Caracas Gringo

'When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter'

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Dirtbag Derwick’s New Shill

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Hertell_amb_dom_republic
Hans Hertell, Boricua, former US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic (2001-07), attorney (of course), former banker in Puerto Rico, longtime pal of infamously notorious Cuban-Venezuelan dirtbags that own properties in La Romana and Miami. You’ll be reading a lot more about him soon in another blog, methinks. Sadly, another example of former US President George W. Bush’s congenitally bad judgment

Written by Caracas Gringo

26/06/2014 at 11:47

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Simon says….

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bolivar

Written by Caracas Gringo

26/06/2014 at 09:40

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Hugo Carvajal, Friend of the FARC…

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HugoC1

…and associate of 6to Poder’s Leocenis Garcia.

Hey Gringo, a reader opines.

You might be on the right track about why Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal and 6to Poder’s publisher, Leocenis Garcia, became associates while Garcia was jailed in Carvajal’s dungeonsin Boleita.

Perhaps the two indeed became partners in extortion, as you suggested. “El Pollo” certainly has dirt on practically everyone, and Leocenis owns a media group he can hammer anyone with – except the regime, of course. “El Pollo” can feed Garcia incriminating intelligence to the 6to Poder publisher, who can in-turn spin intelligence into scandalous, embarrassing and legally incriminating investigative exposes. “El Pollo” can then supply the muscle to ensure big cash payoffs are made to avert potential scandals and criminal prosecutions. But have you considered an alternative?

Perhaps “El Pollo” hired Leocenis Garcia for some reputational rehabilitation in Venezuela? I’m told by my pals in Miami, Gringo, that Carvajal paid former CIA spook Frank Holder a lot of cash to repair his image with the US, but that turned out to be a waste of money. Now, Carvajal knows he’ll be arrested the instant he touches US soil. So maybe “El Pollo” hired Leocenis Garcia ‘pro bono’ to repair his reputation in Venezuela, as part of whatever deal 6to Poder’s owner made with the Bolivarian beast to get sprung from prison and all his seized assets restored.

If “El Pollo” has nowhere to go, it behooves him to burnish his black image and remind the ruling minority, presently carving up the country amongst themselves, that he was a key, trusted adviser to late President Hugo Chavez. After all, – “El Pollo” is the man who saved Chavez from 20 coups, remember?

Your alternative theory might be accurate, esteemed reader, but it’s difficult to believe that there’s anything benign in this strange partnership of a gangster general with longtime direct links to the FARC in Colombia and a demonstrably corrupt journo. Carvajal was officially designated a FARC collaborator by the US Treasury in 2008, but he was already a full-time narco-gangster in 2000.

He has been directly linked to a laundry list of crimes that include: contract assassination, abduction for ransom, extortion, drug trafficking and “executive protection” of drug traffickers and drug shipments, and those are just the FARC-related crimes.

Carvajal’s crew of rogue government intelligence officials have also been implicated in the 2008 assassination of Pierre Gerges–brother of Reporte Diario de la Economia published Tannous “Tony” Gerges. As well as with the abduction of two well-known Venezuelan bankers several years ago.

No amount of reputational rehabilitation in 6to Poder can ever persuade the Venezuelan public that Carvajal is just a widely misunderstood and unfairly maligned loyal soldier of the revolution. His public record already presents a much too rich and murderous trove of criminal enterprise. I do believe that Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal and Leocenis Garcia have become partners in nefarious enterprises, and it’s only a matter of time before their unholy dealings come to light. Criminal impulses course through this duo’s arteries with every heartbeat, and eventually these urges will rise to the surface, like gas bubbles floating to the surface of an open cesspool. But don’t take this Gringo’s word for it, simply going through “El Pollo’s” rap sheet should be enough to tell you that.

Carvajal has been actively collaborating with the FARC since at least the mid-1990s. Trafficking drugs with the FARC, protecting FARC drug transshipments, protecting FARC militants in Venezuelan territory, smuggling weapons, munitions, and explosives to and from Venezuelan territory to the FARC in Colombia, have all been part of “El Pollo’s” rich narco-gangster history. All of it facilitated by “El Pollo’s” close ties to El Comandante, himself. When Chavez was first elected president of the Venezuela at end-1998, he brought Carvajal into the new Bolivarian regime as a trusted collaborator and black ops specialist who carried out missions assigned by Chavez. Carvajal’s status as Chavez’s personal 007 also gave the FARC a strategically key point of direct access to Chavez, who already had met with the FARC leadership in Colombia in the mid-1990s.

No one even remotely familiar with Carvajal’s notorious career was surprised when the U.S. Treasury Department added Hugo Carvajal to its Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (OFAC) Specially Designated Nationals List on September 12, 2008. Carvajal “materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC in Venezuela,” the Treasury Department said. The U.S. accused Carvajal of arming, aiding, and abetting the FARC, in addition to terrorizing and kidnapping innocent civilians. Specifically, the Treasury Department claimed that Carvajal assisted the FARC by protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuela’s anti-narcotic authorities, provided official identification and travel documents to FARC members, and allowed the group to flourish on the Venezuelan border with Colombia’s Arauca Department

It was widely known that Carvajal and other prominent members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian armed forces, maintained longtime direct ties with the highest levels of the FARC’s leadership, including its maximum chieftain Manuel “Tirofijo” Marulanda, whose real name was Pedro Antonio Marin Marin. Carvajal’s close ties to the FARC’s leadership can be traced on the record as far back as September 23, 2004, where in a communication between Carvajal and a FARC commander “El Pollo” said he secretly hoped that the killing of six Venezuelan military members and one Venezuelan engineer on the border of Apure were “the acts of another group other than your own.” In fact, it had been the FARC who had massacred the seven Venezuelans inside Venezuelan territory. But it wasn’t until 2008 that documents retrieved from computers found near Luis Edgar Devia aka “Raul Reyes” blast-torn corpse, that Carvajal’s direct ties to Marulanda were confirmed. Reyes was killed in a precision-guided bomb attack executed by Colombian pilots flying Brazilian-made Tucanos.

The files extracted from the seized computers also showed that Carvajal aided the FARC on numerous other occasions. Carvajal provided protection for individual members of the FARC like Wilber Varela (“Jabon”), until he was assassinated on Venezuelan soil. In a message dated January 2007, Ivan Marquez – the FARC’s intermediary with the Chavez government – wrote his colleagues in Colombia that Carvajal and another Venezuelan general “are going to get us 20 bazookas next week”. In another communication with the FARC leadership, Carvajal pledged his support to connect the FARC with “a Panamanian arms dealer.”

Carvajal regularly stayed in touch with FARC members, making sure that it was “business as usual.” An investigation by Colombian magazine Semana from May 2006 claimed that interviews with members of the Venezuelan National Guard confirmed that Carvajal had direct contact with FARC leader German Briceño Suárez, a.k.a. “Grannobles.” According to Semana, Carvajal met with Grannobles and his brother, “Mono Jojoy”, in a farm in Barinas, Venezuela where the parties discussed strategies for political, military and economic co-operation between the Venezuelan government and the FARC.

Carvajal’s co-operation with the FARC has gone as far approving the assassination of two Colombian military officers on Venezuelan soil. The officers were in the process of targeting FARC operations on Venezuelan territory when they were assassinated. Carvajal approved the killings of Captain Camilo Gonzalez and Sergeant Gregorio Martinez, of the Colombian Army, after they were captured in Venezuela while secretly searching for FARC fugitives. Carvajal allegedly gave the order to torture and execute the Colombian officers as a favor to the FARC.

More confirmation of Carvajal’s narco-gangster enterprises came from fugitive Venezuelan drug kingpin, Walid Makled, during his incarceration in Cucuta in 2010. In a statement, Makled told Colombian counterdrug investigators that he was able to operate freely in Venezuela for years by paying US$1 million per month in cash bribes to Carvajal and other military and civilian officials of the Chavez regime. Makled also claimed that Carvajal had been his partner in a monumental cocaine trafficking scheme, alongside then Interior & Justice Minister, Tarek Al-Aissami and Henry Rangel Silva. Makled said he used his ownership of Venezuelan carrier Aeropostal Airlines, along with its aircraft fleet and warehouses, to export approximately 10 metric tons of cocaine per month to the U.S. and Europe for several years.

But Makled’s claims in 2010 didn’t surprise this Gringo. I wrote in 2009 that Carvajal and his former intelligence counterpart, Henry Rangel Silva, were in the “business” of providing independent contract work through their intelligence services to both FARC and ELN militant groups. Among the services provided by separate criminal crews led by Carvajal and Rangel Silva, I was able to confirm protection services for drug trans-shipments through Venezuelan territory, provision of weapons, and legal citizenship and residency documents to narco-terrorists and professional criminals. In addition to your run-of-the-mill drug trafficking, extortion, abductions and contract killings, of course.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva also have long been known to be working directly with the 10th, 16th, and 45th fronts of the FARC which have elements widely deployed across the Venezuelan states of Apure, Barinas, Tachira, and Trujillo. Through this relationship, these fronts launder money, smuggle armaments, and ship cocaine through the Venezuelan territory. In exchange for their shipment protection services, Carvajal and Rangel back were allegedly charging the FARC and other narco-traffickers a fee of US $1,500 per kilo of cocaine exported back in 2008. The duo generated a whopping US $189 million of estimated combined profit that year. But more recently the crews run by Carvajal and Rangel Silva have been taking “trans-shipment fees” in product instead of cash, and opening up independent new routes to Europe and South America much as the Mexican cartels did with the Colombian cartels almost 20 years ago.

However someone as entrepreneurial as “El Pollo” is barely content with just one shtick. In addition to his support for the FARC, Carvajal also offered use of his services to non-narco parties. By 2009, Carvajal and his criminal crews had also been implicated in other horrific crimes, including: the November 2004 car bomb assassination of Danilo Anderson, sponsored by Jose Vicente Rangel and pinned on the Guevara brothers; the abductions of Jorge Azpurua in April 2005 contracted by Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco; and subsequently the abduction of banker German Garcia Velutini in February 2009. Carvajal’s hit men also killed Pierre Gerges in 2008 after confusing him with the intended target, Reporte Diario de la Economia publisher “Tony” Gerges.

“El Pollo’s” ambitions went as far as magnicide in April 2011, when it is said that Carvajal might have used his position to try and carry out either an assassination or kidnapping attempt against Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli. According to several of the leaked diplomatic cables, Carvajal attempted to use Pedro Luis Martin Olivares, a direct subordinate of his running an intelligence operation in Panama City to carry out the assassination attempt.

Carvajal’s evident association with Leocenis Garcia, since the latter got sprung from jail, suggests he could be using his vast trove of dirt on everyone to figure out who can be extorted or perhaps even abducted for ransom. It is said that prior to his departure from the DIM, Carvajal digitized and uploaded all of the Directorates files (read: recordings, videos, criminal reports, payment of commissions, account statements, transfers, etc.) and uploaded everything to a personal cloud.

It is hard say whether Carvajal is really seeking to ultimately sell Venezuelan state secrets on the international market or trying to find an open-door in “el imperio.” It was speculated at one point in 2012 that Carvajal was preparing to follow former Supreme Court Judge Eladio Aponte Aponte’s surrender to US authorities in exchange for extensive intelligence on the narco-corruption and FARC connections at the highest levels of the Chavez regime including the now-dead president. The rumors that “El Pollo” was preparing to turn “Canary” for the hated Gringos started after Podemos (ex-MAS) Deputy Ismael Garcia declared that Carvajal and ex-Magister Marco Tulio Dugarte were going to defect.

The rumors continued after Carvajal allegedly held a party at his “hacienda” in Biruaca, apure to say goodbye to his friends.

Either way, it’s no real use speculating what this godless pact between “El Pollo” and the 6to Poder publisher might be aiming for. Perhaps Garcia’s latest crusade against David De Lima can serve to shed light on the duo’s aspirations. Seeing himself with less power every day, maybe some pressure on Tarek Al Aissami and his testaferro Samar Lopez—who is speculated to be behind the purchase of the Cadena Capriles—will help “El Pollo” get his piece in the current Venezuelan fire-sale.

Written by Caracas Gringo

02/06/2014 at 11:54

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La Paloma Completica

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The Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion on Venezuela today in Washington, DC entitled “Will the Lights Go Out? Implications of a Venezuelan Market Turnaround.”

“Market turnaround….?”

The Venezuelan panelists were Luis Vicente Leon of Datanalisis, Fedecamaras President Jorge Roig and former Planning Minister Felipe Perez Marti.

The Atlantic Council’s advance billing of the event said Perez Marti, “…with an insider’s understanding of the Venezuelan economy… provides big picture analysis of the different factors influencing Venezuela’s economy at this crucial moment.”

Roig “…offers insight on how President Nicolas Maduro’s economic policies have affected production….(and) looks at the disruption of supply chains and the disorder in the financial markets and analyzes the impact this has on corporate operations.”

Luis Vicente Leon “has been conducting monthly polls on scarcity in Venezuela. With mounting concerns over the lack of basic goods in the country…. Leon’s data has been a warning signal of the growing discontent with the Maduro government’s policies. He advises many political, corporate, and non-profit clients on public opinion in Venezuela…”

The Atlantic Council always has been very strongly pro-globalization, pro-business and anti-sanctions, all Corporate America all the time. You can watch a video of the event here.

Leon and Roig preached to an appreciative choir, urging US policymakers to NOT impose any sanctions whatsoever on Venezuela as a country or individually.

Sanctions don’t work, and would only hurt the Venezuelan people while strengthening Maduro’s hand, they said.

Leon cited his direct personal experience, noting that when Datanalisis polled the public after late President Hugo Chavez announced he would visit Saddam Hussein in Iraq years ago, 73pc of respondents said they opposed their president’s decision.

But a subsequent poll done immediately after the State Department warned Chavez he should not visit Iraq showed a massive shift in public opinion, with 62pc of respondents declaring that Chavez must visit Iraq after the US warned him not to.

Leon’s point: the US must avoid doing anything that prods the average Venezuelan’s irrational nationalism in ways helpful only to the Maduro regime

Except Maduro isn’t Chavez. Maduro is a bus driver increasingly despised for the atrocities he is perpetrating against everyone, while Chavez always was in the pantheon of Venezuelan heroes like Simon Bolivar.

A majority of Venezuelans never wanted to get rid of Chavez, even after the horrific slaughter of April 2002, but at the close of Maduro’s first official year as president about two-thirds of the populace would like to be rid of him.

Also, while Chavez still lived Venezuela never experienced a crisis like it’s having now. Everything is collapsed, unstable, lacking, uncertain. The country has suffered over three months of sustained, escalating repression amid the worst economic downturn in decades.

Pdvsa wasn’t broken when Chavez defied the US and landed in Baghdad either, whereas today Pdvsa is a mortally wounded company on which Venezuela depends overwhelmingly for its survival.

But Leon may be right. Many Venezuelans and Latin Americans in general become furious whenever the gringos interfere in their sovereign business. Yeah, I know, gringos do have a long history of interventionism regionally with horrific results for democracy and human rights.

The US definitely should avoid blanket sanctions in Venezuela, but not because they don’t work. Instead, the US should avoid tangling with the Bolivarian regime because the history of Washington-Caracas relations is an endless succession of wrong calls and bad moves since John Maisto’s “Watch what Chavez does and not what he says” policy (aka Move the Goal Posts Continually) back in the late ‘90s.

Best to stay out of Venezuela’s affairs completely. And there’s no real urgent need to stop importing Venezuelan oil. Pdvsa very likely will sell off most or part of its Citgo subsidiary soon to raise cash, and the US oil industry is rebounding thanks to fracking. In a few years the US won’t need Venezuelan oil anymore.

Of course, that could change if there’s some kind of positive change in Venezuela. But that doesn’t appear likely for the foreseeable future, and even if Maduro and his entire gang of criminals is erased overnight, Venezuela in the years après the revolution would continue to be a terrible place to live and work.

But sanctions against individual Venezuelans aren’t necessarily counterproductive. The problem with these sanctions is they’re being applied against individuals who mostly won’t come to the US anyway. Lots of better places to hide stolen wealth than the US, and even if they’re banned from entering the US the mere threat of impending sanctions against specific individuals likely already has spurred them to withdraw their assets from the US or take other steps to insulate those assets against seizure.

With the “dialogue” officially over for now, MUD’s Ramon Jose Medina said efforts are under way now to meet with the Unasur foreign ministers and the Vatican’s envoy to Venezuela to determine how to advance a peaceful dialogue with the regime. Reads redundant? That’s the point. Good luck with that.

But Roig, Leon et al shouldn’t be overly concerned. The US won’t impose blanket sanctions on Venezuela. The US government has sanctions fatigue, too many sanctions for too long against too many countries. Sanctions certainly haven’t bothered the Cuban regime, which, to paraphrase a Venezuelan friend “lleva mas de cinco decadas mentiendole la paloma completica a los gringos.”

Written by Caracas Gringo

15/05/2014 at 16:13

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MUD Quits Phoney Dialogue

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The reduced handful of traditional parties clustered around the MUD finally did something sensible. They walked out of the Maduro regime’s dog-and-pony show.

The MUD has suspended its month-old “dialogue” with the Maduro regime because the regime is acting in bad faith, MUD’s executive secretary Ramon Guillermo Aveledo announced.

Aveledo listed all the regime’s acts of bad faith and ill will during the month-long circus. But in fact, the “dialogue” was a farce before it started.

Students and organized labor were excluded, and the MUD figures at the dialogue really only represented the shrunken world of the auld AD/Copei combines and their respective spinoffs. No new blood there.

The international brokers of the dead “dialogue” – Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil – were never impartial. Colombia’s Santos, Ecuador’s Correa and Brazil’s Rousseff all carry water for Havana, and always are biased in favor of the Maduro regime.

The MUD never should have accepted the choice of arbitrators to begin with. If there weren’t other options because the Maduro regime forbade it, then the MUD should have embraced the student-led movement in Venezuela’s streets instead of engaging in irrelevant Bolivarian Kabuki.

Screw dialogue. It’s never been an option, but it certainly has been a useful month-long stage prop for a dictatorial criminal regime to pretend it only wants peace.

The majority of the country opposed to the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres criminal tyranny obviously hopes for peaceful democratic change. But let’s face it: that doesn’t appear to be a viable option considering the regime’s proven determination to stay in power at any cost.

The student street protests are continuing, and the regime’s violent repression is escalating. I think the students aren’t going to stop. They’re legitimately enraged, their cause is righteous and just, and everything the regime has attempted only strengthens their determination to continue protesting.

Will things reach a point where some now protesting peacefully in the streets decide the time has come to take up arms against their oppressors? Recalling how young men and women in countries like Argentina and Brazil engaged in violent anti-regime struggle during the 1960s-70s… could that happen in Venezuela today where yesterday’s socialist revolutionaries have turned out to be thieving fascist thugs?

What might the MUD’s remnants do now that the “dialogue” is over? Where are its allies? Certainly not in the streets, barrios and labor unions.

The current situation of the AD/Copei forces and their younger spinoffs in the MUD might be different today if they had collectively embraced the student-led street protests against the regime when they first started last February.

Young leaders like Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado embraced the protests immediately. It’s always been clear to both leaders that there’s no dialoguing about anything with this regime. Ditto for Antonio Ledezma.

But the auld AD/Copei forces in the MUD and their offspring like Un Nuevo Tiempo and Primero Justicia frowned on the student protests because the kids were acting independently.

If the student movement does decide now to make some kind of alliance with the MUD, it’s certain that student leaders won’t permit the AD-Copei-UNT-PJ forces to co-opt their movement. That means any pact between the students and MUD could be shortlived.

The Venezuelan Catholic Church obviously is an important player. The Church always will make every possible effort to encourage peace and dialogue, of course.

But the reality is the Venezuelan Catholic hierarchy has very little influence over developments. The Church certainly does not have any influence with the hardcore center of the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime. But would the faithful respond assertively if the Bishops started giving Sunday sermons against the regime’s tyranny and crimes against the people? I have my doubts…

A year into his elected presidency, Maduro is unpopular, demonstrably ignorant and completely lacking in charisma. Maduro also appears to be a very weak president with little or no authority over key regime figures like National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Interior & Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

Cabello and Rodriguez Torres are independently running their own political and repression campaigns against their foes, whose numbers are not necessarily limited exclusively to the ‘oppo,’ stoking along the way more tensions that further undermine Maduro politically.

Cabello clearly has his eyes set on taking the presidency; so does Rodriguez Torres.

The Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime will not yield on any issue. They hold all the power, and control the institutions.

The regime controls the National Assembly, Supreme Court and Judiciary, Attorney General, CNE electoral authority, national police and intelligence services, the National Guard and the armed forces.

The Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime also has thousands armed civilian gunmen deployed in Caracas and throughout the country in the “colectivos” who are paid by the regime to intimidate, maim and kill regime critics particularly in the barrios.

The regime isn’t concerned about possible US sanctions against Venezuela either. Jacobson already said sanctions are unnecessary. Some critics think State is defending US oil interests. Perhaps. But the Obama administration also has a bad case of sanctions fatigue and it’s having a difficult time dealing with multiple foreign policy crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and China’s expanding Asian-Pacific reach.

Venezuela is barely on State’s radar, a small potatoes crisis when compared with Ukraine or the Middle East, and Venezuelan oil isn’t as critical to the US as it was only 10-15 years ago.

Venezuela’s immediate outlook looks bleaker by the day. Pdvsa is broke, the country has run out of hard currency, shortages of everything are the worst in Venezuela’s history, and every productive sector of the economy is in a deep hole operationally and financially.

A year on and the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime haven’t enacted any sensible reforms to revive the stagnant economy. They’re so incompetent, they have no idea what they’re doing, a fellow blogger remarked recently. I agreed, but in retrospect, what if we’re mistaken?

What if everything happening in Venezuela since Hugo Chavez’s death is intended to completely destroy the economy in order to complete the subjugation of the populace? Ultimately, at some point the national destruction being wrought at an accelerated pace by the Maduro/Cabello/Rodriguez Torres regime appears to narrow one’s options to fighting, fleeing or submitting.

Written by Caracas Gringo

14/05/2014 at 18:21

Posted in Uncategorized

Mejor No Decir Nada….

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Caught up with a Venezuelan friend and occasional business associate this afternoon.

He’s Venezuelan Army, a Colonel, retired, from a traditional multi-generational military family.

He’s a good man, a hard worker, someone who inspires the thought that perhaps Venezuela might still have a chance if it somehow rids itself of the pestilence created by the Bolivarian gangsters and their masters in Havana. I’m fortunate to know countless men and women like my friend, in and out of the military, but they’re all sidelined.

We exchange pleasantries, asking about spouses, children and parents. Then we dispose of business, and before closing I ask for his assessment of the situation in Venezuela.

“Mejor no decir nada,” he replies. “Que se puede decir…cualquier cosa que yo te diga se queda muy corto ante la realidad…no hay nada…no hay alimentos, ni medicinas, ni partes para nada, tampoco hay seguridad…hasta las bolas escasean arrechamente con la unica excepcion de los estudiantes quienes SI estan dando la cara y peleando pero estan solos…y las cosas seguiran empeorando…no te olvides que yo SI conozco el monstruo por dentro y quienes son en realidad estos malandros que se han adueñado de Venezuela….nos estan metiendo la paloma completica a todo el país y nadie dice ni hace nada al respecto…todos muy callados y mansos haciendo sus colas interminables mientras los colectivos los siguen matando…. ya no leo los periodicos porque lo que publican diariamente solo repite lo que ya veo por todas partes…El otro dia revise la portada y ultima pagina de un periodico…la portada informaba sobre la detencion de centenares de estudiantes, y la pagina de sucesos informaba sobre seis homicidios cometidos en solo dos horas….asi que ahora me puse a ver telenovelas por primera vez en toda mi vida……”

Written by Caracas Gringo

13/05/2014 at 17:42

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Mired in MUD

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MUD announced the suspension of “work group” meetings that were “dialoguing” with the regime about a proposed amnesty law, a truth commission and the appointment of new “public powers” at the Supreme Court, Attorney General’s office, etc.

Ramon Jose Medina, MUD’s deputy executive director, said the MUD’s decision to suspend the meetings was prompted by the Maduro regime’s escalating repression of anti-government protesters since the “dialogue” began a month ago.

But apparently the “dialogue” itself has not been suspended – yet.

The next scheduled meeting between MUD and senior regime gangsters is on Thursday this week, but Medina admitted it’s unclear if Thursday’s meeting will happen because the Maduro regime doesn’t appear to have decided yet if it wants to “dialogue.”

Medina then accused National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello of “dynamiting” the dialogue “before the impotence and approving silence of Maduro.”

Here’s a different interpretation of the situation:

First, the handful MUD “representatives” participating in the farcical dialogue brokered by the foreign ministers of Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil were exposed last week in Washington, DC as regime bootlickers who don’t represent anyone.

Second, if these MUD characters engaged in the “dialogue” ever had any claim to being the official “representatives” of the “organized opposition,” it’s now clear that there isn’t any “organized opposition” and the MUD’s dirt bags only represent themselves.

Third, let’s take a closer look at the MUD personalities who are “participating” in the “dialogue:”

The MUD’s principals in the “dialogue” are Ramon Guillermo Aveledo and Ramon Jose Medina, whose MUD titles are executive director and deputy executive director, respectively.

It’s not clear if these are full-time paid gigs, but Medina sits on the board of directors of Banco Occidental de Descuento, which is owned by Victor Vargas who also finances the MUD and simultaneously swims in the Bolivarian regime’s financial corruption cesspool.

Aveledo and Medina also hail from the old Copei party that ultimately was destroyed in the 1990s by Rafael Caldera, arguably one of the most despicable, selfish and arrogant political figures Venezuela has ever produced.

Copei barely survived Caldera plus over 15 years of Chavez-Maduro chaos, but nowadays it’s a nothing party.

[A digression for a spot of history: Folks forget that Rafael Caldera used his post as Senator-for-Life in February 1992 to justify and defend Hugo Chavez’s failed coup. When Caldera was finally re-elected president in 1993, one of his first actions was to pardon Chavez and restore all his political rights. Even before Chavez assumed the presidency at the start of 1999, some in Caldera’s inner circle including at least two of his sons and a military in-law conspired unsuccessfully to topple Chavez even before he took the oath of office. Finally, in 2001-02, this same group of conspirators engaged in the plotting that backed Pedro Carmona’s failed attempt to proclaim himself president immediately following the carnage of 11 April 2002 in Caracas.]

Omar Barboza also is participating in the MUD’s “dialogue” with the regime. Barboza is currently president of the Un Nuevo Tiempo party, which is a Zulia-based spin-off from AD. Barboza is associated with former Zulia Governor Manuel Rosales, who has been in exile since 2009 in Peru. Un Nuevo Tiempo controlled the Zulia state governorship from 2000 until 2012 when Francisco Arias Cardenas defeated the incumbent Governor Pablo Perez Alvarez, who recently hasn’t been heard from much.

Barboza’s AD-sourced Zulia roots date back many decades. He’s a longtime Maracucho thug who was implicated in the infamous “pozos de la muerte” scandal in the last century. Barboza “represents” only the interests of the auld elite group of moneyed Maracuchos that is headed by Manuel Rosales and his spouse Eveling Trejo de Rosales, currently Maracaibo’s mayor and holding down the fort until Manny can return home triumphantly…someday.

Henry Ramos Allup, secretary general of AD, also forms part of the MUD crew “participating” in the “dialogue.”

Ramos Allup, like Barboza, is another long-in-the-tooth dinosaur that continues to deny he is essentially extinct politically. With so much oil in Venezuela, one would hope they’d find a tar pit and give themselves up to fossilization, instead of continuing to serve as perfect idiots and foils for the regime’s atrocities.

Ramos Allup studied law but has been a professional full-time politician since childhood, practically. Ramos is also the chief political operator (outside the Bolivarian regime) of his father-in-law, one of the corrupt slimes that Alek Boyd at Infodio has written about. Who, precisely, is Ramos Allup representing? AD? The “pueblo”? D’Agostino?

AD and Copei literally owned the Venezuelan state for over 40 years from 1958-98. Ramos Allup is the last of that generation who tenaciously outlasted and outlived everyone else to finally become secretary general of AD, which like Copei has devolved into a party of nothing.

This quartet of MUD “notables” reminds the Gringo of sanitation workers in clown costumes at the tail end of Ringling Brothers circus parades that push gaily-colroed wheelbarrows into which they shovel elephant, camel and horse dung left behind by the parading livestock.

Another MUD character in the “dialogue” is Andres Velasquez of Causa R, which in its origins back in the early 1970s styled itself a socialist worker’s party that built a strong following in the state-owned basic industries and had an urban base in the Catia area of Caracas. Aristobulo Isturiz started his political rise in Causa R, but jumped ship by the early ‘90s and joined Chavez because the chances for theft were better in the Bolivarian regime.

Who does Velasquez represent now? Causa R (with the R reversed) always called itself the party of the workers. But is that still true today? To his credit, Velasquez was reluctant to participate in the “dialogue” and was the first in the group to urge the MUD’s withdrawal from the farcical talks because the regime is playing dirty. But why’d Velasquez ever accept participating in the first place? If Velasquez is not “there” at the MUD table, then he’s nowhere, meaning he’s a non-entity, just another aging Venezuelan professional politician.

Henry Falcon, governor of Lara state and former mayor of its capital Barquisimeto, is also on the MUD’s side of the “dialogue” with the regime. Falcon now heads the Avanzada Progresista party founded in June 2012 by a bunch of disgruntled members of the PSUV, Patria Para Todos and Por La Democracia Social parties – all self-proclaimed socialist or progressive or popular groups that followed Chavez blindly until they were squeezed out of play in the endless internal power struggles that characterize the PSUV. Falcon was a PSUV and PPT member (Ali Rodriguez Araque, Luis Miquilena) before he broke with Chavez in early 2012.

The best my friends in Barquisimeto can say about Falcon is that “Se le reconoce que ha tratado de hacer las cosas mas o menos bien y no jode, ni abusa, ni ha robado, tanto como los demas ladrones rojos rojitos.” Uh…ok….

Who does Falcon represent? He’s left-of-center, but so are AD, Copei, Un Nuevo Tiempo, etc. All these fools call themselves left-of-center, popular, centrist, etc. Of course, Falcon wants to be president someday. His lifelong socialist trajectory suggests if Falcon ever did become president the country could only look forward to more leftist/statist bullshit with all the interventionism, centralized control and stealing that comes with the model.

[Another digression: I’ve never met a Venezuelan who didn’t want to be president. Even people who could never be president have dreamt of being president. An old friend in banking recalls being at a meeting in late 2001 in a prominent businessman’s home in Alta Florida where a group of “empresarios” were weighing who might replace “el loco de Chavez.” Gustavo the media magnate was there that day with a bottle of very expensive scotch whiskey, and my banker friend recalls Gustavo appeared to see himself as the potential Venezuelan equivalent of Italy’s Berlusconi – until it was pointed out that having been born on an island he didn’t qualify constitutionally to be president.]

The MUD’s team at the “dialogue” also includes Julio ‘Power Point’ Borges of Primero Justicia, which is a spin-off from Copei. Borges is a lawyer and professional politician, but unlike his colleagues he’s also a former TV star who in the late ‘90s had a show on RCTV called “Justicia Para Todos.” Primero Justicia basically represents many of the folks who quit Copei where the likes of Caldera, Eduardo Fernandez and others who worked hard at blocking the rise of younger leaders from below.

So the MUD’s representatives at the “dialogue” are basically fronting for the auld discredited guard: AD and Copei, Un Nuevo Tiempo (AD-Zulia), and Primero Justicia (Bastard Son of Copei). Causa R is clinging to the MUD’s leaky life raft because that’s the only wreckage still keeping it afloat, and Falcon is carrying the colors for everyone on the left who is pissed off with the PSUV hierarchy.

The students in the streets see this as clearly as mine decades-older eyes do. The student movement leaders haven’t any doubt whatsoever that the MUD officials at the “dialogue” don’t represent the students, any youth or “the opposition,” and thus have no legitimate leadership claims over the masses and have nothing to offer except more of the same old tired garbage; i.e. “quitate tu pa’ ponerme yo.”

Fedecamaras president Jorge Roig is also participating in the “dialogue,” presumably as an independent. Fedecamaras is another dinosaur in need of a tar pit.

It’s unclear what Roig hopes to accomplish. Certainly, on behalf of the business sector represented in Fedecamaras, Roig wants the regime to pay its overdue debts to the private sector at the exchange rates in effect when the unpaid debts and dividends were accrued in hard currency on corporate books. But Maduro won’t do that.

Business will have no choice except to gets its money through Sicad 1 or 2 (at the floating rate) and eat the exchange losses.

But Roig ought to be there – if only to bear witness to whatever machinations the regime and MUD’s dirt clods might engage in if there is no one present to take first-hand note of what transpires behind closed doors.

And that’s all there is, folks. Henrique Capriles showed up at the first televised roundtable where everyone vented their feelings. He made some strong points, but sadly Capriles just does not have sufficient charisma and gravitas to occupy the throne. Capriles may have won the MUD’s presidential primary back when…but he’s not presidential timber. He also lacks the stones.

My support goes with nationally recognized leaders that rejected the “dialogue” as the farce it has been since it was first proposed. Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez definitely have the stones, but they’ve been neutralized by the regime – for now. Antonio Ledezma also has courage, integrity and experience. But even these individuals cannot claim to have any leadership or even influence over the anti-government student protesters.

Written by Caracas Gringo

13/05/2014 at 13:54

Posted in Uncategorized

Twofaced MUD

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TwoFace

What do you make of Roberta Jacobson’s remarks before US legislators last week, a reader queried.

MUD is flat, I wrote in January 2013. The only change within the MUD since that comment 15 months ago has been for the worse.

The US congressional hearings on Venezuela last week were disastrous for the MUD.

The US government won’t impose broad sanctions against Venezuela’s regime for the time being, US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson said.

Jacobson also disclosed that some in MUD reached out to the US State department explicitly pleading that the US not impose any sanctions on Venezuela’s gangster regime. But Jacobson did not disclose the names of these MUD officials.

Then Jacobson opened another can of worms when she subsequently tried to clarify her remarks to Congress, adding that the outreach had come from MUD officials engaged in “dialogue” with the regime in Caracas.

Jose Guillermo Aveledo, MUD’s executive secretary and thus THE authorized authority (at least he thinks of himself as such), muddled initially but finally owned up to to the MUD’s officially opposing sanctions because they would hurt Venezuelan people and economy.

Aveledo didn’t explain why or how the MUD believes that US sanctions would hurt Venezuelan populace more than it’s suffering now.

Aveledo also didn’t name names, even to disclose who in the MUD supports his official MUD position of not imposing any sanctions.

Then Carlos Ortega, a co-conspirator in the events that culminated with the slaughter of 11 April 2002 claimed the State Department was approached by three MUD figures, two of which reside in Caracas and the third in Washington, DC.

But Ortega didn’t name names either – because Ortega doesn’t really know their identities. Ortega, a political dinosaur stuck in a tar pit of his own lifelong corrupt manufacture, is clueless.

There are only four individuals in the MUD with direct access to the Jacobson in the State Department, a Washington-based friend tells the Gringo.

This quartet includes Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, Ramon Jose Medina, career diplomat Edmundo Gonzalez (Aveledo’s bagman, it’s said), and Leopoldo Martinez – though this last personality may not have as much access as the first three.

Why did one, or all of these individuals ask the State Department not to impose sanctions on Venezuela? Very likely, because the Maduro regime pressured the MUD to reject US sanctions or ele the dialogue would be terminated immediately.

The MUD cannot afford a suspension of its “dialogue” with the regime. If the “dialogue” stops, the MUD loses its last shred of circumstantial evidence that it actually represents some kind of united and organized opposition that speaks for a majority of the pueblo.

But it’s not clear if Aveledo, as executive director of the MUD, was speaking for the entire MUD when he reached out to Jacobson, or only part of the MUD or possibly none of the MUD except himself and a handful of associates and some of the moneyed Venezuelans funding the MUD – like dirt-bag banker Victor Vargas.

The MUD has cracked like Humpty Dumpty – there’s no putting it back together again. But that won’t stop its various wannabes from continuing to beat the drum of (fictional) MUD unity as they posture for the public.

Aveledo was the senior MUD spokesman for the Capriles presidential campaign for the 2013 elections to replace Hugo Chavez. But since the elections it appears everyone has gone his or her own way in the MUD.

Henrique Capriles is doing his own thing. Capriles opposes the violent street protests and counsels peace and dialogue, but recently it feels like every time that Capriles speaks he proves yet again that he was good municipal mayor but is only a so-so governor, which hints he would have been an ineffectual president.

Other MUD leaders have adopted confrontational positions against the regime, urging permanent nonviolent street activism to force regime change. So far it hasn’t worked, but almost 50 people have died violently, hundreds have been injured and at least 1,500 have been arrested, by some approximations.

Leopoldo Lopez is still isolated in a military prison. He’s a symbol of peaceful democratic resistance, but little else at this point.

Maria Corina Machado, who has responded with extraordinary courage, integrity and dignity to the regime’s relentless abuses and attempts at intimidation, has been stripped unconstitutionally of her elected seat in the assembly.

Antonio Ledezma is in the streets protesting.

Julio Borges of Primero Justicia continues to make boring power point presentations at press conferences called for that purpose.

It’s also said that Henry Ramos Allup of AD still “confronts” the regime with the interests of his banker suegro always in mind, because suegro’s cash butters Henry’s bread. But that’s another tale.

The month-old “dialogue” between the regime and the MUD is a two-faced farce. Neither side is serious. The “dialogue” is bad Bolivarian Kabuki theatrics, devoid of any significance, relevance or authority.

Maduro so far has not made any concessions or compromises whatsoever.

The MUD characters “participating” in the “dialogue” are trying desperately, above all other considerations including the wellbeing of Venezuela, simply to project themselves as individuals who are relevant, that they are real, true, legitimate political leaders speaking on behalf of the “pueblo que reclama un cambio.” But it’s bullshit, of course.

The presence of Jose Vicente Rangel at the “dialogue” also reveals the Unasur foreign ministers brokering the talks to be fools, or worse hypocrites depending on the angle of view.

Speaking of hypocrites… Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is actively lobbying regionally and in Washington, DC for the Maduro regime.

Colombia’s foreign minister and ambassador in Washington, DC have asked the State Department and White House repeatedly through back channels not to impose any sanctions on Venezuela.

Perhaps the decision by Santos to quietly cover Maduro’s ass in Washington is based on practical geopolitics: Colombian exports sell a lot of goods to Venezuela, which no longer makes much of anything thanks to 15 years of State gangsterism.

Alternatively, perhaps Santos could be running interference for the Maduro regime because the Colombian leader’s balls have been floating in a jar by Fidel Castro’s bed for quite some years now, my Colombian suegro opines.

Back to the MUD…

It’s clear that the various personalities and groups presently clustered around the MUD like flies on cow pie – including some who in the past clustered around the regime until their personal ambitions or chances for amassing fortunes were deraile – are very upset that the three-month-old street protests have been a self-sustaining popular event spearheaded by the country’s students.

They’re upset because the protests have proven beyond any doubt that the MUD characters and groups now engaged in the “dialogue” claiming to represent the pueblo actually don’t at all.

The students dismiss MUD’s efforts to project “leadership” anyway – knowing after 15 years that the “organized opposition” is light years removed from the affections and respect of the “pueblo” and particularly from the country’s youth.

Where are things going? Downhill, evidently, but don’t expect a glimmer of light soon. Countries can go downhill indefinitely, without ever hitting bottom. Ask Zimbabwe.

What are the odds of a peaceful regime change in the foreseeable future? Precisely ZERO.

Venezuela is broken, but it has incredible reserves of oil, gas, bauxite, iron, coal, gold and much more. There’s lots of $$$ to be won.

Corrupt business elites entrenched in Venezuela for generations backed this or that presidential candidate for many long years before Chavez was first elected at end-1998.

In fact, many of these same elites backed Chavez when Carlos Andres Perez was sacrificed politically among other reasons to cover the collective corrupt keisters of some folks associated with gangster banks (Latino, Progreso, Consolidado, Union) and various prominent names (Tinoco, Alvarez Stelling, Vargas, Gil, Castro).

Alek Boyd at Infodio has relentlessly exposed the gargantuan corruption of the Chavez-Maduro era in which many of the most active and thieving players either are descended from “auld names and money” or are themselves longtime players who always have profited hugely regardless of who was in power.

Take Victor Vargas, who amassed a huge fortune before Chavez and a bigger one during Chavez, and now also helps fund the MUD. Or Gustavo Cisneros, who reportedly now pays American policy experts to promote strategies and plans to rescue the Venezuelan democracy he did so much to undermine during the 1970’s-early ‘90s when the banking system finally drowned in its own corruption.

How about the pueblo? The ongoing protests prove that a lot of Venezuelans, particularly the youths who are coming of age with nothing in their short personal histories but Bolivarian gangsterism, are sick and tired of the misery the regime continues to inflict every day.

Yet at the same time there appears to be a terrible passivity across the population.

“I don’t understand why people are so passive with everything that’s happening…the food shortages, violence, repression, shortages of everything, inflation, the abuses….everyone’s angry, but no one does anything…they stand in line with resentful eyes like cattle being led to slaughter,” my dad-in-law remarked.

Written by Caracas Gringo

12/05/2014 at 19:12

Posted in Uncategorized

Ignorant Like a Sack of Hair

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The economic ignorance and deliberate lies of Rafael Ramirez, energy minister, vice president for economic affairs and president of PdV, are dissected in detail by a 20-year-old first-year economics student in Argentina.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/04/2014 at 19:00

Posted in Uncategorized

A Dialogue To Nowhere

with 5 comments

So it is with Venezuela and this blog, which basically always has been a part-time hobby back when spare time was in surplus to write about Venezuela-related stuff my real-world editors aren’t interested in.

But I put Gringo to sleep for a year because writing about Venezuela had become by the start of 2013 about as interesting as kicking a long-dead horse, then revived it briefly last February when the student protests started.

Couldn’t help myself, got caught up in the general excitement over the outside chance that perhaps, maybe, possibly after 15 interminable years there might still be a bit of Bravo Pueblo somewhere deep inside the collective soul of the Venezuelan people.

But I have too much work, too little time and I’ve been too long engaged in Venezuela, since 1973 or almost 41 years now, which makes me substantially older than over half of today’s Venezuelan population and skeptical about superficial appearances.

As one reader noted recently, in Venezuela there are never any coincidences, only arrangements… indeed, “una sociedad de complices,” as Jose Antonio Gil Yepes put it way back when he was still teaching at IESA.

So I paused again to watch things take their course as Venezuela burned from Carnival to Holy Week. But some 84 days after the protests started, their daily intensity and associated violence appear to have eased somewhat.

After 84 days the anti-government protests and simmering conflict between the regime and the growing numbers of Venezuelans who want to be rid of Maduro and hope/pray that their country will rebound quickly après Maduro is very old/stale news even if the Venezuela-centric social media continues to boil.

A “dialogue” of sorts is under way between some opposition figures and the regime. The dialogue isn’t going anywhere, but it does buy more time for Nicolas Maduro’s regime and lends credence to his lying claim that he only wants peace while his goons continue to gas, beat and detain the regime’s critics.

The opposition MUD coalition figures at the “dialogue” are definitely more knowledgeable and coherent in their arguments than the regime’s goons. That much was clear from the televised public dialogue that the regime now wants to continue in private. But Maduro isn’t making any concessions and has made it clear the MUD can leave the “dialogue” whenever it wishes because the regime won’t make even millimetric concessions.

It’s also clear the MUD is fractured. The fracture fault lines can be perceived by comparing the MUD’s united membership in 2012 before the presidential elections that year to the list of oppo figures presently participating (or not) in the so-called “dialogue” with the regime.

What’s the purpose of the regime-MUD “dialogue” anyway?

Polls show a majority of Venezuelans oppose violent protests and repression and want to be rid of Maduro democratically, which won’t happen until April 2019 at the earliest because it’s guaranteed the Supreme Court and CNE will make it so.

Forget about a presidential recall referendum. The Maduro regime will cheat successfully to guarantee his continuity in power. It happened in August 2004 with Chavez and it will happen again.

So for now there’s a “dialogue” – or at least there is the outward appearance of a dialogue between mortal enemies. The regime’s mouthpieces talk about “deepening successful models” and the oppo is demanding (fruitlessly so far) a political amnesty law to free all political prisoners.

But Maduro refuses to make any concessions/reforms whatsoever and the MUD “leaders” at the table do NOT remotely represent the full spectrum of the groups, sectors, institutions, organizations and individuals that oppose the regime.

The “students,” a mass of rightfully furious youth, aren’t led by anyone in the MUD and more/less spontaneously have become a potentially potent political force in their own right – hence the regime’s vicious repression tactics at hundreds of protests over the past 84 days that have taken some 42-43 lives and injured hundreds more.

But while the “dialogue” lasts it gives Maduro political cover, making his assurances of only seeking peace more credible to a world that doesn’t give a hoot about Venezuela anyway. It also could buy more time for the Maduro regime to contain and eventually snuff out the protests; while the “dialogue” lasts it diffuses public opinion in the camps opposed to Chavez. Most Venezuelans do not support violence, so let’s give the “dialogue” some time, and maybe something good will come of it.

The Maduro regime will make sure the “dialogue” drags on indefinitely, never going anywhere while the business of “consolidating the revolution” deepens quickly – witness the new education curricula aimed at brainwashing “Bolivarian revolution” into the minds of innocent children. And when the MUD finally walks out, Maduro will immediately accuse the “fascist” opposition of continuing to plot coups, wage economic war and provoke violent street clashes.

The “international community” won’t do anything to help Venezuela. Forget Washington, Brussels, OAS, UN, Unasur or whatever. US President Barack Obama has no time for Venezuela, what with bowing to robots as Russia prepares to seize all of Ukraine, snapping selfies and playing golf. It’s good to be king, yea?

But Beijing and Moscow meanwhile are quietly doubling down on their support for the Maduro regime and preserving the political status quo in Venezuela.

Putin was a tad peeved with the Venezuelan regime’s penchant for not paying its debts on time, but his annexation of the Crimea restored Venezuela’s importance to Moscow as a global strategic ally.

The importance Beijing assigns to Venezuela’s current regime likely will be confirmed soon when China’s President Xi Jinping visits Caracas during his second official tour of Latin America. PdV’s recent lease of storage and deepwater terminals facilities at nearby St Eustatius confirms the failure of PdV’s Orinoco expansion plans (fodder for another post), but also hints at potential new oil-backed loans from Beijing that PdV supposedly would pay with increased oil shipments to China.

Supposedly…because PdV desperately needs to boost its oil production and hard currency revenues very quickly, but it doesn’t have sufficient cash to invest more in raising oil production in traditional areas it has neglected deliberately for the past 15 years. Venezuela’s dollar drought since 2012 is the clearest symptom that PdV no longer generates the dollars the country needs.

A second key factor in the disappearance of Venezuela’s dollar supply was the regime’s deliberate destruction of the non-oil economy at all levels, which made the country dependent on imports for about 60-70pc of its basic needs, though some say it could be 80pc or even higher now that supplies of food and everything else are steadily disappearing.

The “dialogue’s” days are counted, but it doesn’t really matter. Venezuela is sliding deeper into a slump unlike anything its people have experienced in recent memory. The Maduro regime can’t halt the economy’s stagflation, lacking both the will and intellectual capacity to address the crisis anyway. But it’s clear that Maduro and gang will not relinquish any political power or reverse expanding efforts to control everything and everyone.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/04/2014 at 18:52

Posted in Uncategorized

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