Venezuela is holding a general election this year.

Yes, the most miserable country on Earth is again going to pretend it is a democracy.

How miserable?, you may ask.

Let Johns Hopkins economist Steve Hanke tell you,

Venezuela holds the inglorious tile of the most miserable country in 2017, as it did in both 2016 and 2015. The failures of President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist, corrupt petroleum state have been well documented over the past year, including by my measurements of Venezuela’s hyperinflation. Not only is Venezuela the most miserable country in the world, but its Misery Index score has dramatically increased since 2016.

Venezuela’s economy is nearly totally dependent on oil production, which continues to plummet.

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The petro cryptocurrency is a sham,

Since certified reserves aren’t such, the petro will be, at best, another way to make opaque transactions by an already shady administration.

The people are broke,

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Mary O’Grady of the WSJ asserts that Venezuela Is Starving Its People. The Maduro regime is using its control of food to stamp out protests. Let’s also not forget the colectivos,the government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs,

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Venezuela’s vice-president, Tarek El Aissami, has been tied to the Cartel of the Suns and to Islamic networks. El Aissmi was a key figure as Hugo Chávez allowed Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Qaeda to use Venezuela as a bridge to other Latin American countries. Additionally, the Maduro regime allowed the world’s largest narco-terrorist organization, Colombia’s FARC, into the country.

People are trying to leave by any means possible. Economist Dany Bahar, a fellow at think tank the Brookings Institution, predicts that the Venezuelan refugee crisis could eclipse Syria’s.

Earlier this year the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) called for an early presidential election, scheduled for April 22d. The National Electoral Council (CNE) now has announced it was postponed to May 20th:

Traditionally, presidential elections are held in Venezuela in December but in February the CNE announced they would be brought forward to 22 April.

The decision was widely interpreted by critics of the government as an attempt to steamroll the deeply divided opposition coalition and throw it into disarray.
. . .
It also triggered international criticism, with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru all rejecting the early election and some countries warning that they would not recognise the result.

The US has said it would consider imposing further sanctions against the government if it went ahead with the presidential vote under what it called fraudulent conditions.

What’s left of the opposition has the option of

two different tactics: take part in the election with the only purpose of organizing demonstrations, or organize an electoral boycott.

Which means, there’s very little they can do.

I said five years ago that Chavismo will not relinquish power through democratic means. You can count on that whether the so-called election is held, or not, in April, May, or December.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America at Fausta’s Blog.

Anthony Faiola reports that Venezuela’s economy is so bad, parents are leaving their children at orphanages in the hope that the children won’t starve.

The latest WSJ headline: Venezuela’s Misery Fuels Migration on Epic Scale

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans are fleeing their country’s misery and pouring across borders into nearby countries, particularly Colombia, creating a sharpening challenge for the region.

Juan Forero reports, “Residents flee crumbling economy in numbers that echo Syrians to Europe, Rohingya to Bangladesh,” since

By the end of this year, Venezuela’s economy will be half the size it was in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund. Inflation is expected to hit 13,000% this year.

Add to the list of woes a trend of extrajudicial killings.

All of this is exactly what one would expect from what dead dictator Hugo Chávez named 21st Century Socialism.

Chávez died five years ago, but his legacy carries on. He armed government-sponsored marauding motorcycle gangs with Cuban and FARC support. He closed down and persecuted independent media. He sent his opponents to jail. He fired key employees of PDVSA, the government-owned oil monopoly, and replaced them with his political cronies, while neglecting innovation and maintenance. He brought aeroterror flights carrying drugs and money.

Liberals may want you to believe that Chávez saved Venezuela, and that his heirs are the ones who caused this disaster, but all of it is due to the failures of 21st Century Socialism, just as the failures of 20th Century Socialism ruined lives in the countries it was tried.

But don’t expect change anytime soon. Almost a year ago I wrote,

Maduro will continue to blunder in office for the time being.

Venezuela’s military are allegedly involved in the drug tradewhile possibly being outnumbered by the government-armed colectivos. As I posted yesterday,

the popular militia has added another 50,000 members (link in Spanish) – to an estimated total of 500,000. The regular armed forces total 160,000 with army reserves of 25,000, according to Clarín.

Yet, it is impossible to know the actual number of colectivos. The military may not see it in its best interest to fight them. [added:] Additionally, the military control the food supply, and will do so with any humanitarian aid.

The opposition is disarmed, and quite fragmented, aside from being mostly socialist.

Foreign actors such as Iran, Russia and the FARC are in cahoots with the government, especially Cuba, which controls the intelligence agencies. Maduro lived in Cuba in his younger days. Venezuela’s own vice-president, El Aissami, is in the U.S. Treasury Department’s kingpins list,  which  has frozen nearly US $3 billion of his assets, and he is reportedly linked to the sale of Venezuelan passports to Hezbollah.

The State has spent twelve-plus years consolidating power around itself. The amount it spends on its oil-sponsored international propaganda machine is immenseEverything is the fault of the U.S. “empire”.

That pretty much describes Venezuela today.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

Linus Larrabee: This, this is my home, no wife would ever understand it.
David Larrabee:  Well neither can I You’ve got all the money is the world.
Linus Larrabee:  Well what’s money got to do with it? If making money were all there was to business it hardly be worthwhile going into the office. Money is a byproduct.
David Larrabee:   But what’s the main objective, power?
Linus Larrabee:  Ah, that’s become a dirty word.
David Larrabee:  Well then What’s the urge, you’re going into plastics now, what will that prove?

Sabrina 1954

A while back I was visiting a friend at his employment (he was a golf pro at a country club) when his daughter who was in college at the time, walked in.  I asked her about her major and what she was doing and she answered she was doing economic and already had a part time job at a brokerage, however she said it with some guilt as her classmate derided her job choice, one of the horrible side effects of the current socialist higher education system filled with liberals who decry Western Civilization, Christianity and Capitalism.  Personally I think they were jealous of the money she was already making to pay back student loans, but nevertheless I told her she should be proud of her job, because if she did it well, people who saved money their entire lives would be able to live a comfortable retirement, and if she did it really well people would have money to invest in companies that produce the jobs that feed families.

I must have done a good job explaining it because she immediately lit up and told me that she never thought of that, nobody had ever explained it to her that way before, which means that obviously she had never seen the 1954 movie Sabrina staring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden about a chauffeur’s daughter (Hepburn) who falls in love with the playboy son (Holden) of her father’s employer who doesn’t notice her until she returns from cooking school in Paris just in time to throw a wrench into the plans of his older serious brother (Bogart) who has plans to use his brother upcoming 4th marriage to secure a business deal.

The movie also features both Raymond Bailey and Nancy Culp just under a decade before they would become the comedy team of Mr. Drysdale and Miss Jane on the Beverley Hillbillies, but I digress. Hidden within the 113 minutes about love, life and personal growth is a speech by Bogart’s character Linus Larrabee that perfectly describes what Capitalism is and what it does.  It’s a speech that every college student in America should be required to watch.

For those who don’t have the patience to sit through the full minute here is the key quote.

A new product has been found, something of use to the world, so a new industry moves into an undeveloped area. Factories go up, machines are brought in, a harbor is dug, and you’re in business. It’s purely coincidental of course that people who never saw a dime before suddenly have a dollar, and barefooted kids wear shoes and have their teeth fixed and their faces washed. What’s wrong with the kind of an urge that gives people libraries, hospitals, baseball diamonds and, uh, movies on a Saturday night?

Back in 1954 when this picture was made when the ruins of the 2nd World War were still visible,  25 year olds could remember the great depression, the devastation of flu pandemics, life before electricity, movies, radio, phones and even ravages the Civil War were still in living memory, Americans knew and understood this facts of life explained in this speech and were pleased to gift their children and grandchildren a Pax Americana and a booming building economy to escape these pains.

Alas having been delivered from these horrors the children and grandchildren of those in the west who endured them in the west in general and of America in particular decided they knew better than those who overcame them and instead of embracing the lessons of that generation enrolled in the Kindergarten of Eden where they were taught that peace and prosperity were a birthright and that anything society that didn’t produce their heart’s desire was oppressive and evil.

As Robert Heinlein once wrote:

“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck.’”

This “bad luck” is what is affecting the Venezuelan people and it’s origin was the same socialism that the academics teaching our children uniformly cheered when it was implemented and then when this happened…

 As The New York Times reported, “Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.”

“But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.”

Now, in their absence, things have gotten worse, and it’s poorer Venezuelans — the very ones that Chavez’s revolution was allegedly intended to help — who are starving. Many are even taking to boats, echoing, as the Times notes, “an image so symbolic of the perilous journeys to escape Cuba or Haiti — but not oil-rich Venezuela.” 

Well, Venezuela was once rich. But mismanagement and kleptocracy can make any country poor and Venezuela — as is typical with countries whose leaders promise to soak the rich for the benefit of the poor — has had plenty of both. And now, though Hugo Chavez’s family has grown fabulously wealthy, the poor have nothing.

…denied that it was actual socialism.

This is what half of our society has forgotten to our determent as a whole.

Update:  In comments Stephen hands notes ” most rich men are not selfless, celibate vocationers like Bogie’s character but covetous idolaters and warmongers”, however I note that the jobs and economic prospects created by industry are the same regardless of the virtue or lack thereof of the person advancing them.  Of course Milton Friedman said it much better.


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Maybe he was bored. Presiding over the mass starvation of your country’s people isn’t a cakewalk, after all.

Venezuela’s Joe Stalin lookalike dictator has been criticized for becoming a fat bastard while the people in his country wait for hours in line to get bread, resort to picking through trash for anything edible, and die in the streets of hunger – but that won’t make Nicolás Maduro lose his appetite:

American Thinker has more about this:

Thursday, Maduro was in the midst of a long-winded national speech known in Venezuela as a “cadena.”  He paused, pulled a sandwich-like object out of his desk, and took a bite, chomped it down, and then continued his speech.  He was eating what looked like a Venezuelan arepa, a tasty cornmeal-based snack with probably some meat inside, although the Latin press accounts identified it as an empanada, a dish more commonly associated with Argentina and Chile.

It comes at a time when the Venezuelan daily minimum wage, just raised for the sixth time this year, won’t even cover the cost of an empanada, let alone an arepa, given that inflation is running at close to 3,000% and Maduro has just introduced the new 100,000 bolivar note.

Efecto Concuya, via Google Translate, reports:

For the sixth time in 2017, President Nicolás Maduro announced a new increase in the minimum wage that placed the daily salary at Bs. 5,916, but the number of products that can be purchased with that amount is increasingly reduced.

In a sale of breakfast and lunch located in the municipality of Libertador, a pie costs 5,500 bolivars and a filled arepa exceeds Bs. 12,000. There was Rodolfo Gutiérrez, who bought two empanadas and a malt for an amount of Bs. 15,500. That is, someone who only receives a minimum wage, nothing else could pay for a pie.

In a restaurant located in El Cafetal, municipality Baruta, it is impossible to even buy a pie, because it has a price of Bs. 7,500. A large coffee is also inaccessible since it is sold above 8,000 bolivars.

What it shows is the Venezuelan elites’ complete indifference to the suffering of Venezuela’s people.  They mark their superiority over the masses – not by flashing Rolexes anymore, but by eating in front of them.

And don’t think such a message didn’t get out.  Cadenas in Venezuela break into every TV set, every radio show, every program without warning, no matter what’s playing.  You don’t have the option to flip the channel, because the cadena is on every channel.

And cadenas can last for hours.  The logic was that the president’s announcements were so crucial, so important, and so necessary that every other broadcast could just be broken into, like the emergency broadcast system.

You got that? It wasn’t just a video version of the “hot mic”, people had no choice in watching it if they had a television on, and Maduro knew it.

Is this man stupid or just cruel?

Please pray for the people of Venezuela.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

Kindling, pretty much.

by baldilocks

Last day filling in for Fausta.

Still waiting for Former President Obama, actors Danny Glover and Sean Penn or director Oliver Stone to comment on the downfall of Venezuela. Breath not being held.

Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, is disintegrating at an incredible pace under the country’s political and economic crisis that has left citizens broke, desperate and in many cases, homicidal. The depreciation accelerated this week, after a disputed vote electing an all-powerful “Constituent Assembly” filled with allies of President Nicolas Maduro, which the opposition and dozens of countries have called illegitimate.

Just two days ago, on August 2, we reported that one dollar would buy 14,100 bolivars, up from 11,280 the day before.

The next day, the bolivar slumped nearly 15 percent on the black market, to 17,000 to one US dollar. Today, it has crashed again, tumbling 16% to 20,142, and down almost 40% in just the past three days.

(…)

A kilo (two pounds) of rice, for instance, cost 17,000 bolivares. The crisis biting into Venezuela since 2014 came from a slide in the global prices for oil [sic]– exports of which account for 96 percent of its revenues.

The government has sought to monopolize dollars in the country through strict currency controls that have been in place for the past 14 years. Access to them have become restricted for the private sector, with the consequence that food, medicines and basic items — all imported — have become scarce.

According to the International Monetary Fund, inflation in Venezuela is expected to soar above 700 percent this year. In June, Maduro tried to clamp down on the black market trade in dollars through auctions of greenbacks at the weekly fixed rate, known as Dicom. There is also another official rate, of 10 bolivars per dollar, reserved for food and medicine imports.

“Things are going up in price faster than salaries,” noted Zabala, who spends 10 percent of his income on diabetes treatment, when he can.

Meanwhile, Maduro who earlier this week was branded a “dictator” by the US State Department, has vowed that a new constitution the Constituent Assembly is tasked with writing will wean Venezuela off its oil dependency and restart industry, which is operating at only 30 percent of capacity. But Maduro, who links the “black dollar” with an “economic war” allegedly waged by the opposition in collaboration with the US, has not given details on what would be implemented. Instead, on Thursday Maduro promised that “speculators” setting their prices in line with “the terrorist criminal dollar in Miami” would go to jail.

(…)

Venezuela has to make major debt payments, with a $3.4 billion dollar-denominated payment for state oil company PDVSA looming in October. It is increasingly unclear if the company will make the payment.

But, remember folks: this isn’t the result of socialism, because true socialism has never really been tried yet!

(Thanks to Instapundit)

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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One of the more annoying things in the current preponderance of opinion pieces instead of actual reporting is the dismissal of news on our hemisphere. Rarely do you find information on, say, Brazil, the world’s ninth-largest economy, unless you actually go looking for it.

Each country is treated as a piece of puff pastry on a tray shaped like South America: Exotic, tasty but a rare treat that you don’t want to overdo, interchangeable. Today, arepas. Tomorrow, guava pastries.

The reports you find are few and far apart, and focus mostly on Cuba as a tourist spot, and on Venezuela as an ongoing train wreck.

Of course, Cuba fits the socialist agenda. By now the “excellent free healthcare” nonsense has been replaced with the “travel to Havana before it modernizes” gimmick. Just last night PBS aired Weekend in Havana, enticing us to “Travel to Cuba’s vibrant, alluring and rapidly changing capital,” while ignoring the very grim reality:

that under the tyrannical regime of the Castros, Cuba is a fourth-world country with collapsing buildings and a crumbling infrastructure that cannot provide humane conditions for its own enslaved people, let alone foreign tourists.

Venezuela gets attention for its horrible near-civil-war, brought about by the implementation of 21st Century Socialism™ which is rarely mentioned. Yesterday’s news carried a few more stories on Venezuela because Pres. Trump is considering sanctions against the communist regime, including a possible oil embargo.

Most of those articles were opinion pieces, low on substance.

It is extremely unusual to read factual reporting connecting the many threads of Latin American politics. Mary O’Grady does an exceptional job this week in her article, How Cuba Runs Venezuela. Havana’s security apparatus is deeply embedded in the armed forces (emphasis added)

Havana doesn’t care about Venezuelan poverty or famine or whether the regime is unpopular. It has spent a half-century sowing its ideological “revolution” in South America. It needs Venezuela as a corridor to run Colombian cocaine to the U.S. and to Africa to supply Europe. It also relies heavily on cut-rate Venezuelan petroleum.

This is the first time this year I’ve seen this mentioned in an article in a national newspaper. O’Grady’s article is a must-read.

One can only wish other “journalists” were in the same league as O’Grady. They might even find a Russia Russia Russia angle – and a little China for measure.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

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.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

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.