by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

The Obama administration passed a few sanctions against Venezuela this week. No, the sanctions had nothing to do with the Pollo and Venezuela’s involvement in the drug trade.

Instead, the sanctions are against individuals linked to the bloody repression of student protesters this year. In our days of “smart diplomacy,” this is what passes for sanctions these days – Andres Oppenheimer points out:

  • These are not economic sanctions against Venezuela, but against about two dozen officials, including cabinet ministers, presidential advisers and judges
  • The officials remain unidentified
  • They don’t go after the targeted officials’ financial assets.

Instead, Oppenheimer states,

They should seek to freeze the U.S. assets of Venezuelan officials and government cronies involved in human rights abuses, and expose the fortunes they have amassed since late President Hugo Chávez rose to power 14 years ago.

“Smart diplomacy” dictates a toothless travel ban against officials involved in actions that left 43 dead, 50 documented cases of torture, and more than 2,000 unlawful detentions – officials that will remain nameless.

Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez call for sanctions against Venezuela: “We need to sanction their assets.” Their bill calls for freezing U.S. bank accounts, U.S. stocks held in any U.S. and foreign banks, and U.S. real estate belonging to the officials. Oppenheimer points out,

Other Venezuelan human rights violators’ assets should be traced by the U.S. Justice and Treasury Departments through mutual assistance treaties with other nations.

As for Venezuela’s involvement with the FARC, Iran, Hezbollah, and the such . . . crickets chirping.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Hugo Carvajal a.k.a. “el Pollo” (the Chicken) is one of the guys who took part in Hugo Chávez’s unsuccessful 1992 military coup, later rising to the rank of general and chief of military intelligence, but with a sideline of drug trade: Here’s the indictment in the U.S. District Court accusing Carvajal of coordinating the transport of 5,600 kilos (6.17 tons) of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico.

Carvajal, according to the computers belonging to Raul Reyes, the FARC’s #2 man, that were captured by Colombian security forces in 2008, was one of Hugo Chávez government’s key liaisons to the FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the murderous narcoguerrilla group).

Now, don’t ask me how a guy nicknamed el Pollo gets to be a general, in charge of military intelligence from 2004-2011, or, for that matter, Venezuelan Consul to Aruba, but current president Nicolas Maduro named him Consul to Aruba all the same, knowing that the U.S. Treasury Dept, the DEA and a U.S. District Court (mentioned above) had indicted Carvajal last year. Last week Carvajal presented himself in Aruba, where he was detained since the Dutch knew of the indictments.

Venezuelan journalist Patricia Poleo was very pleased. She has been following the Carvajal story for a decade and alleges that Carvajal is not only a drug kingpin, but also a torturer. Spanish journalist Emili Blasco reports that Carvajal allegedly “was in charge of procuring the drugs from the FARC and controlled the distribution process in the U.S. and Europe, along with laundering the drug money through PDVSA,” the government-owned oil company. Carvajal also is under investigation for his role on the attacks to the Colombian consulate and the Jewish center in Caracas.

According to reports, Carvajal was flown to Aruba by man from Texas named Roberto Rincón in a private plane leased by PDVSA president Rafael Ramírez.

The general came to Aruba in a plane that belongs to an associate of Rafael Ramírez, president of the oil company. Besides, they point to the extraordinary information Carvajal can provide regarding the relationship of Chávez’s Venezuela with Hezbollah and Iran. “It’s like Pablo Escobar and Vladimiro Montesinos rolled into one, an intelligence chief who is also a druglord,” claim the sources.

Getting Carvajal is a very big deal indeed.

Well, lo and behold, the chicken flew the coop on Sunday, when he was released by Aruban authorities, after Holland decided he did qualify for diplomatic immunity but declared him person non-grata. Immediately, Carvajal flew to Caracas, where he received a hero’s greeting by Maduro at a PSUV (Venezuelan Socialist Party) event.

One of my sources also mentions that the Obama administration had 30 days to hand over its Extradition Request to Aruba but failed to. It reminds me of drug kingpin Walid Makled, who was released to Venezuela by president Santos of Colombia after the U.S. dragged its feet.

I did a roundup of questions from Venezuelan bloggers regarding this sudden release.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Venezuela pressured Aruba by threatening to withdraw from a contract to manage Curaçao’s refinery, which would have put at risk some 8,000 jobs, and Aruba’s chief prosecutor asserts that

the Netherlands’ release of a former top Venezuelan official wanted by the U.S. for alleged drug trafficking came after Venezuela raised economic and military pressure

as Venezuelan navy ships neared Aruba and Curaçao over the weekend.

Holland is a member of NATO and as such Aruba would be protected, as WSJ commenter Donald Hutchinson points out, but, in the Obama administration’s era of “smart diplomacy”, the Dutch couldn’t count on that:

Assuming that US intelligence was not asleep, all,it would take would be a fly over by US Navy jets and a notification that any offensive action would be met by the immediate destruction of their ships. Holland is a member of NATO and such actioned would clearly be sanctioned,
It would also be a devastating set back to the former bus driver running Venezuela for bringing shame to their military.
But what one might expect from a timid White House and a preoccupied State Department?

In addition to good’ol military thuggery, Miguel Octavio asserts that the Netherlands caved in (emphasis added):

Clearly, everyone applied pressure, but the weak link did not turn out to be Aruba as I suggested on my first post, but rather The Netherlands, as reportedly even Russia played a role, exchanging concessions on the Ucraine [sic, i.e., regarding the investigation on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot over Ukraine] plane for helping release Carvajal. No matter what anyone says or how this is interpreted, it was a severe blow to the US, who would have loved to get Carvajal onshore.

In reaction to the release, Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has lifted his hold on a bill that would impose asset and visa freezes on Venezuelan officials who perpetrated human rights abuses against protesters in recent months.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman’s reaction to the Netherlands deciding that Carvajal qualified for diplomatic immunity and shipping him off to Venezuela after declaring him person non-grata? “This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled.”

At least she didn’t #hashtag it.

fausta
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Those of us who watch the dismal state of U.S. foreign policy will find the following DiploPundit post on Bolivia enlightening:

According to the OIG report on the US Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia released on July 17, just before the OIG inspection conducted in February and March 2014, the State Department “recalled the chargé and the political/economic section chief who served as acting DCM from August 2012 to September 2013 and took steps to mitigate some of the embassy’s leadership problems.”

This means that, during the period when the Bolivian Government expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Peace Corps, and the Department of State’s ended all U.S. counternarcotics programs:

  • There was no ambassador
  • The top 2 officials were removed before the inspector arrived to investigate the situation
  • DiploPundit points out (emphasis added): “Just before the inspection, the WHA bureau and the Bureau of Human Resources apparently agreed that, because a permanent ambassador is not likely in the foreseeable future, the Department would assign a permanent chargé d’affaires and a permanent DCM in La Paz. It only took them about five years to make up their minds.”

A rather unusual situation. What was happening?

To make a long story short,

nearly all American staff members told the OIG team that they did not understand mission priorities or their part in achieving goals. The OIG team frequently heard staff tell of instructions given one day only to have the former front office forget or reverse them the next. Skepticism about public diplomacy programming one month could be replaced by front office enthusiasm for a cultural project the next. Reporting officers, already in a difficult environment for contact development and reporting, stated that the front office did little to direct reporting or provide training and mentoring. Embassy staff members told the OIG team they wanted clear and steady guidance from the front office but did not receive it.

You, gentle reader, may ask, why fuss over Bolivia, a place most of us may have difficulty finding in a map, a place best known for cocaine production and Butch Cassidy‘s final destination?

Well, because Bolivia, which owns 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, is getting plenty of attention from

  • China, with whom it has a space satellite program, and which is investing billions of dollars in mining projects,
  • Russia, including Putin’s own attention to gas production with Gazprom; Putin has slammed the efforts of Evo Morales – who is president of Bolivia and was president of the coca growers’ union – to keep coca leaf consumption legal (perhaps not coincidentally, coca production has declined),
  • Iran, a buyer of Bolivian uranium and lithium, whose largest embassy in the hemisphere is located in La Paz.

A note on lithium:

a byproduct of lithium also has a little known and insidious application: It can be used as an alternative or as an enhancer to uranium, a key component needed to develop nuclear weapons. In particular, lithium-6 is an internationally controlled substance because of its “booster” role in smaller, highly efficient thermonuclear devices.

In other words, it makes bad bombs smaller, worse and also more portable. And thus policymakers should be concerned that the deal with Bolivia could bring the Islamic Republic one step closer to nuclear capability.

Indeed, in our age of America’s “smart diplomacy”, the neglect of, and lack of leadership in the Bolivian Embassy is emblematic of the “leading from behind” Obama era.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry, who declared The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over,” thinks of Bolivia as “our back yard.”

faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Communism is all about control. Nothing the individual does can be allowed;  everything is done for the purpose of consolidating power around the ruling elite and no one else.

Of course, things like guns and automobiles are anathema to the Communist. Both grant the individual a degree of independence and self-reliance that can actively be used against the whims of the powerful.

I’ll leave the discussion on guns for another time. Let’s talk about cars now.

Cars would not have been possible without capitalism: Competition, creativity, invention, technology, artistry, craftsmanship, all are brought together from free enterprise creating the monetary means to develop, purchase, deliver – and, for the consumer – buy the car.

Cars speak of freedom: freedom of movement, freedom of choice, freedom to hit the road when you best feel like it, freedom to buy, lease, keep, sell, or trade up your car.

Cars speak of individualism: You can personalize your car, or not, as you best see fit.

No wonder Communists hate having the hoi-polloi own cars.

Real Communists want to be the only ones in the cars, not the great unwashed tying up traffic and polluting the air. For decades we’ve been subjected to hogwash about “Cuba’s classic, beautiful cars,” i.e., the remaining 1950s jalopies the Cuban populace must make do with since, a. the Communists keep people poor, and b. the country’s broke. The useful idiots praising the jalopies can admire classic vintage cars any time they want from the comfort of their prosperous societies (since none of them actually have to scrounge in Havana for parts with which they may keep their own jalopies running), while simultaneously ignoring that Fidel Castro owned dozens of limos, some of which are now being used as taxis in Havana. To add insult to injury, one of the articles talking about Fidel’s old limos says,

The new fleet will give tourists a quirky and lighthearted look at Cuba’s history.

I leave it to you, gentle reader to decide whether half a century of misery in the island-prison deserves “a quirky and lighthearted look.”

Venezuela’s Cuba-appointed dictator, Nicolas Maduro, is hell-bent on following Fidel’s footsteps, so, of course, the country is a wreck as chavismo continues to rip off the private economy for well over a decade.

While the ruling chavistas enrich themselves, the country went begging to the Chinese for a bailout. Like the rest of the country, the auto industry – in a country where gasoline is six cents per gallon – is brought to a standstill:
Venezuela’s Car Culture Fades
Production is drying up as big auto makers can’t obtain dollars to pay parts suppliers and sky-high inflation turns older cars into investment vehicles.

The car industry this year began on a particularly dire note, with only Toyota and Volvo AB’s Mack de Venezuela powering up their assembly lines. By March, Toyota halted production for three months, followed by Italian truck maker Iveco SpA in April. Ford, GM and Chrysler rolled back production amid big losses due to currency devaluations as President Nicolás Maduro’s government tried to address a shortage of dollars by weakening the value of the bolívar.

Behold, the assembly line:

But fear not: chavistas ride on, in bullet-proof cars.

LINKED TO by Babalu Blog. Thank you!

LINKED TO by The Lonely Conservative. Thank you!

faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news, and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Recapping a few of this week’s stories:

The idea is to strike America at its historic source of strength, as well as its critical economic power point. No wonder Russia wanted a spy base, as reported by Kommersant, a newspaper Putin frequently fights.

All of these relate to a U.S. foreign policy of disengagement (at best), neglect, and weakness, leading from nowhere, a.k.a. “smart diplomacy.” U.S. defense cuts that included a 26% cut in the Southern Command’s fiscal 2013 certainly won’t improve things, as neither will Harry Reid’s new stint as Bagdad Bob, assuring all that “the border is secure.”

What was the late news, then?
The POTUS dedicates all of 40 seconds to the Malaysian jet bombing before going back to his prefab speech and more fundraising, and the State Department spokeswoman tweets about a fashionable friend:

faustaMakes you wish for a real President, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, After America Arrives Early

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

Among the more deranged (among many) reactions to the Supreme Court decision on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., you’ll find this:
The Uncomfortable Question: Should We Have Six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court?

In Justice Alito’s majority opinion, he relies squarely on Catholic teaching about “complicity” to explain the supposed burden. In doing so, he reiterates the argument that the Catholic Church has made in the dozens of lawsuits it has brought challenging the contraceptive mandate. According to the Church, it violates the moral obligations of a Catholic to do anything — anything — that would “facilitate” the provision of contraception to an individual. So even if one is not using contraception oneself, if one facilitates access to contraception by others, a grave moral wrong has been committed.

The man writing that nonsense does not bother to define exactly what he means by Catholic teaching about “complicity”, and clearly ignores the fact that Hobby Lobby willingly provides insurance coverage for 16 types of contraceptives.

Princeton University professor Robert P. George addresses the uncomfortable question in this morning’s Facebook post:

It is true that six justices are (at least nominally) Catholic, though only 24% of Americans are members of that faith.

It is also true that three justices are Jewish, though less than 2% (1.7% to be exact) of the U.S. population are Jewish.

So the folks on the left who are questioning the appropriateness of having so many Catholic justices should be asked to tell us which religious group in the U.S. they believe is most highly overrepresented on the Supreme Court.

And what about underrepresentation? The largest religious group in the U.S., Evangelical Christians, are nearly 27%. The number of Evangelicals on the Supreme Court: Zero. Hmmmm . . . . What do our friends on the left who are complaining about the overrepresentation of Catholics on the Court have to say about that? Aren’t Evangelicals, if we are bean counting, entitled to at least 2 seats?

And the third largest religious group in the country are mainline Protestants, at about 18%. Shouldn’t they have a seat?

And what about the LDS Church (the Mormons)? The Mormon population in the U.S. is as large as the Jewish population and is growing faster. Do the LDS have three seats on the Supreme Court? Nope. There are no Mormons among the justices.

Well, shall we stop playing the bean counting game?

Prof. George’s commenter Lynn approaches the issue:

A solid jurist shouldn’t be judged by religious affiliation. Rather judged by judicial temperament and thorough knowledge of the laws.

Yes, but their duty is to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, to which they are bound by solemn oath. And, by the way, one of their oaths specifically states “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Amen to that!

faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. & Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

[The Northern Triangle refers to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in Central America.]

I live in Princeton, NJ, where you can find the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. I am not connected to the School, or to Princeton University, but over the years I have attended many speeches, events and symposia at both.

So I can venture a guess that the School may have a more polished term for the no-do foreign policy of Yes, Prime Minister:

The Obama administration, at best, follows the Yes, Prime Minister school of International Affairs by neglecting our allies and doing nothing. There’s doing nothing, however, and then there’s folly.

Michael Gonzalez has a must-read article on Obama’s Central American Follies: “A country-by-country survey of the Obama administration’s actions in the Northern Triangle [Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador] shows how the administration has sown instability in Central America by siding with former guerrillas who have ties to drug trafficking.

Only lately has the White House bowed to reality and finally conceded what Democrats in Congress, The Washington Post and even Univision were already admitting that dreams of sanctuary under the DREAM Act had convinced Central American families to hand their children over to coyote networks that would take them across Mexico and the Rio Grande. In other words, the administration had to admit that it had contributed to the problem by appearing to promise that children who crossed the border illegally would not be deported.

But the administration shouldn’t get a pass on the violent hell that has been unleashed in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

From siding with the wrong guys in Honduras, to interfering in the judicial process in Guatemala, to ignoring the ties between the drug gangs and newly-elected president Salvador Sánchez Cerén, Gonzalez’s article tracks the Obama administration’s long record of incompetence (at best), and suggests some things the U.S. can do now to improve our country’s security.

faustaBorder security is national security. Go read Gonzalez’s article and find out three examples of why it is.

Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

CNN reports that “U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 and 80,000 children without parents will cross the border this year.”

The logistics of moving 60,000+ children across several countries and through the U.S. border and cities such as New York and Miami takes planning, coordination, and funding.

I don’t know who is behind this. However, the Mexican cartels control all the smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border: drugs, weapons, people.

Every parent who puts their child in the care of smugglers is, at best, allowing that child to be a human shield for drug gangs, and in effect allowing that child to be used as a prostitute, a drug mule, and/or a kidnap victim. This is, plain and simple, child abuse in a very grand scale. Which, by the way, nearly ensures the child will get a special immigration juvenile status visa (emphasis added):

“The fact that they get up here, and that they’re fleeing violence, doesn’t give them any grounds for relief at all. So the only way they get to stay here in the U.S. legally, is through this special immigration juvenile status visa.”
To get that visa, the children have to first establish that the parent they left behind abused them.

Victor Davis Hanson looks at the immorality of The New Children’s Crusade:

This latest cruel episode — What sort of parent sends his children across the desert unaccompanied? What sort of country allows its youth just to walk away en masse? What sort of country facilitates their transfer across its own territory into the U.S.? And what sort of American administration tolerates this human tragedy as a way of building a future political constituency? — reminds us that almost everything we are told about illegal immigration is both a lie and amoral.

Neo-neocon explains

Now, we don’t know how families are getting the money to come here, and your conspiracy theory is probably as good as mine—and I do have some. But even if the majority of families/kids are coming for their own reasons (because they think they will be allowed to stay and get services, and/or to flee the violence in their home countries) rather than purposely as decoys for the cartels, they are serving as de facto decoys for them nonetheless. So if fleeing the danger posed by murderous drug cartels in their countries of origin is one of their motivations, then it’s highly ironic that escaping in this manner will serve to facilitate the entry of those very same dangerous people into the US, while the border guards are busy being babysitters.

As Neo points out, “their entry is flooding the border and distracting the guards’ time and energy while the drug cartels climb aboard.” The National Border Patrol Council Statement on Influx of Juveniles in Rio Grande Valley Sector confirms (emphasis added):

Cartels are forcing juveniles and illegal aliens to cross the border in between the ports of entries because it further ties up Border Patrol agents in the field. In effect, cartels are using these immigrants as a human shield to divert resources that would otherwise be spent interrupting their trafficking operations. Once the agents are taken out of the equation, the cartels are smuggling drugs, weapons, and special interest aliens across the border unfettered. At a time when agents are most needed to deal with the cartel threat, they are unavailable because they are either dealing with a tidal wave of humanity by either arresting juveniles and families in the field or by processing them in the stations.

That is why Texas’ top three leaders, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus have directed the Department of Public Safety to immediately begin law enforcement surge operations along the Texas-Mexico border.

It’s a start.

faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

One of the benefits of being fluent in more than one language is that it allows you to watch hoity toity stuff from abroad. You know the type – soap operas wrapped around history/period pieces, like The Tudors and such, only in languages other than English.

After the success of The Tudors – where Henry VIII was gorgeous but shorter than the real-life Henry – the Spaniards have come up with a TV series on Henry’s mother-in-law, Queen Isabella. The series, Isabel, is as visually appealing as The Tudors, filmed on beautiful locations and sets, and stars not only a lovely girl as Isabel but very handsome men, who greatly add to the appeal. Behold, the cast of Isabel:

I came across Isabel while flipping channels a couple of weeks ago, and started to watch the episodes on line (in Spanish, no subtitles). As it turns out, I finished watching the first season just as Hillary Clinton’s new book came out.

Hillary could learn five things from the young Isabel:
1. It’s not about you, it’s about your country: The young Isabel wanted to be queen not because it was her due as kin of the powerful, but because she was determined to make her people more prosperous (materially and spiritually) and to better her realm.

2. Don’t ask “what difference at this point, does it make?” Isabel fully realized that she was there to make a difference, and that it was her responsibility to do so.

3. Treat your bodyguards with respect and consideration. Young Isabel learned from an early age that good help is not only hard to find, but that her life depended on them, unlike Hillary, who confused the Secret Service with porters.

4. Don’t let your hair down in public. While young Isabel wore her hair down in the TV series, she was scrupulous about protocol. No leading the conga line while on a junket for her!

5. Don’t hang on your husband’s coattails. Isabel, when her brother the king died, placed the crown on her head and became chief justice through her own initiative. She didn’t wait for Ferdinand to get back in town. Indeed, the point was that she didn’t need to wait because it was she who was in charge.

faustaFausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics and culture at Fausta’s Blog, and is fond of pretentious TV soaps disguised as docudramas.

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Granted, low-information voters live in a state of permanent blissful ignorance. My friend Denny even has a weekly joke dedicated to them (it used to be a Saturday blonde joke, but then I made a suggestion, and the rest is history).

Da Tech Guy Blog’s readers are definitely not low-information voters, so right now we are dismayed by the headlines. Paul Mirengoff looks at Three Crises,

Islamic extremists are overrunning major cities in Iraq that U.S. forces liberated at the cost of American lives. Children from Central America are pouring illegally into America in numbers that far exceed our capacity to deal with them. Veterans are dying because they can’t get medical treatment.

Three crises that are ongoing, with long-term consequences, and all have a direct connection to Obama administration policy.

And that’s just for starters. Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, Iran’s expansion in Latin America, the 5 Talibanis traded for Bergdahl, Fast and Furious, the pervasive patterns of fictions as truths, together with the media’s mythologizing, go on and on.

It’s enough to bring a blogger down.

So at times like this, what does a blogger do? Take a break by, of course, checking out other blogs. The other day I found Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs via Emily Zanotti of Naked DC. If you thought you have seen dumps (and in my years as active real estate agent I visited places to which I should have worn a flea collar), “you ain’t thing nothing yet”. A great blog for a good laugh.

I’m sure you can name others equally amusing.

But my point is this: Take a break, relax, recharge. The struggle for conservative values continues, and we each do our part. We’re in this to stand for what we believe best for ourselves and for our great country.

And get involved in the upcoming mid-term elections.
fausta
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America politics and culture at Fausta’s blog.