School staff are resigning in droves. Legions of students and teachers are among the 4 million Venezuelans who have fled the country in recent years. Those still going to school in the country often find that classes have been canceled due to power outages, water shortages and other breakdowns.
Some school buildings are falling apart, have been taken over by homeless squatters or are used by pro-government militias for training, says Nancy Hernández, a founder and board member of FENASOPADRES, a national association of PTAs.
In 2016, the last year the Venezuelan government released enrollment figures, about 8.5 million Venezuelan children were attending K-12 schools. Now, that figure may have dropped to about 6.5 million, according to rough estimates provided by Hernández.
One independent education group in Aragua state, just west of Caracas, reported that at the start of the current school year more than half of all students were no longer going to classes.
In a TV interview in May, Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz acknowledged problems but blamed them on U.S. economic sanctions and pointed out that, in spite of the government’s challenges, public school remains free.
Remind anyone of another corrupt and bankrupt regime, i.e. Zimbabwe?
Seems anti-American regimes almost always end up needing US dollars to keep running.
We used to catch only rare glimpses of them in public. A waiter willing to risk jail time might be persuaded to accept them for the right price. Amateur tourists would flash them at the airport. Shady street hawkers made offers for them under their breath.
Now, U.S. greenbacks are everywhere. They’re stacked high in cashiers’ drawers at supermarkets and bodegas and even make their way into panhandlers’ cups. The wealthy tip parking valets with singles and pull out wads of twenties to pay for buckets of beer. Currency traders casually set up on busy street corners in slums and shout, “Compro dolares, compro dolares”—“I buy dollars.”
With the bolivar all but worthless, devalued into irrelevance by the autocrat Nicolas Maduro, the cash printed by the gringos he rails against has become king. It is beyond ironic that Washingtons and Benjamins—and not the domestic notes named for the South American independence hero—are keeping the consumer economy afloat.
Until recently, using foreign money was a crime the government enthusiastically threatened to prosecute. After the ruling socialists established currency controls back in 2003, they began patrolling for transactions that ran afoul of their Kafkaesque rules about money. Plain-clothed inspectors ran stings and raided businesses.
Try to imagine this scenario. A once-wealthy country spirals downward over the course of several years into a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Starvation and violence are rampant. The economy has collapsed. Millions have already fled. And all the while, an autocratic ruler acts with complete indifference, when he’s not trying to crush dissent and blame other countries for the misery he’s inflicting on his own.
Under normal circumstances, there would be regular protests in Washington. Hollywood actors would be busy creating tear-jerker videos and making emotional award ceremony speeches. Musicians would be putting on global benefit concerts. The corruption, desperation and daily human misery would be above the fold in newspapers and leading the nightly news. It would be on everyone’s mind.
But in this case, the catastrophic suffering is being almost completely ignored. Why? Because it’s happening in Venezuela — a socialist state that the left has for years championed and now refuses to admit has been a monumental failure.
“Much of the Western left, including those who once had only kind words for (Hugo) Chávez and his successors, is treating Venezuela as an embarrassment best brushed under the carpet,” James Bloodworth writes in Foreign Policy.
It is almost impossible to describe what’s happening in Venezuela today.
Ninety percent of the country now lives in poverty. Food and basic necessities are scarce. Malnutrition is rampant. The child mortality rate has shot up 140% since 2008. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States says that newborns in Syria have a better chance of survival than those born in Venezuela today.
There are severe shortages of medicines, and diseases such as measles, diphtheria, tuberculosis have surged. Malaria cases are up more than ten-fold since 2009.
“The situation in Venezuela is dire,” said Dr. Paul Siegel, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health.
The economy has collapsed as hyperinflation — which reached 815,000% in May — has taken hold. To cope, President Nicolas Maduro has had to issue new currency twice within the past year. The new 50,000 Bolivar note is equal to about $8. In a country with vast supplies of oil, energy is scarce.
Nearly 10% of the country — some 4 million people — have fled, including many who climbed aboard boats to embark on treacherous and often fatal escapes.
“Women and girls are suffering disproportionately in Venezuela,” says a report from CARE. “Trafficking of women for sex and forced labor is increasing throughout the region. The spiraling levels of poverty, both for Venezuelans inside the country and those fleeing within the region, have forced many women into sex work.”
The response from the left to all this? Ignore it, make excuses, or attack President Trump for interfering.
Venezuela is the latest chapter in the long story of socialist crimes against humanity. Venezuela reminds us how long a country can circle the drain, destroyed by socialism but still hanging on by its fingernails. Reuters, a liberal news source, has the latest on Venezuela’s long goodbye, but never mentions the fact that it is socialism that destroyed what once was one of the world’s richest countries:
These days, its Caribbean shoreline flanked by forested hills receives a different type of visitor: people who walk 10 minutes from a nearby town carrying rice, plantains or bananas in hopes of exchanging them for the fishermen’s latest catch.
With bank notes made useless by hyperinflation, and no easy access to the debit card terminals widely used to conduct transactions in urban areas, residents of Patanemo rely mainly on barter.
It’s hard for those debit card terminals to keep up with 1,000,000+% inflation. At InstaPundit, Stephen Green comments: “If you think money is evil, try living on barter.”
From the peaks of the Andes to Venezuela’s sweltering southern savannahs, the collapse of basic services including power, telephone and internet has left many towns struggling to survive.
The subsistence economy stands in stark contrast to the oil boom years when abundance seeped into the most remote reaches of what was once Latin America’s richest nation.
Reuters offers no clue as to what went wrong in Venezuela, except for a vague reference to the end of the “oil boom years.” Actually, Venezuela was richest when oil was relatively cheap, as this graph of the price of crude oil since 1946 reflects:
Meanwhile, the price of crude oil has declined world-wide since the 2009 recession, but North Dakotans aren’t living in a barter economy.
In visits to three villages across Venezuela, Reuters reporters saw residents exchanging fish, coffee beans and hand-picked fruit for essentials to make ends meet in an economy that shrank 48% during the first five years of President Nicolas Maduro’s government, according to recent central bank figures.
Those “central bank figures” are way too optimistic. Venezuela’s economy has shrunk much more than 48%, as millions have fled starvation and crime to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
Residents rarely travel to nearby cities, due to a lack of public transportation, growing fuel shortages and the prohibitive cost of consumer goods.
In some regions, travel requires negotiating roads barricaded by residents looking to steal from travelers. At one such roadblock in eastern Venezuela, a Reuters witness saw a driver fire gunshots in the air to disperse a crowd.
This is the future that socialists like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and many other Democrats want for the United States. Why? Because under socialism the government holds all power, and they are part of the government.
Possibly Paul can tell us hoe many have ended up in Columbia and how that is affecting that country
The UN said Friday that the number of Venezuelans who have fled their strife-torn country in recent years has topped 4 million as the government of strongman Nicolás Maduro struggles to maintain power amid crippling sanctions.
The UN’s refugee agency said Friday the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants rose by 1 million after November, indicating a rapid escalation in the months since the US and dozens of other nations said Maduro’s election victory was illegitimate.
Team Trump and other countries have said that opposition leader Juan Guaido was the legitimate Venezuelan leader.
Russia, Cuba, Iran and a few others back Maduro, and Russian military personnel and technicians have traveled to the South American basket case to maintain military equipment that Russia had sold to Venezuela.
The agency also said Latin American countries host most Venezuelans, with more than 1.3 million in Colombia followed by 768,000 in Peru.
The announcement came ahead of a planned tour on Friday by UN refugee agency envoy Angelina Jolie.
“These alarming figures highlight the urgent need to support host communities in the receiving countries,” said Eduardo Stein, who tracks Venezuelan refugees for the UN agency.
“Latin American and Caribbean countries are doing their part to respond to this unprecedented crisis but they cannot be expected to continue doing it without international help.”
Venezuela’s population was roughly 32 million in 2017.
Is Brazil the New Second Amendment Paradise?
Maybe not yet, but it’s apparently better there than it has been for the past 20 years or so
‘My heart bleeds’
Venezuela’s crippling economic spiral is having a negative impact on an unlikely group in society: criminals, who are struggling to afford bullets, and unable to find things to steal as the country’s wealth declines rapidly.
The Associated Press (AP) spoke with two gangsters in Petare, a notorious slum in the outskirts of Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, who said they now struggle to make a living off muggings, a previously lucrative source of income.
While bullets are widely available on the black market, many muggers cannot afford the $1 price tag anymore, a criminal known as “Dog” told the news organization.
The average Venezuelan only earns $6.50 a month, according to the AP, and skyrocketing hyperinflation renders cash more worthless every day.
“A pistol used to cost one of these bills,” Dog said as he crumbled up a 10 bolivar bill. “Now, this is nothing.”
Another gangster, “El Negrito,” who leads a gang called Crazy Boys, has found it increasingly hard to support his wife and daughter with assaults. Firing a bullet is a luxury now, he said.
“If you empty your clip, you’re shooting off $15,” he told the AP. “You lose your pistol or the police take it and you’re throwing away $800.”
I know of only one way that you can really ‘negotiate’ with a tyrant.
While some may be taking the latest news out of Venezuela as a hopeful note, it may actually spell the beginning of the end of any hope that dictator Nicolas Maduro will be removed from power. We’re hearing from representatives of self-declared interim President Juan Guaido that he is now willing to enter into “negotiations” with Maduro, an option he had rejected as recently as last week. They already have representatives meeting in Norway where they’re trying to find a way out of the current quagmire. And with public support for Guaido’s calls to replace Maduro appearing to decline, it sounds like he’s running out of options. (NY Times)
Weakened and unable to bring the political crisis gripping Venezuela to a quick resolution, Mr. Guaidó has been forced to consider negotiations with Mr. Maduro. Both sides have sent representatives to Norway for talks, a concession Mr. Guaidó previously rejected.
This change is a turning point for the opposition, which in January had gathered momentum, attracting broad international backing and huge crowds of supporters. Now, that momentum has nearly dissipated — a testament to Mr. Maduro’s firm hold on power even as the country crumbles around him.
In public, Mr. Guaidó remains upbeat and unwavering. At flash rallies around the capital, Caracas, he implores supporters to keep up the protests. But during an interview, he acknowledged that the opposition’s capacity to operate is hurting.
“The persecution has been savage,” he said in the empty hallway of one of the safe houses he uses.
This is a disappointing turn of events to be sure, but it may also simply be a case of facing a harsh reality. Most of Guaido’s high profile supporters have either been arrested, fled the country or are holed up in embassies claiming asylum. Guaido himself is, as the report indicates, shuffling back and forth between safe houses and unable to make many public appearances. Maduro has already had the courts strip him of his immunity and eventual prosecution and imprisonment are looking more and more likely.
Hey! Maybe Bolsonaro’s reformation of Brazil’s gun laws helped.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The murder rates in Brazil for January and February this year were 25 percent lower compared to the same period last year, according to G1’s national homicide index. The index is based on official data from the 26 states and the Federal District.
According to this index, there were 6,856 homicides in the first two months of 2019, compared to the 9,094 murders in the same period last year. (The data does not include the state of Paraná.)
The decline is mainly led by states in the Northeast, which, together, recorded the most significant reduction in the number of deaths (34 percent). In Ceará alone, the murder rate dropped by 58 percent.
According to researcher Bruno Paes Manso, from the Center for the Study of Violence at USP, despite this downward trend, it is too early to celebrate a reduction of lethal violence in Brazil.
“The data is far from pointing to a widespread reduction throughout the year and only increases the responsibility of the new state and federal governments to maintain and improve these results,” he said.
Director of Brazilian Public Security Forum Samira Bueno believes that initiatives such as the creation of the Ministry of Public Security, the implementation of SUSP (Sistema Único de Segurança Pública, or Unified System of Public Security), and the application of federal funds can help explain the decline.
The index created by the G1 gathers data about victims of violent crimes in Brazil month to month. Victims of willful homicides, robberies, and bodily injuries followed by death are counted.
CARACAS (Reuters) – A Venezuelan general called on the country’s armed forces on Sunday to rise up against President Nicolas Maduro, who has relied on the backing of the military to hold on to power despite an economic collapse.
Ramon Rangel, who identified himself as an air force general, said the Venezuelan government is being controlled by the “communist dictatorship” in Cuba – a key Maduro ally.
“We have to find a way to get rid of the fear, to go out into the streets, to protest, and to seek a military union to change this political system,” Rangel, dressed in a suit with a copy of the constitution in his hand, said in a video posted on YouTube. “It’s time to rise up.”
While Rangel’s pronouncement marks another blow to Maduro after a handful of similar defections by senior officers this year, there is little to indicate that he will tip the scales.
Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is expected in June to start a five-month Caribbean deployment to provide humanitarian and medical assistance to the region, notable to refugees flooding into Colombia from neighboring Venezuela.
Comfort’s departure will mark the seventh deployment to the Caribbean since 2007 and is the second planned deployment to South America in the last six months. Last fall, Comfort sailed to Colombia, at the request of the government, to provide medical care to Venezuelan refugees.
“U.S. Southern Command is committed to the region in support of our Caribbean and Latin American partners, as well as displaced Venezuelans who continue to flee the brutal oppression of the former Maduro regime and its interlocking, man-made political, economic and humanitarian crises,” Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) said in a statement Tuesday about June’s deployment.
Comfort is a 250-bed hospital that can accommodate several hundred Navy medical staff onboard, including pediatricians, surgeons, nurse practitioners, surgical technicians and various support personnel, according to the Navy.
The recent violent suppression of protests against the ruling regime in Venezuela, captured on camera by international media outlets, sparked public outrage.
The military armor vehicle that ran over protestors was manufactured by a Chinese state-run defense company, highlighting China’s role in supporting the current dictatorship.
In the morning hours on April 30, unarmed protestors backing Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader and head of Venezuela’s National Assembly who declared himself acting president in January, took to the streets of Caracas.
They assembled after Guaidó called on supporters to gather on the streets to begin the “final phase” of his plan to oust Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.
The peaceful protest turned ugly outside a military base in Caracas, when a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle ran over protestors, according to accounts and footage filmed by Reuters. Other protestors could be seen rushing to the aid of those who were hit by the vehicle. It isn’t known how many were injured or if there were any fatalities.
Venezolana de Televisión, Venezuela’s state-run broadcaster, briefly mentioned the morning hour protest in a report published May 1. While calling Guaidó a “coup deputy,” the article mentioned that eight VN-4 vehicles were present at the protest site. These vehicles later withdrew and returned to their military units, according to the report.
Several Spanish-language media also identified the vehicle that plowed into protestors as a VN-4 vehicle, including Argentinian news website Infobae, Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia, and Mexico-based media Cultura Colectiva. They pointed out that VN-4 vehicles are nicknamed the “Rhinoceros.”
Indeed, the VN-4 are from China. They are light, tactical-armored vehicles manufactured by China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco), which is owned by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, an agency under the cabinet-like State Council.
Chinese media reports indicate that the VN-4 was ready for export since at least 2009. It was first unveiled to the public at a police equipment exhibition in Beijing that year. It has since been exported to Venezuela, Kenya, Sudan, Cambodia, among others.
Any European immigrating to Venezuela today, or Cuba for that matter, should consult a headshrinker or spiritual adviser. From 1999 to the present, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has run the country into the ground, first with Hugo Chávez, who at least had charisma, and since his 2013 death by his successor, Nicolás Maduro, who doesn’t.
Yet somehow, Omar saw fit to assure viewers of the far-left television show “Democracy Now” that responsibility for the mayhem we see there today rests with the US.
“A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela, and we have sort of set the stage for where we are arriving today,” she claimed. “This particular bullying and the use of sanctions to eventually intervene and make regime change really does not help the people of countries like Venezuela, and it certainly does not help and is not in the interest” of the US.
No. The bullying hasn’t come from Washington. It has originated from the Miraflores palace, the Venezuelan version of the White House, and from Havana, where the Castro family has been pulling the strings of both Chávez and Maduro for decades.
Slowly at first, the PSUV took control of all of Venezuela’s institutions. The judiciary, the Supreme Court, the military top brass, the electoral council — all fell into the maw of the PSUV. This meant that there were no checks and balances, no electoral accountability. The top officials and generals Chávez and Maduro surrounded themselves with became more interested in narco-trafficking than in serving their nation.
Their economic mismanagement eventually caused GDP to shrink, from an estimated $331.6 billion in 2012 to $96.3 billion today. The breadbasket of Latin America became its beggar.
MSNBC Report on Venezuela Makes Case for Second Amendment
‘In Venezuela, gun ownership is not something that’s open to everybody. So if the military have the guns, they have the power’
MSNBC reporter Kerry Sanders unwittingly made the American case for the Second Amendment during a report Tuesday on the political upheaval in Venezuela.
Anchor Andrea Mitchell introduced Sanders for his report by commenting on the surprising ability of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro to stay in power, despite the pressure on him to step down.
“Not only hanging on but he appears to still control the military,” Sanders said. “You have to understand, in Venezuela gun ownership is not something that’s open to everybody. So if the military have the guns, they have the power and as long as Nicolás Maduro controls the military, he controls the country.”
Maduro’s socialist regime has presided over economic devastation in Venezuela, where citizens are beset by rising prices and food and medical shortages. The country banned private gun ownership in 2012 under Maduro’s authoritarian predecessor, Hugo Chavez.
The Associated Press reports that opposition leader Juan Guido took the streets to protest Maduro’s government and called on the military to join him:
Anti-government demonstrators clashed with troops loyal to Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro at an air base in the capital hours after opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets in a bold and risky attempt to lead a military uprising against the embattled socialist.
The early-morning rebellion seems to have only limited military support.
But it was by far the most-serious challenge yet to Maduro’s rule since Guaidó, with the backing of the U.S. and dozens of other countries, declared himself the country’s interim president in January in rejection of a government he accused of stealing last year’s presidential election.
The dramatic events began early Tuesday when Guaidó, flanked by a few dozen national guardsmen and some armored crowd control vehicles, released a three-minute video filmed near a Caracas air base in which he called on civilians and others in the armed forces to join a final push to topple Maduro.
“If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete embargo, together with highest level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba. Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island!”
President Donald J. Trump Tweets Shortly After 5 PM Eastern April 30th, 2019
….embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba. Hopefully, all Cuban soldiers will promptly and peacefully return to their island!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2019
While there are hopes for change and a massive mobilization called for today in Venezuela, the regime of Nicolas Maduro hopes with its Cuban backed and supported security structure to win the kind of victory that the former President Hugo Chavez won in the end over the opposition in April 2002.That’s when a mass march on the Miraflores Palace seemed to end the rule of Chavez on a Thursday but by Saturday night his motorcycle riding supporters were terrorizing the streets of Caracas and Chavez returned from a very temporary exile at a remote military base.The original plan of Interim President Juan Guaido, the elected President of the elected National Assembly, was for massive street demonstrations today May 1st.But yesterday April 30th there were some dramatic developments in Venezuela’s capital city.Mr. Guaido appeared at the La Carlota air base outside Caracas with members of the armed forces urging the military to follow his direction in restoring the rightful government to power. The public was urged to come out in support and did during the day, coming under attack from pro-Maduro police and militia.
109 were wounded in the fighting. 26 arrests reported.
Guaido appeared with Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader jailed by the government said to have been freed by security forces not on the side of Maduro.
As the day went on Guido spoke before rallies in various pro-opposition neighborhoods in Caracas.
In the evening both Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido spoke with Maduro saying a coup attempt was put down and Guaido calling on everyone to be in the streets of Venezuela Wednesday.
One late night development Tuesday was a Federal Aviation Administration restriction on all US air operators from flying below 26,000 feet over Venezuela and all US air operators asked to depart Venezuela within 48 hours.
One observation about the situation is that much reporting is being done from the country by people biased in favor of the Maduro government. That is reflected in mainstream media echoing the notion of the Maduro government that a “coup” was underway Tuesday.To develop a fuller picture of the whole situation here are some links to various sources….
Opposition blogger Daniel Duquenal Twitter……LINK
US Senator Marco Rubio Twitter……..LINK
TV Venezuela News Twitter with videos and text in Spanish providing non government controlled news…….LINK
Venezuela’s slide to chaotic penury and violence continues. Socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro and his government ought to resign in shame, but caudillos and their cronies inevitably attempt to cling to power, no matter the suffering they inflict.
The Venezuelan people certainly suffer. In the last month, the nation with over 300 billion barrels in proven oil reserves has suffered three major electrical blackouts affecting three-quarters of the country. Even the capital, Caracas, went dark.
There’s a loss of lives as well as lights. Venezuelan sources reported that 46 hospitalized patients died as a direct result of the first blackout.
Starvation haunts Venezuela. The United Nations estimates almost 4 million Venezuelans are malnourished. Some 22 percent of Venezuela children age 5 and younger suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Lack of food and medicine is one reason over 3 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Refugees in Colombia give aid workers detailed information on conditions in Venezuela. Medieval suffering? Yes, with cellphone videos providing 21st-century evidence.
Maduro and his government had refused humanitarian aid because they deny a humanitarian crisis exists. Maduro blames Venezuela’s problems on “sabotage.” Who are the saboteurs? Neighboring Colombia, the U.S., oil companies, capitalism, etcetera.
The real blame lies with Maduro and his predecessor, former army paratrooper Hugo Chavez, founder of the so-called socialist Bolivarian Revolution. Chavista authoritarianism and the corruption and repression socialism inevitably creates crippled and impoverished what was once one of Latin America’s richest nations. The country’s daily oil production is a third of what it was in 1999. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s inflation rate in January was 2.6 million percent.
Maduro uses food as a weapon against his own people, just like the Soviet Union did. In July 2016, Venezuela’s food shortages were so severe the military took charge of food distribution. In January 2017, the army took control of food imports.
Maduro’s supporters immediately benefitted from this militarized system. They had and still have access to food. They can also demand bribes from starving citizens in exchange for food.
Over 50 nations (the U.S. among them) recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. In January, Venezuela’s National Assembly declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate and selected Guaido to form a new government. Guaido quickly declared the obvious: Humanitarian aid deliveries were a critical survival issue.
Desperate Venezuelans, a BBC report revealed Sunday, have begun targeting cemeteries for potential income, stealing everything from jewelry to bones that they can then sell on for a profit.
The BBC spoke to relatives of those buried in the Cementerio del Sur, the largest burial ground in the capital of Caracas, who now need to stand guard at their loved ones’ tombs to protect them from looters.
“I come here every week, or every two weeks. I keep watch. I worry I’ll arive one day and she’ll be gone,” Eladio Bastida, whose wife is buried in the cemetery, told the BBC. “When I buried her, you could just walk in here. but lately you can barely reach her grave, because every tomb has been opened and the remains taken out.”
Less than two weeks ago, Russia shifted the balance of power in Venezuela, sending in 100 crack troops, ostensibly to repair Russian-made military aircraft damaged in Venezuela’s massive blackout.
According to the Washington Post:
Two planeloads of roughly 100 Russian military personnel landed in Venezuela. The stated reason for their arrival was to help service Venezuela’s Russian-purchased S-300 air defense systems, which may have been damaged amid the country’s increasingly frequent blackouts. The news followed earlier reports of Russian mercenaries or private military contractors already operating as security for the embattled regime.
Venezuela’s neighbors, including the U.S., and Venezuela’s own people expressed deep dismay, because it appeared that Russia would be propping up Venezuela’s brutal failed socialist regime to ensure that Venezuela’s democrats could never dislodge dictator Nicolas Maduro. The gambit appeared to be part of a replay of what the Putin regime did in Syria to prop up its ally, dictator Bashar al-Assad, as this strong piece by Annika Hernroth-Tothstein at the Daily Beast argued. Russia nevertheless downplayed the the whole thing, and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s warning, calling Russia’s dispatch of troops to Venezuela “a direct threat to international peace and security in the region” came and went without much notice.
Well, now we get the truth about Russia’s real mission. One of Russia’s ambassadors passed on a letter from Russia’s equivalent of the Senate to Colombia’s Senate, warning the neighbor to not dare violate Venezuelan airspace, or there would be hell to pay. If you can read Spanish, here is El Tiempo of Bogota’s report. Here is a Google translation of what the Russians said:The communication, signed by the Russian ambassador in Bogotá, Sergei Koshkin, and dated March 28, explicitly states that any type of incursion into Venezuela, which is supported by the countries that have supported the opposition to the regime of Nicolás Maduro -As is the case of Colombia- will be interpreted by Moscow as a threat to peace and international security.“The illegitimate use of military force against Venezuela by other states that support the opposition will be interpreted by the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation only as an act of aggression against a sovereign State and a threat to international peace and security, “reads the communication signed by the ambassador.Colombia read that as the unprovoked threat it was, according to El Tiempo:For [Colombia’s legislative president, Alejandro] Chacón, the communication is “extremely serious and important”, since the Constitution provides (in its articles 173 and 212) that it is the Senate that must approve the passage of foreign troops and any declaration of war that Colombia makes.“It is a warning to Congress, because finally we are the ones who allow the government whether or not any kind of military intervention is made in foreign territory, clearly a direct threat to the State of Colombia, that is why we are confirming why direct to the Capitol and not through diplomatic channels, “Chacón told EL TIEMPO.
Is it a threat? Yes, the way ‘nice house you have there, be a shame if anything should happen to it’ is. It came out of the blue, for one. What’s more, as the Colombian legislator said, it targeted the right people, meaning, they are watching how things work closely. Most important, it was completely unprovoked. There has been zero rhetoric out of Colombia about militarily intervening in Venezuela (in fact, there’s pretty much the opposite kinds of statements coming out), despite the fact that more than a million refugees from Venezuela have poured into that country. The latest news is that starving Venezuelans are now breaking down the Maduro dictatorship’s border barriers intended to pen them in, and flooding into Colombia, a crisis that all by itself is for Colombia a casis belli.
The other cassis belli is that Russian military jets have lately been violating Colombia’s airspace, the latest instance happening last December, which makes Russia’s threat even more of a doozy.
It did seem, as Colombia Reports’s Adriaan Anselma notes, to have some brutally opportunistic timing, too, apparently a bid to drive a deeper wedge with Colombia’s top ally, the U.S.
Days after US President Donald Trump publicly humiliated his Colombian counterpart, President Ivan Duque on Tuesday was forced to defend his government against Russian claims he sought to provoke civil war in Venezuela.
(I’ve argued that President Trump dropped the ball on that one, Colombia’s alliance in this Venezuelan crisis is very important and the country’s conservative leader should not be publicly humiliated.)
What’s more, this isn’t all Russia has done. It seems to have the propaganda machinery out, too, seeking to take down opponents of Venezuela’s democrats through Twitter. This one stuck out for me – note the writer’s ties to the Russian propaganda press and lockstep adherence to the party line and she falsely (and pretty ineffectually) tries to smear Ricardo Hausmann, a top official with democratic President Juan Guaido’s interim government.
They’ve also wheeled out the propaganda directed at us, to reduce support for Venezuela’s democrats, as I noted in this piece here. Some of their handiwork may be here, too. What leaps out about all of this is how blitzkrieg-swift they are being. They move fast, the way nations at war do.
Their mission? Propping up Maduro. And with this vile and unprovoked letter threatening Colombia, they are playing for keeps.
The U.N. estimates that it’s upwards of 3 million people who have left. Now remember, this is a country of 30 million people. So we’re talking about 10 percent of the population that has gone. And you see this when you walk around the streets of Caracas, which I have, or Maracaibo, which I did just a few weeks ago. There are areas which are completely empty. You walk down streets and you see that there’s two or three people in one house, and then another house is gone, or another house has got a family of what looked like squatters, because they’ve just moved into the place……
On one end, these countries are trying to pressure [President] Maduro now to step down, because they know that this migrant crisis is going to get even worse the more politically unstable the country gets. Countries like Colombia understand that Venezuela used to be a country that took their immigrants, especially during the darkest days of the paramilitaries and the guerrilla fighting, but at the same time, they understand they can’t take every Venezuelan that comes.
And not only that, because of this crisis that’s getting worse and worse, because of lack of medicine mainly, people are coming into these countries with diseases that should be controlled in Venezuela — diseases like diphtheria, malaria, tuberculosis have made a huge comeback in Venezuela. So if you’re a neighboring country like Brazil or Colombia, or a country like Ecuador or Peru, who are farther away but are also taking immigrants, this is a very scary situation that’s right on your doorstep.
Of course, Trump telling them to get out of Venezuela simply shows what a crafty PutinStooge™ he is.
The decision to send around 100 military advisors, support staff and possibly some combat-experienced special forces personnel (as guards)—all led by the Army chief of staff—to market weapons to the insolvent and beleaguered government of President Nicolás Maduro at first glance appears wholly incongruent.
Tonkoshkurov is a combat-experienced top Land Forces commander, not an arms dealer. Instead, his mission could be to thoroughly assess the current military/security situation in Venezuela, the deficiencies and real capabilities of the pro-Maduro military and security forces, and to prepare a list of concrete measures Moscow needs to take to ensure the survival of the regime and the defeat of the opposition, led by the self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido.
Moscow views Guaido as Washington’s puppet and part of the alleged imperialist conspiracy headed by the United States to oust Maduro. According to Russian reports, the 35 tons of cargo just delivered to Venezuela was mostly food, but not for the starving locals.
Rather, the foodstuff will feed the military mission in a situation where logistics have virtually collapsed. The Russian mission is apparently not a combat force per se, but will be assessing the situation and “taking measures” to mobilize and “put together” the pro-Maduro forces.
It is preparing for a lengthy operation (Ura.news, March 25). The above-mentioned “measures” could involve additional shipments of arms, munitions and other equipment, the deployment of more Russian specialists and advisors and also a possible limited combat unit—presumably the Aerospace Forces (Vozdushno-Kosmicheskiye Sily—VKS) and anti-air assets—mirroring the Russian deployment in Syria in 2015 to keep in power the beleaguered regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Millions of Venezuelans were left without running water Monday amid a series of massive blackouts, forcing President Nicolas Maduro to announce electricity rationing and school closures as the government struggles to cope with a deepening economic crisis.
Maduro announced 30 days of power rationing on Sunday, after his government said it was shortening the work day and keeping schools closed due to blackouts.
The measures are a stark admission by the government — which blamed repeated power outages in March on sabotage — that there is not enough electricity to go around, and that the power crisis is here to stay.
Angry Venezuelans meanwhile took to the streets of Caracas to protest the power cuts and water shortages.
“We have small children and we aren’t able to give them a drop of water to drink,” said Caracas resident Maria Rodriguez.
Caracas (AFP) – Walking for hours, making oil lamps, bearing water. For Venezuelans today, suffering under a new nationwide blackout that has lasted days, it’s like being thrown back to life centuries ago. El Avila, a mountain that towers over Caracas, has become a place where families gather with buckets and jugs to fill up with water, wash dishes and scrub clothes. The taps in their homes are dry from lack of electricity to the city’s water pumps. “We’re forced to get water from sources that obviously aren’t completely hygienic. But it’s enough for washing or doing the dishes,”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called on Russia to pull its troops from Venezuela and said that “all options” were open to make that happen.The arrival of two Russian air force planes outside Caracas on Saturday believed to be carrying nearly 100 Russian special forces and cybersecurity personnel has escalated the political crisis in Venezuela.
Russia and China have backed President Nicolas Maduro, while the United States and most other Western countries support opposition leader Juan Guaido. In January, Guaido invoked the constitution to assume Venezuela’s interim presidency, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
“Russia has to get out,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, where he met with Guaido’s wife, Fabiana Rosales.
Asked how he would make Russian forces leave, Trump said: “We’ll see. All options are open.”
“El demonio,” says Betty Méndez, a local shopkeeper, by way of explanation for the wave of looting and unrest that convulsed Maracaibo earlier this month.
Most, however, describe the mayhem in psychiatric terms: a collective breakdown that shocked this lakeside city to its core and offered a terrifying glimpse of Venezuela’s possible future as it sinks deeper into economic, political and social decline.
“Horror, fear, despair,” said María Villalobos, a 35-year-old journalist, weeping as she relived three days of violence that many here call la locura – “the madness”.
“I thought it was the start of a civil war.”
Venezuela has been hit by yet another electricity blackout, including much of the capital, Caracas, sowing alarm two weeks after a nationwide outage that paralysed the country.
The power cut in the capital occurred around 1.20pm local time (17:20 GMT) on Monday, affecting the electricity supply to the city centre.
After nightfall, many apartment buildings in the Caracas metro area – home to around six million people – were aglow again and traffic lights were back on, but people in many other states reported they were still in the dark.
CARACAS, Venezuela — About 1,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces have fled to Colombia since last month, giving up weapons and uniforms as they abandoned the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Colombian authorities said Monday.
Colombia’s foreign ministry released the updated number of Venezuelan police and military personnel who crossed the border, many around the time of a Feb. 23 attempt by opposition leader Juan Guaido to deliver U.S.-provided humanitarian aid to Venezuela. The attempt failed because Venezuelan forces blocked trucks trying to cross from Colombia into Venezuela.