Thursday, May 06, 2021

A kleptocracy starts facing reality?

In the past few weeks a few strange signs have been happening for a regime that supposedly has all controls in hands. A regime that has made a point to sabotage any negotiation, to deny the existence of its political opposition, a regime ready to do anything for its survival has given timid signs of negotiating. Before you get your hopes up keep in mind that until now the small concessions made are easily reversible without much damage toward the inner base of the regime.

These first sign was related with Covid, in spite of the heartless approach of the regime towards its victims. Namely it was about agreements to obtain help for Covid testing and vaccines. This is still a work in progress but that the regime accepted to hold discrete talks with the opposition was already something.

Then a couple of days ago some US citizens, directors at Citgo, were released from their Caracas jail to be held in their homes.  These men were held as hostages against the Trump sanctions. But it did not work. Sanctions held.

And a greater surprise was the acknowledgement by the regime of some of its crimes. Selected few of course, but those that had quite an echo outside of Venezuela. Though these admissions were limited on context, just as "worthy of further examination". But that the regime accepts to even talk about these crimes is progress.

The biggest surprise may have been the agreement between the World Food Program and Venezuela. See, both Maduro and Guaido appeared with its chair, David Beasley. BOTH had their tweet pic. And thousand of Venezuelan children may soon receive lunch at school, hopefully lowering the dropout rate.



And then today's surprise, a new electoral board CNE has been named . Even though the regime could have had a 5 out of 5 names in it, it will be 3 chavistas and 2 opposition (well, we will see how much of an opposition they are). Clearly the regime is accepting to open up to elections that may have some meaning, though do not think that 2 out of 5 at the CNE is enough to ensure free and fair elections, far from it...

What gives? Rather than discussing the details of these developments let's look at the reasons why the regime is begrudgingly making marginal concessions.  Certainly there is the Covid crisis, the bankrut country, its economy in shambles, the loss of territorial control in large swaths of the country, sanctions and what not to force the Maduro gang to the table. But the regime has shown once and again its disregard for the well being of the Venezuelan people. The kleptocracy cum drug traffickers are strictly on survival mode in order to retain power at all cost. 

What gives in my opinion is Biden holding on the Trump line over China and doubling down on Putin. See, the regime has no notion on what state interests are: since Chavez all foreign policy was guided by the interests of Chavez.  But in spite of all its bravado, Trump expressed a bipartisan policy of confronting Russia and China. In his first 100 days Biden has talked tough on China and even called Putin a killer, pushing further that bipartisan agreement. The table has been set, the rivalry between China and the US is now #1 priority, with Putin close behind.

How does this affect Venezuela? Look at a world map and figure out how far from Beijing and Moscow Caracas is. And how close are Syria and Crimea to Moscow and how close the Indian and Pacific Oceans to essential Chinese trade routes. Neither China nor Russia will go to the front to defend Venezuela. In a real confrontation these countries have much more important priorities than Venezuela, a bankrupt and corrupt country whose only interest today is to be used to goad the US. Any LatAm country on the Pacific is way more important to China than Venezuela, and Venezuela simply too expensive for Russia to support non stop. This one, by the way, turns out to be not such a great ally of Maduro according to the limited supply of Sputnik V vaccine it is sending. But I digress.

Thus it is quite possible that someone inside the regime has realized that now automatic support from Russia or China is not guaranteed. Even Iran and Turkey may not be such reliable friends anymore. Time to shift gears? Maybe it is time to be serious about discussing some sort of arrangement with the US?




Sunday, April 18, 2021

Epic lies, epic Covid in Venezuela

As weeks go by the situation in Venezuela gets worse. Reports that reach me are frightening.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a long tweet thread in Spanish and with new updates I think it is a time to make it a text in english.


The thread was taken and retaken as a matryoshka doll as new stuff occurred; so I'll try to give the linear story below.

ONE YEAR AGO/ COVID LANDS

In what has probably been the only good measure taken against the Covid19 pandemia, the regime locked its border like no one else. I suppose that the regime knew it could not face the pandemia and thus its only weapon was to lock up every body so as to have the lowest possible spread. And yet two despicable acts accompanied it. First, it was made an unnecessarily stringent lock up as there was a major gas shortage. Confinement made that shortage less obvious. But what was truly despicable was the regime talking of "imported" cases. In its daily notes the regime mentioned something like this "today we have detected 5 new cases, 4 of them being imported". The meta message was that Covid was sent to us from overseas, that the good Venezuelan people could possibly not have anything to do with it. In the first weeks the number of "imported" cases tended to be the highest of the two. Until eventually the charade had to stop: with airports closed for weeks how could you still talk of "imported cases"?

PANDEMIA CATCHES UP 

There is well over a million Venezuelan refugees in Colombia. As Colombia was struck down with Covid, many considered coming back to Venezuela either because doors were shutting in Colombia or because they needed to go back to Venezuela to take care of those left behind: namely the grand parents and the grand kids they were taking care of while the adults tried their luck away. On their return at the border they were mercilessly put in concentration camps, with little food or hygiene to quarantine. And they were subjected to scorn for having left the homeland, and whatnot.

COVAX TIMES

The end of 2020 came with the promise of vaccines, in particular the COVAX program from the WHO to provide dosis at reasonable prices or even free to poor countries so they could at least vaccinate medical personnel; teachers, etc....  But there was a problem with that program: you had to be up to date on your WHO membership and that meant Venezuela would have to pay 11 million dollars late fees/dues dollars to have access. Chavismo is now a constant dead beat, and the WHO is no exception. Instead of sending a check (the regime was at the time talking of buying new army weaponry) the regime tried to use the excuse of the US sanctions as to why they could not pay. Then started the leitmotiv "we cannot vaccinate because the US will not let us do it". Which is of course total despicable bull shit.

CARVATIVIR: whitcraft?

In January came the Carvativir fiasco. As Covid cases kept growing the government was in need to show some initiative. What did they do? Another great business opportunity. Through two unknown guys, with no CV in the hard sciences needed for that, and a brand new company, Maduro announced on TV some mysterious drops bases on plant oils that prevented and cured Covid. The world was soon going to be told about the virtues of Carvativir! And yet here we are still awaiting for the data with bated breath.

OPPOSITION TRIES ITS BEST

The regime excuse for no money was countered by the opposition who offered to ask the US to unfreeze some assets so that vaccines could be bought. An initial agreement was reached with over 300,000 test kits that would be distributed to a list of centers. The kits arrived, the regime took over them, decided to distribute them wherever they liked and....  we never heard of them anymore. Why? Because the regime does not want to publish any real numbers of any medical sistation, and this has happened for many years already. More importantly, they took the tests to be used for the higher up of the regime. Privatized so to speak. Bloomberg reports that only 3,000 or so results were reported. No word on the 300,000 other tests. This will have grave consequences on the willingness of donors in the future since trust is lost to unrefrained cronyism and absolute irresponsibility.

FOR THE REGIME ALL IS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY

Before I go on it is important to understand what is going on with the regime on Covid matters

  • Denial. Numbers can never be published. It is not happening to us. The US invented it.
  • All must be controlled by the regime. Thus any help from any donor has to be given to regime personnel to do as it pleases, namely distribution as pro regime propaganda.
  • The opposition is the great villain: any initiative0 or offer of collaboration by the opposition must be refused, sabotaged and what not.
  • And greed, so much greed. One recent example is that a new laboratory without any track record on medical analisis and less on Covid got the exclusive privilege to offer mandatory COVID PCR test to incoming travellers who must pay 60$ IN CASH at arrival at the airport, regardless if they did a test before boarding, if they have been vaccinated, etc. 60 USD in cash, no credit card, no local currency, greenbacks or nothing.

So it should not come as a surprise that we have the first reports of blackmarket vials of vaccines who can come only out of the doses already entering the country under strict regime control.

SPUTNIK V COMETH

The vaccine era finally arrived and started with the Russians testing their Sputnik vaccine on Venezuelans. Nothing has been published about the results, that I know of. But I also know first hand that some testing was seriously made from a scientist friend that received a dose. OK, so lets give the benefit of the doubt here. What is not to be doubted is that when the first lot of Sputnik came for actual vaccination the priorities were clearly announced by the regime: security personnel AND medical personnel, named in second. There was a brief scandal when we learned that the representatives of the illegal national assembly elected in December 2020 were among the first ones to be vaccinated. Some were dumb enough to show their selfies of the moment until told to remove them from social media fast.  But Maduro was dumb and crass enough to brag on TV that he did get his shots... Meanwhile doctors and nurses were left without vaccine, scavenging for soap and masks.

Ah! I was forgetting! 95% of Cuban personnel in Venezuela is already vaccinated, ahead of Venezuelan doctors. That is what happens to you when you accept to become a colony..... Note: vaccinated NOT by the alleged Cuban vaccines in development but by the regime purchased ones.

THE HOI POLOI STARTS GETTING SOME

Eventually the regime felt the need to vaccinate some besides the generals and Maduro's entourage. So we were treated to the first videos of elderly being called to get vaccinated. And propaganda it was......

In this thread I explained how 529 doses of Sputnik were distributed only to those who owned a "carnet de la patria". That is, if you are not chavista or have not surrendered to chavismo, you get no vaccine. Think about this for a minute.....

ASTRA ZENECA BANNED

Russian and dubious Chinese vaccines are arriving dropwise. COVAX worked out and agreement between the regime and the opposition to bring in Astra Zeneca AND equipment for the logistic process in distributing the vaccines. Yes, that is right, the current situation of Venezuela requires that in addition of bringing in vaccines donors should also bring in refrigerators, power plants and what not since Venezuela cannot even guarantee enough electrical power. No Pfizer ever here. Well, Venezuela was going to receive over 10 million doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine, the easiest one to handle and that could cover at least the main cities, ALL medical and teaching personnel and the elderly. At the last minute Maduro used the excuse of the troubles with AstraZeneca to ban it outright and announce that it would be substituted by the Cuban ones, not even in Phase III testing, that is, improper to massive vaccination (amen on whether Cuba can produce enough of them).

The opposition was prompt in denouncing the regime who prefers to see thousand more die of the virus than to accept that the opposition gets any credit in the fight against the pandemia.

THE SCARLETT LETTER

Meanwhile as vaccines are delayed, the pandemia advances. A creative chavista mayor decided to make it public and notorious to identify the homes of those who had a Covid case inside....  Words fail me on that one.......


IT IS FREE ONLY IN VENEZUELA

The lies of the regime are so linked that you need new ones daily to try to escape being exposed as a liar yesterday. The latest atrocious lie comes from Vice Delcy who tells on national TV that only Venezuela gives vaccines for free while infamous capitalist countries like the US demand payment. Once again, in front of such blatant lies I remain speechless....  Though I can point out that it does not matter whether vaccines are free in Venezuela since there are none to be found.....

 AND MORE DISASTERS

I need to end this entry. There is so much more to say. El Pais of Spain has an excellent summary of recent problems which should tell the regime that the world is watching the crimes it is committing.  Among those:

  • The private business organization FEDECAMARAS offered the regime to pay and bring in vaccines for its own workers. It even accepted a fee of 20% cut of these vaccines for the regime at its discretionary use. Yes, that is right, private enterprise would pay for the vaccines of its employees and their family and pay for an extra big chunk of vaccines for a regime that should be vaccinating all for free. The regime refused.
  • El Pais is worried about the sudden desperate search for oxygen in Venezuela. Social media is awash with people looking for oxygen tanks anywhere at any cost. That is a sure sigh that the Covid economic is now out of control in Venezuela. And the lack of oxygen supplies is simply impossible to solve. Even less by the regime.
  • El Pais also wonders how come that since Russia and China are supposedly close allies they are not sending as many vaccine doses as they are sending elsewhere.

SO?

Time to stop for today. Just a few thoughts about the nastiness and why the regime is handling so badly the epidemic in Venezuela.

The first thing that strikes us is the secrecy about it all, the great length the regime takes to hide the tragedy. Not only numbers now come from independent medical observers, and well, well above those of the regime, but we are not told about the mass burials in unmarked graves, the near impossibility that crematorium have in processing all the demands they receive as Covid death are cremated, not buried. I know of two cases from people relatively close who had loved ones die and all the travails they had to endure to recover the bodies (and I will spare you the illness stories and how they ended up in public hospitals or the Poliedro which are now little more that thanatoriums). 

The second striking thing is that the pandemia is all about politics. The regime absolute refusal to get help from the opposition and international donors is simply put genocidal. The regime pretends that all be given to them, all sanctions lifted, etc. while at the same time it demonstrates once and again its incompetence, its sectarism, the waste it would be if by chance donors would be foolish enough to cave in their demands. That is, give in or not to the regime, it is clear that the death toll will be similar.

Another damning thing is the extremely poor scientific and medical means of the regime. From inventing Carvativir to ban Astra Zeneca for problems irrelevant for the current Venezuelan health system YOU KNOW that those in charge of the pandemia have fucking no idea of what they are doing. Explanation? Those in charge are political hacks who would not know if an astrazeneca beast from an oxygen diving gear.

These are crimes against humanity that need to be documented for future use.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

The sysiphean Venezuelan opposition

 Now that we covered in last post the real problem in Venezuela, the economy, and that we have examined the situation of the opposition since December 2020, we can finally look at what can the Venezuelan opposition do. If you are busy and do not want to read it all, here is the executive summary: precious little.

What is that previous little, which as we shall see is already quite herculean?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The economy: road block to transition

Time is running out before Venezuela becomes a failed state. It is true that a failed/war-destroyed state can be rebuilt, but it takes a long time, it takes a powerful political center, it takes outside help, or at the very least no more meddling. Before writing about any possible political solution we need to discuss the distressed economy and how difficult it would be to restart it.

When Maduro was elected in 2013 he could have taken a few token measures that would have avoided the extent of the crisis today. He did not, and took even additional wrong steps. Then this mismanagement was magnified through a nasty political crisis and recently US sanctions.

The root of the economical crisis comes way back. Even before Chavez. In a way we could say that Chavez invented no new deleterious practice: he just magnified them to unsuspected levels. It is too long to review that descent into economical hell, books have already been written about it. Let's just look at today's situation. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The end of the Venezuelan opposition, as we knew it

It is time to write that dreaded post, the funeral eulogy of the Venezuelan opposition as we knew it. Something else will come someday for sure but at this point in my life I wonder whether I should care, to tell you the truth.

Going through the catalogue of all of its failures is rather useless: the political conditions of the country have so changed that there are few lessons we could gain from spreading the blame around. Instead let's focus on the losers (there are no winners, before you ask).

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Chavismo reshifting roles

 Now that we have a novel National Assembly, who is speaking for chavismo? (1)

One "surprise" is that Jorge Rodriguez is the new chair of the nNA. Well, not that much of a surprise since he was sent to run while he was occupying high positions inside the chavista nomenklatura. He has been mentioned enough in this blog so I will not review his extended life serving chavismo. From an alleged impartial electoral umpire in the early 2000 elections he ended up as Vice President of Chavez in the many positions he occupied. He, and his sister currently the vice president (2), are now the main operators of Maduro, sort of representing the civilian side of chavismo.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Carvativir as the symbol of Covid Maduro's failure

It is now common knowledge that Venezuela's dealings with Covid19 have been a failure. The best that can be said is that the regime has bet secretly on herd immunity because, well, there is nothing else the regime can do.

And yet in the midst of this abject failure to preserve the health of Venezuelans, the regime manages to outdo itself in its abjectness. Now Maduro on TV has revealed himself a snake oil promoter. Rarely I have been as angry at the regime than after seeing the clip below.

What is behind all of that charade?

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