by baldilocks

From Reuters:

Venezuelan activists are increasingly posting details of locations and lifestyles of leftist officials and their families, depicting them as thriving off corruption while the population struggles to eat in a devastating economic crisis.

The social media blitzes, targeting officials and their business partners, relatives and even lovers, are another weapon in a wave of huge protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government that began in April. Protesters are seeking early presidential elections, freedom for jailed activists, and humanitarian aid to alleviate chronic food and medicine shortages.

One Twitter account published photos purportedly showing the wife of Vice President Tareck El Aissami enjoying champagne and lounging on a pristine beach with her sisters. In another case, an alleged lover of a powerful Socialist Party official is shown on trips to the Middle East.

Venezuela’s opposition accuses officials of profiting from currency controls and a decade-long oil boom to fill their pockets. The opposition-led congress estimates that at least $11 billion have “disappeared” from state-run oil company PDVSA .

Monica Showalter:

Reuters doesn’t mention it, but this is the outcome of socialism, and not just a one-off event but the usual and inevitable outcome of socialism, which always leads to a protected class[.]

Daniel Ortega got caught shopping on Fifth Avenue buying $3,000 worth of designerluxury sunglasses. Romania first lady Elena Ceaucescu was caught with diamonds on the soles of her shoes. The Castros own billions in assets in Spain, Italy, Argentina, China. Two years ago, the late [Hugo Chavez’s] daughter, Maria Gabriela, was reported to be Venezuela’s richest woman with $4.2 billion in assets. (…)

As a blogger and writer under different venues, I have been reporting this stuff for years. The flashing dollar bill parties of the Chavistas. The Caribbean luxury vacations of the Chavistas. The Miami condo-buying. The trips to Disneyland. The Miami shopping trips. The dollar-bill flashing parties. The Chavista luxury yachts. The social whirl and real estate. These stories extend all the way back to 2004. Yet they never got all that much traction.

As I’ve opined before, most people cannot see the connection between cause and effect, but just to be on the safe side, the MSM would prefer to not only keep silent on information which would spur that connection—on this topic, especially–but also to use active means to distract attention away from the potential connection. Makes you wonder if even certain failed comedians are merely carrying out their orders. If true, the drastic methods indicate that the MSM may be scared.

The future nomenklatura must protect its interests, however. I don’t know if I want to see them become more desperate.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

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I had a coworker at the warehouse that I work overnight at who used to ride into work with me. He was talking about trying to get fuel assistance and commented on the fact that Citizen’s Energy who used to provide him with oil in the past has not come through for the past 2 years.

What you don’t remember Citizen’s energy, and Joe4Oil? It wasn’t long ago that these ads were all the rage in Massachusetts

That ad while good at tugging at the heartstrings was slightly inaccurate, the oil wasn’t from “The good people of Venezuela” it was from Hugo Chavez who looted his country till the day he died.

The end result? While the Chavez family is one of the richest in the land the people of Venezuela see things like this:

Images of Hospitals that look like catacombs, and prisons that have become maximum security business centers for criminals where no law applies, have become a reference when speaking about the country. But the wound goes much deeper than that.

We’re not just talking about shortages of basic staples such as toilet paper and soap, or daily electricity cuts, the five-day weekends for public employees, or about any of those stories that have turned Venezuela into a punchline with a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council. No. The economic collapse at the hands of chavista economic policies has brought something deadlier, and so much simpler: hunger.

How bad is it, even the NYT reports…

With delivery trucks under constant attack, the nation’s food is now transported under armed guard. Soldiers stand watch over bakeries. The police fire rubber bullets at desperate mobs storming grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. A 4-year-old girl was shot to death as street gangs fought over food.

Venezuela is convulsing from hunger.

Hundreds of people here in the city of Cumaná, home to one of the region’s independence heroes, marched on a supermarket in recent days, screaming for food. They forced open a large metal gate and poured inside. They snatched water, flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, potatoes, anything they could find, leaving behind only broken freezers and overturned shelves.

Or as Margaret Thatcher might have put it, the Government of Venezuela has run out of other people’s money and that means if you are expecting cheap oil or gas from Joe Kennedy, you’re out of luck

The Joe-4-Oil Heat Program is not currently accepting applications for assistance.

Unexpectedly

  1. Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, but most of it is extra-heavy crude oil.
  2. Under the rule of Hugo Chávez, oil accounted for 95% of the country’s total exports. As Chávez fired 20,000 PDVSA employees and replaced the government-owned oil company’s staff with chavistas while neglecting infrastructure , oil production has declined. Oil production has declined 100,000-200,000 barrels per day this year

  3. Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. After declaring himself a Marxist in 2010, expropriating private property,  instituting currency controls, and demanding control of PDVSA’s joint ventures with foreign oil companies, the economy declined precipitously. The decline has continued and accelerated under Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’s successor.

Inflation is estimated at 720% this year,

4. Cuban intelligence and military advisors train the Venezuelan security services and monitor dissent and alleged conspiracies against Maduro’s administration. Human rights violations include the imprisonment of dissidents, such as Leopoldo López, who was sentenced to 14 years in jail on charges of public instigation, vandalism, arson and criminal conspiracy.

During López’s trial, which was closed to the media and the public,

The court refused to admit all but one of 65 witnesses for the defense, while allowing the testimony of 108 witnesses for the government.

  1. As the country continues to fall apart and the regime cracks down on protestors, OAS chief Luis Almagro has called for a meeting to discuss Venezuela’s human rights violations of the Democratic Charter.

However, getting at least eighteen votes to sanction Venezuela may prove difficult. Several Caribbean countries that received Venezuelan oil are not willing to join in sanctioning, and Argentina’s current foreign minister and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff, Susana Malcorra, has allegedly pledged to support to Venezuela at the OAS in exchange for Venezuela’s vote at the UN for her nomination as UN Secretary General.

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

…because they have no beer.

It takes materials like malted barley to make beer. There’s barely any grown in the nation. And the decades of idiotic socialist policies from the Venezuelan leaders, including the late Hugo Chavez, has led the money of the nation, the bolivar, to be virtually worthless, and the nation can barely afford to purchase toilet paper. Worstall then notes something from the Wall Street Journal (quotes from WSJ in italic, Worstall regular)

After Empresas Polar SA closed its three other beer plants over the past several days, the shutting of the San Joaquin plant, near Valencia, will leave just a week’s supply of beer, the company said. Like many other firms here, Polar blames the government, which hasn’t allocated the dollars the company needs to pay for imported raw materials such as malted barley.

It’s that word “allocated” which is the problem. So, the company, just like all other importers of whatever, needs access to dollars in order to be able to pay for those imports. This means either being “allocated” some through the bureaucratic system or going out into the black market and just buying some. But it’s not actually legal to do that:

“Without approval and a supply of [foreign] currency to the suppliers, the company doesn’t have a way to operate,” Mr. Mendoza said. “The company cannot go out and buy currency anywhere because it’s against the law.”

So, no legal way to get the dollars if the bureaucracy won’t allocate them and the bureaucracy won’t allocate them. Obviously, the company therefore closes the plants that can’t be run because they can’t get the imported ingredients.

This is what you get with Socialist ideology: no toilet paper, rolling brownouts and blackouts (despite having access to lots of oil), a food crisis, the economy is inmeltdown, communications are tightly controlled by the government, it’s nationalsuicide in slow motion (hit Fausta’s Blog for all things South America) and people won’t even be able to drown their sorrows in beer.

Let’s POLKA!

and POLKA some more!

Of course if they want to Polka in Venezuela, they’ll have to do it without beer.

Odd Note: When I used the reference with my 22 year old son he didn’t get the reference.

I feel old.

Hugo Chávez, back when he was alive, seized farms from their rightful owners in the interest of his “Bolivarian revolution.” He started small,

A group of red shirt-wearing Chavista thugs show up at a farm and seize the farm in the name of the government, under the pretext that the 103 hectare [254 acres] farm is “idle land” and that the law allows them to take it over for “food production.”

And worked his way up,

Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela, ‘has ordered the confiscation of 717,000 acres from a British company amid a disagreement over compensation for earlier seizures of ranchland from the firm.

717,000 acres is nearly the area of the state of Rhode Island (776,957 acres). Soon enough, Hugo ran out of land to seize.

The results are food shortages, rationing, black markets, empty store shelves, and long lines, as it still happens in Cuba, and as it happened in the Soviet Union and its satellites, and in every other Communist state.

Since of course the Venezuelan regime is not going to recognize the fact that Communism doesn’t work, they blame everyone else (another Communist trait), including hoarders,

In March, Venezuelans were so worried about food shortages and diminishing stocks of basic goods, fingerprint scanners were installed in supermarkets in an attempt to crack down on hoarding.

Now, looking at that statement, a couple of things stand out:

  • Individual Venezuelans weren’t the ones installing fingerprint scanners; it was the Communist regime.
  • Venezuela’s shortages are not caused by hoarders; its shortages are caused by failed economic policy. For instance, if I felt a need to hoard toilet paper, I could drive to Costco and spend $200 on a year’s supply, and Costco would still not run out.
  • Venezuelans’ rights are down to nothing – the government even keeps count of their grocery purchases and penalizes those who don’t meet the criteria.

Now

Farmers and manufacturers who produce milk, pasta, oil, rice, sugar and flour have been told to supply between 30 per cent and 100 per cent of their products to the state stores.

“Told to supply” means “to hand over.”

You’re probably thinking, “But Fausta, we have bigger things to worry about: ISIS, border crime, Iran nuclear deals. Why are you carping about Venezuela?”

Because, my friends, Venezuela is showing that free markets and free peoples go together:

markets—the mind of free millions—allocate scarce resources more efficiently and fairly than do committees in Congress; that the collusion of government with either big business or big labor stifles competition and leads to political cynicism; that government will be respected more when it does a few things well rather than too many poorly; and that innovation and human progress spring not from bureaucratic elites but from the genius of individuals.

That is what dictatorships – whether they name their agendas “Bolivarian revolution”, Marxist, Communist, or whatever new term –  don’t want you to know: free markets, free peoples.

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

 

 

 

 

I love cars.

What I love the most about cars is, cars represent independence: An individual with a car at their disposal is free to go anywhere they please, whenever they please, unfettered. All they need is a driver’s license and a full tank of gas. You may not even have to know how to drive, if you can avail yourself of a willing licensed driver. No need to look up mass-transit schedules or routes (unless your trip involves a ferry). No need to get tickets in advance.

Get in the car, and go.

Of course I love luxury cars: Luxury cars with Brits, like Mr. Steed in the 1960s The Avengers TV series and the Jaguar villains (you may enjoy the ad’s “making of” video, too) especially, and of course, beautiful classic cars. I even remember sighing the time I saw a 1930s Bugatti; but I also love new, modestly-priced cars.

Owners of 2016 Hyundai Elantras have at their disposal hundreds of technological and safety features – from paint quality to power steering to traction control systems – at a price that is lower than the annual median U.S. salary, that were not available to the purchaser of a 1930s Bugatti, which only the very rich could afford. The Bugatti’s buyer wouldn’t even have been able to imagine the Elantra’s many features, and the fact that it can be serviced most anywhere in the free world. The Elantra is one sweet ride.

Why is that? Competition: Hundreds of car makers marketing their products in the United States and around the world, competing for the consumers’ favor. A consumer economy beats a command economy, all the way.

I was thinking of this while writing yesterday’s post at my blog on the Venirauto.

What the hey is a Venirauto?, you’re probably asking. The Venirauto is a car manufactured by the Iranians exclusively for the Venezuelan market, now that nearly all foreign car manufacturers have left Venezuela once the government insisted that they could not be paid in U.S. dollars.

Venirauto is 51% Iranian and 49% Venezuelan, 100% government-owned.

Putting aside the extensive and aggressive Iranian presence in Latin America, a subject that ought to be of great concern but goes mostly ignored, the Venirauto embodies a command-driven economy:

  • Francisco Espinoza, president of Venirauto group, “Our achievement is based on inspiration given by our late commander, Hugo Chavez. He wanted Venezuela to ally with Iran, and we’re doing so.”
  • The first model, the Turpial at a price of Bs. 17 million (US$7,906), is a 4-door sedan based on the old Kia Pride model. The second is the Centauro, at a price of Bs. 23 million (US$11,069), and is based on the Peugeot 405 given that the French firm is the main supplier of engines and technology to the Iranian company.

Don’t expect to find those two in Kelley’s Blue Book Top 10 anytime soon: The Peugeot 405 was introduced on 1987 and, according to Wikipedia, is still produced under license in Iran and Egypt but ceased production in France in 1997. The old Kia Pride (not to be confused with the Kia New Pride) was in production from 1987 to 2000. In effect, the Venezuelans, who get government-subsidized gasoline almost for free, can now drive technology nearly thirty years old.

A picture’s worth a thousand words: Compare the new 2015 Venirauto plant with a Hyundai assembly plant at Kancheepuram district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu October 4, 2012.

For your automotive enjoyment, also compare the 10 iconic Soviet cars with the 10 iconic American cars.

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

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The tax-paying public of our hemisphere is subjected to an annual (more-or-less) circus of parading politicians, better known as the Summit of the Americas.

This year marks the seventh, hosted by Panama, on April 10 and 11.

This time around things don’t look too rosy for lovers of civil rights, democracy, and freedom.

For starters, Cuba is setting the tone, if not the agenda itself. For the first time Raul Castro has been invited, and Cuba will be joining the group of countries for the first time – on its own terms. Cuba has not ceded one iota to human rights and the demand for a democratic civil society by its dissidents, a delegation of which will be attending.

Panamanian authorities fired a metaphorical warning shot to the dissidents (emphasis added):

Rosa María Payá, the daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, was briefly detained on Sunday at Panama’s airport and threatened with deportation to Cuba if she caused any public disturbances at the Summit of the Americas, according to an account she gave on Twitter.

President Obama stated during an interview with NPR yesterday that he “will act fast to take Cuba off the states sponsors of terrorism list“,

an act that would disregard Cuba’s continued support for Colombia’s terrorist groups, its illegal arms trading with North Korea and the sanctuary it provides American criminal JoAnne Chesimard.

It is a move that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, believes will undermine U.S. national security.

The White House says Obama and Castro will hold “informal discussions”, but no official meetings are scheduled. What that means in diplomatic lingo remains to be determined, but I seriously doubt that Obama will take the opportunity to compel the democracies in the hemisphere to act against regimes that violate democratic norms. He won’t be compelling Raul.

Canada is attending, but is not happy with the U.S. or with Mexico.

Harper’s government is furious with the treatment Canada has received from the White House on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

. . .

Meanwhile, Mexico is furious with the Canadian government’s decision in 2009 to impose visa requirements on Mexicans who wish to travel here.

Considering how an Iraqi man who was apprehended las February  while illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas is a Russian-speaking military trainer, one can understand Canada’s cause for concern regarding people arriving through Mexico.

But I digress.

Venezuela’s dictator Nicolas Maduro has prepared his own circus, in the form of 10 million signatures protesting recent U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. He has support even from alleged U.S. allies such as Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, whose administration is holding “peace negotiations” with FARC terrorists in – you guessed it – Havana. Maduro’s own intelligence service and military are controlled by Cuba.

The wives of two jailed Venezuelan opposition leaders will also be at the Summit. One is a panelist at the “Civil society and civilian actors” forum.

Adding to the circus atmosphere,

Twenty-two Latrine-oh ex-presidents will try to bitch-slap Castro puppet Nicolas Maduro with a document that asks him to free all political prisoners, especially opposition leaders  Leopoldo López the mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma.

The same document –signed by all of these ex-rulers — will also denounce the corruption of the democratic process in Venezuela.

. . .

No one will even notice that these ex-presidents have failed to censure the Castro regime or to make a similar request for Cuban political prisoners.

Today Obama is in Jamaica at the CARICOM summit, talking about a more diverse, cleaner and more sustainable energy future for the Caribbean now that Venezuela’s Petrocaribe oil subsidies have collapsed. What these small islands need is fuel, now. Talk of “a more diverse, cleaner and more sustainable energy future” is nice, but it’s looking to the future. He heads to the circus in Panama tonight.

Mary O’Grady said, “Summits are a waste of time and money for real countries.”

Indeed.

UPDATE:

LINKED TO by American Thinker. Thank you!

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

 

 

As the Communist dictatorship in Venezuela sinks the economy into further chaos, it resorts to criminalizing dissent.

The latest victim is Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, who yesterday was arrested and dragged out of office ‘like a dog’ by the police. He was arrested without a warrant, amid accusations of a coup attempt:

Mr Ledezma was on a list of people and foreign powers named by Mr Maduro last week as attempting to bring down his administration.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the start of last year’s anti-government street protests that lasted several weeks and resulted in more than 40 deaths. Several other mayors and former mayors were imprisoned then, including former Chacao mayor Leopoldo Lopez, who has been in jail for exactly a year and is currently on trial.

Caracas Chronicles has Twitter photos and videos of the arrest, and summarizes the situation,

Chavismo thrives in conflict. Right now they need it to appear strong before their supporters, and to divert everyone else’s attention

from the pressing economic problems, ahead of this year’s congressional elections.

What does this matter to us?

It matters because the trend is towards elected dictatorships: countries where a regime ascends to power through an initial free election, after which it ceases to protect the rule of law, due process, and political pluralism – political systems inimical to America’s stance on democracy.

Another reason it matters is that the U.S. has agreed to give into the Communist dictatorship in Cuba “for nothing in return,” the Caracas mayor’s arrest has all the hallmarks of the Cuban playbook:

Maduro revealed that he had been in Cuba during the Carnival break, suggesting that this strategy was cooked up there. The strategy is likely to be to create protests, intimidate and at the same time distract the population from the numerous economic problems the country has. This is a typical strategy by Chavismo of becoming aggressive whenever its popularity goes down, looking to show that the President (Chávez then, Maduro now) is in charge and deserves the support of its sympathizers.

The concern is that what the Government wants to do is minimize the leadership of the opposition ahead of the Parliamentary elections.

While we are subjected to displays of egregious incompetence by State Department spokespersons, it is clear that our current administration prefers to turn a blind eye to developments affecting the political landscape in our hemisphere.

After Secretary of State John Kerry’s declaration that the Monroe Doctrine is over, we’re only starting to see just what that means.

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

by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz

Venezuela, sliding further into Cuban-like totalitarian Communism, faces severe food shortages. Take a look at the lines at a food distribution center:

What next?
Venezuela Proposes Fingerprinting Grocery Shoppers

President Nicolas Maduro says a mandatory fingerprinting system is being implemented at grocery stores to combat food shortages by keeping people from buying too much of a single item. He calls it an “anti-fraud system” like the fingerprint scan the country uses for voting.

In a country where accusations of electoral fraud have plagued several elections, that’s almost risible, but I digress.

Questions of where the broke and corrupt regime will find the funds to equip and maintain the machines to scan fingerprints at every grocery store (considering it’s not maintaining the government-owned oil producing monopoly, PDVSA) aside, the issue is that of control, and failure. Failed governments are really good at only one thing: controlling and oppressing the people. Juan Cristobal Nagel writes of a Venezuelan facing onerous currency controls while visiting him abroad:

Watching this hero of mine, this towering figure from my youth, reduced to going from one ATM to another trying to see if “pasó la tarjeta,” if their card was actually working, kind of broke my heart. It brought home the inherent perversity of a system like Cadivi. He couldn’t really enjoy his vacation, because he was always worried that he wouldn’t be able to pay off his hotel bill, his car rental, his incidentals. You never knew when the government would pull the plug on your financial independence, when they would revoke the permission to use your money wherever you please.

You, my gentle reader, may wonder, what doe this have to do with you, who may not even have met a Venezuelan, let alone been to the country, in your whole life?

Well, let’s go back to Nagel’s post (emphasis added):

Sometimes, you give up your freedoms because you have to, because they are taken away from you. That is the case in Venezuela. But the least you can do is be mindful of it. This thing from last night? It’s just the corollary of what you’ve been subjected to.

Here in the U.S. we’re not as complacent with the concept of “you give up your freedoms because you have to, because they are taken away from you”; but first we must be mindful.

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