, for example, Wikipedia, and you will find the following list of “interesting facts about Maracay”:

list

After history and Economy and Transport, comes “Military”, because the military plays such an essential role in the life of the city. And under Military, you will find the following description:

military

Maracay is the cradle of aviation, Chavez led his coup from there, the 4th. Armored division is there and Venezuela’s gun production military company is there.

Despite this huge military presence, the military has been unable to protect itself from the widespread crime of the country. In fact, Maracay is among the top cities in crime per inhabitant and the crooks seem to be armed with grenades and weapons “obtained” from the many military facilities in the city. As an example, when some gang members were killed by the police, the gangs retaliated by simultaneously attacking three units of the investigative police with grenades, which led to the raid on Barrio San Vicente.

Which leads to my main point: Venezuela’s military is so incapable, so dysfunctional, that it can not even protect its own turf. You would think that a city dominated by military life would be the safest, as high ranking officers worry about their wives and kids. Instead, their inability to coordinate and execute, their lack of training and their corruption has made their own turf among the worst in the country.

In fact, the grenades and weapons come from the same factory the military runs. It is just big business to sneak out and sell a grenade here, a box of bullets there and a gun somewhere else. That’s how the gangs armed themselves.

But you can’t blame it all on incompetent military. This is in fact part of the Chávez legacy. Chávez wanted these now so-called gangs to be armed, in order to create paramilitary groups that would support him and his Government when and if the time came. Except that these groups took a life of their own, became independent enterprises, while the military found it hard to go against the Big Boss and looked the other way, while they also enriched themselves.

So now, over ten years late, the revolution tries to stop the monster it created. Reportedly, there were three dead and 800 wounded in the raid and they keep running them trying to isolate the gangs. But the big problem is that those detained will suffer the same system of injustice that has been allowed in Venezuela during the last 16 years: Jails have triple their capacity, most prisoners remain jailed without sentencing and guess who runs the jails?  The same gangs that run San Vicente, kill cops at will and fight the military.

So the military is now being bitten by its own incompetence, indolence and ability to ignore even the problems that surround them. When and if this nightmare ends, one has to wonder if the military simply has to be eliminated, they seem as dysfunctional as the Chavista Government and incapable of contributing to restoring order and organization in Venezuelan society.

Godgiven Traps His Enemies With Him In Venezuela

May 13, 2015

People-Trapped-In-Office

The idea must have occurred to Godgiven C that fateful weekend when General Hugo Carvajal was suddenly jailed in Aruba and barely escaped deportation to the US. At that point it must have been clear to Godgiven, no more Miami, Andorra, Panama and the like in the future for him. Except for places he would not like to visit, like China, Cuba, Iran and Russia, he was now trapped in the hellish country the former Hugo created and he helped destroy. Not even his family could safely visit the Empire or even neighboring countries, as you never knew what trick could Obama play against them with all his influence. Well, he must have thought, if I am trapped in Venezuela and feel so claustrophobic about it, I will make sure my enemies are too. Because he felt truly awful. What would he spend all his money on if he was trapped in Venezuela?

Thus, why jail them? Why not sue the few remaining media outlets in the country and have the Judge ban their owners, Directors, legal counsel from leaving the country and thus subject them to the same unfair punishment the gringos imposed on him?

And so he did. The first chance he got, a really preposterous case, he sued for defamation everyone of importance at El Nacional, La Patilla and Tal Cual and a friendly Judge complied his wishes and 22 members of the respective Boards, including Miguel Henrique Otero, Teodoro Petkoff (again!) and Alberto Ravell (who is not in Venezuela) are now prohibited from leaving the country.

The case is so preposterous that all these media outlets did was simply to reproduce verbatim what Spanish newspaper were saying about Godgiven. This not only violates freedom of speech, but even international treaties exempt such reproductions of news items from legal liability, except for the source.

But it gets even worse. According to Venezuelan law, the Court had to notify each of the defendants, something that has yet to be done and under no circumstance can the Judge rule that the defendants were prohibited from leaving the country or be a flight risk if she had not even talked to them or knew in detail anything about them, other than they were on the Board of these media outlets.

And to add insult to injury, the defamation case got really speedy consideration and resolution in a country where the average prisoner has not seen a Judge in the first few months after its detention and most spend two years without sentence.

Of course, their name is not Godviven C. (A pseudonym used to protect the author of this blog).

Oh! his power! His manipualtion of Justice!

The intent is clear: To intimidate. If the simple reproduction of news items published outside or inside the country by any media outlet can be a justification to sue you for defamation and block you from leaving the country, the few media outlets that maintain some form of independence will be silenced even more.

And reporters, media owners, Directors will all be trapped in Venezuela and with Godgiven to boot. Just think, none of them can take a jaunt to Aruba to get some shampoo, soap or even Harina Pan, let alone enjoy their wealth.

The worst part is that at some point they may even  be trapped for hours with Godgiven in Court.

It is hard to think of worst punishment for them…

 

Watching Venezuelan Dysfunctionality From Afar

May 10, 2015

bike

As you may have guessed, I have been away (Still am). The picture above, taken by me a couple of days ago in Northern Italy, depicts what I did for the last week, after celebrating an important birthday in Spain the previous one. So, I have been mostly out of touch with Venezuela, if that is ever possible, more so when you are traveling with a group of Venezuelans. And all we hear simply reflects that Venezuela has become a very dysfunctional country in all aspects of a daily life, led by an incompetent Government that despite its few successes, insists in continuing on its path which leads to mostly failures.

-Nothing shows this dysfunctionality more than the electric crisis. When the current Minister for Electric Affairs Jesse Chacón assumed the post in 2013, he said he would stabilize the system in 100 days. Two years and who knows how many billions later, the system is as unstable (or more) than two yeas ago and as usual Chacón and the Vice-President blame nature and the weather, but nt their blatant incompetence. And to prove their point the come up with the brilliant solution of having pubic workers work only in the morning to save electricity.

Brilliant!

I can think of two immediate effects this will have: 1) Many of these workers will join the ranks of the bachaqueros in the afternoons, promoting arbitrage, longer lines and higher prices. 2) The rest will go home to watch TV, turn on air conditioners and use more electricity than its used in public offices where thee same workers share the offices.

This was probably decided by Arreaza and Chacón without consulting any experts or even knowledgeable people, much like everything is decided in Venezuela by Chavismo.

-And in his infinite wisdom Maduro honored five Cubans whose main accomplishment was to get caught and be jailed in the US for spying. Quite an example. I guess Maduro would like to have some glorious past, other than being a bus driver, sucking up to both Chávez and Cilia. But I think he will not have time now. Remarkably, Leopoldo’s jail time is worth more than the five Cubans put together in terms of being repressed, harassed and the comforts of Ramo Verde.

-And only in a Dictatorship can the National Assembly decide that previously elected positions will no longer be voted for (Parlatino). No scandal, no noise as the Electoral Board agrees with this without even a discussion. I wonder what Dilma, Correa, Cristina and the rest of the the mercantile gang have to say about this…

-And despite cards, biometrics and increased Government controls, the lines are shortages are still there. But instead of reducing controls, Maduro wants to control the whole distribution system. I wonder if at that point, everything will be stolen and sent to Colombia and the country will stop functioning.

-And in a weird twist, the Government has decided to ignore certain problems it can not solve by dollarizing. Can’t figure out how to solve the problem with the airlines?: Dollarize and allow ticket prices in foreign currency. Don’t know what to do about the auto sector?: Allow Ford to dollarize prices. The good thing is that if you extrapolate, everything will be dollarized at some point, since they are incapable of solving any problem.

-And yes, the Government announces with pomp and circumstance that all cars in Tachira State now have a chip to control their purchase of gasoline. Of course, the Government says nothing about whether gasoline smuggling has gone down. They probably have no clue.

-And the new clown in the Government is the Minister of Health. When papers said that 13,000 medical doctors had left the country, he said that only 320 had left in the last six years. Never mind that graduate programs have no students, hospitals no Doctors and 90% of graduating classes have left the country. This guy is the new Chavista “expert” someone who has no clie but can make up stories as he goes along.

He could be a good replacement for Chacón in the Electric Ministry, he seems to be very good about inventing excuses.

And so it goes, back soon…

From Poyais To Andorra: A Tradition Of Venezuelan Fraud

April 14, 2015

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Meet Gregor MacGregor, a Scottish military officer, adventurer and hero of Venezuela’s Independence War, who joined the fight against Spain in 1811 and quickly became a general of the Venezuelan Army by 1812, marrying a cousin of Simón Bolívar. Later MacGregor fought in Colombia, the Caribbean and Central America. In 1820 MacGregor was named to the Constituent Congress in Cucuta, but rather than go there, he went to attack the Spanish city of Portobelo in Panama, failing in the attempt. From there, MacGregor went to Nicaragua, where he met the Poyais (Payas in Spanish) indians and signed with them a treaty to colonize their territory.

And here is where his life became interesting and he pioneered the now long tradition of fraud related to Venezuela: MacGregor moved to Great Britain in 1820 and claimed to be the Cacique and Prince of Poyais, a country that did not even exist. The country was supposedly located in the Bay of Honduras and reportedly King Frederic Augustus I of the Mosquito Shore and Nation had bestowed the land to him. In reality, the land supposedly bestowed on him by King Frederic had been plied away from him with alcohol and consisted of four run down buildings, which were surrounded by swamps and there were no riches whatsoever.

But MacGregor convinced everyone that his fake country of Poyais was full of riches.To help his cause, he had a book Published called “Sketch of the Mosquito Shore, including the Territory of Poyais”, which you can read in google archives, supposedly written by a certain Captain Thomas Strangeways. The book described the wonderful and rich country of Poyais, rich in metals, wood, indigo, animals, trees, offering the enterprising European a unique opportunity for investment and work. The book claimed remarkable opportunities that could turn an investment of 150 pounds into 1,000 in one year or recoup your investment in a coffee plantation in only five years.

And then came the first scam, the issuance of bank notes by the Bank of Poyais, offering to pay “one hard dollar after sight”

Poyais-bond-scam2

in the option of the Government of Poyais. He also sold land at one schilling per acre in cash, sold in perfectly square plots of 540 acres.

But being the true pioneer that he was, MacGregor issued bonds in the amount of 200,000 pounds. The bonds were reportedly sold at 80% of its face value at a rate which some sources claim was 3%, while others say 6%. But this graph of the evolution of the price of the bonds clearly indicates 3% bonds:

PDF-2MacGregor was so daring, that he even sent seven boats of settlers to Poyais, knowing that he would be found out for sure. When the few settlers that survived came back in 1823, London papers reported the fraud and MacGregor fled to France.

And in France he simply started again, reportedly raising another 1.1 million pounds in new money. He was briefly jailed in France, but acquitted. MacGregor did not even try to pay any of the investors, he simply pocketed the money and eventually moved to the French countryside to enjoy life, while continuing to try to peddle land in the country of Poyais.

By 1838 MacGregor had ran out of funds and returned to Venezuela, where he asked for a pension, the Venezuela nationality and his old military position and rank. He was reinstated as Division General and was eventually buried with honors in the Panteon Nacional along with Simón Bolívar

As with so many other Venezuelan crooks and fraudsters, MacGregor suffered no moral punishment from Venezuela, welcomed back with open arms and buried with honors. Thus was born a tradition that has continued from Poyais to Andorra and from the time of our war of Independence to that of Chavismo.

Added: A reader sends this picture of a certificate for a Puyaisian land grant

MacGregor

Hat Tip for idea : Eduardo

Don’t Touch My Subsidy!

April 12, 2015

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The issuance of the new decree on travel allowances or quotas demonstrated how upside down things are in Venezuela and the damage that Chavismo has done to the way the population population thinks. We already know or knew beforehand how incapable the Government is and this decision once again exemplifies it: Only fifty days ago the Minister of Finance said the previous policy would remain in place for the full year and the decree is a mixture of inconsistencies and bizarre facts.

But the short sighted and self-centered reaction by too many Venezuelans is what is really a sad commentary on how Venezuelans think today and how much Chavismo has screwed up their brains in the last 16 years. How people can complain about a reduction in their travel quotas, in a country with shortages of food and medicines, where hospitals can’t provide basic services and care and is a tribute to how successful Chavismo has been in turning most Venezuelans into rent-seeking, self-serving and egoistical citizens who only think about themselves and are no longer able to distinguish the trees from the forest.

Touch anything, but don’t touch my subsidy!

But the problem is not the quotas, there is no basic right to provide citizens with the ability to travel abroad. Least of all, at a subsidized prize. The problem is the controls. Not only that they exist, but that there is no free or open market to which people can go and buy foreign currency to travel, if they can afford it.

The problem is that a time of falling oil prices and facing a deficit of US$ 25-30 billion, the Government was ready to use US$ 4 billion in 2015 to subsidize travel abroad for the more affluent sectors of the population. The most absurd part is that this was reduced to about US$ 2 billion, still an incongrouos amount, given the lack of foreign currency and the crisis facing the country.

This is still only about 10% of the gasoline subsidy, another subsidy that is also skewed to favor the wealthier part of the population and which should also be reduced dramatically.

Of course, it is the Government that is to be blamed for all of this, but the travel allowance is as much of a way to buy people’s sympathy as cheap food, cheap gas, cheap electricity and all the other crazy subsidies in place in the country.

But via this decree, the Government also shows how incompetent and incapable it is. To start with, nothing has changed, macro-economically speaking, since the beginning of the year. If anything, oil is slightly higher, but the deficit still looms large. How the Government thought or believed that it could get away with using US$ 4 billion for travel simply boggles the mind. You would think if the Government made a budget for foreign currency at the beginning of the year, the US$ 4 billion for travel would have stood out dramatically on that short list if you ordered foreign currency expenses by size.

But it is also part of the same absurdity implied by the fact that the Government is keeping the Bs. 6.3 per US$ rate for 70% of imports (for now) or the Bs. 12 per US$ Sicad rate for other things, despite the fact that there has been no Sicad auction yet since the “new” foreign exchange system was announced. This is as unsustainable as most policies by this Government.

In fact, when it comes down to it, the Government can not even afford the US$ 2 billion for travel allowances, what it should have done is eliminate the travel allowances altogether and use that amount in a free floating market, or to feed it to Simadi, which has been a gigantic failure so far. Because the first effect of the new decree is to push people over to the black market to either buy dollars for travel or complete their needs. This will only push that rate higher, which will be followed by even more inflation. A losing game in the end.

And the decree itself is bizarre and full of strange biases. Like, what is the rational for giving people almost three times more for a stay in Europe, over a stay in Mexico or the US? Is life really that much more expensive in Europe at a time of the euro going rapidly towards parity with the US$? And since the amounts are obviously insifficient fr a stay of more than eight days in the US, isn’t the Government simply acknowledging that this is a subsidy?

Or what is the rationale for eliminating the cash advance? Or the amount that can be withdrawn via an ATM, which was reduced to only 10% of the travel quota? Or the rationale of leaving the cash advance only for people underage? Why do they need cash and the adults do not?

And without noticing, the Government via this decree, is forcing people to open accounts and obtain credit cards in state-owned banks by banning private banks from participating in this business. Another effort to add controls and screw the private sector that goes unnoticed and nobody complains about. This is in the end should be what scares the people the most, how with one swipe, the Government creates a system in which the private sector can not participate and which forces anyone wanting to travel to open an account and obtain a credit card with a state-owned bank.

Uncle Nico will be watching you!

But people did not seem to notice these details. All they saw was their privileges reduced, their perks limited, even if it was absurd to keep the current quota allowances. But in the end, this subsidy will be paid over the coming years by all Venezuelans. In fact, we are all paying for the absurd travel subsidies of the last eleven years.

In the end, the reduction of the allowances exposes how privileges and subsidies distort people’s thinking, leading them to believe they are entitled to absurd rights. Which only indicates how tough the road back will be to a Venezuela in which priorities are set in logical and reasonable fashion, with subsidies aimed only at the weakest of the population.

1001 Chavista Rip-Offs

April 3, 2015

Remove-Rip-Off-Report

While the media in Venezuela barely reports corruption scandals, let alone investigate them, thanks to the press abroad and the Chavista crooks that get caught, we have learned 1000 ways in which Chavismo has ripped off and arbitraged the Government for their own personal profit. From Argentinean bonds, to contracts, to Illaramendi, to Maletagate, to Andorra, there have been a myriad ways to make money. By now the numbers are so scandalous that even a former Minister of Planning that oversaw over much of the time how these rip-offs took place, claims that there were US$ 22 billion in fake import orders in 2012 alone.

But details are hard to get, as even in the Andorra case we have only scratched the surface. But now we get a picture of the 1001th. Chavista rip-off thanks to investigative reporters from Argentina’s Clarin.

In 2005, the Venezuelan Government set up a trust at UBS to fund transactions between Argentinean and Venezuelan companies in the oil sector, apparently with emphasis in trading finished products. Money was supposedly put into this trust and as transactions took place, people got paid from it.

But according to a cable by Argentina’s Ambassador to Venezuela, the money was also used for personal profit. According to the Ambassador, someone borrowed US$ 90 million from the trust, exchanged it for Bolívars in the swap market and then repurchased the dollars at the official rate of exchange at the time which was about 14.5% lower than the parallel rate. The result? They obtained US$ 13 million more which they kept and returned the US$ 90 million to the UBS account.

Just think, the crooks that controlled the trust on both sides had sufficient weight in PDVSA and the Government that they could show up with Bolívars, which had nothing to do with the purpose of the trust or the Argentinean-Venezuelan cooperation since trading was in dollars, and buy dollars again. In theory, they could do this operation over and over, except they got caught by an honest Ambassador. (He was actually removed from his post due to the cable)

Remarkably, the man on Argentina’s side that scolded the Ambasasdor was none other than Claudio Uberti of Maletagate fame, who has been accused of quite a number of scandals and accusations. Uberti was the high ranking Argentinean official who supposedly asked Antonini to bring in the suitcases which arrived in Buenos Aires in a plane rented by PDVSA.

Of course, the Argentineans are interested in it, because the money may have ended up in an account in which Cristina Kirchner’s son has signature.

Think about it, at the time the difference between the official rate and the parallel rate was “only” 15%, imagine the deals, “guisos” and rip-offs that went one when the difference was like last year up to 3,800%.

No wonder the Government does not want to remove the Bs. 6.3 per US$ rates, with that rate, anyone with access to it, can make the same US$ 13 million, by selling 336,000 dollars in the parallel market and buying 13.36 million dollars at Bs. 6.3 per US$.

It is arbitrage on steroids…

Government Keeps Kicking The Can Down The Road…

March 31, 2015

kicking-the-can1Since 2013 we have all been waiting for the Venezuelan Government to make some form of adjustment to the Venezuelan economy, as it was clear that the trajectory was simply unsustainable. Then, in 2014 oil prices dropped making the adjustments even more urgent. But remarkably, little has been done, as the Government simply keeps kicking the can down the road, either waiting for some miraculous event or executing a well conceived plan that if oil prices don’t recover then…something may be done.

And thus we keep waiting. Venezuela’s economy is in intensive therapy. Inflation is pushing 100, shortages are the rule of the day, the economy is shrinking, the foreign exchange system is unsustainable and the Government faces a US$ 25 billion deficit. And despite this, the Government is doing very little.

Let’s look at what it has done:

-It obtained US$ 1.9 billion from swapping its Petrocaribe debt with the Dominican Republic

-It obtained US$ 2.8 billion from Citgo

-It started a new fx system, including a new rate Simadi, which took a month to be drawn up and a week to fail.

The most remarkable aspect of Simadi, is that the Government did not seem to have much of a plan for providing it with foreign currency, essentially guaranteeing its failure from day one. Some people claim that the Government really believed that people will sell into Simadi rather than the black market.

Really? If they are that naive, we are in bigger trouble than we thought.

But in any case, the Government made Simadi extremely complex, with the only good decision to have it trade at a value close to the parallel rate. However, it imposed a cap on its maximum price and while the system began trading close to that rate, once it became clear that there was a cap and there would be little flows via Simadi, the parallel rate, which had been held back by Simadi expectations, simply soared. (Read: More inflation ahead)

Remarkably, rather than relax or change the rules for Simadi, the Government has done absolutely nothing since then. An even bigger puzzle has been that after a month of the new foreign exchange system, there has been no Sicad auction, despite the Government announcing that one third of all foreign currency for imports would flow through that. Go Figure…

With the new system, the Government truly kicked the can down the road, as it failed to take advantage of the changes to modify either the Cencoex rate (Bs. 6.3 per US$) and the non-existent Sicad rate, last seen at around Bs. 12 per US$.

What the Government has not done:

-Despite announcements, advertising, claims and talk, the Government has yet to increase the price of gasoline which, while likely will be timid, could help a little in closing the financing gap (and save foreign currency). Why spend so much money in daily (and constant!) TV and radio ads and then do nothing? What is holding up the increase? Minister of Transportation El Troudi ( Likely the best Minister by far in the Cabinet) keeps going on TV, making statements about the small impact of the gasoline price increase, but then nothing happens. Whose decision is it?

-The Government has done little to control the growth in the money supply M2. Yes, the slope appears to be slowing down, but this always happens before March, when the Government delays budgets and then releases two or three months at once. Even more puzzling was the fact that there were no Treasury Bill auctions in January and February. These auctions are held regularly during the year. Why did they stop them at a time that you actually want to use them to reduce M2?

-Selling/Swapping the Gold: Whether people like it or not, the Government has some US$ 15 billion in gold that could be used at this time. That is what reserves are for and it is dumb to hold them in gold. There has been talk of a swap with the gold that is still in London, but nothing happens. If I were the Government I would ship even more abroad for future use. Again, why kick the can on this?

-There was supposed to be another Petrocaribe debt transaction with Jamaica, but nothing happens. Oh well, par for the course.

-The Government issued a PDVSA 2022 bond with a 6% coupon in stealth mode last October, which it sold to the Central Bank. This issue has yet to be sold in the market. What are they waiting for, a recovery in prices?

-PDVSA, which is rumored to have bought back close to a billion (cash) in its short term bonds, could be preparing some sort of liability management operation, that would seem to be the only justification for buying back bonds. Some people claim, they sre just buying back to pay less in October. Can they be that naive? Or is the same “intelligence” behind the Petrocaribe, Citgo and Gold transactions is preparing some form of exchange for the PDVSA 2015, 2016 and 2017 bonds?

What is clear is that the Government considers default only a last minute option, something that will be tested if the Judge in the Gold Reserve case rules against Venezuela and declares it in default. We suspect, Venezuela will simply pay at that time. The same way it is likely to pay next October, even if half of the market thinks they will not. But 2016 is a whole different ball game.

But in the mean time, to close the fiscal and balance of payments gap, it can’t continue to kick the can down the road. Oil may rise, but it may not, bonds may recover, or they may not, China may lend more or not, but Venezuelan has to act. The sooner the better.

The puzzle is what are they waiting for?

By Now, Nothing Shocks Venezuelans

March 21, 2015

violencia

After sixteen years of Chavismo, it would seem as Venezuelans have been anesthetized against the daily scandals and horrors that are reported or occur. Report of tens of millions of dollars paid in commissions to Venezuelan Government officials, barely raise an eyebrow. People hear the dance of millions and can no longer tell between 100 million dollars or 2 billion dollars. They hear US$ 2 billion was “siphoned off” PDVSA and it seems as if the question is: What else is new?, not what an extraordinary amount this is or that an additional 2.2 billion was laundered via the same bank in Andorra. The Venezuelan Government, Prosecutor, National Assembly don’t even bother to comment on all of these accusations. The opposition? We have heard almost nothing from them either. I mean, Giordani a former Minister of Chavismo said there were 22 billion in fake imports in 2013 in Venezuela and nothing happened, a pittance of 50 million or 4 billion appears to be largely irrelevant. The problem is that the billions add up and that is why there are shortages and lines and Venezuelan billionaires all over the planet.

But forget about money. Most Venezuelans can barely understand what a billion dollars is or what a Government could do with it. But we should all understand the value of a human life. But from protests to prisons to daily events, the value of human life has been devalued as much of the value of one hundred million dollars in the minds of most Venezuelans.

There are daily reports of deaths. In Caracas alone, nineteen  cops have been killed so far in Caracas in 2015. And it is only March. Six students get killed shot thru the head and the Government reacts as if this was the most natural thing in the world. A high ranking Diplomat even dares to make a joke about it, later saying that people did not understand his black humor.Very black and very aberrant too.

The President orders the Government’s weapons and bullet monopoly Cavim to code all bullets and two years later, nothing has been done. The business of selling bullets in the black market is too hard to pass up, much like increasing the price of gas or the Bs. 6.3 per US$ Cencoex rate.

Meanwhile it is the same bullets that kill the much beloved “people” every day. Just yesterday, a man was shot to death in front of his wife,a murderer was shot to death by police as they were trying to arrest him and a man walking with his wife in one of Caracas’ most centric squares, was shot and killed by someone in a passing car.

Most of these murders not even get attention by the press. The people are immune to the news.

A kidnapper tells a Canadian reporter that it is not a matter of right or wrong killing his victims, it is a matter of surviving in the “easiest way to earn a living” in Venezuela. The price of  a human life in Venezuela? All of three hundred bucks, when it has a price, most of the time, there is just no price, it is simply free, like the daily murders in Venezuela jails.

And the Government says nothing and the people have gotten so used to it they don’t even react.

And just as I thought I had heard it all, the most horrific story takes place: A couple was traveling to Caracas with a relative driving. A bunch of motorcycles were leading a funeral funeral procession and they attempted to block the way so that the procession could proceed preferentially. The driver does not obey the orders of the motorcycle riders. The motorcycle riders shoot at the car, spraying it with bullets. The couple was killed and so was the woman’s kid in her womb. The woman was pregnant. She is the 40th. woman to be shot in Caracas so far in 2015.

The story is not even front page news. Is not on TV. The Government makes no comment, neither does the police. There will be no special investigation. This is a daily occurrence. They are all anesthetized against the horror, the murders, the scandals. Nothing shocks them.

It has become a way of life.

Chavismo: No Scruples, No Compassion

March 10, 2015

So many things happening, where does one begin? Today, there is only one place, this remarkable statement by Venezuela’s Ambassador to the OAS

When I am trying to understand what happened to compassion among other Venezuelan Government officials, here comes this well educated, Christian(?), who used to lead missions looking for peace in Central America, and makes such a crude statement, full of hate, describing how a bullet would go faster through the empty head of someone from the opposition.

How did Mr. Chaderton convert to fanatical revolutionary? At which point, his ambition, his thirst for power, turned him against over half of the population of the country? When did Mr. Chaderton lose part of his humanity? If it can happen to him, who had all of the tools, education, idealism, religion, to respect and have compassion for his fellow Venezuelans, what can we expect from the less educated, militaristic, ideological members of Chavismo.

Even worse, can we turn his around? Can we make Venezuela a country where everyone respects everyone. Where opinions are voiced without eliciting violent responses?

I really don’t know.

I wanted to write about the interpretations of the Maduro-Obama clash. But does it matter? In the big scale of things, the current conflict between Maduro and Obama and all of its nuances, seems simply irrelevant.

How far are these guys willing to go preserve their power? When the response to the ban from the US of the Head of the intelligence police for human rights violations is to name him Minister of Interior and Justice. Who cares about strategies and whether Obama should or should not have issued the ban in response to Maduro’s demand that he reduce the members of the US Embassy in Venezuela?

Once again, it boils down to no compassion and no scruples. Chavismo lacks both. Maduro is at this moment addressing the National Assembly so that it gives him Enabling Powers to fight US imperialism. In reality, he is asking for an Enabling Bill, so that when the opposition wins the upcoming Parliamentary elections, whenever they are held, he can go and change any and all Bills that take away powers from the National Assembly. This is simply a variation on what I predicted three weeks ago, except that I thought Maduro would let the Assembly legislate, but instead, he wants to control the process. He has even less scruples that I assumed.

That is Chavista Democracy. If the other side wins, take away the victory via subterfuge. And call UNASUR so that they certify that what you did is legal.

Meanwhile, the explicit mention by Fincen that at the Banca Privada d Andorra, the bank used schemes to help siphon off US$ 2 billion from PDVSA, is not even news in Venezuela (Self-Censorship?). Two billion, ten billion, twenty billion. Who cares? Maybe those responsible now occupy very high positions in PDVSA.

There are no medicines, but the Government will buy 20,000 fingerprint machines to control purchases at supermarkets. And so on..

Each one of these would be a story in itself under normal conditions. But things ceased being normal in Venezuela long ago. And when those running the show have neither scruples nor compassion, the end can only be a tragedy. An even bigger tragedy that the one Venezuela is living today.

 

 

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