Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Army Steps In In Venezuela

Venezuela has been hard hit by a severe economic crisis triggered by the collapse of global crude prices– the country’s principal source of export earnings–which has led to soaring triple-digit inflation as well as acute shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro has blamed much of the crisis on economic destabilization by foreign transnationals, who he has accused of lining their pockets with state dollars yet refusing to invest in production and imports.- This begs a comment. Who but the government is responsible for Polar and foreign transnationals getting cheap dollars from the government? 
The new mission is intended to combat the country’s “criminal” black market economy believed to be driving inflation and will be headed by the presidential military command under Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.
Maduro further specified that the initiative will consist of six “micro-missions” dedicated to the production of seeds, animal protein, balanced food, cleaning and personal hygiene products, as well as the regionalizing of school meal menus and the supply of essential medicines.
In addition to promoting production and new mining activities, the Maduro government has also promised greater imports to offset the crisis’ impact on ordinary Venezuelans.
On Monday, the South American country received a much-anticipated shipment of 400 tons of food from Trinidad and Tobago as part of a US $26.9 million deal signed last month...

These six paragraphs tell us so much about the Venezuelanalysis's editors' estimate of their readers' intelligence. 

Back in April of 2013 petroleum prices were twice what they are now. Venezuelanalysis was reporting on government measures to combat food shortages including talks with the Polar Foods private food distribution giant that was receiving cheap dollars from the government in order to sell food cheaply to the Venezuelan people. 

The big news from Venezuela analysis is that the Army is taking over food production and distribution as well as "new mining." The Army's top general, Padrino López,  has been appointed virtual Co-President which hopefully is good news. That the government has made a deal with Trinidad and Tobago to import a dollar's worth of food per Venezuelan isn't significant.

I'm wishing General Padrino López good luck and success. And may the rains continue and petroleum prices continue to rise.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

God comes through for Venezuela.

It's been a while since I posted here about events in Venezuela.  As some people know I am married to a Venezuelan who has family over there and that I visited and met them during the winter of 2014-2015. They aren't rich and things were pretty tight already but they were gracious and hospitable to me. I'm 70 years old and still able to put in 4 shifts of 12 + hours in a taxi. Because I get a modest Social Security and pension check I can happily work some of those hours to send food and vitamins their way, and those things are needed.

Anyhow, this is the basis of my interest in Venezuela.  I am a news and political junkie who's inclined to the left but but before I met my wife to be Venezuela was on the outer periphery of my personal radar. I had a vague knowledge that an ex military man was the leader there and that he was a populist of some sort.

Of course I wanted to know more now and came to see Hugo Chavez as a very popular leader who was doing things for the poor, and charting an independent foreign policy.

I visited in 2005 - 2006 and from what I saw there were contradictions. I felt, like I feel now, that the government was flawed, though there were good intentions on its part. I knew that if I were a Venezuelan I would not join the governing party, but I'd vote for it as the lesser evil against the opposition as it was and is constituted.

I became familiar with the group Marea Socialista through the website Venezuelanalysis. I became more or less convinced that they were onto something when they demanded a thorough, transparent and population based audit of money that had left Venezuela in spite of the fact that policies were supposed to block capital flight. I became fairly convinced that indeed, there had been a gigantic embezzlement and that at least a part of Venezuela's external debt had to be linked to unlawful transactions, and thus as odious debt that the people of Venezuela were under no moral obligation to pay it  off. On top of this they make an argument that is similar to this: Suppose your child becomes deathly ill and you take her to the nearest emergency room. You are told there that you must pay $500.00 on the spot in order for the hospital to start to give her treatment that could save her life. That very morning, however, you had received a notice that your last car payment was past due. If you do not pay it, you may be subject to repossession. Having been caught up in hard times, your bank account is at zero and your credit card has but $500.00 left. What would you do? Most sane people would worry about the car tomorrow and take care of the child right now.

The leaders of Venezuela are facing this situation: External debt is about as high as available reserves. There is potential collateral underground in the form of expensive to access and refine petroleum. natural gas, coltan, This is not readily accessible. In part because the President of the United States has laughably declared Venezuela to be a national security threat to the United States, and because in part due to United States efforts to end reliance on imported petroleum petroleum prices have tumbled. They seem to be on a slow upward incline now, but that's not at all certain, and China, Venezuela's most reliable lender of last resort, China, has closed the loan window. Meanwhile malnutrition for most and outright starvation for the very poor are present in Venezuela. The government blames the capitalists and the United States. They have a case in that the capitalists have been smuggling out of Venezuela both dollars and subsidized goods meant for Venezuela's poor and near poor populations.

The public, out of anger and disappointment delivered a punishing defeat to the governing party in legislative elections last December. This opposition crew is unsavory and really doesn't have the confidence of the public. Many however, are enchanted with a promise of "change" that is so non specific it can truly be said that the opposition has no strategy for the recovery of Venezuela's economy. It seems like the government is also at a loss and only the coalition around Marea Socialista seems to have even half an answer - track down embezzled hundreds of billions of dollars, recover all that is possible and hold off on repaying the external debt until 1- The given debt is proven legitimate and 2- The economy is in a viable recovery and hunger and lack of medicines no longer are the rule.

The country has apparently just come out of a long term drought. The Guri Dam, an engineering marvel, which supplies around 60% of Venezuela's electrical power had been dangerously low. Emegency measures, an excavation, took place. In my surfing and reading I had come across a high pitched warning that this excavation would cause a catastropic flood once the rains were to return. I didn't know whether to believe it or not, but out of caring for Venezuela I tweeted and FaceBooked and Google Plussed it out.

Thanks to God the prediction was wrong, whether malicious or not I do not know.


In the United States bridges have collapsed due to right wing economic ideology that calls all taxation theft and all government action, even to maintain a bridge, as waste and tyrany. And so in Flint, Michigan the right wing governor who knowingly gambled with the city's health in order not to spend what he deems money stolen from the rich to provide free water to people marked as "useless eaters."

Venezuela is not Michigan and Guri is not Flint.

The people who posted this video say that an excavation that has taken place or is underway in the drought stricken Guri Dam is likely undermining the Dam and that when the rains ultimately return there could be calamitous floods. I cannot judge nor assess the accuracy of the claim but it frightened me enough to want the leaders of Venezuela to be aware of the alleged risk. They have access to expert opinions while I do not. I wish there were more discreet ways of going about this but let's face it, an email, or a tweet, or a phone call from a New York City taxi driver will not likely get a response or a respectful hearing.

Petroleum prices are creeping up which is good news. The government is resisting by all available means a recall referendum called by a faction of the opposition (which has many leaders, and not so many followers). This is resulting in outcries of dictatorship, tyranny and lack of democracy. 

The government insists that there are procedures to be followed and that the organizers of the referendum are not complying. I can't judge this kind of matter. What I know is a revolutionary wouldn't yield power to a counterrevolutionary just for losing a vote. A revolutionary feels obliged to fight for what they believe to be right and true and best for the workers and poor. 

Residents of rich pseudo democratic countries might not realize that losing an election and giving up power can have serious consequences, up to and including mass assassinations, and terror against the population segments that had supported the previous regime. In that light sane people might not be inclined to say "Oh, that's right, I lost a vote. Here are the keys to the Presidential palace. Please don't start a mass murder campaign." 

So politics's much more than a game or a horse race.