I sanctioned Venezuela and all I got was this lousy T-shirt

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oriente20_obama-deroga-yaDear underpaid intern at the State Dept. stuck in the Venezuela desk having to file reports about the BRV’s response to the president’s Executive Order,

I feel for you. I really do.

In the scheme of things, with Putin issuing nuclear threats to Denmark, ISIS spreading terror like it’s ebola, and China’s looming financial domination of your country, who has time for a shitty, if colorful, dictatorship? For the longest time, Venezuela was just an inconsequential blip on your Latin American radar, the place Juan Valdéz and guacamole and Sofía Vergara come from…and now President Obama had to go and make it all newsworthy.

I’m sure all the silly exchanges initiated by our Foreign Ministry, which you’re professionally bound to act as though you took seriously, make for great dinner table chatter: just the stuff to show your parents just how kooky your job can be. Never mind you’re silently fuming about how your $140k Georgetown School of Foreign Service degree should’ve somehow spared you from gopher tasks like having to take our Foreign Ministry seriously.

People tell you if you brave a few years of this, and a few more manning the visa line at a consulate at some shithole somewhere, you can maybe get your foot in the ladder and get a real diplomatic career going at some point down the line. That may even be true. For now, you just gotta get those student loan payments in on time while being expected to know who the hell Hany Kauam is.

I get how you might be feeling undervalued and useless: grad school was nothing like this. Remember? Immersing yourself in case studies about transitional democracies? Remember role-playing the Cuban missile crisis? Remember how eager you were to finally start making an impact on the world through foreign policy? Then you drew the turd card in a deck of rainbows: the Venezuela desk, in the Maduro era.

Since it’s only a matter of time before you get jaded and start rethinking that cushy private sector job offer from the Standard & Poor´s recruiter, let me give you some sound advice that I learned from years of being Venezuelan: lower your expectations.

When the U.S. decided to take action and sanction a handful of corrupt government officials who violate human rights, I bet you expected, at minimum, a properly hate-filled anti-American diatribe in response. It’s only fair that your commitment to imperialism be met with an equally bold, defiant, and serious reply, something on the level of this:

or even this:

Those were the good days. These days our creativity in anti-imperial mudslinging is as devalued as the bolivar.

All you’ll get out of us these days is a silly hashtag: #ObamaDerogaElDecretoYa.

Credit where credit is due, our government is at least being resourceful. Its not easy coming up with a multimedia counterattack strategy when you are dealing with the worst economic crisis in Venezuelan history and half of your ministers spend their days too busy laundering money to do their jobs. Yet somehow, in between persecuting opponents and torturing students, SIBCI managed to come up with this:

The Sports Ministry tried to make an amateur boxing match into Venezuela´s answer to Cold War sports films:

Daniela Cabello took a break from her meteoric ascent to pop stardom to dabble in copyright infringement:

Just yesterday, after paying my taxes at Mata de Coco, I was frantically approached by a government activist asking me to sign a petition rejecting a U.S. airstrike (I can contribute to our national treasury and stave off obliteration through precision bombs? awesome!)

IMG-20150323-00294

Not to be outdone, Venezuelan consulates throughout the world kindly invited expats to join in the fun:

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And finally, lest the little ones feel left out, the Ministry of Education also included Obama-bashing in the arts-and-crafts public school curriculum.

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So there you have it: a textbook blend of amateur fear mongering, mediocre misinformation campaigns and cliché marketing all working hand in hand to make you shove your sanctions where the sun don´t shine. Underwhelming, I know. You deserve better.

But not all hope is lost.

At times like these, my dear State Dept. intern, when your dedication to interventionsm isn’t getting the respect it deserves,  I always look to the MUD for comfort. The opposition umbrella group always manage to set the bar, and my expectations, a little lower.

Because while you cannot fault the Maduro government for shoddy execution (it’s not like they’re  making a secret of their worldly limitations), the Mesa de Unidad likes to pretend they’re knowledgeable and rational about their policies: the technocracy-in-waiting.

But rather than being smart and leveraging the moment to bring as much international attention as possible to the desperate situation of Venezuelan democracy (a task at which we have consistently failed), rather than seizing the moment to condemn State officials involved in torture, money laundering, drug-trafficking and stupendous corruption, rather than exposing the web of silence that regional allies of this government gladly maintain, rather than addressing the impunity that has consistently eroded the credibility of our institutions, rather than gaining an upper hand in shifting the political narrative to the offensive… the MUD chose to issue this communiqué and further speculation that your plan to invade us, dear State Dept. intern, is very much alive.

To sum up, I suggest that as long as your higher-ups at State are still game to overthrow the Venezuelan government, and in order to spare you unnecessary frustration, look to the MUD, and not Maduro, to convince Venezuelans of your objective. While they may lack the resources and media access to get their point accross, rest assured that they are obstinate in their resolve.

Listen, ten years from now you’ll be sitting on like the Middle East Desk, doing real diplomacy, and this whole Venezuelan farce will seem like a distant dream to you. Just hang tight. It’ll end. For you, at least, it will end.

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  1. Hey, that intern doesn’t suffer too much!

    Once a week he or she can get a great Arepa right outside the office!

    The intern can then take a pic and send it to Maduro & co. so that they can see what they’re missing!

    http://www.arepazone.com/

    • I’ve eaten from the Arepazone truck several times. One of their stops is in front of my building. Usually 5 to 10 people waiting in line. Their arepas are very good but I miss the burned spots from sitting on a hot grill like I get at home.

  2. What else can the world do but laugh about our naive, uneducated, corrupt country? Ignore it, and mostly, that’s what they do. Here in the USA, or Europe and everywhere else, 95% of the people, or so, have no idea or couldn’t care less about Vzla. The other 5% are laughing.

    • Some of us are weeping alongside you, my friend.

      Laughing a bit? OK, sure (come on, the air raid drill was just…I mean, you can’t blame an outsider for laughing at something like that, or about the pajarito azul; that stuff is just comedic gold), but I for one have many very good Venezuelan friends, most of whom still live there. It is heart-breaking and gut-wrenching to think about what they are enduring.

    • I beg to differ sir, as one of the “other” 5%”, we are shedding tears because people we love are dealing with things that they should NOT have to deal with. We have cried with them when one of our family members died for lack of medical supplies. We scream obscenities when something we sent to help never arrives, We see a beautiful country circling the vortex of a huge toilet.

      With all due respect, We are not laughing, we are crying…

    • OK, to be perfectly honest, I did get a chuckle of the “invasion drill”… Basically, tell 7 folks, “you ain’t touchin’ any of the money you stole or the property you bought with it…” and next thing ya know, we are invading!…. Maybe we should just fly over and drop TONS of toilet paper, cooking oil, and PAN on little red, white, and blue parachutes….. (Yea, my imagination gets just a little out-there at times…)

      But, it HAS happened before… Google “Captain Wiggly wings”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gail_Halvorsen

  3. a very good post… Venezuela is now a pathetic banana republic in its best moment… most of the world don’t care but they should, they are missing pieces of information like this one… I belong to the 5% laughing-at-Venezuela part of the world but maldita la gracia que tiene esto when people die in the hospitals because the government doesn’t give them the insumos and many others have to work one day per week or more just to buy the most basic stuff… In theory this won’t last too long but Cuba is the best example of how wrong theories can be

  4. That was one of the best, funniest posts I’ve read in a long time. It’s simply amazing the quality posts coming onto this blog. Wow.

  5. Love your writing, Emi. Rich in content with a good arc, it flows so well.

    I hope that those unfamiliar with the opera buffa that is Vzlan politics can connect the dots between your explanation and the acronym (SIBCI, MUD).

    • Expect the soon-to-arrive copyright sues against diablodado.

      Hehehehe, if the guy wasn0t such a bastard, I could feel a little pity for him, first he went all backstabby on the country, then went full narco-mode during more than a decade, and now copyright infringment, Hahahaha!

  6. Suggested lyric for Daniela: “I hope someday you’ll join us, asquerosos pitiyakees, hij@s de puta, And the world will be one!”

  7. Next time you’re frantically approached by a government activist asking you to sign a petition, counter that with any or all of these questions:

    DONDE FIRMO PARA DEROGARLA ALTISIMA INFLACION QUE CARCOME MI SUELDO? DONDE FIRMO PARA DEROGAR LA FALTA DE INSUMOS EN LOS HOSPITALES? DONDE FIRMO PARA DEROGAR LA DELINCUENCIA?
    DONDE FIRMO PARA DEROGAR LA ESCASEZ???
    DONDE FIRMO PARA QUE MADURO RENUNCIE??
    DONDE FIRMO PARA SACAR A LOS COMUNISTAS?

    (taken from a graphic image, currently circulating on Facebook, and a comment below last week’s Runrunes in El Universal.)

    • Or, just innocently ask: “momento…es que no entiendo exactamente cómo las sanciones me afectan a mi…¿podrías ayudarme entender eso? ¿Y por qué es que esa gente tienen cuentas de millones de dólares en El Imperio? Disculpa compadre, no es pa ofender, es que no entiendo…”

  8. – … so Chávez is strangling a bald eagle?
    – A petition rejecting an air strike. Eh… dunno man. I for one reject air strikes, but I dont think that, in the case that I was going to be the target of one, anybody on the other side would be giving a rat ass about me signing anything.

    Which makes is even better the fact that NOBODY IS EVERY THINKING ABOUT IT.

    • I would have signed a petition to stop being bombed in an air strike.

      “Please don’t drop a bomb on me”
      signed:
      Lecherous Drunk (In shaky, undecipherable, script)

      Unless you are Milo Minderbinder, then you get paid extra for strafing.
      He might have the solution to Venezuela’s economic and food shortage problems.
      How do you know cotton balls dipped in crude don’t taste good until you try them?

      • The problem is getting the Libyan cotton atm, maybe the imperios will sell us some cotton so we can dip it in imported chocolate and sell for $. Everyone’s got a piece of the train wreck.

  9. Pity my photoshop skill is negative, or it would be good to edit that to say something like

    #ALFINCONSEGUIPOLLO

  10. A Cuban friend of mine who grew up there in the 60’s once told me that for them CCCP meant “¿Cuándo Carajo Comeremos Pollo?

  11. I tend to believe that the list of signatures for the derogation of the US Sanctions is actually an electoral check to see how many potential votes they government may get in the upcoming elections.

    In an election year and with 20% popularity for Maduro, it does make a lot of sense to use the petition list and cross check it against the “buried” Tascon list to see who did not sign. Those that may get identified that did not sign the petition and are working for the government or in the public sector may have to build some creative excuses for not being in the list.

    Last but not least, the rhetoric, the meetings, the drill, the army maneuvers, the kids manipulation at school, the little Bolivar running innocently, those are just electoral propaganda. It is not even subliminal, it is right in your face: if you vote for the MUD, the “Bolivarian” republic will be sold to US rather than to China. Add the poor innocent Bolivar kid, small and vulnerable, unable to defend himself, having to run from an US made GPS Controlled smart bomb dropped from a B2 Stealth Bomber that the Russian expensive junk won’t be able to shoot down because is obsolete. Forget the “asymmetric war” preparations of 2003-04. Lord have mercy.

    Are the Maduro’s boys so smart and manipulative to devise such a hoax for electoral purposes?. I think they are but not them, the Cubans.

  12. With Obama and the Castros making nice, maybe our intern could wangle an assignment in Havana in the near future? At least they don’t have air-raid drills anymore.

  13. Great post. I do think though, given for example the recent US Senate hearings on Venezuela, the higher ups are starting to realize that the proverbial dog file is going rabid and needs a closer watch.

    Meanwhile, they are now training government workers in the state of Barinas for military action. Man the food courts!

  14. You touched on the most important point, how the opposition is totally blowing this situation. Why did at least some of the opposition make international pleas concerning the state of democracy in Venezuela if as soon a foreign government does something to support them they back away from it? I’m sure no foreign government will attempt to do anything in solidarity with the Venezuelan opposition EVER again. I understand the opposition has to try to maintain popularity among a population that does not comprehend neither what is wrong with the current political situation nor sees what would be a solution. Most people are not upset about the degradation of human rights, liberty and democracy. Most just want their arepa to not be so expensive. The only way to maintain popularity with a population that would rather suffer a horrible situation in silence than admit publicly that their “patria” is a mess is to echo the same message as the government. In criticizing their country the issue became one of national pride, not the situation in Venezuela. Like the abused woman who defends her husband when someone tries to intervene on her behalf while her husband is in the process of beating her. Suddenly now it’s personal. “Sure, he’s beating me, but he’s MY husband, BACK OFF”.

    • The Vzlan “MUD” has a perfect name: Barro. And after all, most capable, competent, and rare honest politicians either left the country long ago, threatened in multiple ways, are in prison (Leopoldo, etc) or just don’t have the guts to face the corrupt regime and corrupt military.

      That’s what Dictatorships do first: they destroy the opposition, even the young students. In popular “marchas de protesta”, they are bribed, threatened, infiltrated by Castrista thugs or paid enchufaos.

      It’s easier to criticize the opposition from our comfortable, secure homes in Miami or elsewhere in the world. Try reading about what happens to us when we hit the streets, or try to oppose theRegime, with no Justice, no Legislature, no Police, nothing.

  15. “In an election year and with 20% popularity for Maduro..”

    No worries, amigo Rebolucionario. ‘Pa eso nuestro Comandante creo “Smartmatic”.

    El lunes llega la carne de res de nuestra bichita alla en Argentina!

  16. My friend over at the NSA pointed me to this post: HILARIOUS! From now on, less researching and more copypasting from Caracas Chronicles for those briefings. What I ask from you though is that you drop the traducción simultánea that you sometimes do because it confuses me burda. By the way HA HA you almost got me with Mr. Valdez although thank you for bringing up Hany Kauam which is going to join Mr. El Colt in an upcoming list of musical sanctions.

  17. I still cringe every time I see the tape of Chavez insulting another head of state with such vulgar and low brow language. As an American, I was not angry, I was embarrassed for Chavez and the people of Venezuela. His knowledge of diplomacy and how the American Democracy works is like a cartoon painted for him in Havana, which brings me to a point I will continue making till I am blue in the face.

    The behaviors now exhibited by everyone purporting to represent the Venezuelan Government are a carbon copy of behaviors that we have seen from Cuba for 50 plus years. I have even noticed that the Spanish accents of these people is no longer the Venezuelan accent that I remember. How do I know this? Because they all sounds like every Cuban immigrant that I have ever heard speak in Miami.

    I have concluded that what you have going on here is the wholesale usurpation of Venezuelan Sovereignty by and for the Cuban Governement.

    I am not hopeful that this will chance any time soon even under pressure from the USA. Castro’s regime has managed to survive all these decades and I am afraid that, sadly, the same will happen to Venezuela.

    • Actually, the Cubanization of Venezuelan accents has been going on for many decades now, more than what people think. One just needs to listen to recordings from the forties.

    • There is always hope. Look at China today compared to Mao’s China of a few years ago. Chavez’s insults are amateurish by comparison. Remember, “swill sucking capitalist pigs?” Or my favorite, “profit-crazed running dogs.”

    • You gotta admit the “Por fin consegui Pollo” caricature is hilarious, though.. Last thing Venezuelans will lose is our excellent sense of humor..

  18. “I still cringe every time I see the tape of Chavez insulting another head of state with such vulgar and low brow language. As an American, I was not angry, I was embarrassed for Chavez and the people of Venezuela.”

    Yeah, it’s embarrassing for the more educated Venezuelans. Many of them living abroad. When I hear crap like that, or Masburro and Diablodado regurgitating barbaric atrocities, it just reminds me of the main, basic reason Venezuela has reached such a disastrous level.. lack of education, of course.

    The fact that Chavez was able to rise with that kind of low-level, populist language, stupid ideologies, “anti-gringo Imperialista” bullshyt rhetoric, and get away with it, and then even worse with Masburro now.. Only in countries like ours, full of naive, and sadly under-educated, uninformed poor people..

    The kind of unbelievable, cartoon-like crap these Rebulsionarios talk wouldn’t fly for a week, let alone 16 years, in any half-way educated and slightly more advanced country. It’s a shame.

  19. The thing I find so amusing about the ranting and raving over sanctions is that government of Venezuela claims it affronts their sovereignty and that the US is meddling in their internal affairs.

    How is saying that someone isn’t allowed entry to a foreign country, nor will they have access to that country’s financial system and additionally no nationals of that country may enter into business transactions with the sanctioned folk meddling internally in the affairs of Venezuela?

    That’s like me calling up my neighbor on the phone and telling him I don’t want him on my property and then having him turn around and claiming to all and sundry I was trespassing (or if my neighbor was Venezuela, that I burglarized his house).

    Isn’t trying to rally international support, signing petitions and having meet and greets to complain about the sanctions meddling in the internal affairs of the United States?

  20. As absurd as this is to the people who actually know what it is happening in Venezuela, the sad part is that there is a significant percentage of people in the world who buy into the Chavista narrative… still!

    The U.S. needs better press agents and image consultants (as demeaning as that sounds).

  21. “….advice that I learned from years of being Venezuelan” LOL
    This post is as hilarious as it is tragic (for being nothing but the truth)

    I think the government is just delighted to have something to focus their misguided energies on. Horrific to think that with the whole might of the State apparatus, this is the best they can come up with.

    Speaking of embassy “encouragement”, I have received at least 6 different emails from the two embassies I happen to be registered at. One sent the same email several times (after making mistakes on the subject field) and had to follow with further emails apologising for making the entire email directory of Venezuelans here public to everyone by clicking to make the CC list public. Eficiencia revolucionaria!

  22. I think some of the Cubans may be going home.

    “Venezuela has cut in half its subsidized shipments of crude oil to Cuba and Petrocaribe member nations to 200,000 barrels per day, down from 400,000 shipped in 2012, a Barclays report says.

    Also, the British investment bank’s report considered it “ironic” that Venezuela would ship any oil at all, highlighting that while the country is going through extreme difficulties, it continues to subsidize oil sales to countries that have healthier economies.”

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/venezuela/article16381898.html#storylink=cpy

  23. Lol why the hate on Georgetown? None of my fellow classmates will go to Venezuela, that’s for sure. Al menos que sea pa’ Los Roques o Salto Angel.

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