Venezuela, With Eyes Wide Open

Genesis Carmona, college student and local beauty pageant winner shot in the head during the protests, being rushed to the hospital, where she died. Photo from

They say no one learns a lesson through someone else’s head, that we repeat the mistakes of others and stumble, over and over, on the same stone. Skeptics assure us that people forget, close their eyes to the past and commit identical mistakes. Venezuela, however, has begun to disprove that inevitability. Amid a reality marked by insecurity, shortages and inflation, Venezuelans are trying to amend a mistake that has lasted too long.

Taken over by Cuban intelligence, monitored from the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, and ruled by a man who incites violence against those who are different, this South American nation now finds itself facing the most important dilemma of its contemporary history. Totalitarianism or democracy, those are the options. What is being decided in its streets is not only Nicolás Maduro’s permanence in power, but the very existence of an axis of authoritarianism and personal ambition that spans all of Latin America. A system that disguises itself with empty words in the style of “socialism of the 21st century,” “a revolution of the humble,” “the dreams of Simon Bolívar” and “the new left,” whose fundamental characteristics are its leaders’ lust for power, economic inefficiency, and the curtailing of freedoms.

But Venezuelan students have given Chavismo a dose of its own medicine. Young people and college students have been the driving force of the protests this time. Which proves that Miraflores has lost the most rebellious and dynamic part of society. Although the headlines in the government controlled press speak of conspiracies fomented from abroad, it’s enough to look at the images of the police and the armed commandos beating the protestors to understand where the violence comes from.

Venezuela is going through difficult times, like all awakenings. The oligarchs in red will not give up power voluntarily and Raul Castro will not let them so easily snatch away the goose that lays the golden egg. But at least we already know that Venezuelans will not walk the same road they imposed on us in Cuba. Meekness, fear, complicity, and escape as the only way out… those have been our mistakes. Venezuela doesn’t want to repeat them, it can’t repeat them.


40 thoughts on “Venezuela, With Eyes Wide Open

  1. Nick,

    You can verify that hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have been killed since Chavez took power.

    Not hard, search the web.

    These are hundreds of thousands of “surplus” murders over and above those who would have been killed if the murder rate had stayed the same.

    You can verify the figure through left or right-wing or whatever sites you want.

    Since, like Cuba, it is illegal to report murders in Venezuela, the figures are estimates largely taken by counting murdered bodies at morgues.

    Read carefully. I did not say Chavez personally ordered hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to be killed.

    What I said is Chavez supporters killed hundreds of thousands of more Venezuelans since Chavez took power.

    In other words, if Chavez did not make a deal with Venezuela’s worst gangs in exchange for their support, the population of Venezuela would now be hundreds of thousands greater.

    By the way, how do you feel about Chavez supporters shooting unarmed protesters in the head?

    Have you been watching the videos?

  2. How do you feel about the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have been murdered by Chavez supporters?

    Venezuela throughout the 20th. Century has had a very high corruption and crime rate. This is a social problem in Venezuela that transcends the Chavistas….you can’t pin this one on the Chavistas…

    Do they belong to an inferior race, like the Cubans?
    (something Che Guevarra said a while back)

    In the field of ideas that do not lead to activities involving production, it is easier to see the division between material and spiritual necessity. For a long time individuals have been trying to free themselves from alienation through culture and art. While a person dies every day during the eight or more hours in which he or she functions as a commodity, individuals come to life afterward in their spiritual creations. But this remedy bears the germs of the same sickness: that of a solitary being seeking harmony with the world. One defends one’s individuality, which is oppressed by the environment, and reacts to aesthetic ideas as a unique being whose aspiration is to remain immaculate. It is nothing more than an attempt to escape. The law of value is no longer simply a reflection of the relations of production; the monopoly capitalists — even while employing purely empirical methods — surround that law with a complicated scaffolding that turns it into a docile servant. The superstructure imposes a kind of art in which the artist must be educated. Rebels are subdued by the machine, and only exceptional talents may create their own work. The rest become shamefaced hirelings or are crushed.

    A school of artistic experimentation is invented, which is said to be the definition of freedom; but this “experimentation” has its limits, imperceptible until there is a clash, that is, until the real problems of individual alienation arise. Meaningless anguish or vulgar amusement thus become convenient safety valves for human anxiety. The idea of using art as a weapon of protest is combated.

    Those who play by the rules of the game are showered with honors — such honors as a monkey might get for performing pirouettes. The condition is that one does not try to escape from the invisible cage. Cubans and Venezuelans have similar racial, cultural and social heritage and it is reflected in today’s national events. The fight is the same for every human being on the planet. We are in a constant struggle against our environment (economic, social, political, natural). We always think that the grass is greener just over the horizon, but, when we get there we find out that it is not much different…

    Am I part of the Master Socialist arm chair race?

    There are three people that made an impact in my philosophical self…

    1. Franklin D. Roosevelt
    2. Winston Churchill
    3. Fidel Castro

    and Capitalism is not sustainable….it is an impossibility for the survival of humanity….and must go away….I favor Socialistic solutions to problems that affect the entire population the same. But, for a sustainable society to be created, we need a democratic political system. The economic model should be a hybrid where monopoly exist to create an economy of substitutes instead of alternatives for conservation and like Mr. Roosevelt suggested, no one in the society should be allowed to earn more than what $300,000 can buy…the results we see in Cuba and Venezuela were created by greed and the “free market”. In other words, the Right….

  3. Mr Observer,
    I have spent a portion of my life in Cuba.
    Therefore I feel qualified, to at least some degree, to pass comment on the situation there.
    I have never been to Venezuela.
    I have met many Venezuelans on both sides of the political divide.
    The country seems very polarised to me.
    I am aware that the good old USA has been funding, with U.S. taxpayers’ money, any and all opposition to the democratically elected ‘leftist’ governments for over a decade.

    You state to Mr Fundora the following:
    ‘How do you feel about the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have been murdered by Chavez supporters?’
    Now Mr Observer, I am aware that there has been a certain amount of disruption in this country.
    I am also aware that this disruption has resulted in deaths, and particularly so recently…
    But this ‘hundreds of thousands’ figure that you have now mentioned on several occasions….
    Do you have any evidence to back up this figure ??
    Is this one of the ‘facts’ you have come across in one of the multitude of rabid, right-wing media outlets that proliferate over on your side of the Atlantic ??
    Is this an example of one of those ‘verifiable’ facts that you never verify ???
    Or is this another example of you jumping aboard the very latest in a long line of bandwagons ???

    Please enlighten us if you are able to.


    YOUTUBE: Policia Venezolana apoyando a Tupamaros en Res.El Trapiche Ejido February 24, 2014 – Venezuelan police backing the Tupamaros thugs in the El Trapiche Residential building – February 24, 2014
    El día de ayer, 24/02/14 a las 5:30pm la policía junto a grupos encapuchados y armados entran en el conjunto residencial “El Trapiche” luego de que una Tanqueta de la GNB tumbara el portón. Estos se encargan de llevárselo y subirlo a un camión de volteo mientras otros se disponían a amedrentar a los residentes de esta urbanización.
    Yesterday, 24/02/14 at 5:30 pm police with hooded and armed groups entering the residential complex “El Trapiche” after a tank of the GNB knocked down the gate. These are responsible for take it and upload it to a dump truck while others were preparing to intimidate the residents of this community.

  5. Omar,

    How do you feel about the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who have been murdered by Chavez supporters?

    Do they belong to an inferior race, like the Cubans?

    Are you part of the master armchair socialist race?


    GMA NEWS: Stolen Cuban art works in Miami, part of Havana museum heist? – by David Adams and David Quinones

    Art works in Havana have periodically gone missing, but this would appear to be the largest heist the museum has experienced.

    In 1995, the Cintas Foundation, a nonprofit group supporting the arts, sued Sotheby’s in Spain, contending that it illegally sold two pieces by Spanish master Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida that the foundation said it owned and were supposedly in the safekeeping of a Havana museum.

    Cintas lost the case, but it led to a flood of accusations of other missing museum art works that had been sold on the international market, possibly with the approval of the Cuban government.

    Though Cuba has not commented officially, Cernuda said he expected the government would make a formal announcement about the latest thefts.

    “They are going to post these for the first time. In the past they have never posted their lost paintings,” he said.

    “I hope that they ask and seek the cooperation of the FBI’s special art theft and fraud unit in Miami,” he added, noting that it would provide a good opportunity for the United States and Cuba to cooperate despite 50 years of mutual mistrust.

    Robert Wittman, a former senior investigator with the FBI and founder of the bureau’s National Art Crime Team, said the works could only be officially regarded as stolen if the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes officially reports the theft to Interpol.

    “There would have to be a claim by the Cuban government, otherwise the owners could simply claim it was sold to them after being decommissioned,” he said.

    Still, he added, “Stolen is stolen, whether you have diplomatic ties with a country or not, it’s still a violation of U.S. law.”

    The typical recourse for victims of cross-border art theft is to register with one of several international databases devoted to cataloguing such cases. Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art Database and the privately managed Art Loss Register of London are the most common forums, as well as the FBI’s National Stolen Art File.

    In the past, Cuba has not registered works with the databases, leading to accusations that the sale of works missing from state museums was orchestrated by the government, especially during the island’s economic crisis in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a top political and financial ally.


  7. Humberto: important developments in Venezuela

    1. Truth Commission formation …(good idea)
    2. Meeting between foreign minister of Venezuela and UN ….(standard procedure)
    3. making demands to the OAS …(good move)
    4. Most of the World speaking out for dialogue and end to violence (standard procedure)
    5. National Peace Conference Initiative (right thing to do)
    6. People’s Defense Command formation ( high risk …reforms through activism)

    meeting by foreign minister of Venezuela and UN also took place in March 2014.
    right-wing legislator Maria Corina Machado and Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, led a march to the Venezuela office of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Describing the situation in Venezuela as “the assassination of a democracy”, they demanded that the OAS debate events in Venezuela and support the opposition with a “firm reaction”.
    “If the OAS turns its back on Venezuela in these hours it won’t just be betraying Venezuela, it will be burying the OAS,” argued Machado, who participated in the short-lived 2002 coup against former president Hugo Chavez.
    Antonio Ledezma reiterated his faction of the opposition’s rejection of Maduro’s National Peace Conference initiative, which had its first meeting last Wednesday with business, religious, and some opposition figures.
    “Those aren’t meetings of peace, they’re meetings of violence where citizens aren’t respected and there isn’t a clear agenda of what is wanted to be achieved,” he argued.
    Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles didn’t attend today’s march. Instead the state governor launched an initiative called the “People’s Defence Command”, which he said seeks “to form a great social movement…to push for change”.
    One of the objectives of the initiative is to “leave aside the political agenda of violence” and to campaign on “social problems” that can be used to reach out to the opposition’s non-traditional base of support.
    While also rejecting Maduro’s offer of dialogue, Capriles has previously criticised the hard-line opposition’s tactics as containing an “empty agenda” and representing a political “dead end”.
    President Maduro has called for the formation of a bi-partisan Truth Commission to investigate and attribute responsibility for “all” acts of recent violence, although some opposition figures have rejected this as being weighted in favour of the government. The opposition’s MUD coalition is preparing a report solely focused on alleged abuses by state security forces, to be presented to “international organisations”.

  8. Humberto: Once the “Gini” of violence is out of the bottle….priority goes to the pacification plan…these two videos do not reveal any new development in the chaos in Venezuela….what needs to occur next is a cessation of violence and pow wow …a coup is not an option from what I can tell…(the military is loyal to the Chavistas…)


    REUTERS: Cuban sugar harvest falters; foreign investment sought – by Marc Frank

    HAVANA, March 4 (Reuters) – For the third consecutive year Cuba’s reorganized sugar industry is failing to perform up to expectations, increasing pressure on the government to open up the once proud sector to foreign investment.

    Already one mill, the first since the industry was nationalized soon after the 1959 revolution, is under foreign management, with at least seven others on the auction block.

    AZCUBA, the state-run holding company that replaced the Sugar Ministry three years ago, announced plans to produce 1.8 million tonnes of raw sugar this season, 18 percent more than last season’s 1.6 million tonnes.

    But the harvest is 20 percent behind schedule, sugar reporter Juan Varela Perez wrote recently in Granma, the Communist Party daily.

    “Continuous and heavy rainfall in almost all provinces of the country has affected the harvest since January,” state-run Radio Rebelde said late last week, reporting on a meeting of AZCUBA executives at the end of February.

    “To this has been added the habitual problems of inputs arriving late, disorganization and the poor quality and slowness of repairs,” the report said.

    Sugar was once Cuba’s leading export, both before the revolution and afterward, when the former Soviet Union bought Cuban sugar at guaranteed prices. Today it is Cuba’s seventh largest earner of foreign currency, behind services, remittances, tourism, nickel, pharmaceuticals, and cigars.

    “These days it is a true odyssey to go through a harvest. The mills need more profound repairs, but that costs millions upon millions of dollars,” Manuel Osorio, a mill worker in eastern Granma province, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

    “So they do some superficial repairs and start grinding and immediately the problems begin and this year to top it off it is hot and raining almost every day. The cane needs cool and dry weather to mature. If not, it is like milling weeds.”

    The sugar harvest begins in December with the “winter” season and runs into May, with January through March the key months as dry and cool weather increases yields, but not this year.

    “I can’t remember a wetter winter and it is almost impossible to harvest,” sugarcane cutter Arnaldo Hernandez said in a telephone interview from eastern Holguin province.

    Cuban sugar plantations lack adequate drainage, making harvesting by machine difficult when it rains, and humid weather retards the production of sugar in cane.

    “Going into the plantations is a heroic task, and when the cane reaches the mills it yields little sugar,” Hernandez said. “Look, even the Guaraperas (sugarcane juice) they sell in the city is like water. I know because I tried some myself yesterday.”


  10. YOUTUBE: LA REPRESIÓN SI FUE TELEVISADA/THE REPRESSION WAS TELEVISED – Para que no queden dudas – So that there are no doubts!
    Un breve video en ingles (subtitulos) explicando la situación actual de Venezuela y demostrando las violaciones a los derechos humanos que ocurren en nuestro país.
    A short video in English (subtitles) explaining the current situation in Venezuela and demonstrating the human rights violations that occur in that country.


    YOUTUBE: Militaries shoot Venezuelan students for protesting – Students walk peacefully protesting saying “We are students, we are not criminals” … military soon arrives (GNB) to shoot them, please enough of the violence.


    YOUTUBE: Nuevo video de la detención de estudiante – Nuevo video del momento en que estudiante en Altamira es detenido por numerosos funcionarios dentro de un conjunto residencial.

    New video of the arrest of a student – New video of when a student in Altamira, Venezuela is stopped by numerous officials inside his residential complex.


    YOUTUBE: Raúl Castro llega a Venezuela para participar en actos en honor a – Raul Castro arrives in Venezuela to participate in acts honoring Hugo Chavez.

  14. Bueno mi nombre no empieza con Y pero me encanto este blog. Soy Americana hija de una Venezolana. Gracias por escribir esto. Espero que les llegue y que sigan luchando. También espero que la lucha de ustedes llegue a su fin muy pronto. God bless Cuba and Venezuela.

  15. Humberto: The House measure basically is saying : Stop you fools ( on all sides)…this time the Right dominated House of Representatives are not being bias for a change. The rule of law means stop law breaking, respect the results of the elections and find a bipartisan solution to your problems….Maduro was “hand picked” by Hugo Chavez….correct …but, the Venezuelan People voted Maduro into office, he was not appointed to the top job by anybody else….democracy works in Venezuela, the international observers present during the elections found no irregularities so he won fair and square…

    YOUTUBE: Standing with the People of Venezuela – U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) rose in support of H. Res. 488 today, a measure to condemn the violence in Venezuela and support the human and democratic rights of the Venezuelan people. Rep. Wasserman Schultz is an original cosponsor of H. Res. 488.

  17. US House condemns Venezuela’s deadly crackdown – March 5, 2014
    The House of Representatives voiced near-unanimous condemnation of Venezuela’s government and its “inexcusable” deadly crackdown on opposition leaders and protesters. The chamber passed a resolution blasting President Nicolas Maduro’s forces for their oppressive tactics in some of the most serious South American unrest in years. At least 18 people have died and more than 260 injured since protests erupted on February 4. Congress “deplores acts which constitute a disregard for the rule of law, the inexcusable violence perpetrated against opposition leaders and protesters in Venezuela, and the growing efforts to use politically motivated criminal charges to intimidate the country’s political opposition,” the non-binding resolution states. It also urges other governments and organizations in the region to stand in solidarity with the protesters and help bring about a dialogue to end the crisis.

    House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce praised the chamber for approving a measure which “supports Venezuelans who yearn for a return to the rule of law, democratic norms and respect for basic human rights.”

    Royce described Maduro as the hand-picked successor to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s long-time strongman and Washington antagonist who died one year ago today.

    The House measure passed 393 votes to one, with Republican Thomas Massie as the lone dissenter.

    A similar resolution is being considered in the Senate.

    US lawmakers have also urged President Barack Obama to impose sanctions on those responsible for the crackdown.

  18. Humberto: We have our finger prints on everything involving change in the World. All you have to do is look….The Forbes article regarding Venezuela is a Right Wing bias article…you would expect this from Forbes Magazine, this is a Right Wing publication for Capitalists. If you take the time to read between the lines, you can detect the cynicism in the writer when he talks about social programs as handouts to the poor and Petrocaribe countries…The Rich are terrified by State investments in the People because their privilege and fortunes depend on a system of winners and losers…they are afraid that the American People who have experienced more than 45 years of declining standard of livings, might “Open their Eyes” from this 250 years slumber and realize that We the People do not need the Rich or Privilege to advance the frontiers of Man and live a decent quality of life where inequality does not have to be at GINI INDEX of .46 or have 1% of the population controlling 50% of all the money in the country…don’t allow yourself to be a tool for reporting one dimension information. The truth is found by looking at all sides of the issue. I believe in Freedom and this is why in blogs like this one, I like to show the point of view of all camps to the issue and, If you notice, every now and then I offer my own opinions as I am doing with you now. This is my right as a citizen of the United States and the World. I wish the Cuban People could do the same without repression anywhere in the island…someday they will…history shows us that repressive governments don’t last ….unfortunately our lives are very short in comparison to the time it takes for countries to transform themselves without civil wars.

  19. Humberto: I don’t know where you get your figures about U.S. debt, but, here are the real figures:
    (I think you are confused between deficit and debt)

    On December 12, 2013, debt held by the public was approximately $12.312 trillion or about 73% of Q3 2013 GDP[5][6] Intragovernmental holdings stood at $4.9 trillion (29%), giving a combined total public debt of $17.226 trillion or over 100% GDP.[7] As of January 2013, $5 trillion or approximately 47% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreign investors, the largest of which were the People’s Republic of China and Japan at just over $1.1 trillion each.[8]

    The Venezuelan oil industry is not “free falling”. Price fixation at $100/barrel is the safety that will not allow collapse. I don’t think you realize how important the oil industry in Venezuela is to the Latin American Countries and the Caribbean. A sound oil industry is more important then ideological differences on how the money from this commodity is spend.

    Venezuela’s Reserves are good at $25Billion. Subsidized gasoline prices at home is a problem, but, only because the price of oil has dropped. A flooring on this price has been established by OPEC. The Price of crude can only go up.

    Here is an analysis from Forbes Magazine…all Venezuela has to do is:

    1. Increase gasoline prices in Venezuela
    2. Invest into developing the heavy crude fields in the Orinoco.
    3. World oil prices have reached bottom and will climb.
    4. Reduce oil subsidies to PetroCaribe- AlbA
    5. Venezuelans need to recognize that there is no such thing as a “Free Lunch”.
    6. Need to increase the exports of goods. A country that depends only on one Commodity to pay for Food, social programs and governance threatens its own national security.

    Venezuela produces about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, about the same as Iraq.

    About 800,000 barrels per day of gasoline and diesel is consumed domestically for which PDVSA doesn’t make a dime. That’s about 290 million barrels per year in subsidy oil.

    What’s that cost PDVSA? Oil minister Rafael Ramirez has said that the breakeven cost to supply refined gasoline to the masses is $1.62 per gallon, or about $70 per barrel. But because Venezuela’s refineries can’t even make enough fuel to meet demand, PDVSA also has to import about 80,000 bpd of refined products (for which they must pay the far higher market price in excess of $2.50 per gallon). All told, the subsidized fuel costs PDVSA about $50 billion a year — that’s at least $25 billion a year in fuel subsidies plus another $20 billion or so in foregone revenue that PDVSA desperately needs to reinvest into its oil fields. Even a well managed company would have trouble climbing out of such a big hole.
    Deducting that 800,000 bpd of domestic consumption from the 2.5 million bpd total leaves a subtotal of 1.7 million bpd that Venezuela can sell into the world market.
    But we have more deductions. In order to finance fuel subsidies and other social spending, PDVSA has borrowed massively. According to PDVSA’s statements, its debt has increased from $15.5 billion in 2008 to $43 billion now. Venezuela’s biggest creditor is China, which has reportedly loaned the country $50 billion since 2007. China is not interested in getting Venezuelan bolivars; it insists on being paid back in oil — about 300,000 bpd worth of oil.
    Paying China its oil knocks PDVSA’s saleable supply down to 1.4 million bpd.
    We’re not done yet. Chavez was not just generous to his own people. In an effort to make friends with his neighbors, he forged a pact called Petrocaribe, through which PDVSA delivers deeply subsidized oil to the likes of Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and Nicaragua. Though shipments at peak were more than 200,000 bpd, including 100,000 bpd to Cuba, there’s evidence that PDVSA has cut the volumes. No wonder, when the Dominican Republic has reportedly been paying back PDVSA in black beans. Cuba sends doctors and athletic trainers. (Jamaica puts its PetroCaribe debt to Venezuela at $2.5 billion.)

    As if that weren’t enough, PDVSA, through its U.S. refining arm Citgo has even donated more than $400 million worth of heating oil to poor people in the United States. That’s about 4 million barrels over nine years.

    So all that largesse knocks off another 200,000 bpd or so, bringing PDVSA’s marketable supply down to 1.3 million bpd.

    Over the course of a year, selling that 1.3 million bpd of oil brings in about $50 billion in hard currency (assuming about $100 per barrel). This contrasts with PDVSA’s reported revenues of $125 billion, most of which is not in dollars, but bolivars, of uncertain worth.

    That $50 billion might seem like a tidy sum, but keep in mind that this represents more than 95% of Venezuela’s foreign earnings. And that’s not enough for a country of 40 million to live on.

    Because no one in their right mind would want to exchange goods for bolivars, it’s out of this pile of greenbacks that Venezuela has to pay for all its imports as well as about $5 billion a year in dollar-denominated interest payments. Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves have plunged from $30 billion at the end of 2012 to about $20 billion today.

    Newspapers have closed because they can’t import paper. Toyota has stopped making cars because it can’t get dollars to import parts. Shortages of sugar, milk and butter are common. The CEO of Empresas Polar, a big food manufacturer, has rejected Maduro’s criticisms that his company is to blame for shortages, insisting that because the government holds all the country’s dollars he can’t get the hard currency he needs to import raw materials.

    Venezuela’s official exchange rate stands at about 6 bolivar to the dollar. But on the black market one greenback will fetch 87 bolivars or more.

    If you’re an entrepreneur or a business owner in Venezuela, you’re not likely to keep throwing good money after bad there, especially if you’re a retailer like Daka. Last November Maduro ordered soldiers to occupy Daka’s five stores and forced managers to sell electronics at lower prices. In some cases looters just helped themselves.

    Reuters reported that Maduro was outraged at a store selling a washing machine for 54,000 bolivars — $8,600 at the official rate. That might seem high until you hear from a business owner: “Because they don’t allow me to buy dollars at the official rate of 6.3, I have to buy goods with black market dollars at about 60 bolivars, so how can I be expected to sell things at a loss? Can my children eat with that?” said the businessman, who asked Reuters not to identify him.

    When the president of the country speaks to the merchant class saying, “The ones who have looted Venezuela are you, bourgeois parasites,” that’s a sign to any entrepreneur that it’s time to round up whatever dollars you can and get out.

    Venezuela is more likely past the point where it can grow out of its problems. Oil production is believed to have fallen as much as 400,000 bpd in the past year due to natural decline rates from mature fields. PDVSA says it is on track to invest more than $20 billion in its operations this year — but are those official dollars or black market dollars? Western oil companies are wary about putting their capital into the fields, considering that Chavez has famously nationalized assets of ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips , Harvest National Resources, Exterran and others. PDVSA says it owes oil company partners and contractors $15 billion.

    Some partners, like Chevron , Repsol, Eni, Rosneft and Total, have pledged to invest in increasing production and even to extend more loans to PDVSA. But like China they want to get paid back in oil. Not much is likely to come of these ventures: 10,000 barrels here and 10,000 barrels there is not going solve the problem. What’s needed is a real plan. The analysts at oil consultancy WoodMackenzie tell me that Venezuela’s best bets for growing production lie in the ultra heavy oil deposits of the Orinoco Basin. There, to increase output by 1.5 million bpd will require investment of $100 billion to drill enough wells and build enough “upgraders” to take the heavy oil and transform it into something readily exportable. So far PDVSA hasn’t gotten any interest in this plan.

    The oil is there, but the oil companies are in no hurry to get at it. They have plenty of opportunities to drill in the United States, and are looking forward to the first exploration contracts to be awarded in Mexico. But, China, Iran and Russia are interested in drilling in Venezuela.

    Venezuela’s credit default swaps are at five-year highs. According to Reuters, prices for some of its debt issues have fallen to 63 cents on the dollar. Some short term issues are yielding 20%. These are the kind of sovereign yields that presage defaults.

    The sad thing for Venezuela is that (barring an explosive rise in oil prices) it’s hard to imagine the situation not getting worse before it gets better. In time the government will simply run out of the dollar reserves it needs to pay its debts and import goods. Trading partners will refuse to ship. Oil companies will refuse to invest. Those tankers of cheap PetroCaribe oil will stop arriving in Havana….not so fast my Right Wing friend…

    In the February issue of its Monthly Oil Market Report, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has increased its estimate of global crude oil demand by 50,000 barrels a day to 1.09 million barrels, or a total demand of 90.98 million barrels a day. Interestingly OPEC is forecasting “strong growth” in the developed nations of North America and Europe.

    World oil supply from non-OPEC countries is estimated at 54.14 million barrels a day in 2013, up by 1.28 million barrels over 2012. In 2014, OPEC projects non-OPEC supply to rise by 1.29 million barrels a day to 55.43 million barrels. The total contribution of the United States and Canada to global supply in 2014 is forecast at 11.99 million barrels a day and 4.13 million barrels a day, respectively. OPEC expects U.S. supply to rise by 840,000 barrels a day in 2014.

    As always, OPEC is coy about its members’ contributions to global supply. In January the cartel produced an average of 29.71 million barrels a day, just short of the established quota of 30 million. That estimate is based on non-OPEC secondary sources. Based on direct communications with cartel members, OPEC produced 30.92 million barrels a day in January.

    Expected improvements in the global economy, particularly in the developed nations, are driving crude oil demand forecasts for 2014. Demand from China rose by 33,000 barrels a day in 2013 and is forecast to rise by an additional 34,000 barrels a day in 2014. Chinese demand is expected to reach 10.4 million barrels a day in 2014. CHINA CONSUMPTION TO THE RESCUE OF VENEZUELA —CHINA IS THE NUMBER ONE CREDITOR NATION IN THE WORLD. HERE IS THE MONEY FOR VENEZUELA TO EXPAND HEAVY CRUDE PRODUCTION AND HIGHER PRICES FOR CRUDE THEY DESPERATELY NEED TO AVOID A MELTDOWN.

  20. FORBES MAGAZINE: Cheap Gasoline: Why Venezuela Is Doomed To Collapse – by Christopher Helman

    Riots in the streets. Killings of protesters. Shortages of consumer staples like toilet paper and flour. Power outages. Confiscations of private property. Capital flight. Inflation running at more than 50%. The highest murder rate in the world.

    The situation in Venezuela has grown so terrible that we could very well be witnessing the waning days of the Chavez-Maduro regime.

    Cheap gasoline is why the government of President Nicolas Maduro is doomed to collapse. He can’t raise gas prices meaningfully without setting off an even greater populist uprising than the one already wracking the capital. But without change, the Venezuelan economy and its state-run oil company Petroleos Venezuela (PDVSA) cannot last long.

    Let’s work through the numbers to see how bad it is:

    Venezuela produces about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, about the same as Iraq.

    About 800,000 barrels per day of gasoline and diesel is consumed domestically for which PDVSA doesn’t make a dime. That’s about 290 million barrels per year in subsidy oil.

    What’s that cost PDVSA? Oil minister Rafael Ramirez has said that the breakeven cost to supply refined gasoline to the masses is $1.62 per gallon, or about $70 per barrel. But because Venezuela’s refineries can’t even make enough fuel to meet demand, PDVSA also has to import about 80,000 bpd of refined products (for which they must pay the far higher market price in excess of $2.50 per gallon). All told, the subsidized fuel costs PDVSA about $50 billion a year — that’s at least $25 billion a year in fuel subsidies plus another $20 billion or so in foregone revenue that PDVSA desperately needs to reinvest into its oil fields. Even a well managed company would have trouble climbing out of such a big hole.

    Deducting that 800,000 bpd of domestic consumption from the 2.5 million bpd total TOT +1.34% leaves a subtotal of 1.7 million bpd that Venezuela can sell into the world market.



    NEW YORK TIMES: An Economic Crisis of Historic Proportions – Moisés Naím, a scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is a syndicated columnist and author. His next book, “The End of Power,” will be published in March. He is the former minister of Trade and Industry for Venezuela and the former editor of Foreign Policy magazine. – January 8, 2013

    The crisis includes a fiscal deficit approaching 20 percent of the economy (in the cliff-panicking United States it is 7 percent), a black market where a U.S. dollar costs four times more than the government-determined exchange rate, one of the world’s highest inflation rates, a swollen number of public sector jobs, debt 10 times larger than it was in 2003, a fragile banking system and the free fall of the state-controlled oil industry, the country’s main source of revenue.

    Oil-exporting countries rarely face hard currency shortages, but the Chávez regime may be the exception. Mismanagement and lack of investment have decreased oil production. Meanwhile oil revenue is compromised partly because of Chávez’s decision to supply Venezuelans with the country’s most valuable resource at heavily subsidized prices. Thus a large and growing share of locally produced oil is sold domestically at the lowest prices in the world (in Venezuela it costs 25 cents to fill the tank of a mid-sized car).

    Another share of the oil output is shipped abroad to Cuba and other Chávez allies, and to China, which bought oil in advance at deeply discounted prices (apparently the revenue from China has already been spent). Most of the crude left to be exported at market prices is sold to Venezuela’s best client, and, ironically, Chávez’s main foe: the United States. Yet, as a result of America’s own oil boom, U.S. imports of Venezuelan oil have recently hit a 30-year low.

    Moreover, due to an explosion in its main refinery, Venezuela is now forced to import gasoline. The Financial Times reckons that for each 10 barrels of crude it sells to the US, it has to import back (at a higher price) two barrels of oil refined abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s total imports have jumped from $13 billion in 2003 to over $50 billion currently. Paying for those imports and servicing its huge debt requires more hard currency than Venezuela’s weakened economy can generate.

    Yes, huge headaches are looming.


  22. Three years ago, Gabriela composed a protest work for piano and orchestra, Ex Patria, and performed it in Europe. She has now taken the protest one step further to Youtube in a mini-doc made by the singer and actor, Sam McElroy. Watch, and let your eyes be opened.

    YOUTUBE: Gabriela Montero, “ExPatria”. A mini-documentary.


    YOUTUBE: The Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero publishes a video with testimonies of the violence. La pianista Gabriela Montero publica un video con testimonios de violencia.

    Gabriela Montero (born May 10, 1970, Caracas) is a Venezuelan-American pianist known in particular for her real-time improvisation of complex musical pieces made “on the fly” on themes suggested by her audience and other sources as well as for performances of standard classical repertoire. Born in Caracas, Venezuela, of an American-born mother and a Venezuelan father, Gabriela Montero was barely a seven-month-old infant when her parents, at the insistence of her maternal grandmother, placed a toy piano in her playpen. It had been bought as a Christmas present for an older cousin. The baby immediately lifted her right index finger and went on to play individual notes, never once banging it with her fist, to the great surprise of her parents and grandmother. It became her favorite toy. She was put to sleep every night by her mother who sang to her the melody of the Venezuelan National Anthem, a tradition in the South American country. One day when she was fifteen months old, her parents noticed she was picking out a familiar tune on the little piano. Three months later, before she could even speak, she had picked out by herself the entire melody of the National Anthem. From then on she would repeat this process with whatever song she heard.

  24. According to the World Bank, the average Latin American Family can expect to do better over the next two years. Cuba is cash poor and needs to export more goods and services. Venezuela can help herself by diversifying their exports away from commodities particularly oil, since oil accounts for 96/98% of exports and expand the sale of goods. Cuba needs to allow foreign companies to own 100% of their investments in Cuba in some cases if the State cannot come up with their share of the money to improve their export position. Cuba needs to continue doing business with developing countries that are willing to make State to State deals because of Cuba’s bad credit. The South to South (World) trading strategy is good and needs to be expanded. It would be interesting to see in the near future whether the embryonic private business in Cuba will be able to someday be an important sector for exports. One of the criticism is that Cuba does not have too many products made in Cuba that anyone wants to buy. This has to change if the quality of life of the Cuban People is to be raised. Regime change in Cuba will not change this economic problem with the island…the same goes for Venezuela. These two countries trading relationships need to be re-imagined and diversified to bring more cash into Cuba and to diversified Venezuela’s export portfolio.

  25. Why Chavistas command the majority support in Venezuela

    Rich in natural resources, with the largest oil reserves in Latin America and the Caribbean – and with some of the largest reserves in the world – Venezuela has immense potential.

    Nicolás Maduro assumed the presidency of the country in April 2013 following the death of President Hugo Chávez.

    In economic terms, Venezuela has benefited from historically high international oil prices over the past decade, which enabled increased government spending on ambitious initiatives. The government nationalized a number of private enterprises in the hydrocarbon, mining and metallurgy, cement, banking and telecommunications sectors.

    Venezuela has achieved high rates of economic growth (5.6% in 2012). Nevertheless, GDP growth declined to just 1.6% in the first half of 2013 with respect to the same period of 2012. Short-term growth forecasts are modest.

    Among the most important programs that oil revenues have helped fund are the large social programs called Misiones. Economic growth and the redistribution of resources associated with these Misiones have reduced moderate poverty significantly, from 50% in 1998 to 25% in 2012. Inequality has also declined, as evidenced by the Gini Index, which fell from 0.49 in 1998 to 0.39 in 2011, one of the lowest rates in the region. LOWER THEN THE US (.46)

    However, Venezuela continues to face daunting challenges. Its economy is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in international oil prices given that oil accounts for over 96% of the country’s exports and nearly half of its fiscal revenue. Despite high oil prices, Venezuela has experienced major fiscal deficits along with a sharp increase in public debt (27% of GDP in 2012). In addition, international reserves have fallen, representing fewer than five months of imports.

    Moreover, as a result of the strongly expansive monetary policy aligned with the country’s fiscal objectives, the annual inflation rate reached 42.6% in June 2013.

    •Name: Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
    •Population: 29.9 million (estimated, 2012).
    •Capital: Caracas.
    •Other important cities: Maracaibo, Valencia, Maracay, Barquisimeto, Mérida, San Cristóbal and Barcelona-Puerto La Cruz.
    •Area: 916,445 km².
    •Currency: Bolívar.
    •Per capita GDP: US$ 12.756 (2012)
    •Exports: Oil.
    •Language: Spanish.
    •Religion: Catholic majority.
    •Life expectancy: 74 years (2011).

    The World Bank: Slum project completed in Venezuela
    The Caracas Slum-Upgrading Project aims to improve quality of life for the inhabitants of a selected number of barrios in Caracas, Venezuela, by developing and implementing a community-driven, sustainable, and replicable infrastructure improvement program. The project has three components. The first, urban upgrading, finances the design and execution of Communities Neighborhood Improvement Plans (NIP) and includes designing and executing pedestrian and vehicular access, water distribution, sewerage and sanitation, drainage, electricity distribution, public lighting, and community centers as well as building new houses for resettlement. The second component, institutional development, finances the start-up and operational costs for the project management unit, including public dissemination, monitoring and evaluation, and technical assistance and capacity building in several areas. The third component finances the development and operation of a market-based housing improvement loan fund which will provide consumer credit to low-income individuals residing in the barrios to finance improvements to their housing unit, working through a partnership between banks and a non-governmental organization

    Improving Neighborhoods

    Caracas Slum-Upgrading Project (CAMEBA): This project improved the quality of life of at least 115,000 people, which represented 97.4% of the population in Petare Norte, La Vega and Vargas, and 9.6% of the population in Caracas neighborhoods. Specifically, the project improved access to water and sanitation services, facilitated access to electricity, contributed to the construction of community service centers, increased community involvement and facilitated access to land titles by informal dwellers.


    Endemic Disease Control Project (i): This project helped control malaria and other endemic illnesses, such as Chagas disease, dengue fever, yellow fever, leprosy and leishmaniasis. The project reduced the incidence and impact of endemic diseases and strengthened institutions responsible for their control. Currently, Venezuela is better prepared to apply modern technologies in the control and treatment of these illnesses given the improved training and the establishment of research, diagnostic and field support centers.

    Urban Transport

    Urban Transport Project (i): This project considerably strengthened the capacity of urban transportation agencies in 12 Venezuelan cities. More than 250 experts from the National Urban Transportation Fund (FONDUR), municipalities and the private sector received training in transport economics and planning, general and environmental management, engineering, procurement, transport supervision and monitoring and information systems. Between 1994 and 2001, more than 7,700 bus drivers attended courses to develop new skills and improve their knowledge of traffic laws and road safety.

    Youth Observatories

    With the Youth Observatory in La Trilla neighborhood, the Voces Nuevas 2007 project added to the 10 previous experiences with youth observatories funded by the World Bank in partnership with four other donors. These efforts helped promote the development of observation methods and techniques to give a voice to youth leaders in community organizations. The program provided participants with a life experience in which youth from diverse backgrounds had the opportunity to talk about their differences, perceived needs and views about their realities.

    Voces Nuevas empowered these young people in relation to youth-related issues as well as in their key role in the development of their communities and country.

  26. Venezuela’s Future…………mixed view (opinion, bias, facts, left of center view)
    March 3rd 2014

    People are confused about Venezuela, and reasonably so. Why conflicts? Who is protesting? On what scale? What is the government response? What are the deeper issues? Even more, what do the deeper issues and possible responses portend for the future?

    Answers vary greatly, even among non-hysterical commentators.

    For example, as to why, some astute folks say the protests are an effort by Leopoldo Lopez to usurp leadership of the opposition from Henrique Capriles. Others say the protests seek to push the government into repressive measures in order to undermine its support. Still others say the protests seek to remove Maduro and sweep away all aspects of Chavismo.

    As to who, some say the battles are orchestrated by Venezuela’s rich, others say it is discontent from average folks without prodding. Some say it is wealthy students, others say it is students per se. Some say it is militarily savvy thugs and even Columbian exiles, others say it is kids without portfolio. Some say the country is massively against the government, others say this is a serious because violent uprising but is carried out by small numbers with largely elite backgrounds.

    As to the government’s response, some say they are engaging in harsh repression, others say they are exercising extreme restraint. Some point to deaths and claim government killers, others point to deaths and claim opposition killers. Some call government interference with media dictatorial censorship, others say private papers and TV operate with near total abandon with only minor curtailments temporarily warranted to reduce violence.

    To me, however, the protests appear to be primarily opposing precisely what is good about Chavismo, in particular income redistribution, dispersal of power, and increasing mass participation. They attract ample average folks with serious criticisms of crime, corruption, inflation, and shortages, as well. The popular concerns appear to be used, however, by Venezuela’s most reactionary elements, perhaps to shift the balance of power in their own movement, but perhaps hoping to create enough havoc to attract international intervention to remove the government. The government, in contrast, appears to be trying to curtail public disruptions without resorting to extensive violence, though with some elements no doubt favoring greater repression. To me, the situation mirrors but also escalates the whole Bolivarian history, wherein the government has sought massive change but without coercion and true to respecting elections, while the opposition has wished to reverse election results and employed any means they could find — including coup, sabotage and overt violence.

    Beyond choosing sides on these matters, perhaps I can shed some light on future possibilities and indicate the kind of data that would clarify not only what is occurring, but also what is in the cards for the future.

    Factors Propelling the Conflicts

    What problems have generated opposition and especially the forceful disruption of social services? What has motivated small numbers of dissidents to blockade streets, set fires, hurl rocks, and even shoot officials and others? What caused the public emergence of fascistic dissidents like the Retired General who outspokenly urged blockaders to kill citizens by stretching nearly invisible clothes line like wires across roads, which, indeed, decapitated a citizen? What caused the government to utilize police and “riot squads”?

    The biggest factor generating opposition is the logic of the Bolivarian Revolution. Chavismo seeks to enlarge public participation, undercut old forms of authority and power, develop workers councils and neighborhood councils and communes, and fundamentally redistribute Venezuelan wealth to Venezuela’s poor from its rich. All of this generates fierce opposition from the owning class and often also those high in religious or other hierarchies. Resistance against redistribution and the rest motivates Lopez, Capriles, and the opposition generally, as well as the private media and the owners of private companies and many in their upper strata of employees. Like the rich and well off everywhere — not least in the U.S. — these folks tend to pursue their own interests.

    Beyond the opposition’s leadership, however, it is not known how many young people dissenting in the streets are also motivated by a rejection of Chavismo’s virtues. The youth in the streets appear to be overwhelmingly from well off sectors, often private universities, and when interviewed, complain that they have no future. Does “we have no future” mean they are concerned about crime or inflation? Or does it mean they desire great wealth and power, and realize such privileges are at risk? Given their background, their quite violent and impassioned behavior makes some sense if they are worried about their preferred futures as wealthy and powerful elite citizens — but not if they are merely worried about crime. The good news is that the number of students blocking streets and worse remains relatively low.

    Factors which concern a far wider population — including most Chavistas — include corruption, crime, inflation, and shortages. The reason to be angry about these problems is they dramatically diminish the quality of life. But, a large issue is, what are the roots of these problems?

    Corruption means, to me, people enriching themselves via illegitimate behavior undertaken at the expense of others. (In this sense, to me, all of capitalist business is corrupt, but let’s set that aside.) So where do we see corruption in Venezuela?

    The price of milk is subsidized so the poor get ample. That’s a good policy but it gets a bit complicated. Say you live reasonably near the border with Brazil. If you produce milk and you export it, or even if you just buy lots of milk at its low subsidized price and smuggle it over the border, there is a killing to be made because you can sell it for way more in Brazil. The temptation is great. The margin is high. There is plenty of excess profit, enough, even, to bribe folks. And the milk supply inside Venezuela drops — even into shortages. The same goes for oil/gas, even more so, say, at the border with Columbia. Worse still, the access to corrupt advantage by exploiting subsidized prices is hugely aggravated by Venezuela’s approach to exchange rates for Bolivars and dollars. Suffice it to say that policies aimed at benefitting the poor and stabilizing sensible rather than market-ruled prices inside Venezuela, as a byproduct create avenues for huge financial gains by the corrupt practice of buying with Bolivares inside and selling for dollars outside, and coming back and getting way more Bolivares in exchange than you initially spent — or even by just directly exploiting government largess for travel and the like.

    What about crime’s causes? First, we might wonder how could the Chavistas have the slightest interest in generating or even just being soft on crime? That is not plausible. Corruption? Some yes, are complicit. But crime, robbery, kidnapping, murder? No. In contrast, the opposition and local police often have a very real interest in increasing levels of crime. First, some engage in it for personal gain. Second, and more important, they want it to flourish so as to create disenchantment and dissent. The largest uptick in crime, I am told, though I have doubts, had to do with Columbian exiles escaping Columbian repression and arriving to operate in Venezuela. The key factor is criminal behavior of the usual sort, but given considerable room to maneuver by opposition-supporting, or criminally bribed, local police.

    Shortages have to do with exchange rates and subsidized goods being smuggled out, and with outright sabotage by opposition owners who stockpile output that they don’t ship out, literally to create shortages. Again, one can ask, what possible motive would the government have to itself promote shortages? Of course, if a wealthy person feels a shortage that isn’t a priority to correct for the government in their high end stores, and realizes that it is caused, in part, by the government subsidizing prices for the poor, this person might see things differently than I indicate. One important point is that shortages do indeed hit the middle and upper classes hardest partly because those constituencies have no experience of not getting what they want and have no patience for it, and partly because the government is very diligent to ensure that lower income citizens aren’t made hungry.

    (There are many articles on ZNet about all these matters – the events and their causes – and I would suggest a quick study and overview is the two recent video pieces by Greg Wilpert, first on the events now occurring and their causes, and second on inflation and the economy. From there, I hope you will avail yourself of the other content available on Z, to get a deeper view.)

    There is, however, another explanation that some offer for shortages – not obstruction and sabotage by owners, not corrupt export and smuggling of products to neighboring countries for profit – but low productivity. Some see this as due to workers in the public sector not fearing for their jobs and, as a result, slacking off. Others see it as workers in those sectors feeling alienated due to their relations not altering dramatically from past alienated ways, and in that mood, they slow down.

    Reactions to the Street Conflicts

    So, what’s next? What will the government and population do both about the demonstrations and about the underlying issues – and what will it auger for the future?

    First, about disruptions in the streets, there are ultimately only a few short run choices. The first three, I think, are obviously flawed and will be seen as such in Venezuela.
    1.The government and the public can hope it winds down. I think this is likely not wise, because spontaneously winding down is not guaranteed, but friends in Venezuela and the U.S. who know more than I do, think it is quite likely. Also, while most outside Venezuela think these demonstrations are hurting the government, that isn’t the only view. Others, largely from Venezuela, think that the opposition is accepting losing domestic support, which is fed up, in hopes of attracting international aid. If such aid isn’t forthcoming, the opposition winds up losing due to its miscalculation.
    2.If disruption doesn’t dissipate on its own, or even grows, the government could bring it to an end by leaving office, or, short of that, by giving very clear and convincing signs that Chavismo will relent in its plans and no longer threaten and instead even support the interests of wealth and power. Both those options would sacrifice the poor for the rich. I hope they are not even being contemplated.
    3.I have also heard some say the government could share power. Let the opposition into a revamped government – say 40% opposition to Chavismo’s 60% in federal positions. There are many problems with this seeming high road, not least that for the opposition it would merely be a beachhead in pursuit of attaining full power and eradicating progressive gains and desires. There would be a brief calm, perhaps, followed quickly by the opposition seeking more, and using its newly gained positions to go back on the attack.

    As the above three options seem to me badly flawed, I can only offer some hypothetical additional options trying to clarify what else we might see.
    1.The government and public institutions and movements could work hard to undermine all support for violent dissent even in opposition constituencies, and perhaps particularly among the young. This means literally going to opposition youth and talking, clarifying, elaborating, etc. It should have been occurring for many years, as a high priority – and one of my criticisms of the Bolivarian process has long been the relative lack of attention to this task. Can outreach be done in such hostile times? I don’t know, but it is certainly worth trying.
    2.The government could repress, with restraint, the most violent elements of the opposition in hopes of diminishing violence and opposition energy. I should say, describing the government as violent thugs is ridiculous, at least so far. With opposition blocking streets, burning fires, assaulting citizens, attacking public offices and officials, and attacking police and troops to provoke a response, all while calling for mayhem and even murder, if the government was the bunch of authoritarian thugs most media claims, the death toll would be vastly higher — rather than being low with most seemingly caused by the opposition, and with those in the government responsible for violence being charged, as has occurred.
    3.The government could repress with massive force and aggressive tactics. It could jail widely and meet any counter action that is violent with overwhelming repression. In short, it could do the kind of thing that would immediately occur in the U.S.
    4.The government and the population could respond to violent dissent with nonviolent organization. This would be unprecedented, I believe. 50 to a 100 to 200 opposition stalwarts occupy an intersection. Instead of police arriving and seeking to forcefully clear them away, imagine a march of a 1000 or 5000 or 20,000 citizens seeking to pass or just continually removing obstacles and cleaning up the mess opposition activity leaves behind. What does the opposition do against that? What makes this hard to organize is that the opposition is smart enough to stay clear of poor neighborhoods. It instead acts largely in middle class and upper class areas where there aren’t such constituencies available to nonviolently displace it. So this adds another possible tactic. Unarmed and nonviolent Chavistas could block and even close in violent actors, reducing their ability to commit mayhem on down town streets. Could nonviolent mass popular activity work fully? Probably not. But such approaches, done in large scale, with the government indicating that it has no intention of fighting with people who have just grievances even if they are acting in consort with those who do not, might go a long way to helping with point 1, above. And if opposition intransigence and violence persists, then a degree of forceful dispersal would be better justified and clearer to implement as well as less likely to slip slide into something lasting.

    So, regarding the above options, if we see steadily more of 1 – that is a good sign. More 2 – with restraint, certainly isn’t exemplary, but nor is it likely to be a slip slide into bad outcomes. More 3, however, would augur a potential growing sway of repressive and authoritarian thought, a very sad possibility and one that the opposition would love to provoke. More 4 would, supposing it proved possible, be exemplary.

    How will we know which is happening? This is a judgment call. One has to utilize reports and come to tentative conclusions. For myself, I don’t trust mainstream reports — they have been and will remain overwhelmingly absurd — though by repetition also very effective. Opposition claims are reported as fact, even when they are demonstrably and self-evidently ridiculous. Likewise manufactured images and videos are broadcast as fact. So it isn’t just biased spin, which is bad enough, it is description that is horribly unreliable — to put it mildly.

    Thus, as usual, one needs to find trustworthy journalists, if possible on the scene. It is true that left and progressive journalists, whether on the scene or not, could also generate information that is biased or just honestly wrong. So, again, one has to find worthwhile sources. I heartily recommend, Z, of course – but also, and especially, Venezuela Analysis. Some will say, but wait, Venezuela Analysis is composed of folks who are pro Chavista. True. But VA’s writers are also, as far as I can determine, independent and aggressively honest, including criticizing the government. They have few material means, but a great deal of drive and commitment to journalism. Strangely, many activists, right now – though in no other case that I can readily remember – dismiss any commentator who likes the Bolivarian revolution, which tends to mean anyone who is writing about Venezuela and sincerely concerned about the well-being of the bulk of the Venezuelan people. On the other side, typically folks will decry, perhaps, but then be very substantially affected by the barrage of reports from mainstream newspapers and TV. Mainstream messages are in our face, over and over. To find reports, isolated and rarely repeated, that contradict the mainstream, one has to look. After a while even many who abstractly understand the motives of mainstream media feel, well, they are professional, they have means, they report frequently and widely, they all seem to agree, and look how polished and large they are. Their reports must be true. Alternative viewpoints are small, few, and I can’t even find them. They must be delusional, biased, etc. The Catch 22 in all this ought to be very evident. We critique mainstream media for their institutional constraints, their connection to wealth and power, and so on. We praise alternative media for the opposite. So far, so good. But then, at least in this case, many of us imbibe what the mainstream pushes, and ridicule what the alternative reports.

    Reactions to Deeper Concerns

    Now what about the deeper issues – crime, corruption, inflation, and shortages? What lies behind those? What might the government and the population do on those fronts, and what would the choices auger?

    The broad indicators are these. Does a particular policy that seeks to deal with any of these problems – or any other problems, for that matter – improve the conditions of the poor and weak and not the rich and powerful, or vice versa? Does such a policy increase the capacity of the poor and weak to seek further gains and diminish the capacity of the rich and powerful, or vice versa?

    Venezuela is still a capitalist country with many institutions and associated constituencies that want to keep it that way but also with a federal government and a great many grass roots and also federal institutions that are seeking change toward a new system. When there are problems – and there are – the question is, are they addressed in a manner that moves Venezuela back toward old repressive relations, or in a manner that moves Venezuela toward liberating new relations?

    Indicators to consider when deciding are the likely effects of proposed policies on the consciousness and organizational wherewithal of constituencies on either side of the old system versus new system divide, and on their well being and the resources they can utilize for their own current lives as well as for fighting for or to prevent more gains in the future.

    So, take crime. Reducing the ease of committing crime it is positive, as is prosecuting within the dictates of the constitution, particularly if there is also sympathy and attempts at rehabilitation. Removing the incentives to commit crime and making it harder to undertake is positive, as well. So is reducing the temptation to commit crime and the ease of gaining advantage by it. A very risky option, however – but I think much needed – was to find a way to override local police who were in some instances in thrall to capital and abetting crime. A contrary approach ultimately benefitting wealth and power would be harsh repression, stop and frisk type policies, and overly harsh penalties.

    For corruption the situation is somewhat similar, but with a twist. When government officials violate the public good by selling their favors or coercing self-serving results, the penalty can and probably should be quite firm and prompt. The same goes for companies that are making a killing by exporting goods needed in Venezuela, or by smuggling or withholding output, etc. But what about a person smuggling, or a guard accepting a bribe. Here I think far more leniency is in order, and would be a good sign. But there is more to say, in accord with the criteria noted above.

    Take the case of a business owner who is selling abroad or smuggling. Jail may be warranted, but it doesn’t increase the relative power of the poor and affects only, and temporarily, individual violators. A different option would be, in any such case the firm in question is nationalized and put under the auspices of its work force. If an owner wants to violate the public good, fine, they forego their ownership. Once transferred to workers, a question arises – how to operate – but this clearly aimed at increasing the wherewithal and improving the conditions of the poor, not the rich.

    What about shortages? They owe, as indicated earlier, largely to subsidized prices on some goods leading to sales abroad, and to sabotage. But another issue is productivity. So, first, regarding low prices, what to do? Well, simply raising the prices, for example of milk, removes the incentive to export or smuggle, but it also hurts low income people. However if you keep the price down, the incentive to export or smuggle is huge. There may be other choices, but one that I can imagine is to have the price rise — but then directly aid the poor. How? Their price, and only their price for milk, for example, could be reduced by their receiving some government subsidy beyond their income — or, for that matter, by their getting a dramatic increase in their income that more than offsets the added costs for their milk. But then what about prices, they could be frozen – risking the corruption dynamic, again – or they could rise, but there could be a major tax on profits, with the revenues used, in turn, for working people. These are possible routes out of this conundrum to look for. Or take oil and automobile gas. Again, in Venezuela oil is hugely subsidized. The price, that is, is nearly zero. The incentive, therefore, to buy or produce inside Venezuela and sell in Columbia, say, is intense. What to do? Again as long as that price difference exists violations will occur. But also again, raising the price would have horrible repercussions for those of the poor who drive, or even use public transit if those prices were to rise. Solution – raise the price, but tax profits and then return the revenues to the poor in diverse ways. Free greatly improved public transport would be one example. A reverse income tax for low income people would be another. One can think of other options.

    What about productivity? This issue, which gets almost no attention from anyone, at least that I have seen, may actually wind up being most revealing. If it is true that public firms are producing at a low level, what should be done? One idea would be to call in owners and managers and exert market discipline via their command. The claim would be that the workers don’t put out sufficiently due to knowing they won’t be fired, and that they need to be pressured to produce more. The left version would be to claim this is required for output, even if disliked, and will be temporary once the workers are better trained. I would say all of it is nonsense. This step would not be a temporary deviation from a path toward a new type economy, but a hard retreat toward the old, greatly empowering forces seemed reaction, and demoralizing the base of movements for change. But if this isn’t the way, what is? If workers aren’t producing sufficiently in public firms, what will cause them to do so other than aggressive market discipline and one man management, for example?

    The answer, however hard to implement given all kinds of habits and expectations from the past, must be a serious push toward self management. The task is to get workers in plants to feel solidarity with one another, and with society, to leave behind alienation and want to control their own lives, while contributing to social well being by their labors. The steps that would move in such directions, I believe, are trying to introduce a new division of labor nurturing and using all actors’ capacities to participate and contribute to decisions, council based self management, and, to the extent possible — and steadily more as time passes – coordination of actions with other firms via collective negotiation, not command or market competition. This is a longer discussion, and of course I have my own favored ideas, but for purposes of assessing in the short and near term – the issue will be is there a rhetoric of worker failure requiring discipline, or a rhetoric of organizational failure requiring steadily more democratization and even self-management, plus job innovation and moves toward a new kind of participatory planning.

    Returning to the more proximate and in the news issues, the exchange rate causes all kinds of trouble. If I can buy a car, say, again to make things simple…for 100,000 Bolivares, take if over the border, sell it for dollars, and come back and exchange the dollars for 800,000 Bolivares, say — you can see the incredible incentive to do it, whether I am a citizen or an auto manufacturer. The exchange rates need to be equilibrated so what you get with currency in surrounding countries, and what you get for the Bolivares that that currency would exchange for in Venezuela, is quite comparable. This means rising prices for many items, particularly imports, in Venezuela, which would hurt the poor, again. But this is like above. If the exchange rate is corrected and prices rise for Venezuelans, those of low income need an offsetting gain. That is rising wages and even a reverse income tax, funded via profit taxes.

    What about inflation? Inflation is a climb in prices and wages and basically all indices, which means a Bolivar yesterday is worth less than a Bolivar tomorrow. What is the impact? There are quite a few, but one thing is clear — spend today, don’t wait until tomorrow because tomorrow what you have will purchase less. Suppose I earn 5,000 Bolivars a month. And I do it all year, and all next year, too. Suppose inflation of prices was 50%, but my salary did not climb. Egad, I will earn the same number of Bolivars next year as this, but it will be worth only half as much when purchasing items for myself and my family. This imposes irrational pressures to spend fast as well as hurting wellbeing. In the large, if inflation occurs in prices, but isn’t matched in wages, wealth redistributes to the rich and powerful. That is horrible. What can be done? Price controls plus steady wage increases for those earning less than some ample amount and income freezes for those above that ample amount is one option. Because of the exigencies of market economics, however, this can have unwanted side effects. Another way to do it is to wait until things settle down, and then use strong taxes to redistribute the benefits of economic activity toward the poor, from the rich. This is all serious business, for sure, but the key idea is simple.

    If Venezuela moves to reduce clashes by giving the opposition more means to make demands and demobilizing the public, much less by simply reneging on positive programs, it will be on a road toward the old days. If it reasserts social programs and finds a largely non forceful way to reduce clashes, it is moving forward. Likewise, if it deals with issues like crime, corruption, inflation, and the exchange rates in ways that strengthen elites and weaken the poor — materially and organizationally — it is moving toward the old days. If it adopts, instead, approaches like those mentioned above, that will reveal positive future likelihoods. The issue is having the poor and working people bear the burdens (as in the U.S. response to its own crises), or having the share of social product that goes to those with lower incomes rise, and the share that goes to the rich fall, as would occur in any morally worthy country.


    For the third time since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 1988, the EU and Cuba are
    set to begin negotiations on a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. As HR/VP Catherine
    Ashton cautiously underlined, “this is not a policy change from the past” but part of the long stopand- go process of rapprochement between Cuba and the EU. Two previous negotiation attempts – started in 1995 and 2000 respectively – were frozen because of the human rights situation on the island. But this time it could be different. New drivers First, unlike in the past, Cuba’s international reintegration is now backed by rising powers Brazil and Mexico, both strategic partners of the EU. This ‘Latin American factor’ provides additional impetus for strengthening European engagement and could even motivate a policy change in Washington. Fully accepted and recognised in its neighbourhood, Cuba recently hosted the second Summit of the Latin American and Caribbean Community (CELAC) – the EU’s main regional political partner
    in the region. The meeting in Havana demonstrated first and foremost the distance between
    Latin America and the United States, which is yet to alter its outdated policy towards Cuba. While the EU is once again trying to engage through political dialogue and cooperation, Washington has, for the moment, preferred to keep sanctions in place and ignore domestic calls for change. A recent poll conducted by the Atlantic Council revealed that 56% of US citizens are in favour of ending the embargo, while nearly 60% consider the current travel restrictions to be inefficient and counter-productive. The demand of Republican Senator Jeff Flake to “end the Cold War in our own hemisphere” is also backed by a majority in the Cuban ‘enclave’ in Florida. Second, Cuba has embarked on a reform and modernisation process – albeit an extraordinarily cautious one. Since Raúl Castro assumed the presidency of the island nation eight years ago, his legitimacy increasingly rests on the ability to guarantee efficiency and economic progress. His government
    approved – following the 2011 Cuban Communist Party Congress – a reform, adjustment and modernisation programme and a migration law that allows even dissidents to travel without special permit. Following the death of a dissident on hunger strike, the number of political prisoners has been reduced to between 80-100 people. In addition, dissident Guillermo Fariñas and the ‘Ladies in White’ – relatives of political prisoners – were allowed to travel abroad in order to collect the Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament, awarded to them for their work in promoting the freedom of thought in Cuba. The other side of the coin, however, is that human rights abuses continue, that the regime has been militarised, and that there still is no alternative to the one-party system. This being said, ‘Raulism’ is considerably softer than ‘Fidelism’ – and its political
    longevity much more uncertain.

    Third, there are signs of change in the current US position, providing evidence that Washington is no longer opposed to the EU’s full engagement. Gone are the days of hard-line policies, including political pressure on Brussels by a ‘Cuba transition coordinator’ appointed by George W. Bush (who also promoted a ‘blueprint’ for a democratic Cuba). The difficult negotiations witnessed between the EU and the Clinton Administration following the approval of the Helms-Burton Act are also a thing of the past. Introduced in response to a new wave of repression unleashed against dissidents, the Act reinforced the US embargo and led to the creation of the EU’s Common Position on Cuba, approved in 1996 to strengthen democratic conditionality and avoid the placing of sanctions on European companies by Washington. Today both documents, the Common Position and the Helms-Burton Act, appear somewhat obsolete. Obama’s position is quite pragmatic and, like the Union’s, more open to Latin American calls to engage with Cuba. Under President Obama, the special clause impeding Cuba’s reintegration into the Organisation of American States (OAS) was repealed. Other positive measures have included the return to encouraging people-to-people contacts and the restoration of bilateral talks on migration.
    And further steps might follow. A fourth reason for optimism is due to the institutional
    changes within the EU. Its policy towards Cuba is no longer shaped by its member states –
    particularly Spain as Cuba’s principal European partner, or those who opposed Madrid’s posture –
    but coordinated by foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who will lead the future negotiations with
    Havana. The HR/VP has pushed for change in EU policy and successfully managed to reach an agreement on further engagement despite the initial opposition of some EU member states. Beginning in 2012 when the EU Council decided to pave the way for exploring new guidelines for negotiating with Cuba, this process has been long and arduous. The pros and the cons Although no decision has been taken yet, the EU now has the opportunity to test whether full engagement
    is more effective than conditional engagement. Much depends on Cuba. The government in Havana has reacted cautiously to the European offer, and the vice minister of foreign affairs has stressed the usual conditions of ‘non-interference in internal affairs, mutual respect and the supremacy of national sovereignty’. Yet both sides stand to benefit from a mutual agreement.
    For Cuba, a Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Brussels would guarantee a longstanding and more stable relationship with the EU. Depending on the financial commitments made, better relations with its main donor and secondlargest trading partner could also be a much-needed boon for the ailing Cuban economy. As a side effect, an agreement with the EU would create a certain counter-balance to the risky business transactions with Cuba’s unpredictable ally and most important economic partner, namely Venezuela. In political terms, it would be another ‘victory’ on the path towards the international recognition of the regime and send an important message to the United States that engagement with Havana is possible.
    For the EU, a new Cooperation Agreement entails some internal points of contention. Not all member states favour full (and unconditional) engagement with Havana. Moreover, the European Parliament supports Cuban activists who opposed the regime,and most dissidents are critical of any possible deal between Raùl Castro and the EU. This is the reason why human rights will rank high on the EU’s negotiation agenda, while Havana will downplay the issue and insist on the elimination of the Common Position. The outcome of these negotiations is still wide open: the usual ‘zero-sum-game’ of stagnation, or the signature of the long-awaited agreement. On
    both sides, the political gains of reaching an agreement would be bigger than the economic benefits, given that Cuba already entertains diplomatic, cooperation and economic relations with the EU. Against this background, an agreement with Cuba would not constitute a radical change of EU policy but a consequent step within the broader framework of engagement. The recent poll by the Atlantic Council provides an indicator that public opinion in the United States is moving in the same direction. Whether policy will also follow is difficult to predict, but the 18 years since the adoption of the EU’s Common Position and passing of the Helms- Burton Act have demonstrated that these strategies are largely failing to bring the desired political change to Cuba. In the end, after decades of divergence, Brussels and Washington might yet agree that sanctions and rigid conditionality can be counterproductive in attempts to promote democracy and human rights in authoritarian regimes. A different approach might be worth trying.

    Susanne Gratius is a Professor of International
    Relations at the Autonomous University of
    (UAM) and Research Associate at FRIDE.

  28. REUTERS: Art theft experts offer to help Cuba recover missing works – by David Quinones

    One of the world’s leading databases of stolen works of art is offering to help the Cuban government recover dozens of modernist works missing from Havana’s National Museum of Fine Arts.

    The statement indicated the Cuban government would work “with any proper authorities inside or outside the country” to “alert museums, galleries, auction houses and others.”

    In years past, the Cuban government has stayed mum when museum pieces have been put on the market, raising suspicions that the sales had been officially approved in the face of hard economic times.

    The heist was confirmed late last week by officials with Cuba’s state-run National Council of Cultural Heritage, which added it was in the process of finishing an inventory of the missing pieces which will be made public.

    Miami gallery owner Ramon Cernuda, a Cuban-American exile and prominent collector of Cuban art, alerted the Havana museum last month after he became suspicious of 11 works being offered for sale in Miami, including one he purchased.

    On Friday, Cuban officials confirmed the works, including several by acclaimed Cuban painter Leopoldo Romañach, were part of a larger trove of stolen art, thought to be about 95 pieces in all.

    The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun grand jury proceedings in the case, Cernuda told Reuters on Monday.

    The FBI said, however, that it could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

    The disclosure of the theft is a first for the Cuban government since Fidel Castro took power in 1959. In its statement, officials from the National Council of Cultural Heritage stated that the works were cut from their frames while in storage.


  29. John: Cuba, Venezuela and Ukrainian People chose the government they all have/had at one time. We can’t simply ignore this. The problem is a human problem: absolute power corrupts absolutely in the case of Ukraine’s Premier and Cuba’s Castro’s. Venezuela’s People like Chavez as much as the Cuban People liked the Castro’s in 1959. But, People in every country want quality of life, most of them don’t know or care if the country can provide them with the quality of life they aspire to. All they know is that they want it and if they can’t get it, they want someone else at the helm right away. Even though nothing really changes, only the name of who is the Premier or President. Freedom is really more of a state of mind then reality. Every country in the World has created a body of laws that controls the individual from conception through the disposal of the body. We live in economic prisons, no matter where you live. In Cuba the law don’t allow you to criticize or demand regime change, food is rationed, conveniences are few and far in between. It forces the great majority of people into a life style that most people simply do not want. In the United States, a very Rich country, the People are confined by laws, market equilibrium, racism, apartheid, exploitation. Only 28% of the People live in a quality of life that correlates to the $16 Trillion GDP. The other 68% cannot afford all the education they want for their children, cannot afford to pay for the healthcare they want. The majority of Americans don’t like their jobs and even though they are free to travel anywhere in the World they would like to go, it is priced out of reach for the majority of Americans. To me, the difference between the Left and the Right really matters in how Rich the country is and not in degree of Freedom as we measure it today. The Rich countries of today (Europe, the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia) operate under Socialist- Democracy, Democracy, Socialist- Democracy, Kingdom respectively. They all have citizens that are not satisfied with their quality of life and this dissatisfaction they feel has very little to do with Freedom to chose a government, but, their complaints are very similar to the complaints of People in Cuba, Venezuela and Ukraine. The difference is in magnitude, but, the reasons are extremely similar and the magnitude of their unhappiness is correlated to how Rich their country Is and nothing else….This is why I believe that if People are going to protest for regime change, it should be to create a sustainable society that embraces conservation, restoration and economic efficiency tempered by controls that manages scarcity in a sustainable way.

    CBC CANADA NEWS: Winnipeg man who was stuck in Cuba has warning for travellers. Ted Barnett comes home after waiting 7 weeks for investigation into moped crash to finish
    A Winnipeg man who was stuck in Cuba for seven weeks following a moped crash is warning others not to rent any kind of vehicle while travelling in other countries.
    Ted Barnett, 60, said his latest experience in Varadero, Cuba, demonstrates that those who rent vehicles abroad could end up at the mercy of local authorities if anything happens.B”I’ve rented a moped before. I’ve had no problems. This time, it was a little bit different,” said Barnett, who returned to Winnipeg over the weekend. Barnett said he has been to Varadero three times before going back on Jan. 11 for what was supposed to be a week-long stay. But five days into his trip, he was driving a rented moped when he lost control of the vehicle and struck a female pedestrian, breaking the woman’s leg as a result.

    “It’s not in my nature to go out and hurt people. It was an accident, a simple accident,” he said.
    No charges laid

    It took Cuban officials weeks to finish their investigation, while Barnett faced a growing hotel bill at the resort he had booked.

    In the end, no char

  31. FOX NEWS: Even All Dolled Up, The Two Faces Of Cuba Are All Too Easy To See. – by Lion Calandra
    There are outdoor cafés, nightclubs, fancy restaurants. There are happy times. But there is also crumbling infrastructure. And shanty towns. And the boat carcasses that litter the landscape – reminders of Cubans’ failed attempts to reach the mainland. The Cuban government keeps a short leash on the Americans who travel here. U.S. visitors must be accompanied at all times by a local Cuban national tour guide; there is little to no free time and no wandering from the pack. I arrive in Cuba and land in 1959. There is no cell phone service. There is limited Internet. Twitter and Facebook are blocked. I pay for things with cash; no credit cards drawn on a U.S. bank are accepted here. The streets are filled with “Yank tanks” – those classic American cars from the 1950s and ’60s that Cubans have hung onto through the decades because of government restrictions on car ownership.

    My hotel, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, is a beautiful, broken-down palace. There are marble floors and gargantuan columns. Rooms overlook the harbor. The mahogany bar is resplendent; walls are filled with pictures of the celebrities who passed through here, as our guide put it, “before the Revolution triumphed.” Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Jorge Negrete, Spencer Tracy, Johnny Weismuller, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Nat King Cole, Ernest Hemingway. The list is endless. And so are the Mojitos.

    The hall carpets smell of mold and the paint on the walls is peeling. Every afternoon, a surge interrupts electrical power to the hotel – lights flicker, elevators stall, blenders stop.


  32. ***
    HI OMAR FUNDORA–The best option for the Cuban, Venezuelan, and Ukrainian People is the freedom to choose their own form of government. In free honest elections. Without control by communist dictatorships and their evil armed criminals. It usually takes a revolution to win liberty.
    HOLA OMAR FUNDORA–La opcion mejor por los Cubanos, Venezuelanos, y Ukrainanos es la libertad a selecionar su propria forma de gobierno. En elecciones libres y honestos. Sin control de dictadores communistas y sus maleantes armados. La mayoria del tiempo necesita un revolucion a ganar la libertad.

  33. The best options for Cuba, Venezuela and Ukraine: Soft Landing into sustainable governance from the Left.

  34. The only “foreign infiltration” is that which is directing the government currently in power. The protesters are all home-grown.

    It’s high time the Castros retire and let the people decide what they want their future to be.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we are hoping that ALL the Venezuelan people soon turn on their pathetic excuse for a government.

  35. Yoani, once again nails it.

    One of my personal favorites, OLPL, does too:

    Venezuela, a Truth Between Virtue and Vengeance

    El Nacional
    March 1, 2014
    Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

    The Cuban people will go down in history as the people who most contributed to Latin American disintegration. Disguised by the ideological hatred of capitalism, we bit into the core of fratricidal hatred on our continent. This guilt today covers several generations, irreversibly anthropologically damaged. There is no forgiveness capable of freeing us from this criminal responsibility.

    Since January 1959, a bourgeois and pro-democratic revolution, with strong hints of urban terrorism and a certain Cuban-style Protestantism, was re-channeled by Fidel Castro into an agrarian and anti-imperialist process, and ultimately turned into a dictatorship of the proletariat and an extreme alliance with Moscow in the context of the Cold War.

    The United States did nothing to avoid the artificial radicalization of the Revolution. Rather, great arrogance and a touch of ignorance led to the victimhood with which we Cubans justify a regime of injustice and impunity: massive social programs but not for those human beings who weigh in with an opinion (whether for or against, discipline in the face of despotism was always the key to survival in times of revolution).

    Thus, Castro took thousands and thousands of lives, not only of his opponents (many of them armed), but also of Cuban revolutionaries, the majority executed extra-judicially — many of them were tried after they were shot — as soon as they manifested the least symptom of dissent to the official totalitarian discourse.

    Cuban society came unhinged within a few months. No press remained. No religion one could publicly confess. No independent education, only that imposed “for free” by the State. Nor was there personalized healthcare. Nor commercial brands. Nor “human rights,” a term that still today sounds like an insult within Cuba. All exchange of international currency was abolished. We could not leave nor enter the country. We could not connect by phone with the outside nor receive a letter without being fired from our jobs.

    Those who could flee, fled. We are still fleeing. It is our permanent plebiscite before a government that never listened to its own people: flight as a reaction to asphyxiating Fidel-ity. Those who remained on the island shut up or went to prison with long sentences — and terribly cruel tortures — like those that made Nelson Mandela, for example, a global icon.

    We non-Castroite Cubans never became icons of anything. We were simply “worms,” “traitors,” “scum,” the “lumpen” of the “first free territory in America.” In American academia, especially, where Castroism had been “politically correct” from the very beginning, the greatest Cuban intellectuals, like the exiled and ultimately suicidal Reinaldo Arenas, never found shelter.

    Continue reading here:

  36. ***
    The Venezuelan People will have to fight and die to remove the evil communist government. And the Castro Brothers may send in more military “help” to prevent this. Nor will they get any help from Comrade Obama (PBUH!) and His Regime.
    La Gente Venezuelana tendran que peliar y morir para remover el mal gobierno communista. Y los Hermanos Castros puedan mandar mas “ayudas” militares a preventarlo. Ni reciberan ninguna ayuda de Comrada Obama (PBUH!) y su Regime.

    THE NATION: Foreigners detained in Venezuela protests – Government officials gave no information or details on the arrest of foreigners.

    CARACAS : At least 41 people, including foreign reporters, were arrested in Caracas late Friday as security forces battled protesters angry at the policies of Venezuela’s leftist government.
    National Guard security forces blasted the student-led demonstrators with high-pressure water and fired tear gas canisters into the crowds in an attempt to break up the protest. Hooded protesters set up barricades and responded by hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.
    The death toll from three-week street battles stood at 18, according to government figures.
    With no sign of a breakthrough in the political crisis gripping the oil-rich country, Washington urged President Nicolas Maduro to talk to the protesters.
    “They need to reach out and have a dialogue, and bring people together and resolve their problems,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in Washington, urging against “arrests and violence in the streets.”
    Kerry said the United States was working with Colombia and other countries to bolster mediation efforts.
    Maduro has labeled the protests that began on February 4 a Washington-backed attempted “coup.”
    He claims that radical opposition leaders have joined students angered by high inflation and goods shortage in plotting to topple his nearly year-old government.
    – Two foreign reporters detained –
    Eight of those detained were foreigners “and are being held for international terrorism,” state VTV television said in a brief statement.
    Venezuela’s journalist association SNTP said that one of the foreigners was US freelance reporter Andrew Rosati, who writes for the Miami Herald.
    Rosati was detained for half an hour and released after being “struck in the face and his abdomen” by security forces, the SNTP, said on Twitter.
    The group also said that Italian photographer Francesca Commissari, who works for the local daily El Nacional, was being held.
    Government officials gave no information or details on the arrest of foreigners.

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