Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Venezuela: Slow Motion Coup Engenders Slow Motion Implosion

When serving at the OAS, I wrote and gave several speeches in Washington, and at OAS gatherings in Lima and San Pedro Sula regarding the situation in Venezuela. I referred to the Chavez take-over of Venezuela as a "slow motion coup." He used the tools of representative democracy to disassemble bit-by-bit Venezuela's admittedly already rickety IKEA-like democratic structures. As the dismantling proceeded, as I wrote over two years ago, finding little resistance from the United States, the EU, the rest of Latin America, or from Venezuela's own rather confused opposition, Chavez
sped up the process, now repressing his people quite overtly. He is imprisoning democrats such as Alejandro Peña Esclusa on trumped up terrorism charges, shutting down the media--including using exile and murder--destroying the independence of the judiciary, and making Congress irrelevant as he rules by Presidential decree. He has engaged in ever more strident anti-Israeli and anti-semitic behavior, another staple of leftist dictators. Although the Venezuelan government has stopped publishing figures, reliable reports show Caracas now has the world’s highest homicide rate, in excess of 233 homicides per 100,000. Not to worry, Chavez recently has announced a gun control program--an excuse to take even more power from the people. We should note that in gun-toting, capitalist Utah, the homicide rate is 1.3 per 100,000.
Chavez is turning Venezuela into an economic wasteland. Despite huge oil reserves and rising oil prices, Venezuela’s GDP “growth” is in negative territory. Despite those negative numbers, the corruption, and declining oil production by the nationalized oil industry, the high price of oil still gives Chavez lots of cash to use on mad imperial dreams. The supermarkets might not have any food, but he is buying modern military equipment from Russia and Iran, building an AK factory, and allowing the Iranian Mad Mullahs to set up shop in Venezuela. He backs terrorist movements, such as the FARC in Colombia, and Hamas and Hezbollah in the Middle East. With oil money and military bluster he is buying the slavish backing of Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina, several of the Caribbean island nations, and Ecuador--where another leftist loon with drug ties, Rafael Correa, is running that country into the ground both politically and economically.
Chavez is trying to buy the elections in Peru, and has set himself up as one of the arbiters of whether or not Honduras returns to the OAS. He has Brazil frightened and cowed into an indecisive, equivocating, quivering bowl of Jello, even more so than is their pathetic norm. Brazil, a superpower? Right.
With the departure of Chavez, the situation in Venezuela has gotten even worse. I wrote on the occasion of Chavez's replacement by the thuggish clown Maduro that,
since Chavez's death, Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, "has lost 62.36% of its value on the black market." Venezuela's official inflation rate now exceeds 54% while, "The implied annual inflation rate in Venezuela is actually now in the triple digits, coming in at a whopping 283%." That puts Venezuela in some very bad historical company as the country nears a hyperinflationary rate. Maduro and his backers have decided to make the situation even worse by continuing and even "doubling down" on the policies that got the country into this mess.
Some (pre-fracking) estimates have put Venezuelan oil reserves as the world's largest. Due, however, to corruption, nepotism, and mismanagement, all of which have stifled investment and driven out high quality technicians, Venezuela's nationalized oil production has gone into a slump. The Venezuelan regime, naturally, has resorted to what leftist governments do all over the world when the economic data do not correspond to their fantasy world. Reminiscent of the fake jobs data put out by the Obama misadministration just prior to the 2012 elections, the Venezuelan government lies, overstating oil production by over 420,000 barrels/day. The money from oil sales goes into unaccountable funds, and gets used for a variety of things many of which have nothing to do with reinvestment, and, as noted above, have everything to do with enriching the inner cabal and promoting lunatic economic schemes to keep that cabal in power. 
Venezuela faces critical shortages of even basic consumer goods, such as toilet paper. Its retail sector is adopting the look I saw long ago in Guyana as a result of similar economic policies: stores look like they sell shelves. For political reasons, the government insists on maintaining an artificially low bolviar-dollar exchange rate of about 6.2 bolivars to the US dollar. The black market rate, in other words, the real exchange rate, is easily ten times that. The government strictly controls who can buy dollars at the cheap rate, forcing most businesses onto the black market. Combine that with government price controls, out of control government spending, and the fact that Venezuela depends on imported consumer and other manufactured goods, and, well, you don't need a PhD in economics to see what will result: shortages and inflation. Even big multinationals have had to suspend operations in Venezuela because they cannot get dollars to buy critical components.
I went on to note that,
The response of Maduro to the mess he inherited from Chavez and to the declining economic fortunes of Venezuela? More of the same but on steroids.  <. . . .> Maduro simply does not have the pull that his predecessor had, and does not inspire the same sort of fanatical loyalty. He needs to show the Chavez base that he can deliver the goods--literally. He, therefore, has taken Chavez's war against free enterprise, liberty and democracy to another level < . . . > [H]e has begun ordering troops into popular electronic stores and forcing the owners, often opponents of the regime, to sell their imported goods at cut-rate prices, in other words, at the prices the goods would have if the merchants could buy dollars at the official rate. Maduro has gotten the Chavista dominated legislature to give him economic dictatorial powers.  
It, of course, took no great powers of observation and analysis to see what would come in Venezuela, what all this economic and political madness would produce. You can Google and pull up the press stories, not as many as this deserves, or go to the always excellent Faustas Blog and get a pretty clear idea of what is happening. Increasingly the people of Venezuela are saying "Enough!" and are taking to the only venue still open to them, at least partially so, the streets and squares of the country.

The now undeniable crisis in Venezuela--Maduro can spin it however he wants, nobody is buying his story anymore--is immensely serious and will have ramifications throughout the region. We are going to see the start of the disintegration of the ALBA network, an alliance of countries bought off by Venezuela's money and Chavez's undeniable leadership skills, and major social upheavals in those countries as the madness of leftist economics finds that it can deny economic realities only for so long. We are seeing the development of an "arc of instability" in the region that will seriously affect much of the Caribbean, including Cuba, as well as Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, and Brazil, and will have lesser but not negligible effects on Paraguay and Peru. Those countries such as Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Chile which kept their minds and eyes clear, and their economic policies sensible and adult will be much less affected and, in fact, will provide the economic hope for the region.

A question for us, of course, is where is the United States? Nowhere. While our incompetent Secretary of State dashes about trying to convince Assad to give up power, and the Palestinians to stop being Palestinians, and the Iranians to stop being Iranians, and to convince us that "global climate change" is the gravest threat to our security, our neighborhood is on fire. Events are now transpiring in friendly and hostile Latin American countries with little or no regard or concern for the views of Washington. For the first time in some 150 years, the United States government (not so the private sector) is essentially irrelevant to much if not most of Latin America. In essence, we have no official views of any consequence re Latin America coming out of the White House, no functioning Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at State, and no active and calming US Southern Command at the Pentagon.

The immediate future for Venezuela is grim. The repression is growing in intensity with one of the most prominent opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, now in custody and facing trumped up charges. How the regime, the opposition, and the international community handle the Lopez arrest and trial could prove decisive in determining the fate of the madurismo variant of chavismo.

The consequences of the slow motion coup appear to be a slow motion implosion; that implosion, of course, could well gather force and speed, akin, say, to a collapsing star, particularly if the rebellion spreads into the ranks of the poor. With luck, and if the military keep their heads, the end result, in the medium to long term might prove positive. In addition, if we Americans of the United States variety can get rid of our own Maduro Mini-me, our government might again become a force for stability and democratic rule in the region.

38 comments:

  1. Chavez had a number of parallels with Hitler that were never really explored... a failed putsch, followed by a stint in jail, followed by a roughly fair electoral contest ceding him power ... with which he immediately threw out the constitution which brought him to power. Eventually this also ended up in rule-by-decree. I guess the rest of the world is just lucky Vz is nowhere near as productive as those Germans.

    Part of me feels that the pre-Chavez regime in Vz has gotten what it deserved. No, they weren't *nearly* as bad as Chavez, but they had far more people living wretched lives than befits a country with such massive oil wealth.
    Back in the mid-1990's, I heard an acquaintance from Vz at the time bemoaning how life in the US was so difficult because we had to wash our own clothes, prepare our own food and clean our own houses. "Everybody at home has servants to do all that."

    - reader #1482

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  2. paul_vincent_zecchinoFebruary 19, 2014 at 7:25 AM

    One of history's great loves stories was the May-December romance twixt Ooogoo and Cuba's 'Culo Syntetico', as stateside Exilios snarkily call el Lieder Maximo.

    Down here, Flahda, one enjoys magnificent music courtesy of Cuban stations planted thick throughout the AM band.

    Heat is life. Heat plus Cuban music puts lightning in the blood. At my age, our age, any age, one can never have enough lightining in the blood, can they?

    Between musical selections, Cuban stations air propaganda, oodles of it. It's their idea of commercials. Cuban radio can't air commercials for products because it has nothing to sell.

    But Cuba does produce and export tyranny. Lots of it. So, between songs it promotes tyranny by mans of elegiac sermonettes concerning che 'Bolivian Brainsplat' Guevara and the late and surely missed Ooogoo, fido's May-December pinup boy.

    Ooog's was a thug, and a stupid one at that. But his important gift to us was the lesson that things can be going along swimmingly, just swimmingly. Until they begin to go bad. And when things go bad, they go very bad very quickly.

    For years, many spoke reassuringly of Venezuela, a 'stable free country and ally of America which supplies much of our oil'.

    Oooog's taught us that with the 'miracle of socialismo' goons can 'bring change' quickly, in order to put a stop to 'unfair' prosperity and liberty. And suddenly there is no more stable ally who supplies us with anything save for tyranny and subversion.

    Oogie as well taught that despite one's May-December ideological romantic devotions, trusting in communism is deadly. Diagnosed with an easily treatable form of cancer, Chavez paid homage to Michael Moore's stupid little film. He availed himself to the 'miracle of free Cuban health care' and paid with his life.

    Communism kills. It kills prosperity. It kills liberty. And then it kills life itself.

    Communists are liars, subversives, and killers. Genocide is their end game.

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    1. Nicely put, Mr. Zecchino. A little understated for my money, but very nice all the same.

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  3. On the plus side, since we are effectively doing nothing, there should be no reason to blame the United States for any of this nonsense, as would surely have been done had we interfered. This is all on South America.

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    1. They will do it anyway just to keep in practice.

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    2. You see, the trope is that whatever the U.S. does in any given situation, it's ALWAYS wrong. Intervene, we're wrong. Don't intervene - wrong. See how easy it for the international ruling intellectual class?

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  4. When writing about the fabulous deeds of the French Looking Secretary of State (who still has the hat to this day), you forgot that he is also talking at the Atlantic Ocean trying to convince water not to be wet.

    Green Bear

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  5. Thank God this is America and "it can't happen here....". No one would devalue the currency or falsify economic data just before an election or weaponize the agencies of the Federal Government against the opposition just to win an election. This is America. No Chief Law Enforcement officer of the land would commit perjury before the People's representatives. I could go on, but since it can't happen here and our Constitution clearly forbids such things...we are safe.

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    1. Thank you for saying that, it is much more powerful coming from a US citizen than from me.

      As I read---"destroying the independence of the judiciary, and making Congress irrelevant as he rules by Presidential decree. He has engaged in ever more strident anti-Israeli and anti-semitic behavior, another staple of leftist dictators." ...I could not help but think of the halfrican princess misadministration.

      Perhaps Venezuela citizens response will be a useful example as to how US citizens may have to conduct themselves in the future.

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  6. This is pretty much the way Venezuela looked to me too, but there are two things I am still looking for here: what about Venezuela's productive class, and what about State's mid-level careerists who specialize in Latin America?

    I spent a short TDY in Caracas during Chavez' time and was invited to dinner by a wealthy couple who liked to keep in contact with the US Embassy. They were educated, articulate, and wise in the ways of economic reality -- but not, I thought, sensitive to the weaponization of poverty that Chavez was undertaking. That said, the poor didn't seem to be responding as well as might be expected to Chavez' efforts to instill the Bolivarian revolutionary spirit: they still dreamed of winning a beauty contest or becoming a major-league pitcher for an American team. When all was said and done they were much closer to the USA than they were to Cuba.

    And the folks who sit on the desk in Foggy Bottom: are they taken in by Obama's support for "revolution" in Latin America, or do they recognize that the example of Colombia and Chile is what the future of South America could be if governments turned their collective back on Fidel and his dreams? My experience with regional bureaus (Africa and Latin America were the ones I dealt with) were that they were staffed right up to the AS level by folks who knew what was what in the field and who did a good job of balancing regional interests with long term American goals. Given that Obama's goals are so different from what was the case when I was in the service, I wonder how that has played out now?

    Finally, to comment on PaulVincentZecchino's comment: "Ooog's was a thug, and a stupid one at that." Right on. But he was smart enough to select as Vice President an even stupider man (shades of Obama). Now that Maduro is in power, Venezuela is even more in a world of hurt. I see this as an example of Marxism sowing the seeds of it's own destruction. How beautifully ironic that is -- except for the really poor Venezuelans. And very possibly even for my wealthy hosts, who need toilet paper too.

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    1. I agree with you. My experience was similar; there are some very knowledgable folks in the mid ranks of the bureaus. They, however, have no real voice. As you know, policy at State is not a deliberative process in most cases. It is handed down from on high and the people with the most knowledge very often have no input.

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  7. I don't want to hijack this thread, but Howie Carr's column on Kerry from the Boston Globe is a must-read:

    Carr: John Kerry is ‘totally oblivious’ and totally loving it all

    Howie Carr

    A guy in The Wall Street Journal yesterday had a question about the secretary of state that I feel qualified to answer.

    “When John Kerry speaks,” Bret Stephens wrote, “people wonder: Is he seriously clever or totally oblivious? Profound or void? Detective Columbo or Chance the gardener?’

    The answers are: totally oblivious, void and Chance the gardener.

    But Stephens is posing the wrong questions here. It’s not his fault, because you’re supposed to take a guy with Liveshot’s supposedly impeccable resume seriously. But the fact is, Kerry is an empty suit’s empty suit, and the only thing about him that should be taken seriously is his career as a gigolo.

    First he married Julia Thorn, from the Main Line, who was worth maybe $300 million. She dumped him, and he ended up sleeping on his ex-brother-in-law’s couch.

    But then he again struck gold, and I do mean gold, as in gold-digger. This time it was U.S. Sen. John Heinz’s widow, Mama T. She’s worth close to a billion, and by the time he became secretary of state, he had gone from a net worth of perhaps $2.78 to “the richest man in the Senate.”

    He made his money the old-fashioned way. He married it.

    Otherwise, what exactly has he done? The phrase “idiot savant” comes to mind, if it’s defined as “intelligence in one or several areas (but) lacking or without common sense.”

    Think of all the idiotic things he’s said over the years. He’s the Democrats’ Dan Quayle.

    “Can I get me a hunting license here?”

    “I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against the $87 billion.”

    “If you don’t (study) you get stuck in Iraq.” (Followed by his if-possible even dumber explanation: “It was a botched joke!”)

    “This tunnel will be a bargain!” (He was talking about the Big Dig.)

    “The Iraqi army is in such bad shape, even the Italian army could kick its butt.”

    On former Gov. Bill Weld: “The guy takes more vacations than a guy on welfare.” (Should a world-class gigolo really be ripping anyone else, even bums, for their leisure time?)

    In the Journal, Stephens wrote that Kerry seems like a “true believer” in global warming, or whatever the moonbats are calling their cult this week. Actually, Bret, Liveshot just believes what he thinks all the other kool kids believe right at this moment — anti-Vietnam, pro-
Sandinista, nuclear freeze, now global whatever-they-call-it. The Israelis think Liveshot hates them because he’s trying to jam a crappy peace deal with the Palestinians down their throats. Nothing could be further from the truth. He doesn’t care about the 
Israelis or the 
Palestinians one way or the other.

    He only cares about a Nobel Peace Prize. All the kool kids have one.

    Newt Gingrich this week called Liveshot “delusional.” Is this supposed to be news?

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    1. I should have written Boston Herald, not Globe. Duh.

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    2. F:
      You've got the guy down pretty well. He is desperately after the Nobel or an "Historic Agreement" to erase an empty dishonorable and morally bankrupt life. He sold his soul and he'll never get it back. As Zevon sang " and his hair was perfect". Curse him.

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    3. No, Kerry is so low he can't kiss the sole of Dan Quayle's shoe.

      All that mud was thrown at Quayle because he criticized Big Entertainment for glorifying having a child without benefit of father. But Quayle was so right on that score it hurt. Where I work, I see so many promising teenaged girls short-circuited because they become Baby-mamas by some useless clod who'll end up in an orange jumpsuit. And without a good network of stable family themselves, we have a sure-fire recipe for perpetuated poverty. Maybe the reason the Dems are so gung ho for queer marriage and adoption is because it will create another class of deeply disturbed and troubled clients--as well as corrupting the entire social work community into complicity with what may very well turn into one of the largest and ugliest human trafficking schemes we will ever see.

      And the typical Democratic voter-in-the-making can't spell "potato", either.

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    4. Ah, see the correction has been made. Yes, Howie Carr writes for the Boston Herald. I now refer the Boston Globe as the Glob, and rarely read it. The Glob lost all objectivity when purchased years ago by the New York Times.

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  8. Regrettably by now the Venezuelan military is run by Cuba, so they will do nothing but impose the will of Cuba on Venezuelans.
    In case you have any doubt:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNQzUp2mSiQ
    The is strong evidence pointing at the fact that Maduro is the product of one of those Cuban schools.

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  9. Thank you for your kind words!

    I agree 100% with your forecast: the immediate future is grim.

    I can't venture a guess re: the speed of the implosion. How much control Cuba exerts over the military will make a difference on the medium-term. Also, since no institutions are siding with the protestors (particularly not the military, the opposition may have to make a decision on numbers of casualties, too.

    Grim, indeed.

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    1. You are doing some good work.

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    2. Fausta, Always good to hear from you. Re the military, of course, it is not just Cuban control but the calculations senior officers will have to make as to their lifestyle should the Chavista edifice come crashing down. Can they make some arrangement to keep their goodies? Here is where having a savvy US Southern Command could pay massive dividends by helping broker some sort of deal between the opposition and the military. I guess we are no longer in the business of protecting lives and our interests and am not sure we have the credibility with either side to broker such a deal nowadays. Nobody trusts Obama.

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    3. Venezuela is out of money, all they have to pay anyone is physical crude oil and that's drying up. Does Cuba think they can suck enough out of Venezuela to justify their involvement? I don't know.

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    4. Maduro's SEBIN and the Colectivos are shooting the the place up and people are dying. In the US neither the administration nor the media seems to be paying much attention. Here is the grim reality
      https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCpZxEo7QZapLouQcXR2-OQ/videos
      Read this bit by roger Noriega yesterday, I pray his assessment is accurate.

      For Venezuelan Regime, the Party’s Over

      By Roger Noriega in The American:

      With intensifying unrest and the Maduro regime fighting a losing battle for survival, it appears that Hugo Chávez’s ‘Bolivarian revolution’ will outlive him by about a year.

      Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is fighting a losing battle to salvage his regime, and student demonstrations that will continue today are only one of his problems. As details of his government’s bankruptcy are made public, his political base will continue to splinter. And as he follows Cuban advice to use brute force against peaceful demonstrators, the nationalist military will find the growing violence intolerable. In short, Maduro’s condition is terminal.According to a source in Venezuela’s Central Bank, the country’s international reserves have dwindled to $21 billion — less than half the reserves of Colombia, an economy of the same size. Worse yet, $12 billion of Venezuela’s dwindling reserves is in the form of gold that is claimed by China as security for more than $30 billion in loans made in the last two years. Because Venezuela is not keeping up with oil deliveries to service that Chinese debt, the gold cannot be touched.

      Another $7.5 billion of the reserves is in the form of bonds issued by Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, a source in the Central Bank told me. Apparently that amount used to be held in U.S. Treasury bonds, but the regime traded these for useless paper from some of the region’s most insolvent countries. These bonds cannot be liquidated for cash because they are worth less than their face value, making their sale illegal under Venezuelan law. Thus, what is left in the bank is less than a half-billion dollars, which would cover the cost of about two weeks worth of imports. So shortages of essential goods will worsen in the days ahead.

      After nearly two decades of mismanagement and corruption, oil production is faltering and over-subscribed — committed to domestic consumption and China, and international giveaways to Cuba, the leftist party in El Salvador, and the Caribbean. Sources say that Rafael Ramirez, the president of the Venezuelan state energy company PDVSA, will have to terminate these giveaways. He also will continue to shortchange China in order to generate revenue by maximizing oil sales to the United States. However, this scramble for cash is both inadequate and unsustainable in meeting Venezuela’s needs.

      So, history will record that a revolution dedicated to “Socialism of the 21st Century” disintegrated for lack of U.S. greenbacks.

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    5. A hopeful article. "So, history will record that a revolution dedicated to “Socialism of the 21st Century” disintegrated for lack of U.S. greenbacks." It seems socialism in any century kills....itself if need be.

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    6. Excellent post M.Silvius.

      If the halfrican princess and John Kerry really wanted to assist democracy in Venezuela (and I do not believe they do) they could easily do so by refusing any further imports of oil. http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=MTTIMUSVE1&f=M and bring the Venezuelan economy to a crashing halt.

      That decision of course might have some short term consequences. To offset those consequences maybe they could negotiate with Canada to -lets blue sky this- complete a necessary pipeline that would easily replace any shortfall. Energy security, probably at a cheaper price and no blood oil.

      Watch the halfrican princess fumble again, just like he did for the students in IRAN (remember them), EGYPT, TUNISIA and even LIBYA. Hell of a job halfrican princess.

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  10. "For the first time in some 150 years, the United States is essentially irrelevant to much if not most of Latin America. "

    This, of course, was one of the Obama misadministration's goals.

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  11. Common sense is fatal tho those who believe it's not common, but a person who has it or is inculculated to see it.

    This nation? I despair, but is a man of good will..so will go not quietly into no nauch aucht saine...
    I will not go quietly into the night.
    leaperman

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  12. C'mon, Dip: How can you be against Joe-for-oil's patron? Surely a country that can help the poor and downtrodden in the USA can't be on the economic ropes? (sarc)

    Isn't it disgusting that regimes such as those of Mao, Castro, and Chavez are held up as models by so many well-meaning people in our own country?

    And while we're throwing mud at Kerry, you forgot to mention that another part of his mission is to convince the Russians (and perhaps others) to subject their orphans to trafficking as playthings for Western pervs.

    Fausta and Dip: Re the lack of Venezuelan institutions siding with the protesters--it makes me think of China in May 1989. However, I also wonder where a lot of Cuban officers might be at this point. When I was in post-Tiananmen China, there were numbers of military people who were deeply disturbed at how they and their fellow soldiers were used. In Thailand in the early 1990's, we even had some Chinese officers who had deserted and slipped over borders illegally over the crackdown (too bad they couldn't have staged a coup, and subjected the Nasty Little Man to a 9mm cerebral hemorrhage and turned the Nasty Big Man's mummified corpse into aphrodisiac pills and his great globular head into a football). Certainly some of Cuba's military are aware of how their "internationalist volunteer" medical colleagues have chosen to disappear into Columbia or remain in South Africa. Surely they must be aware that their country is not what old Herr Doktor Karl promised it would become once los gusanos were either killed or chased away to Miami. I am wondering what Cubans might actually tell us about their regime at this point.

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  13. It's looking like the Sochi games might not end before Putin green lights the Ukrainian government to put down the protestors. A cold war mentality is needed to deal with this but unfortunately, we have a prissy President and a cadaverous Sec of State who seems to be interchangeable with Joe Biden.

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  14. Ledeen has an interesting take. What if we are winning ?. Maybe the bad guys are failing without us ?

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    1. Hmm, maybe the bad guys will just kill themselves off. The Left when left to its own devices will turn on one another as the lack of perceived purity will be justification. Same with Jihadists. You never know. Sometimes people just have to be given what they think they want.

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  15. I had quite a few clients who fled V..when Chavez came into power..they were all doctors, engineers, lawyers. etc. they got out..their properties were taken, then when they left they could only take a very small amount of money with them. their credit cards were canceled..etc.

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    1. We left in 1981. The writing was on the wall and we got out before it all went to crap. Dad was head of Personel for Esso/Creole/Lagoven for 30 yrs. He started as a rough neck on the derricks in Lake Maracaibo in the 50s and worked his way up. Went through the nationalization madness of Carlos Andres Perez (El Gocho) in the 1970s. Though at the time Vzla was one of the leading oil producers and an OPEC role model, the intrinsic nepotism and corruption so endemic in a culture used to grabbing while the grabbing is good regardless of who you stepped on, made dad's job increasingly impossible. It all went to shit shortly afterwards.

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    2. Interesting accounts. Sounds like the stories told by Cuban exiles I went to school with in the early 1960s. Pregunta....I have read the word "Gocho" before. What does it mean?

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    3. "Gocho" is the moniker given to those from the Andes but more specifically from the state of Merida. Depending on the circumstances it can vary in significance from simply a regional definition, but may on occasion imply a degree of denigration sort of perhaps like the word "hick" may imply the notion of "simpleton" in English. Gochos are mountain folk. They have their own set of colloquialisms particular to the region.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9rida,_Venezuela
      A good list of the more usual Venezuelan expressions
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_Spanish

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    4. I see. Makes good sense now. Thank you and thanks for that tip off below at babalublog.

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  16. A good read on how the heavy hand does the dirty work:

    http://babalublog.com/2014/02/23/words-of-warning-on-cubazuela-from-a-cuban-dissident/

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