The only ongoing operation

For Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Photo: @NestorReverol

With all public services collapsed, the severe shortage of essentials, the social protests and more evidence on government corruption, the Operation Paper Hands has become the core of official accomplishments, even if it’s only to show that they now use more Power Point tools for Néstor Reverol’s presentations. This Monday, he summed up a plot that mixes smuggling of currency paper and gasoline, money laundering, illegal enrichment, tax evasion and terrorism financing; including the rendition of Freddy Bernal’s Operation Drone as part of Paper Hands, with the same data about car dealerships that are allegedly smuggling fuel to Colombia.

This case already brings together the talents of the Autonomous Service of Registries and Notaries, the National Institution of Land Transport; regional, national and higher prosecutors, as well as intelligence agents and members of the PNB’s Special Actions Force. The fact that the distribution of posters showing the faces of those involved is presented as an achievement, is a disgrace; the same applies to blocked and soon-to-be-blocked bank accounts or to the amount of detainees. Of course, this entire sequence of raids, confiscations, blocked accounts and arrests is missing a someone to back the government’s tales, in other words, there hasn’t been anyone from raided companies or a relative of one of the 32 detainees that tells the other side of the story. Strange, isn’t it?

The grieving (ex)rookie

Ignoring the breakdown of basic companies, the ecocide of the Orinoco Mining Arc, the mining mafias, the serious malaria epidemic, the smuggling of fuel and the daily unpunished murders, Nicolás —who was in Havana for the start of the campaign—ravelled yesterday to Bolívar State, proposing to turn it into a “great area for the petro.” At the “press conference” with pre-filtered journalists and questions, he came up with the same old stories: the plan de la patria 2025, a pledge to the defeat the “economic war” if he’s re-elected and more bonuses while he works on that.

He created a plan for 10 years with the new Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel: the economic revolution —yes, an exceedingly original name— now that he’s an experienced man and not “a grieving rookie” as in the previous campaign. He had the gall to claim that he hasn’t let anyone down (because he’s loyal to Chávez) and that he’s stronger than ever, although the country’s in ruins. Regarding the conflict in Nicaragua, he merely expressed his support for Daniel Ortega and predicted his triumph, calling the popular protests a “violent ambush.” Meanwhile, the justices of the TSJ in exile received a letter from the National Assembly authorizing them to move on with the trial against Nicolás.

Others that won’t come

The same day that Spanish ambassador Jesús Silva returned to Venezuela, members of the European Parliament said that they won’t send any international observation mission for the coming May 20 elections. The statement says: “Since the necessary conditions are not set for credible, transparent and inclusive elections (…) the Parliament won’t send electoral observation. Consequently, none of its members or institutions have been authorized to observe or comment on this electoral process on behalf of the Chamber. Therefore, if any Eurodeputy decides to attend the elections as an observer, they will do so of their own initiative and under no circumstances will they be allowed to tie, either through statements or actions, their presence to the European Parliament.” Clear as day. Also yesterday, the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference urged the postponement of presidential elections because the process lacks transparency, emphasizing the difficulty of living in Venezuela without public services and with a rampant hyperinflation, while the government refuses to implement corrections.

Nicaragua’s crisis

This Sunday, Daniel Ortega announced the suspension of the controversial reform to the social security system, which sparked the most violent protests his government has ever faced. We Venezuelans are familiar with the trick of calling for dialogue to clear the streets, but it’s been six days with 27 murders and dozens of people wounded, arrested or missing. Business owners pointed out that the dialogue needs at least a couple conditions: putting an end to repression and restoring freedom of expression. Ortega replied that he refused any conditions. Many governments and international organizations have urged for respect of human rights. Many opinions also agree that suspending the reform isn’t enough, that protests transcended their original spark and Nicaraguans now demand more. The videos of yesterday’s march to honor the victims of repression were moving: “They were students, they weren’t criminals” and “Daniel and Somoza are the same,” are two of the most widely used slogans.


  • Paraguayan government candidate Mario Abdo Benítez, son of the private secretary of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, won presidential elections with a much tighter gap than predicted. He’ll take office on August 15 for a period of five years.
  • UNHCR labeled the deportation of 82 Venezuelans from Trinidad and Tobago as a “forced return.” Forced repatriation is a violation of international laws, so UNHCR demanded evidence for the legal process behind the deportations.
  • Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned after the mass street protests he faced in the last few days, which started two weeks ago when Sargsyan refused to give up power as he’d promised —after 10 years as president— but instead forced his election as prime minister, a post that incidentally gave him more power.
  • Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said that UNASUR is going nowhere: “it doesn’t help integration, it’s unable to solve any issues and it works through vetoes.” On top of its $60-million headquarters, UNASUR is defined by fierce internal disputes and Chile in particular has to pay $800,000 annually to be its member. Venezuela pays much more.
  • Iran’s Central Bank forbade the use of cryptocurrencies for their capacity to be used in money laundering and terrorism financing, also because “they can become in the means to transfer criminal funds.” ¡Ay, mijo!

When you can, check out the speech of Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez after receiving the Premio Cervantes. It’s a true gem.

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  1. Ortega replied that he refused any conditions.
    Every true dictator hates any limitation of his powers, including those inferred by standing laws, which the dictator simply ignores or changes in order to have total and uncontested power. Maduro and the Chavistas HAD to nullify the ANC because they are constitutionally incapable of sharing power and negotiating – which limits their power. Any show of power from the outside is “meddling.” International pressure about anything is a threat to “national sovereignty,” that is, a threat to the dictator’s absolute power over everything and everybody.

    As Venezuela sinks into a failed state, there are increasingly less institutions (the few that are left) to try and control, leaving him to keep a stranglehold on the cash flow ebbing in from oil sales, and the wonky, 3rd world shenanigans of trying to “manage” that money.

    Fact is there is no way to talk or negotiate this mad man out of power, and forcing him out is fraught with problems. At this point attacking his oil income seems the last option for external powers to make this guy gone. My sense of it is if and when he goes through with this sham election, enough regional and international powers will be on board to stage an oil embargo.

    But the Chavista curcarachas have vowed to never be forced out so it could quickly devolve into a free for all with armed militias taking aim on anyone who has anything in a do or die game of survival.

    The world better start getting ready for this or some version of same because one Maduro pulls the trigger on the snap elections – which has been denounced by all sober powers worldwide – the shit will almost certainly hit the fan. I’m concerned because while a total meltdown is certain to happen sooner than later, I hear no discussion about how to manage it. I mean, the Chavistas have set up the conditions for a social armageddon, basically total chaos. How is any kind of soft landing possible when the Chavistas refuse to change course and things keep getting worse.

  2. How do you “soft land” when you’re more than halfway (optimistically) down from the precipice in freefall and your (economic/social) body has already reached terminal velocity toward the jagged rocks below?

  3. “1. Por instrucciones de nuestro Presidente @NicolasMaduro, realizamos un balance de los avances de la #OperaciónManosDePapel que deja en evidencia la sistemática guerra económica contra el pueblo de Venezuela, dirigida por sicarios económicos.”

    Just curious, out of 20 Average Venezuelan people, your typical “pueblo” guy or gal from Barquisemeto, or Guatire or Margariteño or Maracibo.. how many suspect there is some sort of “guerra economica del imperio”, or “de la burguesia de la derecha fascista”.. how many actually believe in part or the whole Mega-Mojón Galáctico? (Galactic Mega-Turd).

    7/20 partly believe in it? I would ask people in the streets if I were there.. Thanks in advance for your investigation. (In the USA some say 1/3 of the populace believes the Earth is Flat, and they are much better educated than in Guatire, so keep an open mind)

  4. Paraguayan government candidate Mario Abdo Benítez, son of the private secretary of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, won presidential elections with a much tighter gap than predicted. He’ll take office on August 15 for a period of five years.

    Big Al was deposed 39 years ago, after 35 years in power. One would think that a 39 year gap would suffice to render null any connection to power for Big Al’s team. Once more, truth is stranger than fiction.

    Some US friends living in Paraguay when Big Al was in power got a German Shepherd puppy for Christmas one year, courtesy of their children. The dog’s full name was “El Gran Macho Colorado.” (Colorados = Big Al’s political party.) Family members were directed to NEVER speak the dog’s full name in front of any Paraguayans. 🙂

    • This is why for any M. Plan type of rescue in Venezuela to work would necessitate a thorough house cleaning, and there’s only one way to get that job done….


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