Archive for the ‘Venezuela’ category

America Should Be Ready, Venezuela Might Become the Next Syria

April 24, 2017

America Should Be Ready, Venezuela Might Become the Next Syria, Town HallDavid Grantham, April 24, 2017

Making matters worse, this regime has allowed international criminal networks and terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah, to thrive within the country’s borders. This permissive environment has thoroughly compromised the upper echelons of the Venezuelan government and allowed illicit behavior to permeate the economy and society.

Most important, the same actors in Russia and Iran that prevent Assad’s demise are the same players underwriting Venezuelan tyranny. Remember that Vice President Tareck El Aissami is Hezbollah’s go-to guy in the administration. Experts should not be fooled into thinking that geographic distance will dissuade Russia or Iran from intervening on Maduro’s behalf. Neither country will so easily cede such a strategic and lucrative relationship – one that each country has spent years cultivating.

***************************

Said former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Nazi buildup in Europe: “When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure.” The unwillingness to act when such action would have been simple and effective constitutes the “endless repetition of history,” he concluded.

Today, observers would rightly associate this statement with Syria. But Churchill did not make this proclamation so future generations would seek out examples that affirmed his logic. He made the statement so future generations would break that dreadful repetition. This is not just a quote of self reflection – it’s a call to action.

Syria is thoroughly out of hand and late remedies are now being applied. The cycle of historical inaction will not be broken in Syria. Pundits, politicians and military officials would be wise to stop reliving what could have been done there, and start looking at what can be done elsewhere. Therefore, the American government must determine the likelihood of Venezuela becoming another Syria – this time in the western hemisphere. The United States and its Latin American allies must then collectively decide whether to do anything about it.

In their quest for more and more power, Chavez and then Maduro made reliable access to basic necessities a virtual impossibility. Maduro then had the Supreme Court dissolve the Congress after the Venezuelan people stocked the legislature with opposition members through democratic elections. Although international outcry forced him to partially rescind that order, Maduro continues to issue tyrannical edicts that will have the same effect at a slower pace. Now the Maduro regime has armed loyalists to seek out and kill dissenters. Over twenty people have died in riots over the last few weeks.

This administration would rather starve its people than relinquish power. Maduro would rather dismantle government and assassinate opponents than keep the country viable. History tells us that such despotism and subsequent international inaction can lead to Assad-like levels of oppression.

Making matters worse, this regime has allowed international criminal networks and terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah, to thrive within the country’s borders. This permissive environment has thoroughly compromised the upper echelons of the Venezuelan government and allowed illicit behavior to permeate the economy and society.

Most important, the same actors in Russia and Iran that prevent Assad’s demise are the same players underwriting Venezuelan tyranny. Remember that Vice President Tareck El Aissami is Hezbollah’s go-to guy in the administration. Experts should not be fooled into thinking that geographic distance will dissuade Russia or Iran from intervening on Maduro’s behalf. Neither country will so easily cede such a strategic and lucrative relationship – one that each country has spent years cultivating.

President Trump must be prepared for the possibility of a Syria in the western hemisphere. The administration has already taken steps to sanction high-level Venezuelan officials for their work with cartels and known terrorist organizations. But they must also be prepared for preemptive action:

  • Anticipate and be prepared for the possibility that Russia, Iran and/or Hezbollah will help Maduro crush dissent, covertly or otherwise. Do not be caught off guard when they block U.N. resolutions, cripple Maduro’s adversaries through cyber attacks, or, in an extreme situation, deploy military assets.
  • Consider how and where to erect safe zones because a failing state may create a refugee crisis in a region already plagued by economic and social instability.
  • Work with Latin American allies to demand a democratic resolution. Don’t wait for collapse to be spurred into action.

This is not a call for military intervention. It is merely a reminder that the arc of history bends toward inaction – something we often come to regret.

Venezuela: Maduro arms militia, bans civilian gun ownership

April 22, 2017

Venezuela: Maduro arms militia, bans civilian gun ownership, Rebel Media, April 21, 2017

(The demonstrations remind me of those in Egypt preceeding the ouster of Morsi. — DM)

 

Venezuela seizes General Motors plant as property of the state

April 20, 2017

Venezuela seizes General Motors plant as property of the state, Hot Air, Jazz Shaw, April 20, 2017

This news broke overnight and it undoubtedly comes as a shock to anyone who hasn’t been paying to socialism in general and the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in particular. The government of Venezuela came in and seized control of the General Motors plant in the city of Valencia, taking over the property, assets and accounts. The automotive giant responded by saying that they were immediately halting operations. (CNN)

General Motors says it will immediately halt operations in Venezuela after its plant in the country was unexpectedly seized by authorities.

GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”

The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.

GM’s Venezuelan operation was already pretty much at the point of stagnation. Productivity was approaching zero because their currency had collapsed and they couldn’t order parts to keep the lines running. Also, the domestic market for cars wasn’t exactly booming because their potential customers have money which is basically worthless and they’re mostly too busy looking for scraps of food to worry about a new set of wheels.

If nothing else, this incident will provide an enlightening, educational moment for the rest of the world. It’s a given that this is bad news for General Motors, for the workers there… let’s just say it. This is bad news for everyone except Maduro and his cronies. But it also serves to further pull away the mask, allowing the rest of the world to see what’s actually going on. So gather around, kids, because we’re not only seeing how socialism ends (and it always ends this way) but also how the socialist machinery operates through the various phases of its life cycle.

Originally, the government tolerates the presence of foreign manufacturing entities such as General Motors to fill needs they have which can’t be handled domestically. (GM has been there for roughly seven decades.) It’s not that the Venezuelan people are incapable of innovation or creation… there’s simply no motivation for them to strive for success. Anything they create simply becomes the property of the state anyway, so the hard working, innovative person doesn’t realize much more success than the guy who can barely keep his eyes open to show up for his job sweeping the sidewalk. There’s no point to being particularly innovative.

So companies such as GM are allowed to go to work. But once the system inevitably begins to implode, the tyrant in charge begins looking for new resources to grab. In the name of the socialist concept wherein everything “belongs to the people” he seizes the GM plant. They take the cars which are there to hand out to high ranking party officials and divide up the assets while demanding that the workers get back to producing automobiles. This is, of course, impossible because they don’t have the parts to do it and the people who actually know how to run things are fleeing.

These are the fruits of socialism. It’s a humanitarian disaster to be sure, but it’s also a teachable moment. Watch and learn.

Rex Tillerson’s Tough Talk on Iran

April 20, 2017

Rex Tillerson’s Tough Talk on Iran, Power LinePaul Mirengoff, April 19, 2017

Yesterday, as we noted here, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Congress that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal and that the administration will continue to provide relief from sanctions, as called for by the agreement. He added, however, that “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods.”

Today, Tillerson (1) elaborated in scathing language on Iran’s role as a leading sponsor of terrorism and on other of its misdeeds, (2) made clear that the nuclear deal is unsatisfactory, and (3) stressed that the U.S. government is engaged in a thorough review of our Iran policy.

Tillerson characterized the Iran deal as “another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions.” Citing the North Korean example, Tillerson complained “we buy them off for a short period of time, and then someone has to deal with it later.” He then added that the administration does not intend to follow this course.

It is rumored that President Trump hit the roof when he saw Tillerson’s letter to Congress (or maybe the way it was reported) and demanded that he issue today’s tough statement. According to this account, the tough statement had been drafted previously, nixed by influential soft-liners in the administration, and revived in light of the Tillerson letter.

Whether or not this is what happened, I think today’s statement was much needed.

But what will come of the policy review promised in Tillerson’s statement? The Obama administration did an effective job of fencing in its successors. I discussed the future of the Iran deal under Trump in this post.

The upshot of two days of Tillerson talk about Iran seems to be that our Iran policy is up-for-grabs, like much else in the policy realm. Sharp disagreement probably exists within the administration about how to proceed and, not unlike other policy disputes, the disagreement occurs in the context of no truly good options.

You can watch Tillerson’s speech, plus a brief Q&A, below. Don’t miss Andrea Mitchell fretting that if the U.S. backs out of the Iran deal, rogue states like North Korea won’t trust us.

 

The dictator’s hour

April 19, 2017

The dictator’s hour, Venezuela News and Views, Daniel Duquenal, April 18, 2017

(My wife and I were in Venezuela off and on for several years in the late 1990s and early in the current century, before and after el Thugo Chavez came to power. Food and essentials were plentiful and inexpensive and the medical care we received was quite good. The people in urban and rural areas seemed reasonably happy and well-fed. The situation changed slowly but inexorably for the worse, then much became worse and then became unbearable.

Now Venezuela is at least as hellish as any country in the Middle East. The people of Venezuela are revolting but the “mainstream” media are paying scant attention. 

It would be very difficult for the Mad Mullas of The Islamic Republic of Iran to deal more harshly with protesters than have the Venezuelan dictators. Perhaps, with the Iranian elections coming next month, the Iranian people will achieve more than have the Venezuelans thus far; the slate of candidates, unfortunately, suggests that the situation in Iran will not change for the better unless the Iranian people have a successful revolution. At least the Middle-East media will be more attentive. — DM)

So we are in a dictatorship. And this one has made new progress these past days to prove to the world it is so.  We had Sunday a totally infamous presentation by the president Nicolas Maduro where live on TV he decided who is guilty of what and how.  This based on torture.  Yesterday he went further on that path convoking the militia to Caracas to stop the massive opposition protest planned for tomorrow and forcing the army to repeat once again their indefectible oath to the revolution and its heir, the dictator.  As a bonus he promised to arm the militia, which one needs to be recalled , is not constitutional. But details are not the regime’s forte.

The army today is controlling all the streets it can and all the entries to Caracas to make sure protesters do not come to fill in Caracas protests. Useless as the opposition is convoking protests in all major cities of Venezuela. You need not go to Caracas to state that Maduro is a piece of shit: you can do it in the comfort of your own city where repression awaits for you all the same than in Caracas. Decentralization at its best.

Funny dicator. He does not rule, he is just the front man but it seems that he has started to believe that all the narco generals, the corrupt generals and civilians, the Cubans cashing in whatever cash they can still grab, trust power into his hands.  Meanwhile we read things like this:

This memo of April 17 “exhorts” PDVSA employees from the Orinoco area (almost a day drive to Caracas) to attend the regime called counter march to block access to the opposition to downtown Caracas. It starts with the following words “Within the merciless War and the terrorist attacks of the venezuelan ultra right, the oil industry has the imperious need to regroup its forces in the defense of our sovereignty and independence, and support to our Worker president Nicolas Maduro to invite all….” you get it.  I respected the words with capital letters as I think they betray the subconscious of whomever wrote this memo.

Of course outside the country no body is buying it and even Cuba takes its distances from an eventual bloodbath for which they probably gave the order to the army. the local representation of the European Union had a communique (rather vague but better than nothing, and at least implying that the EU will have observers in the streets). OAS secretary on the other hand went all out with a communique of a strength unheard of in the OAS, which reflects the major hemispheric concern about what Maduro is trying to do. In English.

Of course, solemne declarations also exist in Venezuela, like the one from the National Assembly with a solid representation of its members, putting a face to the resistance to Maduro, and putting a face to its possible victims tomorrow.

The hour is dire indeed.

The opposition has convened a freedom march tomorrow starting from more than a dozen points in Caracas. As such it is impossible to block unless the regime acts early to block through whatever means the starting points in downtown Caracas, their hallowed excuse for repression.

The regime who dodged such a massive show of strength by the opposition last year through a fake dialogue has not found any excuse this time to slow down the mounting protest. The aslt two weeks fo marches and repression only seem to have united the opposition and render it more decided to end this conflict once and for all.

All sorts of threat have been uttered such as this Monday promises to arm the militia to maintain order against the opposition. That an election would be the best way to end the conflict is not an option for a regime who knows that 1) it will lose them and 2) it will have its leadership go to jail shortly afterwards for the crimes committed.  So we have pictures like this one commented by Le Monde from France. Of course, when you are an European and you see brown shirts like that with a peppering of military you jump. This is possibly the worst message to be read in any capital of Europe, probably even Budapest (Ankara is not in Europe and will never be apparently, but I digress).

Le Monde underlines this:

« Fini le temps des traîtres, des trahisons, fini le temps des hésitations, que chacun se définisse : on est avec la patrie ou on est contre elle ! », a lancé le président vénézuélien, lundi.
“The time of traitors is over, the times of hesitation is over, may each one self define: we are with the fatherland or we are against it.” thrown by the venezuelan president on Monday.

Sieg Heil would do nice at the end of that.

We also read the declarations of 11 LatAm countries warning the regime about abuse tomorrow. It is nice to see that Tal Cual reports on this lifting the logo of this blog, a logo since 2003 which has been lifted by several people from chavistas to Tal Cual. Lifted by Tal Cual is an honor and proves that at least someone there reads my blog. I do take the best pictures, check out my instagram 🙂

But again I digress.

The point here is that Maduro seems to go all out against tomorrow and he is clearly wanting a confrontation to solidify his dictatorship. Will the army oblige?

Meanwhile tomorrow in Caracas you may choose your meeting point for 10:00 AM. I will start from Plaza Las Americas #20 if anyone cares to meet me. And I will try to post stuff through Instagram if signal allows, which is rare when so many people are in the street using bandwidth. It will be nice if I could get a pic from EVERY starting point to post it here tomorrow evening.

Que este sea el punto de partida de la mayor presión que se haya hecho contra la dictadura. Desbordemos Vzla.

 

Venezuela: State Sponsor of Terrorism?

February 18, 2017

Venezuela: State Sponsor of Terrorism? Investigative Project on Terrorism, February 17, 2017

1977

U.S. intelligence has long considered Tareck El Aissami as a key figure in the global narcotics trade with ties to Iran. He oversaw massive shipments of drugs from Venezuela to other countries, including the United States, and issued identification documents to Hizballah operatives. But El Aissami isn’t an affiliate of Hizballah or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). El Aissami is the vice president of Venezuela.

After an extensive Treasury Department investigation spanning several years, the Trump administration levied sanctions against El Aissami on Monday, freezing his assets in the United States and prohibiting business relationships with him. American officials have previously identified and sanctioned other senior Venezuelan officials involved in drug trafficking operations with Colombian FARC and close cooperation with Iran’s terrorist activities.

U.S. officials previously have criticized Venezuela’s failure to cooperate on global counterterrorism issues. Yet these latest allegations – surrounding the upper echelons of Venezuela’s government – suggest that the South American country has devolved into a full-blown state sponsor of terrorism.

Earlier this month, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries highlighting ties between El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah affiliated personnel. El Aissami “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis,” the report shows.

Previous U.S. reports detailed blatant corruption and vulnerabilities on Venezuela’s borders, failing to even conduct basic biographic screening at various ports of entry. However, the allegations surrounding El Aissami’s operations take these security concerns to a whole new level. One of the most powerful leaders of a large Western country stands accused of facilitating terrorist infiltration into other states, including the United States.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also suggests that El Aissami served as an interlocutor between Iran and Argentina in an effort to hide the Islamic Republic’s role in coordinating the 1994 Jewish Center bombing in Buenos Aires. Hizballah operatives are widely believed to be responsible for that attack, which killed 85 people and wounded 300. Moreover, a Wiesenthal Center representative in South America fears that El Aissami may encourage the Venezuelan government to adopt formal state policies based on anti-Semitism.

Under the reign of former President Hugo Chavez, Iran exploited friendly ties with Venezuela to establish terrorist networks throughout region. Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses this area for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, and logistics planning for terrorist operations.

Hizballah also relies on legitimate businesses and front organizations in the region, diversifying its terrorist financing profile to generate a significant portion of its revenues from its Latin American operations. With Venezuelan help, the terrorist group continues to expand its presence and consolidate support in other Latin American countries. Hizballah has even registered as a political party in a Peruvian region characterized as having that nation’s largest Muslim population.

Yet Venezuelan ties to drug trafficking and terrorists are not limited to South America. The Treasury Department also revealed that El Aissami helped coordinate narcotics shipments to drug cartels operating on the U.S. border, including Mexico’s infamous Los Zetas. In 2011, Virginia prosecutors said that a Lebanese man helped the Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel smuggle of more than 100 tons of Colombian cocaine. The U.S. Treasury Department claimed that Hizballah benefitted financially from the criminal network.

Later that year, the United States disrupted an IRGC-led plot in cooperation with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington.

The problematic nexus between Iranian-backed operatives – including Hizballah – and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These connections also enable Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.

In a 2011 testimony before a House Homeland Security subcommittee, Roger F. Noriega, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, highlighted the danger posed to U.S. homeland security from the growing Hizballah presence in Latin America:

“The more broad implication for U.S. homeland security is that Hizballah—via Iran and Venezuela—has engaged the United States in an offensive strategy of asymmetric warfare on our doorstep. It is aiming to win the mental battle of attrition and the moral battle of legitimacy—particularly with the youth in Latin America. Unless our government recognizes and responds to their efforts, our ability to protect our interests and our homeland will be gradually and dangerously diminished.”

That testimony is as relevant today as it was years ago, foreshadowing continued cooperation between Iran, its terrorist proxies, and the government of Venezuela. Now with a vice president who maintains intimate ties to a variety of violent organizations, Venezuela has transitioned from a safe haven for nefarious activities to a global state sponsor of terrorism.

Congress Wants New Sanctions on Venezuela for Ties to Iran-Backed Terrorists

February 9, 2017

Congress Wants New Sanctions on Venezuela for Ties to Iran-Backed Terrorists, Washington Free Beacon, February 9, 2017

(Based on what I read daily in the Latin American Herald Tribune and local Panamanian papers, the proposal would likely do substantially more harm than good. Maduro’s supporters would jump on anything useful to damn American imperialism: “Imperialistic America is interfering in Latin American affairs again!

Panama is still mad at Theodore Roosevelt for creating Panama out of part of Colombia — even though an annual holiday rejoicing over Panamanian independence from Colombia is widely celebrated — and for our “imperialism” in building the Panama Canal– an economic resource we turned over to Panama years ago and which provides mucho dinero for Panama.

Clearly, Maduro is an uneducated, corrupt jerk and has worsened the mess left by el Thugo Chavez. Food? Medicine? Toilet paper? Human rights? Human dignity? freeing imprisoned opposition leaders? Democracy? No way, Jose.  There is little or nothing we can do to improve the lives or to change the regime under which Venezuelans now exist. –DM)

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, speaks during a press conference with international and national press at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. Maduro speaks about the economic war his government have faced and measures to stabilize economy. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, speaks during a press conference with international and national press at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

A bipartisan team of lawmakers is calling on President Donald Trump to immediately sanction Venezuela for its ongoing human rights violations and ties to terrorist organizations that reach the highest levels of government, according to a new congressional communication sent to the White House.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) petitioned the White House this week to take action against Venezuela and sanction leading government officials, including the country’s second-in-command, Tareck El Aissami, who is believed to have ties to radical terror organizations.

Venezuela has been devolving into further chaos in recent months as the oppressive socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro continues its crackdown on dissident voices and other reformists.

Maduro caused an outrage in the United States earlier this year when he appointed former regional governor El Aissami to a high-level post that puts him next in line to assume control from Maduro. Aissami has long been accused of having ties to drug kingpins and radical terrorist organizations.

Rogue nations such as Iran have made overtures to anti-Western nations such as Venezuela in an effort to boost the number of rogue nations thriving in America’s backyard. Numerous experts have claimed Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group, and other terrorist forces have been spotted moving across Latin America.

The call for sanctions by these lawmakers comes as the Trump administration considers ratcheting up international pressure on a range of bad actors, including Iran, North Korea, and others. Many GOP leaders in Congress have been urging the White House to be more aggressive when it comes to dealing with rogue nations across the globe.

“We are writing to request that your administration take immediate action to sanction regime officials responsible for the ongoing dire humanitarian situation, oppressive human rights conditions, and unconscionable corruption taking place in Venezuela,” write Menendez and Ros-Lehtinen, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

“Moreover, Maduro’s recent appointment of Tareck El Aissami puts him next in line to possibly become the next leader of Venezuela, which is extremely troubling given his alleged ties to drug trafficking and terrorist organizations,” the lawmakers write.

“It is extremely concerning that the Maduro regime continues to undertake increasingly authoritative measures against innocent people in Venezuela,” according to the letter, which accuses the Venezuelan leader of committing mass human rights atrocities in an effort to retain power.

“The opposition has been subjected to intense persecution, being vilified on state media by Maduro regime officials, routinely accused of false crimes, and arbitrarily imprisoned,” the lawmakers write, adding that there are more than 100 political prisoners, including U.S. citizens, being held captive in the country.

“We believe that all of them must be freed,” the lawmakers write. “Maduro has also relied on corrupted branches of his regime, such as the Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council, to invalidate actions undertaken by the National Assembly, including an amnesty bill for the country’s political prisoners and a motion for a constitutionally enshrined recall referendum on the presidency.”

The United States must take aggressive action against Venezuela in order to further isolate Maduro’s government and spark regime change, according to Menendez and Ros-Lehtinen.

U.S. business interests also are at stake, according to the lawmakers, who make the case that corruption in Venezuela is harming American interests. Many companies, they say, have been forced to pay millions in bribes to Venezuelan officials in order to complete business transactions in the country.

“We are concerned that over payments of food contracts could likewise represent a potential liability for U.S. companies,” according to the letter. “Thus, we believe that the Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] should issue clarifying regulations to ensure that U.S. companies do not inadvertently engage in business directly with any corrupt regime entity in Venezuela that would violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977.”

The appointment of El Aissami is particularly concerning to Menendez, Ros-Lehtinen, and others in Congress.

El Aissami has been suspected of issuing passports to members of the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups during his tenure overseeing the country’s immigration bureau.

El Aissami also has been alleged to have played a role in the recruitment of radicalized individuals to Hezbollah.

“The nexus between corruption, drug trafficking, and the influence of extremist terrorist organizations in Venezuela is well documented, many of these nefarious and illicit activities are associated with El Aissami,” the lawmakers write.