This week in Venezuela

This week a group of foreign ministers are meeting in Venezuela, about working toward peace in Venezuela. I believe they are meeting among themselves and tomorrow they add more players.

Here is the tweet from the foreign minister of Ecaudor:

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 5m

Nueve cancilleres de UNASUR participan en diálogo de paz en Venezuela. ARG, BOL, BRA, COL, CHI, ECU, Suriname, URU, VEN.

Possibly the most significant -- because of close trade ties but distant political positions -- is that the FM of Colombia is there.

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Reality Asserts Itself

A good way to compete the information for the week. TRNN's new "Reality Asserts Itself" series is with Edgardo Lander and is titled From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela. There will be four parts, two available right now.

Lander is Venezuelan but spent a lot of time in the US, starting at 6 when his father was exiled and came back to get an MA and PhD from Harvard. This first episode offers the history starting over half a century ago that is so often skipped over.

Mr. Lander tells Paul Jay that in '98, when he saw the whole of the establishment getting together to defeat Chavez, he voted for him even though he had a lot of reasons not to like him

As an example of what is covered, I learned that the 1998 election in Venezuela was like the 1990 election in Nicaragua. All the other parties got together to run one single candidate so they would surely defeat Chávez. Unlike in Nicaragua, that plan did not work in Venezuela. Note that Lander had problems with Chávez but when he say this happening he decided to vote for him.

Here is the link to the second part.

Didn't Realize That

drug smuggling was so institutionalized in Venezuela:

" . . .The colonel with the half-ton of coke in his car was just one example. In August, the U.S. Treasury named a former captain in the Venezuelan military, Vassyly Kotosky Villarroel, to its list of “drug kingpins.” Last September three Venezuelan National Guard officers were arrested in the country for their alleged role sending 1.3 tons of cocaine on an Air France flight to Paris. Maduro, typically, claimed that this might have been a set-up by the Americans . . "

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/14/venezuela-s-agony-weak-...

.

Probably had a good teacher

The CIA-based system in the 1980s where supplies were flown to the Contras and then cocaine flown (out of Ilapongo air base in El Salvador) back to the US may be where they got the idea. Cute it was the National Guard in Venezuela considering it was the National Guard in Clinton's Arkansas that was up to their nose in the game in the US.

Sounds like the difference is that people got arrested for it in Venezuela and that the corruption doesn't go all the way to the presidency.

What you have documented is that cocaine addiction is not just a US issue. It sounds like France has the same problem. Until the addiction can be addresses, there will always be all too much profit to avoid this kind of corruption.

As I Predicted

Venezuela will be part of the 2014 mid-terms:

" . . Rubio said: "I don't think it will ever get better as long as Nicolas Maduro and his cronies are in power.”

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2014/04/17/sen-rubio-and-sen-n...

On the positive side, it takes the spotlight off Nicaragua.

Crossing Into El Salvador

there were posters asking entrants to report any fever, spots or rash.

So far there were no CA countries listed on the poster that were hosting yellow fever, but Venezuela was listed.

I was vaccinated against yellow fever in the early sixties, why I'm not sure, but there was talk of another Cuba adventure. Vietnam was up and running by then too, so that might have been the reason.

I rarely get sick, my foreman has some sore throat and we're sharing the cab of the truck as we continue south . . I've been feeding him Advil during the day, Advil PM at night, so he's comfortable. .Sometimes I think that the numerous vaccinations I received spurred my immune system. The latest were Hep A&B for the Nica living. Medicare paid the cost; we had to look for the right button to push. As a nurse, Shelley's Hep A & B were mandatory and free.

Now if they would just perfect the dengue vaccine . . . .

"...“But Venezuela is our homeland, . . ."

“But Venezuela is our homeland, we will stay and fight for it, push for democracy to return to Venezuela,” Lopez Sr. said.

"Leopoldo was a great mayor," he said. "He dreamed of a strong Venezuelan democracy, a Venezuela that would be globally competitive, that would be productive. He wanted to see the growth of a strong middle class."

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2014/04/28/venezuela-oppositio...

And even worse news: GMO marijuana (keeps you perpetually high)::

http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2014/04/22/venezuela-accuses-f...

Hope Springs Eternal

but little changes:

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/13/world/americas/venezuela-bread-shortag...

" . . .Ramos told CNN en Español that the problem started last year when a strike stopped production at a flour mill in Monagas state that supplies 35% of all the flour in Venezuela.

President Nicolas Maduro called on all Venezuelans to reduce consumption to alleviate the shortages. "We need to stabilize consumption," he said, "as part of a new socially conscious behavior so that we avoid extreme consumerism made possible by the purchasing power the Venezuelan families now have."

I suggest a new government slogan: Just Say No To Bread and TP.

It Gets Better

and better.

http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21602210-moderate-opposition-anno...

Maybe Nicaragua can give Venezuela some of the cash they got for kissing Iran's rear ...

Can an economy survive with that inflation rate? They are going to need more than cheap Nicaraguan beans.

And, all that oil . . .what went wrong?

Telesur Interview w/Ricardo Patiño

Last night the FM of Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño was interviewed on telesur. It is 20+ minutes of him talking about what was done and how it went. It is, of course, in Spanish. He speaks clearly but fairly fast. I think the fast is a result of the TV format as I don't remember him talking this fast in OAS meetings. Practice your diplomatic Spanish. :-)

Available on YouTube.

Besides the content, I found the interview style very interesting. Unlike a typical US infotainment interview, there were few questions and Patiño was allowed to actually talk about the subject. Note that the fact that he is not a politician of Venezuela and his country (Ecuador) needs to get along with the other players (in particular, Colombia) adds credibility here as does no commercial sponsors.

The executive summary is that it sounds like everyone wants to negotiate. They don't want to destroy Venezuela, they want a peaceful resolution to the situation. While he didn't specifically say thing, it sounds like Maduro and whoever it was representing the opposition (I think he said but I forgot) see cooperation now as the way to succeed in elections.

The $64 Question Is

negotiate what?

Negotiation won't slow the currency devaluation, pay the debt, increase the flow of oil, or address the shortages.

An end to the violence is a good thing, no question, but what do you see happening to change the economic disaster that a Venezuela has become.?

The US may give $15Bil to the Ukraine, but I don't see anything going to Venezuela. Too much history. Wrong place in history. Wrong side of the fence. Wasn't Chavez working on an ALBA replacement for the IMF and World Bank? Maybe they could pony up a few Sucres (or did I spell that wrong)?

Kind of like, you poking me in the eye with a stick, and then asking me for a loan.

My take is, if Venezuela stumbles Cuba and Nicaragua will be ultimately benefited, even if there is some temporary pain.

I guess that's why you aren't a politician

There are about 30 million people in Venezuela. The leaders are democratically elected. Their job is to make things work for those 30 million. The good news from what Patiño said is that they, unlike Lopez, are willing to do that.

Tuesday PM

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 2h

Momento trascendental: inicia reunión preparatoria para diálogo de paz entre Gobierno Bolivariano de Venezuela y Mesa Unidad Democrática-MUD

And, the results

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 19m

Exitosa reunión de Gobierno de Venezuela y Mesa de Unidad Democrática. Decisión firme de iniciar diálogos hacia la paz con visión de futuro

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 16m

Representante del Vaticano y tres cancilleres de UNASUR (BRA, COL, ECU) acompañaremos proceso de dialogo en Venezuela

I find the three FMs that will be participating to be an interesting selection. Besides being the direct neighbors to Venezuela, their governments are quite different. Note that as Maduro is Venezuela's ex-FM, he has worked with these folks before. As for the Vatican, that sounds like a wild card.

My fault

In retrospect, I should have used a more selective title for this thread. What I specifically wanted to cover is what is happening (primarily with but not limited to what the UNASUR group is doing) on the political level to try to solve political unrest in Venezuela. The "diálogo de paz" that Maduro has been asking for.

Yesterday, in the meeting with some of the governors (including Capriles) everyone seemed to be on board with the idea of non-violence. This seems very significant. It is not saying that there are not problems in Venezuela but, so far, it is saying that those elected (and not just from Maduro's party) seem to prefer dialog over violence.

I want to put this in perspective. We have a president that has both allowed and apparently encouraged representatives (Foreign Ministers) of other countries to come in, talk to other leaders and try to help facilitate a resolution to the violence. Sorta like Obama inviting FMs from Canada, Mexico, Nicaragua, ... to come in and talk to leaders (both elected political leaders and self-appointed leaders) about the NSA spying mess or Obamacare.

My understanding is that the goal of the meetings is not to "fix whatever is wrong" but to get everyone to back off from disruptive actions and sit down and work toward a solution. That seems about a good as it can get.

The Absence Of Violence

WILL be a great thing.

A good token gesture of reconciliation would be releasing Leopoldo Lopez from custody, and pushing the reset button.

But, CAN Venezuela's problems be resolved within the framework of the current government, and a socialist economy that ignores market principles? Consider briefly Cuba (their shortfalls blamed on the US embargo, but they deal with everyone in the world besides the US; East Germany vs West Germany,, you had to be there to appreciate the contrasts; and North Korea vs South Korea.

The shortages are not a function of the protests, the protests are a function of the shortages. They are an economic reality. Rebuilding the manufacturing sector (so they can make their own TP) would require removing Chavez' unqualified buddies from their management positions.

Ditto for the petroleum sector, stuffed with unqualified Chavez cronies. There is a lot of inertia here.

Do the Chavistas have the credibility to attract the foreign technical skills (and investment, since, if they don't have money for TP, they probably don't have the money they need to fix an ailing PDVSA)?

The alternative is turning Venezuela -with Russia, Cuba, and Iran's help- into a repressive country like Cuba, with lowered expectations for all. The TP is symbolic here, Cuban makes their own TP, but everyone avoids it. It's brown with the occasional included wood splinters.. Commie TP, if you will, a pain in the butt. If Venezuela continues on with Chavismo, that's what they have to look forward to.

Maduro et al will continue to live high on the hog. He's not going to go quietly.

Lopez

You said

A good token gesture of reconciliation would be releasing Leopoldo Lopez from custody, and pushing the reset button.

Why? If anyone is the opposition political leader it is Capriles and he has already been talked to. Lopez was created (I don't want to detail this because it is not constructive) to lead the violent opposition. Maybe someone will suggest that in the meetings with the FMs (and maybe someone has but that has not been mentioned anywhere I have seen) but I don't see what that would accomplish. Most governments I know of (democratic or not) are not fans of releasing those from custody that advocate violence against the government.

As for the rest, it's your same rhetoric and, of course, has nothing to do with the attempt to get people to sit down and talk about the issues.

Talk Is Just That

and it doesn't address the question of how a managed socialist economy in Venezuela will miraculously change.

Lopez is the acknowledged leader of the popular protests. Capriles is the heir apparent. Capriles has the skills, experience and education; Maduro is a bus driver.

The questions I posed were not rhetorical. Venezuela is in a real economic pickle. I posted to this issue months ago. I've been following the Venezuelan economy in the pages of "The Economist" for years. Unless you're the US and you can float T-Bills around the world to finance your debt, you can't continue on the same economic path that Venezuela has been following for quite some time now. The chickens HAD to come home to roost.

Unless the FM's can come up with an infusion of cash, and the technical skills needed to revitalize PDVSA,, AND convince Maduro to re-privatize the manufacturing sector,, talk is all it will be.

Let me pose the (non-rhetorical) question of my post more precisely:

>>>> Can Venezuela, under the present leadership, put in the place the necessary corrections needed to change the direction of the economy, and do it quickly enough?

That is the only question that really matters. The rest is distraction and fluff.

Um

It also isn't clear how the managed socialist economy of the US will miraculously change. After all, the big difference is that the US has better credit than Venezuela so it does not yet have to answer that question.

Your characterization of the players is a bit simplistic.

  • Lopez is, well, see Things to know about Venezuela's protest leader. Included in that is this from a US diplomatic cable:

    Former Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez has become a divisive figure within the opposition, particularly since his very public split with UNT in September. He is often described as arrogant, vindictive, and power-hungry — but party officials also concede his enduring popularity, charisma, and talent as an organizer.

    My point here is simple -- why would you want someone who promotes violent change in the mix. It's like inviting RCP members to a meeting at the whitehouse on how to improve something that really needs to be addressed by those who want a solution, not a revolution.

  • Capriles is not the heir apparent -- most people see Lopez jumping in where Capriles was actually trying to be constructive to move forward. Capriles' platform, which barely lost, was pretty close to chavismo -- not revolution.
  • Maduro was a bus driver. I was a counter salesman in an electronics store. Or, we could go into the background of George W. Bush. So what. Maduro's previous job was as the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. Long before he was to become "Chavez II", I remember being impressed with what he had to say and how he said it at OAS meetings, for example.

It seems unlikely that revolution is going to increase Venezuela's ability to get more cash -- unless they once again sell out their country to a foreign government. Capriles seems willing to talk as does the government. With representatives from nine regional governments being willing to mediate, doesn't that seem more logical than tossing out democracy? Or it is necessary for the US to always support or participate in revolution in oil-rich nations -- or just claim them have WMDs and invade them?

So, Personalities Aside, What Is The

economic solution within the framework of a Maduro government?

>>> Can Venezuela, under the present leadership, put in the place the necessary corrections needed to change the direction of the economy, and do it quickly enough?

That still remains the question that speaks to Maduro's survival.

That's easy

That is, it is easy to explain what needs to be done -- let the people involved decide what to do. Maduro will talk, Capriles will talk and there are diplomats from nine countries willing to moderate. Violence just distracts from anything constructive at this point. Note that Carliles, who almost beat Maduro in the presidential election, has always wanted an "in the system" resolution.

I am not in Venezuela nor am I a foreign diplomat. I clearly know a lot less than they do. Unless someone walks out of the talks, I think we should let them do what they can. Clearly, the countries involved, have gone through similar things. In particular, Brazil comes to mind where the current president is an ex-revolutionary and the ex-president is an ex-labor leader. While Brazil is far from perfect today, it is certainly a vibrant economy.

A better question is, what can we do to help? Here is my short list:

  1. Make sure our government is not involved in the revolutionary plans. After their 2002 coup support (and very likely, involvement) we do need to work on that one.
  2. Support the regional diplomacy efforts.
  3. Suggest that our government buy as much petroleum from democratic nations as possible. In particular, Venezuela vs. Saudi Arabia.
  4. Send bidets to the rich and toilet paper to the poor in Venezuela.

Of all the stuff I have seen recently, clearly the most traumatic was malls saying they might close one day a week. Some of us remember when malls didn't exist and virtually no business was open seven days a week. Amazing how necessities change.

As An Oil Vendor

Venezuela would be closer (and therefore greener) than Saudi Arabia.

But Venezuela has certainy not been our friend. Chavez took every opportunity he could to poke a stick in our eyes, and induced others (Correa, Ortega) to do likewise. Madurro (taking a page from Chavez, Castro and Ortega) initially attempted to blame the protests on US agitation. That didn't fly very far.

Maduro offered a (now indicted) US traitor asylum in his country, supports the slaughter in Syria,, and the Russian excursions in the Ukraine. I wouldn't chracterize him as a friend of the US, and I personally wouldn't be inclined to buy any oil from him (if I had the choice).

Speaking of coups, as I remember Chavez' first grab at power was an abortive coup.

The US needs to do what is in the US' best interest. That may not be the continuation of Chavismo. Chavez was a divisive and polarizing figure. Institutional memories are long, and I haven't forgotten his demonization of the US. I'm not saying that we should interfere, , just let the pot simmer on its own.

Brazil IS a vibrant economy, with any number of successes. Would you compare their management of their economy to that of Venezuela's?

I agree, the US doesn't really have a big dog in this particular fight, especially with the way the long term oil market looks to be going (and especially after Obama leaves office). Keystone might make Venezuelan oil irrelevant to the US. We should just stand back and watch. I've never advocated any interference in Venezuelan affairs,, ---beyond reducing or eliminating our purchases of Venezuelan oil. This would be in line with our goal of North American oil independence.

CUBA can send them TP; no one wants the Cuban TP. Venezuela gives Cuba free oil, let Cuba repay them with TP. Socialist brothers should take care of one another.

A key

Venezuela has certainy not been our friend.

That's where we get into a problem. If our means poor people in the US then Venezuela's low-cost heating oil for the poor was a good thing. But, if our means supporting the invasion of Iraq on false pretenses and such, no. Contrast with the politics of the Saudi government. Chávez called attention to what he saw as unfair treatment in many places where the US either was an active participant or turned a blind eye.

Beyond that you quickly get off topic -- as usual -- with lack of facts. Just as an example, we now know the Sarin gas used in Syria was not from the government stockpiles. Possibly we should stick to talking about Venezuela -- at least in this thread.

Viewpoint: a Venezuelan telenovela writer

Read of the spirit of raw journalism opposing a dissolute government. Here are some gems of insight:

"... social redemption myths ... redistribution of wealth among the poor with little consideration of how that wealth is created, which in some ways explains much of the recent history of Venezuela and its peculiar brand of socialism known as Chavismo."

"In Venezuela, the violence is driven by gangs that were, originally, organized around petty drug businesses in the slums. One of these bands murdered Mónica Spear. Many of these gangs have been co-opted by the Chavista government and given an innocuous name: colectivos, a misleading word with progressive overtones of communal solidarity. In fact, colectivos are now feared paramilitary forces that harass street protesters and are responsible for many of the 39 casualties during recent demonstrations."

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/opinion/chaos-chavismo-and-telenovelas...

Tweets for Monday

Here are four tweets about what the FMs did yesterday.

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 9h

Termina reunión de cancilleres de UNASUR con gobernadores de 3 estados de Venezuela: Miranda, Lara y Amazonas. Mañana continuamos el dialogo

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 9h

Todos los interlocutores expresan rechazo a la violencia y disposición al diálogo. Ojalá mañana podamos concretar mecanismos para lograrlo

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 9h

Cuando la violencia política se instaura en un país, las consecuencias son impredecibles y el camino de retorno puede ser muy lejano.

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 9h

Hemos recordado las tragedias vividas en dictaduras sudamericanas y en conflicto armado de Colombia. No permitamos ponernos al borde abismo

Update 1

Ricardo Patiño Aroca ‏@RicardoPatinoEC 12m

UNASUR recibe con beneplácito decisión de gobierno venezolano y oposición de realizar hoy reunión preparatoria para inicio de diálogos

Up until this point, the FMs have been meeting with governors and had met with Maduro. I assume this means the government and the opposition are going to sit down together with the FMs.

I swear

When I read "foreign ministers" I thought the Mormons were going to Venezuela. --I am sooo dumb. :-)

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)

Todos Somos Venezuela

From Mike's link to the Quebec story:

http://www.eluniversal.com.co/temas/todos-somos-venezuela

" . .On Monday, Venezuela dawned with a strong rumor malls closing one day a week for lack of customers and products. Many establishments shut down the elevators and escalators to save energy, and public restrooms closed because there is no toilet paper..."

It's looking desperate, but I think the solution is in hand (so to speak):

Sus cantos fueron: "No hay azúcar, no hay café, en Venezuela lo que hay es escasez" y "No hay harina, no tengo pollo, en Venezuela no se consigue ni un coño".

If the women stand fast the Maduro government could fall .... in days .. .

Meeting with Maduro

They are currently meeting with President Maduro.