Twenty Years is Nothing

For Friday, December 15, 2017. Translated by Javier Liendo.

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Image retrieved from Daily News

But eighteen is something. Judge Paul Crotty accepted the Prosecution’s stance that a life sentence was excessive, so they asked for a 30-year verdict. But, since Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas, our presidential couple’s nephews, didn’t have any prior criminal records and are too young, they were sentenced to 18 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle 800 kg of cocaine into the U.S. They must pay a $50,000 fine each and they won’t have access to any benefits, except a reduction of the period they spent under custody. Technically, the Prisons Office will establish a prison in Florida to make it easier for their families to visit them (at least that’s what they do with Latino inmates, they send them to Florida or Texas.) The visits should include Cilia Flores, who was a sort of mother for Efraín Antonio, a parentage that explains how in 2008, he was made an employee of the Latin American Parliament, where he worked until 2011, along with the first lady’s remaining thirty-so relatives.

Off sight

While the country tries to come to terms with the fact that the CAF Board approved a credit line for up to $400 million for the Central Bank to offer macroeconomic support and to mitigate liquidity risks in the handling of debts , the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal) announced that the region will close 2017 with 1.3% economic growth but Venezuela will end 2017 with a 9.5% GDP drop, which they estimate will contract to -5.5% in 2018.

For Fedecámaras chairman, Carlos Larrazábal, the drop is greater he estimates it at 12.5%. “Trust and the capacity to invest in the country are still being destroyed,” he declared. Such contraction already equals that of the four previous years, exceeding 35% since 2014, so Larrazábal demands an urgent change and correct economic decisions to solve the situation.

In the dark

Despite the sentence against his nephews, Nicolás and Cilia travelled to Havana to participate in the meeting of the ALBA-TCP Political Council in honor of Fidel and Chávez. Cuba announced that they signed their cooperation plan with Venezuela for 2018, which includes 9 exchange programs with 27 new projects in the areas of sanitary services, medicine supply, electrical support, human talent training and cultural and sports promotion. After signing, Foreign minister Jorge Arreaza said that the objective of this this agreement is that both countries continue “united in the battle for integration.” Inspiring. But the sad note comes with the information revealed by Reuters Venezuela left the association in the Cienfuegos refinery and Cuba took full ownership of the plant, as payment of Venezuela’s debt for services provided, as well as for the rented ships. And then the newspaper Granma reported: “Since August 2017, the Cienfuegos refinery has been operating as a fully Cuban State entity.” The first ones to take their slice of cake weren’t the Americans, but the Cuban “brothers”. Cool, huh?

At the National Assembly

The National Assembly unanimously voted to nullify the approval of the national budget for 2018, because it was never submitted to this body, violating the constitutional mandate. The lawmakers added that any public credit operation made without the National Assembly’s approval “will be null and not recognized,” including debt operations (in case CAF didn’t remember). They also unanimously approved the Operational Regulation of the unit bridging the AN with Parlasur; the report of the Mixed Committee for the Creation of the “Orinoco Mining Arc” Strategic Development Zone and the Bill for the Recovery of Assets Produced by Corruption.

Threats

During the swearing-in ceremony of the 18 PSUV mayors in Mérida state, Vice President Tareck El Aissami threatened opposition mayors: “We won’t be weak before your threats anymore; any right-wing mayor who steps out of line will immediately be taken to justice.” He had the nerve to demand governor Ramón Guevara to rehire the “bolivarian” employees who were allegedly laid off and asked the Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation against those who “incited violence” during protests, because there’s still impunity, but don’t worry, according to him, the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) managed to consolidate peace and stability. Additionally, Darío Vivas claimed that former Zulia governor Juan Pablo Guanipa permanently worked “for the coup d’état and international intervention” and accused him of promoting and “leading guarimbas and violence.” Which is why it was so nice of Freddy Bernal to announce that between December 20 and 25, the government will distribute ten million toys through the CLAP; a way to cool down protests for the promised “payment” for voting on Sunday. He added the dates for the distribution of perniles that nobody’s seen, but that he claims won’t be missing on the tables of patriots.

Abroad

  • “The OAS has revealed itself as an enemy of Venezuelan democracy,” said Carmen Velásquez during a speech before the Permanent Council, reducing protests in 2017 to a “meddling plan led by the U.S. with the aim to oust” Nicolás. Her speech was so off-beat, that the Council’s chief, Jenny May Loten, asked her to end it due to lack of time.
  • Exiled Voluntad Popular leader David Smolansky and Freddy Guevara’s father, went to different instances of the Colombian Congress to denounce the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the persecution against opposition leaders, saying that “all nations should be aware that the Venezuelan dictatorship is a threat to Colombia and to Latin America as a whole.”
  • Once again, the Dominican Republic will open its doors to the opposition and the government this Friday, December 15. Jorge Rodríguez claimed that there could be an agreement with the opposition and lawmaker Simón Calzadilla said that if there’s no “integral agreement, we won’t sign anything.”

Grandeliga José Altuve and athlete Yulimar Rojas were named Athletes of the Year, by the Circle of Sports Journalists of Venezuela. Empresas Polar was once again named Company of the Year for their support to national sports.

5 COMMENTS

  1. “payment of Venezuela’s debt for services provided”

    Unbelievable. It’s amazing how the Castro brothers took full advantage of Hugo’s hero-worship and thoroughly looted the country, and still they get more. The only lasting benefit to the venezuelan regime was the system of spies and intelligence agents all over the armed forces to stifle dissent.

    • It’s amazing how the Castro brothers took full advantage of Hugo’s hero-worship and thoroughly looted the country, and still they get more.

      Brookings: The Cuba-Venezuela Alliance:Beginning of the End? (2014) (page4)

      It is important to keep in mind that Cuban professionals are paid much less than their government receives from Venezuela in payment for their services. As of 2010, Venezuela paid Cuba approximately $11,317 per month on average for each professional it provided.18 By contrast, Cuban doctors reportedly receive $425 per month, although this is more than double what they received six years ago and similar to what they earn on medical on medical missions to Brazil.19 Cuban doctors would be earning only up to $64 a month back home.

      The Cuban government takes the lion’s share. No big surprise. What do Venezuelan physicians get paid in comparison to what the GOV pays the <b.Cuban government for the services of a Cuban physician? Whatever it is, it’s a lot closer to what Cuban physicians GET PAID in Venezuela.

    • It’s amazing how the Castro brothers took full advantage of Hugo’s hero-worship and thoroughly looted the country, and still they get more.

      Dumping medicine, faking patients: Cuban doctors describe a system that breeds fraud.

      Before discussing fraud, look at why the fraud: big bucks. Cuba needs the money for its foreign exchange.

      The quota pressure stems from Cuba’s economics. Desperate for hard currency, the government sends its legions of health workers abroad under contracts that let the administration keep the lion’s share of the revenue.
      According to an article published by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, there were 37,000 Cuban health professionals working in 77 countries during 2015. Citing unnamed Cuban officials, the document claims the health workers generated about $8 billion in foreign exchange revenue for the island that year.
      Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA oil company, which pays for the program, says it pumped $28.8 billion into Barrio Adentro from 2003 through 2015.

      Insult to injury: paying nearly $30 billion to Cuba and also bequeathing them an oil refinery.
      More insult to injury: fraud was involved. Cuban medical workers were under pressure to meet their quotas, quotas that could only be met by fraud.
      As a dentist in the program, Thaymi Rodríguez said she was required to see 18 patients a day, but often only a handful would make their way to her clinic. Medical workers who didn’t hit their daily quota were threatened with having their pay docked, being transferred or, in extreme cases, being sent back to Cuba.

      To make up for the patient shortfall, Rodríguez said she and her colleagues would routinely fake paperwork and reinforce the fiction by throwing out anesthesia, dental molds and other supplies.

      “I worked for three and a half years as a dentist in Venezuela, and it was horrible dealing with the statistics,” said Rodríguez, who defected from the program late last year and is in Colombia awaiting a U.S. visa. “I might see five patients a day, but I had to say I’d seen 18, and then throw all that medicine away, because we simply had to.”….

      The claims are difficult to verify, and calls to Venezuela’s Ministry of Health seeking comment went unanswered. But the Miami Herald spoke to three different groups of health workers who had abandoned the program, and all told similar stories.
      The Herald article also talked with a Cuban ophthalmologist and IT expert, who told similar tales of fraud.
      My supervisors would say ‘Doctor, you know you’re going to be punished because we have to meet these quotas — and these orders are coming from the highest levels,’ ” he recalls.

      But it was fraud to help the Castro bros, so it was all to the good 🙂

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