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Posts Tagged ‘Venezuela’

The Biden Admin Refused to Secure the Border, so it Was Time to Bring the Border to Martha’s Vineyard

Posted by M. C. on September 17, 2022

Ideally, this all ends with a more secure, sovereign country. The Martha’s Vineyard transport serves to bring this debate right to the doorstep of the progressive elite, and it shines a light on the lack of sovereignty in America, due to our wide open southern border.

By Jordan Schachtel
The Dossier

Rarely do you get an opportunity to do what is right, positively impact policy, and showcase hypocrisy in one fell swoop.

And that’s exactly what Florida Governor Ron DeSantis achieved Wednesday when the state sent some 50 Venezuelan immigrants, who I believe entered by way of Mexico, to Martha’s Vineyard.

The affluent Massachusetts summer colony serves as a popular destination spot for the progressive elite. The Obamas own a 12 million dollar waterfront estate on the island. The Clinton family are frequent visitors, along with Oprah, and countless globalists ideologues that claim a willingness to open up their homes to anyone and everyone.

As border states continue to be overrun by the influx of illegal immigrants, and the federal government implicitly encourages the continuation of the crisis, DeSantis was right to shake things up.

If the Biden Administration doesn’t want to address the problem, it’s time to bring the problem to the doorstep of its constituency.

Notably, not a soul on the island has opened up their homes to the Venezuelans. The town has gone as far as to label the continuing episode a “humanitarian crisis.”

While border states deal with the influx of tens of thousands of economic migrants on a regular basis, Martha’s Vineyard has declared a “humanitarian crisis” for 50 people.

And they can’t wait to get rid of them as soon as humanly possible.

Read the Whole Article

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Iran and Venezuela Praise Shared Success in Combating US Sanctions

Posted by M. C. on June 13, 2022

The two sides signed a 20-year cooperation agreement that will bolster their agriculture and food production fields

The Cradle

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ended his visit to Iran by holding high level talks with President Ebrahim Raisi and Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei on 11 June.

Both sides spoke about the successful experiences they have had in countering punitive economic sanctions imposed on them by the US.

Khamenei praised the Venezuelan people for their victory against hybrid war of Washington, saying: “Your resistance and that of the people of Venezuela is valuable because it enhances the value, status and merits of a nation and a country as well as its leaders.”

“Today, the US views Venezuela in a different [manner] compared to the past,” Khamenei added.

Earlier in the day, Raisi and Maduro signed a 20-year “cooperation road map,” focusing mainly on the areas of agriculture and food production.

“It is essential to consolidate the sovereignty and food security of our country,” Maduro said.

“I believe that between the two of us we will create an indestructible friendship for the future of our people and we will witness how our countries grow in the face of difficulties and how a new world is growing,” Maduro told the Iranian President.

In response, Raisi highlighted how Iran’s foreign policy “has always been to have relations with independent countries, and Venezuela has demonstrated incredible resistance against threats and sanctions by enemies and imperialism.”

“Sanctions and threats against the Iranian nation over the past 40 plus years have been numerous, but the Iranian nation has turned these sanctions into an opportunity for progress,” Raisi added.

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Don’t blame Putin or petroleum companies for Biden’s pump pain

Posted by M. C. on March 22, 2022

Now, as they beg OPEC, Venezuela and Iran for help to reduce onerous price and inflation consequences of their own policies ahead of 2022 midterm elections, they are likely to discover that maybe Putin and petroleum companies really aren’t their biggest problems after all.

By Larry Bell

As his administration now scrambles to solicit supply oil shortages from OPEC, Venezuela, and Iran to reduce skyrocketing energy costs ahead of Democrat congressional mid-term election casualties, let’s remember this contradicts former 2019 candidate Joe Biden’s campaign pledge that “I guarantee you we’re going to end fossil fuels.

Let’s also recall that President Biden then inherited an America that was not only energy independent, but also a leading global oil and gas exporter, and that gas prices began going up long before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine recently provoked a bipartisan ban on Russian oil, gas and coal imports.

That ban was likely influenced by a March 8 Reuters/Ipsos poll which found that 80% of all likely voters surveyed responded that the U.S. “should not buy oil or gas from Russia during this [Ukraine] conflict, even if it causes American gas prices to increase.”

Simultaneously, inflation over the past year has risen to a 40-year high of 7.9%, most all occurring prior to the Ukraine conflict catastrophe.

Also, recall that immediately upon taking office, Joe Biden revoked a permit essential for the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver oil from Canada.

Shortly thereafter, his administration launched an effort to overturn an oil drilling program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, and empowered Department of Interior regulatory efforts to delay drilling permits.

Blaming U.S. companies—not Biden policies—for not producing more oil and gas, White House press secretary Jen Psaki asserted that there are 9,000 available unused drilling permits, while only 10% of onshore oil production takes place on federal land.

A big problem here, is that the companies first must obtain additional permits for rights of way to access leases and build pipelines to transport fuel, a requirement that the Biden administration’s Interior Department has made more difficult.

Next, the companies must build up a sufficient inventory of permits before they can contract rigs – requiring added regulatory difficulties of operating on federal lands.

For example, it takes 140 days or so for the feds to approve a drilling permit versus two for the state of Texas.

See the rest here

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The Cruel Farce of U.S. Regime Change Policy in Venezuela

Posted by M. C. on January 8, 2022

The use of broad sanctions against entire populations is inherently malign and must be brought to an end.

As a dumb kid I used to think-wouldn’t it be good to help our hemispheric neighbors advance to a level closer to the US and be more like Europe. Apparently no one else has thought the same.

The Biden administration is continuing the farce that is our government’s regime change policy in Venezuela:

The United States continues to recognize the authority of the democratically elected 2015 National Assembly as the last remaining democratic institution and Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.  We welcome the agreement reached to extend the authority of the National Assembly elected in 2015 and of interim President Guaidó as its president.

It was a mistake to recognize Guaidó when he had some fig leaf of legitimacy three years ago, but to continue the charade now several years later when he and his allies have even less influence and standing than they did before is truly absurd. The chief problem with recognizing him as “interim” president then was that he had no effective control over the state he was supposedly leading. There was initially a belief among regime changers that defectors from the military would lend their support to the cause, but this never amounted to more than a trickle, and the few that threw in their lot with Guaidó were then left high and dry by the amateurish would-be coup attempt. Since then, the opposition has only lost ground. Fewer governments recognize Guaidó today than recognized him in 2019, and his approval rating in Venezuela is abysmally low. As Francisco Rodriguez points out, the “interim” president has no real democratic or constitutional legitimacy:

Guaidó’s claim is tenuous both legally and politically. He has never won a national election, his term as legislator expired more than a year ago, and his poll numbers are as low as Maduro’s.

In addition to lacking legitimacy, he also lacks power inside the country. The military remains firmly on the side of Maduro and his allies. U.S. regime change policy has utterly failed to reach its goal, but it has still managed to inflict horrifying damage on the population. Rodriguez continues:

The central idea of this “maximum pressure” approach – implemented by Trump and Biden both through economic sanctions and by the transfer of control of Venezuelan government funds to Guaidó’s interim government – is that depriving the country of the funds needed to sustain its economy will bring about regime change. It hasn’t, and it won’t. It will simply contribute to worsening the country’s humanitarian crisis, fuel animosity toward the United States, deepen opposition divisions, and weaken civil society.

Rodriguez has authored a new study of the effects of U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s economy, and his findings make for alarming reading:

See the rest here

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What Happens When You Print Money

Posted by M. C. on October 4, 2021

They will need dumpsters of money to buy bread, not wheelbarrows.

CARACAS, Oct 1 (Reuters) – Venezuela on Friday launched its second monetary overhaul in three years by cutting six zeros from the bolivar currency in response to hyperinflation, simplifying accounting but doing little to ease the South American nation’s economic crisis.

The plan seeks to makes accounting more straightforward at businesses and banks, where systems can no longer handle the huge figures. Venezuela’s year-on-year inflation is 1,743%, according to the Venezuelan Finance Observatory. A minimum wage salary is barely $2.50 per month.

“Honestly, I think hyperinflation is too strong, this is already the third reconversion,” said Alfredo Bohorquez, a 55-year-old selling drawings on a boulevard in eastern Caracas. “This one will last three or four years, maybe less.”

President Nicolas Maduro’s government in 2018 removed five zeros from the currency due to high prices. That came a decade after the late President Hugo Chavez subtracted three zeros from the bolivar with the promise of single-digit inflation, which was not achieved.

The once-prosperous OPEC nation is suffering a years-long economic crisis that has led millions of Venezuelans to emigrate. Maduro’s socialist government blames U.S. sanctions for the country’s woes, while critics assign responsibility to interventionist macroeconomic policies.

The widespread adoption of the U.S. dollar for commercial transactions in Venezuela will further dilute the relevance of the new scheme. Bolivars in cash in Venezuela are rarely used for routine purchases.

Many people on Friday were using dollars in cash for purchases in supermarkets, pharmacies, and stores selling school supplies and uniforms, Reuters witnesses said. Bank systems were functioning normally after an hours-long planned outage early on Friday morning as they converted to the new currency scheme.

“The economic imbalances in the country are very acute and the zeros that are being removed today will soon return,” said economist Jose Manuel Puente. “The reconversion will have no impact in macroeconomic terms.”Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Mayela Armas in Caracas Writing by Brian Ellsworth and Luc Cohen Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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Erie Times E-Edition Article-Hyperinflation, US dollars pricing out Venezuelan consumers

Posted by M. C. on August 13, 2021

The government last week announced it would lop six zeros off the currency – a million-to-1 change – with new bills as of Oct.1. Currently, the 1million bolivar note is the largest denomination. It’s worth roughly a U.S. quarter.

Inflation happens when government prints money and dilutes the value.

That was a boon for the private sector, which began importing all sorts of goods that Venezuelans had not seeing in years.

The “private sector”…

Regina Garcia Cano and Juan Pablo Arraez ASSOCIATED PRESS CARACAS, Venezuela – Yosmar Sanguino says she struggles to put food on the table for her two daughters and three grandchildren in a low-income neighborhood of Venezuela’s capital.

She often whips up arepas – traditional flat, round corn patties – with butter and cheese. But it’s hard to afford even those few ingredients.

‘There is food, but the money is lacking. Because if you buy one thing, you can’t buy the other,’ she said. ‘If you buy butter, you can’t buy cheese. Or if you buy the cheese, you can’t buy the butter.’

And she’s among the relatively fortunate Venezuelans who have at least some access to dollars – money sent by a son who emigrated to the United States as the the South American nation’s social, political and economic crises worsened.

More than 40% of Venezuelan households receive some remittances from abroad, which last year were expected to reach $4billion, according to the consultancy firm Econoanalitica, based in Caracas, the capital. The money often flows through a network of third-party foreign bank account holders who charge commissions, digital payment methods such as Zelle or via friends or relatives traveling home with cash.

The country’s socialist government two years ago gave up its long and complicated efforts to restrict transactions in dollars in favor of the local bolivar, whose value has been obliterated by the world’s worst inflation.

That has largely ended shortages that for years left markets with chronically empty shelves. But it means many Venezuelans – paid in bolivars whose value evaporates by the day – can’t afford what’s on those shelves.

The government last week announced it would lop six zeros off the currency – a million-to-1 change – with new bills as of Oct.1. Currently, the 1million bolivar note is the largest denomination. It’s worth roughly a U.S. quarter.

But without other measures, that would have little to no effect on the continuing erosion of value. The government already had cut three zeros in 2008 and five more in 2018.

Despite repeated multiplications of the official minimum wage earned by millions of Venezuelans, it still amounts to about $2 – not even enough to buy a kilogram of chicken.

Millions of Venezuelans anxiously wait for the semi-monthly arrival of a heavily subsidized box of goods that costs between 43 cents and 62 cents and usually includes corn flour, rice, oil, sugar, pasta and beans. Many scramble to make ends meet with side jobs – home bakeries, haircuts, car repairs, food deliveries, barter.

And for some, the ends don’t meet at all.

Per capita consumption of protein dropped 60% between 2013, when President Nicolás Maduro took office, and 2019, according to investment firm Torino Capital. Consumption of chicken plunged 82% during that period, while eggs’ fell 66%.

A report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found that roughly a third of Venezuelans reported they had no food stored up and 11 percent reported sometimes going a day without food. The U.N. World Food Program in 2019 reported that 6.3% of children under 5 years were acutely malnourished, 13.4% were stunted and 30% were anemic. About 24% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were also anemic.

The value of the bolivar had been collapsing for years despite – or because of – government efforts to control the exchange rate. It rapidly expanded the money supply even as there was less to spend it on, with an economy that was producing fewer goods and eventually exporting less oil.

But massive blackouts in 2019 began to change the dynamic, said Dagnelly Duarte, an economist for Torino Capital, which has a special focus on Venezuela.

Consumers without an enormous stash of paper bolivars couldn’t go the grocery store because credit card terminals weren’t working. People charged $1 to power up cellphones. Bags with ice went for $10. By the end of the year, the government had abandoned efforts to constrict the U.S. dollar.

That was a boon for the private sector, which began importing all sorts of goods that Venezuelans had not seeing in years.

Duarte said sellers initially were wary of setting prices in dollars; most customers had none and many feared the government would still crack down.

But after awhile, ‘it became evident that, ‘Look, I’m using dollars and the sale of the products is flowing better.’’

These days, Duarte said, over 60% of transactions are in U.S. dollars – a fact that snarls life for those without greenbacks.

‘It’s very complicated for a person like me, who retired from the university – 27 years of service, professional. I had the position of head of public relations … and my salary does not even reach $5,’ said Germán Socas, who was buying fruits and vegetables at a market in Caracas.

Even dollar prices have risen sharply, partly because the currency itself is less scarce. A set of basic goods for a family of five – including flour for arepas, chicken, sardines and butter – in May cost almost four times more in dollar terms than it did two years ago, according to Torino Capital.

‘In 2019, when (the use of) the dollar was still restricted, with $100 dollars you could make a complete market run, and you still had plenty. Currently, the basic basket is around $390 (a month),’ Duarte said.

The shelves stocked with imported olive oils and imported cheeses give ‘an image of prosperity’ said travel agent Viviana Stifano after visiting a supermarket. ‘But it is an environment of scarcity at the same time because now there is an excess of products, but you do not have the purchasing power to buy the ones you want. You get what you need to barely live.’

All sides blame part of Venezuela’s problems on falling oil prices. Critics blame government mismanagement and corruption for the collapsing output of the country’s main export and its failure to diversify the economy away from oil. From a peak of about 3.2million barrels of oil a day in 1997, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves today pumps out fewer than 500,000 barrels.

The government blames U.S. sanctions for many of its economic woes and Maduro last month accused a few rich Venezuelans, whom he did not name, of manipulating prices, warning of possible action against them. ‘There are no untouchables in the Venezuelan oligarchy,’ he said.

Two years ago Venezuela stopped restricting transactions in dollars, which has largely ended shortages, but has meant many Venezuelans who are paid in bolivars can’t afford what’s on those shelves. Ariana Cubillos/AP

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The Cobra Effect: Lessons in Unintended Consequences – Foundation for Economic Education

Posted by M. C. on March 17, 2021

None of this means there is no place for legislation. What it does mean is that lawmakers should be keenly aware that every human action has both intended and unintended consequences. Human beings react to every rule, regulation, and order governments impose, and their reactions result in outcomes that can be quite different than the outcomes lawmakers intended.

Antony Davies
Antony Davies
James R. Harrigan
James R. Harrigan

Every human decision brings with it unintended consequences. Often, they are inconsequential, even funny. When Airbus, for example, wanted to make its planes quieter to improve the flying experience for travelers, it made its A380 so quiet that passengers could hear, with far too much clarity, what was happening in the plane’s bathrooms. Other times unintended consequences have far-reaching, dramatic effects. The US health care system is a case in point. It emerged in its present form in no small part because of two governmental decisions.

First, wage and price controls during World War II caused employers to add health insurance as an employee benefit. Why? The law prohibited employers from raising wages, so to attract workers, they offered to provide health insurance. Then, in 1951, Congress declared that employer-provided health insurance benefits would not count as taxable income. This made it cheaper for employees to take raises in the form of increased tax-free insurance benefits rather than in the form of increased taxable wages.

Unintended consequences happen so often that economists call them “Cobra Problems,” after one of the most interesting examples.

Consequently, not only do workers now receive health insurance through their employers (unlike, for example, their car and home insurance), but those insurance plans also tend to be more luxurious than what they would have been had Congress never given them special tax treatment. These two political decisions helped to create the health care system we now have, a system that nearly everyone agrees is broken.

No one set out to create a broken system, no more than anyone ever set out to make bathroom noises more conspicuous on airplanes. These were unintended consequences. And you can see them everywhere when you know to look.

Unintended consequences happen so often that economists call them “Cobra Problems,” after one of the most interesting examples.

In colonial India, Delhi suffered a proliferation of cobras, which was a problem very clearly in need of a solution given the sorts of things that cobras bring, like death. To cut the number of cobras slithering through the city, the local government placed a bounty on them. This seemed like a perfectly reasonable solution. The bounty was generous enough that many people took up cobra hunting, which led exactly to the desired outcome: The cobra population decreased. And that’s where things get interesting.

As the cobra population fell and it became harder to find cobras in the wild, people became rather entrepreneurial. They started raising cobras in their homes, which they would then kill to collect the bounty as before. This led to a new problem: Local authorities realized that there were very few cobras evident in the city, but they nonetheless were still paying the bounty to the same degree as before.In the end, Delhi had a bigger cobra problem after the bounty ended than it had before it began.

City officials did a reasonable thing: They canceled the bounty. In response, the people raising cobras in their homes also did a reasonable thing: They released all of their now-valueless cobras back into the streets. Who wants a house full of cobras? 

In the end, Delhi had a bigger cobra problem after the bounty ended than it had before it began. The unintended consequence of the cobra eradication plan was an increase in the number of cobras in the streets. This case has become the exemplar of when an attempt to solve a problem ends up exacerbating the very problem that rule-makers intended to fix.

There is, of course, nothing special about cobras. The same sort of thing happened in the late 1980s in Mexico City, which was at the time suffering from extreme air pollution caused by cars driven by its 18 million residents. The city government responded with Hoy No Circula, a law designed to reduce car pollution by removing 20 percent of the cars (determined by the last digits of license plates) from the roads every day during the winter when air pollution was at its worst. Oddly, though, removing those cars from the roads did not improve air quality in Mexico City. In fact, it made it worse.

Come to find out, people’s needs do not change as a result of a simple government decree. The residents of Mexico City might well have wanted better air for their city, but they also needed to get to work and school. They reacted to the ban in ways the rule-makers neither intended nor foresaw. 

The people released their cobras into the streets, except this time the cobras were cars.

Some people carpooled or took public transportation, which was the actual intent of the law. Others, however, took taxis, and the average taxi at the time gave off more pollution than the average car. Another group of people ended up undermining the law’s intent more significantly. That group bought second cars, which of course came with different license plate numbers, and drove those cars on the one day a week they were prohibited from driving their regular cars. What kind of cars did they buy? The cheapest running vehicles they could find, vehicles that belched pollution into the city at a rate far higher than the cars they were not permitted to drive. The people released their cobras into the streets, except this time the cobras were cars.

These examples of unintended consequences aren’t aberrations. Unintended consequences arise every time an authority imposes its will on people. Seat belt and airbag laws make it less safe to be a pedestrian or cyclist by making it safer for drivers to be less cautious. Payday lending laws, intended to protect low-income borrowers from high lending rates, make it more expensive for low-income borrowers to borrow by forcing them into even more expensive alternatives.

Requirements that corporations publicize how much they pay their CEOs in order to encourage stockholders to reduce CEO pay resulted in lesser-paid CEOs demanding more pay. Three-strikes laws, intended to reduce crime, increase police fatalities by giving two-time criminals a greater incentive to evade or even fight the police. The Americans With Disabilities Act gives employers an incentive to discriminate against the disabled by not hiring them in the first place so as to avoid potential ADA claims. Electrician licensing requirements can increase the incidence of injury due to faulty electrical work by reducing the supply of electricians, thereby encouraging homeowners to do their own electrical work.

But perhaps nothing illustrates the scope of the potential problems arising from unintended consequences better than Venezuela’s terrible game of whack-a-mole that began with the 1976 nationalization of its oil industry. The government’s intent was to keep oil profits in the country. And that’s how it went—for a while.

But when the government takes over a once-private industry, the profit incentive to maintain physical capital is lost, and physical capital deteriorates. The deterioration plays out over a decade or so, and that’s what made it appear—at least for a while—that unlike everywhere else socialism had been tried, Venezuela’s socialism was working. But as the oil industry’s physical capital broke down, oil production fell. Coincidentally, it was around this time that oil prices fell also—a fact socialism’s supporters point to as the real culprit. The ultimate unintended consequence of Venezuela’s nationalizing its oil industry was slavery.

That is without question incorrect given that no other oil-producing nation suffered what Venezuela was to suffer.

As oil revenues and production plummeted, Venezuela’s government acted the way governments inevitably do when revenues disappear. It borrowed and taxed as much as it could, and then it started printing money. The printing led to the unintended consequence of inflation, then prices rose so high that people could no longer afford food. To respond to this unintended consequence, the government imposed price controls on food. But this created a new unintended consequence wherein farmers could no longer afford to grow food. And so the farmers stopped growing food. Finally, the government forced people to work on farms in order to assure food production.

The ultimate unintended consequence of Venezuela’s nationalizing its oil industry was slavery.

None of this means there is no place for legislation. What it does mean is that lawmakers should be keenly aware that every human action has both intended and unintended consequences. Human beings react to every rule, regulation, and order governments impose, and their reactions result in outcomes that can be quite different than the outcomes lawmakers intended. So while there is a place for legislation, that place should be one defined by both great caution and tremendous humility. Sadly, these are character traits not often found in those who become legislators, which is why examples of the cobra problem are so easy to find.

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‘Zombie Neocon’: How This Iran Contra Architect Is Leading Trump Policy | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on May 16, 2020

A little background on Abrams: when he served as Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for human rights, he concealed a massacre of a thousand men, women, and children by U.S.-funded death squads in El Salvador. He was also involved in the Iran Contra scandal, helping to secure covert funding for Contra rebels in Nicaragua in violation of laws passed by Congress. In 1991, he pled guilty to lying to Congress about the America’s role in those two fiascos—twice.

Hawk Elliot Abrams, reborn as a U.S. envoy, is at the spear point of recent aggressive moves in Venezuela.

US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams addresses the Atlantic Council on the future of Venezuela in Washington, DC, on April 25, 2019. (Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

As we await answers on who funded the plot to use a handful of mercenaries and ex-Green Berets to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, it’s worth taking a closer look at the man behind regime change policy, the special envoy on Venezuela, Elliott Abrams.

Called the “neocon zombie” by officials at the State Department, Abrams is known as an operator who doesn’t let anything stand in his way. He has a long history of pursuing disastrous policies in government.

“Everything Abrams is doing now is the same thing he was doing during the Reagan administration. He’s very adept at manipulating the levers of power without a lot of oversight,” a former senior official at the State Department told The American Conservative. The official added that Abrams is “singularly focused” on pursuing regime change in Venezuela.

A little background on Abrams: when he served as Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for human rights, he concealed a massacre of a thousand men, women, and children by U.S.-funded death squads in El Salvador. He was also involved in the Iran Contra scandal, helping to secure covert funding for Contra rebels in Nicaragua in violation of laws passed by Congress. In 1991, he pled guilty to lying to Congress about the America’s role in those two fiascos—twice.

But then-president George H.W. Bush pardoned Abrams. He went on to support “measures to scuttle the Latin American peace process launched by the Costa Rican president, Óscar Arias” and use “the agency’s money to unseat the Sandinistas in Nicaragua’s 1990 general elections,” according to Brian D’Haeseleer.

Under President George W. Bush, Abrams promoted regime change in Iraq.

Abrams was initially blocked from joining the Trump administration on account of a Never Trump op-ed he’d penned. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo succeeded in bringing him onboard last year, despite his history of support for disastrous regime change policies.

It’s no surprise that with Abrams at the helm, U.S. rhetoric and actions towards Venezuela are constantly “escalating,” Dr. Alejandro Velasco, associate professor of Modern Latin America at New York University, said an interview with TAC.

In just the last month, Washington has placed bounties on the heads of President Nicolás Maduro and a dozen current and former Venezuelan officials. The U.S. also deployed the largest fleet ever to the Southern Hemisphere.

Meanwhile, Abrams announced the “Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela,” which calls on Maduro’s government to embrace a power-sharing deal. The plan doesn’t explain how Venezuelan leaders with bounties on their heads are supposed to come to the table and negotiate with Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Abrams has also said that the U.S. does not support a coup.

A few days after recommending a power-sharing arrangement, and 18 years after the U.S. backed a putsch against Hugo Chavez, Abrams warned that if Maduro resisted the organization of a “transitional government,” his departure would be far more “dangerous and abrupt.” To many, Abrams’ aggressive rhetoric against Maduro made it sound like the U.S. was “effectively threatening him with another assassination attempt,” like the one Washington had “tacitly supported” in 2018.

Two weeks after Abrams’ warning, Operation Gideon began. Jordan Goudreau, an American citizen, former Green Beret, and three-time Bronze Star recipient for bravery in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with Javier Nieto, a retired Venezuelan military captain, posted a video from an undisclosed location saying they had launched an attack that was meant to begin a rebellion that would lead to Maduro’s arrest and the installation of Juan Guaido.

In a public relations coup for Maduro, the plot was quickly foiled. Given that American citizens were involved and have produced a contract allegedly signed by Guaido, the incident has severely harmed the reputations of both the U.S. and the Venezuelan opposition.

Both President Trump and Pompeo have denied that the U.S. had any “direct” involvement with Goudreau’s plot.

However, the Trump administration has given billions of dollars from USAID to Venezuela, and that money is largely untraceable due to concerns about outing supporters of Guaido.

“With all the cash and arms sloshing around in Venezuela,” it is not hard to imagine how U.S. funding could inadvertently wind up supporting something like this, said Velasco.

There are other signs that the U.S. may have been more involved in the plot than they are saying publicly.

For one, American mercenaries don’t carry passports identifying themselves as American nor do they return to the U.S. where they can be brought up on charges for their work, said Sean McFate, professor of war and strategy at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the National Defense University.

In order to sell weapons or training to another nation, it is necessary to receive permission from the State Department. It’s unclear whether Goudreau and his band did so. But Goudreau’s social media posts look like a pretty “clear cut” violation of the International Convention Against the Recruitment, Financing and Training of Mercenaries and the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) said Peter Singer, a senior fellow at New America.

We know that months before the fated coup, the CIA met with Goudreau in Jamaica and allegedly warned him off the project. According to the AP, Goudreau is now under investigation for arms trafficking. Members of Congress have asked the State Department what they knew of Goudreau’s plans. Given the illegal nature of the supposedly unauthorized project, it’s very strange that the ringleader is at present in Florida, talking to the press and posting on social media.

Besides that warning, it seems no one in government tried to stop this calamitous operation.

And it’s not just regime change. Last year, Abrams advocated granting special immigration status for the 70,000 Venezuelans residing illegally in the U.S. as a way to “pressure Maduro” even though Trump ran on the promise to severely limit the number of people granted Temporary Protected Status.

It was in pursuit of special status for Venezuelans that Abrams showed himself to be “incredibly pompous, bull-headed, and willing to destroy anyone who opposes him, in a personal way, including by trashing their reputations in the media,” another senior State Department official told TAC. Abrams is not above hiding policy options he doesn’t like and offering only those he favors to Pompeo to present to Trump, sources said.

Abrams ultimately prevailed and Venezuelans received refugee status from the Trump administration, despite the fact that it betrayed Trump’s campaign promises.

According to Velasco, there are some people in the administration who believe that Venezuelans are the “new Cubans”—that they will become a solid, loyal Republican vote in the swing state of Florida if they’re granted special status. They also believe that Venezuelan expats want to see the U.S. remove Maduro. There are “many Cold Warriors” who believe all it will take is a “little push” for Venezuelans to rise up and take out Maduro, said Velasco.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment on whether Abrams is pursuing a military confrontation in Venezuela.

“Cold Warrior” beliefs are dangerous. While “Operation Gideon” was especially clownish, had it been more sophisticated, it could have easily sparked a world war. The Russians, Iranians, and Chinese are all operating in Venezuela.

That specter is even more concerning now that Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov has said that Russian special services are on standby to help Venezuela’s investigation of the mercenaries.

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Biden vs. Trump on Foreign Policy – Original

Posted by M. C. on May 9, 2020

We won’t know what’s in them until the election has passed.

We all know that President Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been a disaster. But is Joe Biden’s any better?

Trump promised to stop America’s endless wars but has stationed some 80,000 troops in the Middle East. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, and imposed harsh sanctions and even sent drones to assassinate a top Iranian Revolutionary Guard. But Iran still has more political influence in Iraq than the United States. His administration negotiated an agreement with the Taliban, only to see it rejected by the US-installed Afghan government.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee, sharply criticizes Trump but, unfortunately, continues to defend many of the failed policies of the Obama Administration.

During Biden’s time as Vice President, the White House went from fighting two active wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) to seven (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, drone war in Pakistan, and escalation in Somalia).

Biden now says he disagreed with some of Obama’s interventionist policies, most notably in Libya. Today Biden calls for easing Iran sanctions, returning to the Iran nuclear accord, and reestablishing relations with Cuba.

“Biden represents the return of the classical foreign policy establishment,” Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, tells me. “Biden is running a campaign as a restoration candidate.”

But given significant changes in the world’s balance of power, it’s not all that clear what Biden could restore.

A changing world

Many corporate, State Department, military, and intelligence officials – otherwise known as the Deep State – hate Trump for his nationalist, America First policies.

The President imposed tariffs on allies around the world. He’s questioned the need for NATO. China and Russia have grown stronger economically and politically on the world stage, even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even card-carrying members of the Deep State acknowledge Washington has no reason to keep fighting in the Middle East. Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, says what’s “been hard for many in the American foreign-policy establishment, including me, to accept: Few vital interests of the US continue to be at stake in the Middle East.”

In a major mea culpa in The Wall Street Journal, Indyk admits, “[A]fter the sacrifice of so many American lives, the waste of so much energy and money in quixotic efforts that ended up doing more harm than good, it is time for the US to find a way to escape the costly, demoralizing cycle of crusades and retreats.”

Whoever wins the election in November will face an economy wracked by recession, an electorate wary of more long-term military interventions, and other countries determined to go their own way.

What kind of foreign policy will that produce?

Biden boasts

Biden boasts of his foreign policy credentials. He chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2001-2003 and 2007-2009. While generally hewing to interventionist Democratic Party policies, he has taken some independent stands, for example, by voting against the 1991 Gulf War.

By far Biden’s most reprehensible stand was his strong support for the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. As documented by Professor Stephen Zunes in The Progressive, Biden forcefully supported the war, but later claimed he opposed it. (Of course, Trump lied about his support for the war as well.)

When the Iraqi occupation failed in the mid-2000s, Biden infamously called for splitting Iraq into three parts along sectarian lines, so the United States could continue imperial control at least in Kurdistan.

Even today, Biden favors maintaining some troops in the region, using the excuse of fighting ISIS. “I think it’s a mistake to pull out the small number of troops that are there now to deal with ISIS,” he’s said.

Biden hasn’t learned the lessons of the Afghan war either. After nineteen years of failed war and occupation, he still wants to maintain some troops in the country.

“I would bring American combat troops in Afghanistan home during my first term,” Biden tells the Council on Foreign Relations. “Any residual US military presence in Afghanistan would be focused only on counterterrorism operations.”

But whoever wins in November will have to face the new reality: People in Afghanistan and the United States are fed up with the war. All foreign troops will have to withdraw.


Besides his bad record in the Middle East, Biden continues to support US domination in Latin America. Both Trump and Biden call for the removal of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, for example. Last year they supported efforts by Juan Guaido, the former head of the National Assembly, to anoint himself president.

The Venezuelan government accuses Washington and Guaido of trying to overthrow Maduro by armed force. Rightwing, former military officers tried to assassinate Maduro with a drone strike last year. Then on May 4, a group of mercenaries – including two US Army vets – landed on the Venezuelan coast intending to overthrow Maduro and install Guaido in power. The coup plot was organized by a Florida private security company. It has the earmarks of a US intelligence operation, although not surprisingly, Trump denies it.

While Biden has not formally called for regime change in Venezuela, neither has he criticized the armed coup attempts. And he favors economic sanctions to cripple the economy, saying: “The US should push for stronger multilateral sanctions so that supporters of the regime cannot live, study, shop, or hide their assets in the United States, Europe, or Latin America.”

In my opinion and that of many others, Bernie Sanders offered a far better foreign policy program than Biden. But Biden may at least restore the Iran nuclear accord, normalize relations with Cuba, and take steps to end the Yemen War.

But one thing is for sure. Those who oppose America’s wars of aggression should take to the streets in peaceful protests no matter who wins.

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VENEZUELA: The Govt. Is Using Warlords to Control the People

Posted by M. C. on March 17, 2020

Bernie can’t repeat socialism was never a chance.

by J. G. Martinez D.

Let´s make something clear about Venezuela. Although some violence spikes here and there, it is not like the place is an entire mess (not all of the time at least). It´s almost a million square kilometers. That´s a lot of space.

The country is not like the Middle East. First, our culture is much more American (meaning with this South American, but American nonetheless) and there is some degree of order, usually even these days. There are some “official” gangs and they roam from time to time (especially in the larger cities).

These “official” gangs funded by the ruling class.

These gangs are being provided with all kinds of resources and don´t lack anything the regular citizen has to make miracles to get. Their members are chosen with poor criteria regarding morals, integrity, and values. There is little other name for them than warlords.

The character trait the ruling class looks for, is loyalty and obedience, no matter what. Those who can provide this and provide a degree of consolidation to the entire gang is considered a valued member. The ruling class has been under the counseling of Cubans for years. They have installed an intelligence apparatus just like the KGB, only that in a Caribbean environment and culture.

Common criminals are in the streets but these groups chase them and terminate them. It´s a badly hidden secret their business is to keep middle and poor people “safe” by eliminating low-end criminals, but they have been linked to plenty of other illegal activities too.

This is not surprising. It happens a lot in failed states.

I have written before about criminals being released from prison and armed. They control the society, avoiding uprisings, and at the same time, they terrify it, exhibiting an image of power and control that they necessarily don´t have. But the ruling gangs need to show themselves as having an overwhelming power. New combat units have been created out of thin air, under obvious duplicity of functions. But this has been just to arm sort of a praetorian guard working just to preserve the integrity of the 183 people responsible for the mess and looting.

It´s great such armed organizations are going to be declared as terrorist groups, because that´s what they are. Covering faces in public is prohibited in Venezuela. Why should a LEO do it then in the first place? These guys brag and walk around as if they were the saviors of the world while driving unlicensed pickup trucks. The stories are there, all over the place. They shot an RPG projectile to kill some rebels (who were protected by our constitution in the Art. 350) even murdering a pregnant woman. So much bravery.

Think about what will happen after the Covid-19 outbreak is over.

Maybe this information is not relevant with all the priority that the COVID-2019 has arisen. You´re right. But what will happen after the outbreak has spread? What do you think is going to happen?

What will be the behavior of such gangs, when they behave already as if they rule the place? Once the major, and maybe the military forces, malnourished and weakened have succumbed to the contagion, that precious red line won´t be there anymore. And the citizens are unarmed to redraw it again.

Under the excuse of impeding the spreading of a possible outbreak, this will be used to try and increase the social control, even in an already crippled society as the remains of what is left in my country. This is so unfair, that is unbelievable the world has allowed it.

My worst fears now include the fact of the outbreak being so hard, that this will make the attention to be redirected, leaving us entirely vulnerable to that terrible gang.

Thank God, there are people already providing consultation and advice to the administrative wing capable of doing something. OK, enough with politics.

Covid-19 has arrived in Venezuela.

Let´s provide an update about some stuff that has been happening. As most of you already know, the virus is very likely to have arrived in Venezuela. An eastern citizen presented symptoms after coming from a trip. He´s a senior citizen, but no more details were given.

In an incredible demonstration of media manipulation, this weekend a hashtag erupted and it was positioned on Twitter. (Remember, Venezuela has an incredible amount of bots working from Cuba via the submarine cable installed in the Chavez era, that provides communication between countries.) Of course, this is already an attempt to build up the needed contra-pressure to prohibit public meetings…in the name of the “public safety”.

How many dissidents already would have already been “victim” of the virus? Especially if they were dragged from their homes and thrown in a truck with people who are really sick.

It´s highly suspicious how this virus presented itself after the tense situation with the Hong Kong protests. The economic effects? I don´t know. By eliminating dissidence now, the party thinks that maybe they can enjoy 30 or 35 more years of peace and silence. Remember, they think differently to us Westerns. They think heavily in the next 3 generations and plan according to that. And dang, they have become good at it. I can hardly plan for this year my next moves.

I fear not so much because of me. My health (with a few dents here and there) is not that bad. I never get sick, otherwise because of my odd food choices from time to time. But as I usually have infusions, drink coffee by the liters (therefore yes, have some sleeping disorders) and walk a lot, my health has improved. I´ve lost some weight, and ate a lot of fish (in Venezuela red meat is something that usually was in our main meals, far from the shore sea fish was scarce and expensive, and river fish usually less tasty). My main fear is for my parents, both over 70. They´re isolated since some time ago, though. (smile). They live in a small town, with a reduced local economy…that has been good, and sometimes bad. We´ve had our issues, but we love and support each other no matter what. It has been quite painful.

I posted on my Patreon website some advice an Italian doctor, a member of one of the research teams in China gave. It came from a trust-worthy source, so I decided it was worth sharing.

Another report of what has been happening is, the warlords order their minions to go to the hospital and loot for medicines. You can read about it at this link.

This, dear readers, is what you can expect to happen in a collapse/SHTF situation. And it can be even worse, given the amount of zones with drug dealing/cooking and tons of other organized crime activities. If authorities become overwhelmed, these thugs will be on the streets sooner than you think.

My advice? Organize NOW. Prepare contingency plans. A, B, and C, and whatever other letters you may need.  911 won´t be there, trust me.

Make sure you have your own medical supplies.

A good part of your prepping budget should be addressed to the acquisition of medicines. How to store it long term? I don´t know. I almost lost 300$ worth of medicines since I started to store antibiotics (available without prescription) and all kind of those most commonly used, but we decided to donate it to our local community infirmary, asking the nurse (which we know personally and is a good friend, and a dependable person) please to provide them only to those in need. Some others were offered to friends, as we didn´t have family nearby.

It´s amazing to read the only acknowledged and accepted case of COVID-19 in Venezuela is under armed custody by the intelligence teams. After the collapse that wiped out the economy of the country, any outbreak is very likely to generate a real SHTF situation. Even worse than a war, in my opinion. Non-human components in the equation makes things really hard to analyze and predict.

Our main problem is the lack of trustable information. The Italian government has been entirely transparent, resulting in an infection and death rate several times higher than the reported by China. Of course, you can´t expect reliable data being released by that kind of unelected, but self-proclaimed governments. They don´t respect even the intellectual property, why they would have to inform the rest of the world what happens inside their borders? They are a culture dating from thousands of years ago. Are we little Westerns going to teach them how to rule their citizens?

That´s how they think about the rest of the world.

On the other hand, we already have a lack of services, and if the virus happens to hit hard (something that is entirely random) I can´t predict what could happen. If a humanitarian intervention wasn’t allowed in 2019, it´s very likely the irregular groups impeding it will keep stubbornly their position, unless the pandemics wipe them out too. (Lord have mercy on their souls).

I am constantly asking about the preparedness level of some acquaintances and the few friends that are still enduring there, but…they´re barely surviving. Don´t even think about preparing, but surviving one day after another. And many of them want to leave, too. Especially those with European parents and double nationality. With the outbreak in Europe and the severity it has shown…well, I haven´t had too much time to question them before writing this article, but I will surely mention it in the next few articles.

For the time being, we don´t know if the disease has affected anyone else besides that old man who came from China.

We don´t have the means to know it. Anyone informing or reporting will be chased and imprisoned. That´s the way that mock of a State acts.

I can only ask, this outbreak doesn´t affect us. We´ve been hit too hard, and don´t deserve it.

Stay safe, people.

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