Among Criminals and Sycophants

For Wednesday, May 30, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

27
Photo: BCV

The report issued by the group of experts appointed by OAS secretary general Luis Almagro concluded this Tuesday that the Venezuelan government has committed crimes against humanity, and that there’s legal basis to denounce it before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Argentine Santiago Cantón, Canadian Irwin Cotler and Costa Rican Manuel Ventura gathered enough material to denounce: systematic murders against the citizens who opposed the regime; arbitrary arrests; torture; sexual violence against men and women in custody; political persecution; forced disappearances —particularly of political rivals— and inhuman acts, with the deliberate intensification of the humanitarian situation. Cantón denounced a systematic plan carried out by the government to exercise social control and a clear political persecution, a trademark of all crimes against humanity. “The government is responsible for the worst humanitarian crisis in the region. Remember the people behind the statistics for preventable deaths: malaria, diphtheria, measles, diseases that weren’t there before,” added Canadian Irwin Cotler.

The reaction

Canada stated that they were “appalled, though not surprised” by the evidence that the experts found about crimes against humanity committed here.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s permanent mission before the OAS claimed that the document “lacks judicial value because it was issued by an usurped authority,” restating that Almagro “has assumed a capacity that not even the OAS has, which is being a judicial instance,” denouncing that the report is part of a “propaganda campaign” aimed at ousting Nicolás, expressing their profound and emphatic condemnation for the report, because it’s “the result of an illegal procedure, in violation of all regulations and principles” of international law and OAS rules, whose goal was no more than becoming “a grotesque media farce.” The OAS as an institution can’t send a case to the ICC, but any of the 28 member States that have signed the Statute of Rome can. If a State denounces the members of the Venezuelan government, the Office of the Prosecutor must automatically open an investigation; meanwhile, if it’s done by an individual (Luis Almagro, for example) the Office of the Prosecutor must first be authorized by a group of judges. The experts presented this report three months after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced the opening of preliminary investigations on crimes committed by Venezuelan police and security forces.

Improvise and move on

Yesterday, Nicolás assumed that our macroeconomic imbalances can be explained with capitalism’s failures and an induced inflation and that they’ll be corrected by taking over municipal markets and giving away more bonuses. Nicolás, who feels upset when people say there’s a dictatorship in Venezuela, waited less than a week —with all the costs and threats accumulated along the way— to call off the useless monetary reconversion, suspending it for at least 60 days, in a televised conversation with representatives of the Venezuelan Banking Association, who contributed to the show with apologies and flattery, without mentioning how much purchasing power the bolivar will lose in the next few days, without mentioning hyperinflation, focused like Nicolás in the monetary cone, as if that was the root of the problem.

They also took the opportunity to ask for an increase in interest rates and proposed the coexistence of both monetary cones as part of an “antistress” plan. Denying this society the necessary economic rectifications should also be considered a crime against humanity.

And in the National Assembly

The opposition caucus approved an agreement condemning the political persecution against members of the National Armed Forces and demanded that Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López be held accountable for the arrests of military officers.

According to figures offered by lawmaker Franco Casella, at least 150 soldiers are being taken to court for the crimes of treason, rebellion, insurrection and stealing military equipment. Lawmaker Edgar Zambrano accused the Cuban G2 of incriminating the officers. Opposition parliamentarians will also investigate Iván Hernández Dala, head of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), for the alleged use of torture against civilians and soldiers. The agreement demands the immediate release of all civilian and military political prisoners, the respect for due process and the end of human rights violations against detainees.

More of the show

  • In his round of dialogues with everyone, Nicolás met with leaders of one of the versions of political party Copei, after a critical meeting with heads of public and private media outlets, with whom he didn’t discuss Conatel’s role in censorship and self-censorship; not the access to public information, media shutdowns, attacks or threats against journalists.
  • Javier Bertucci said that he expects more releases of political prisoners to reach the number negotiated with Nicolás, a pretty incoherent delusion after admitting that the government’s still replenishing the numbers of political prisoners.
  • But coherence isn’t a trademark of our former candidates, see: Henri Falcón admitted yesterday that “nothing” was a better option that his campaign proposal, however, he later spoke about the creation of a new opposition platform that won’t disregard conversations with the Broad Front and MUD, and while his Copei allies met with Nicolás, Falcón announced that he’ll challenge the elections before the TSJ.
  • Education Minister Elías Jaua wants to discuss the internal differences in the PSUV Congress, saying it would be fair and healthy to allow militants to vote directly, secretly and universally for the party’s new posts.
  • Interior Minister Néstor Reverol announced the relaunch of peace quadrants although few of us ever knew if they actually worked, for what and when they stopped doing so.
  • Lawmaker Tomás Guanipa ratified Ramón Guillermo Aveledo as MUD’s new executive secretary.

Nicolás dared talk about Evio Di Marzo’s murder, but he didn’t mention the children and adults who died in the accident of the truck in Mérida, a consequence of the collapse of public transport. Nicolás claimed that he doesn’t “hide anything from the people, because the people must be well informed,” although it’s been years since we’ve had access to inflation, production, epidemiology or data about crime. And meanwhile, a throng of sycophants keeping up with his show to get the concessions they need to renew, for the rates they want to increase, for the political notoriety that they’ll only get if they dance to Miraflores’ tune. We must go on, my friends, we must go on.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

27 COMMENTS

  1. When does the call go out from the AN for massive protests and civil resistance? Have I missed it? Is there actual leadership?

    I expect that since I am not reading anything about such announcements from them, let alone spontaneous outbursts of disobedience from El Pueblo, that things aren’t as bad as we (outsiders looking in) have been led to believe?

    I’m sitting here scratching my head, and I have (for the last time) asked for my expat wife’s impression of what is going on.*

    *Mrs. Guapo has washed her hands of all things Venezuela.

  2. *Mrs. Guapo has washed her hands of all things Venezuela.

    A wise woman. How does one explain the unexplainable?

  3. I was under the impression that Venezuela pulled out from the OAS (or began the proceedings for withdrawal). I wonder how’s that going.

  4. I am appalled at the response of the International community to this crisis, I don’t have the answer to the problem, I think it is much more complicated than many realize. Certainly, the answer is not a military invasion by another country but neither is a coup in which many innocent people will likely die. Perhaps sanctions will have the desired effect but will need more support from those now sitting on the sidelines. Nicolas’ constant diatribes against anything and everything international is a joke when he has Cuban gangsters, their military, at the center of things. Venezuelans have suffered much too long, it is time something is done.

    • Bill
      I don’t know how the media is covering the crisis in Canada. In the US the coverage is slim compared to the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis that is occurring.

      I honestly believe that if the regime was a right wing dictator, the media would be all over it. They are having a very hard time criticizing one of their own. The average American is ignorant of the plight the Venezuelan population is suffering.

      Can anyone explain what the dictator’s decree regarding the seizure of municipal markets entails?

  5. Hello John
    I am Bill Canadian but live in Colombia, have for eight years. This country is not without it’s problems, witness the runoff scheduled for June 17th between the far right and far left candidates, a unique quandary to be sure. The coverage here is what I would call high interest but not radical, Colombia is the most affected with the refugees coming over the border so they have a financial responsibility to them if only on a humanitarian basis. Problem is, much like the peace agreement with the FARC, they are not doing a very good job of it, don’t have the money I assume. It is frustrating to think of the typical Venezuelan life so I try not to.

  6. The question I have is where would Maduro be without the support of the Cubans to control his military and other groups.

    Maybe the US and other need to refocus their sanctions and actions on Cuba as a way to put more indirect pressure on Maduro.

    If they could force Cuba to with draw their military and other groups from Venezuela it would leave Madro’s government with out the support needed for internal controls and lead to a much quicker demise. Since Cuba is no longer receiving “free” oil and there is nothing else left to steal, they have been slowly backing away from Venezuela and have much less to loose if Maduro falls,

    • Hello CJ
      You might be right and that may come to a head sooner rather than later. Just last week it was reported that Maduro bought oil on the open market to supply Cuba while people in Venezulela went without everything that we would consider to be normal. That can’t go on much longer, they have no currency reserves, so perhaps the Cuban’s will pull their support. Hard to determine with Castro still standing in the wings.

    • Carlos
      I believe that Washington is looking at the big picture when it comes to the parasitic relationship Cuba has with Venezuela. Without Chavez, Castro may have been toppled after the loss of Soviet aid. Venezuelan oil and money is critical to the Cuban economy. Trump tightening up sanctions and reversing many of Obama’s policies towards Cuba is a coherent policy that recognizes Cuban influence and involvement in Venezuela.
      When Venezuela is no longer supporting the Cuban regime, I doubt any other country will step in to prop it up. Putin may consider it, but he has nothing to gain. Putin may be feeling some pressure from the oligarchs that are being punished for his actions. He doesn’t need more distractions.
      China won’t support Cuba. They don’t have anything to gain.
      Cuba has been the destabilizing force in the Caribbean and Latin America for a very long time. Trump realizes this. Obama by contrast ignored the region, reduced US Aid and focused on the Middle East.

      • John
        Putin I agree with, Xi is another matter. He might support Cuba depending on who replaces Maduro, if and when that happens. He would love a foothold in the western hemisphere and could be seen to be loosing that if Venezuela moves more towards democracy. Cuba would give him the in but also negate a little of the embarrassment he may feel if Trump is successful in any way with Kim. A tit for tat response if you will.

        • Cuba will not voluntarily give up its Venezuelan tit–better one that still has something to suck, albeit little, than the dry tit back home (e.g.,Cuban sugar production 1mm today vs, 7mm pre-Castro). Besides, they now have their eye on Colombia–imagine, 25% now for Petro IN SPITE OF the Venezuelan Holocaust next door/million+ Venezuelan refugees in-country–Imagine 4-5 years from now with full FARC financing/ greater penetration of the Colombian military–Venezuelan deja vu all over again, and why, if necessary, and no major internal Ven. change, the U.S. will have to act forcefully in the relatively near future….

          • Petro won’t make it sorry to say, whoever Uribe backs is a lock as long as he doesn’t go to jail. The only connection from Colombia to Venezuela is their million citizens that are here begging on the streets. Don’t know where the Cuban eye on Colombia comes from, I’ve lived in Colombia for eight years and seen no evidence of it. Whatever you think of the Colombian mentality, I can tell you that they are not stupid.

          • 25% of Colombians are stupid enough to vote for Petro today, more will be stupid enough the next election if Venezuela doesn’t change. Sorry to here your, “Petro wont make it sorry to say.”

    • Carlos, I know the role and the influence that the Cuban regime has had in Venezuela under chavismo, but I think it is vastly overstated -particularly now- compared to the assistance that Venezuela gets from Russia and China, and the fact that the regime relies on, still in large measure, oil exports to the USA (and elsewhere, but in largest measure to the USA).

      Therefore I think the areas where Venezuela would feel the most pressure would be where its main sources of support are seriously threatened or diminished. The international community is slow to address this crisis, but the trend is on the right track- increased political and economic pressure/sanctions. That pressure could be applied directly to the regime’s sponsors as well, which is a tricky operation to be sure, but worth a hard look.

      A coup, or some notion of a targeted military strike, premised on the idea that chavismo and the social divisions it reflects somehow reside in the brain of a handful of people only, are ridiculous ideas and would just increase the level of violence and chaos, prolong a crisis, and would render any recovery far more difficult than it already looks to be.

      I think it is a good bet that this regime cannot last a lot longer. The economy cannot support the massive web of clientelism and patronage on which the regime has relied. People massively rejected the ballot the regime offered them, and for those who voted, that vote will produce nothing better. If history is any guide people will increasingly express their will in other more direct ways. But the international community can work around this crisis to mitigate it by ratcheting up the political, economic and diplomatic pressure and continue to target key individuals in power.

      My experience is that the coverage of the crisis in Venezuela in the international media is pretty good. Certainly in Canada it generates major stories in newspapers and the television media on a regular basis. I suppose the answer to that is that few people read newspapers (online or otherwise) or watch the news on television anywhere anymore, but in any event, the coverage is there for those who care to look for it.

      • I think the Cuban regime’s support of Maduro via their intelligence-gathering within the Venezeulan military is what’s keeping Maduro in power, and has kept him in power to this point.

        The population is easy to control today, they’ve been beaten into submission and are generally too hungry, tired, poor, and immobile to put up much of a fight.

        The military is a horse of a different color and without Cuban agents pinpointing, reporting, and helping isolate potential hotspots within the military who are thinking of ousting Maduro, he’d have been history by now.

        I think the long list of published high military officals who are now incarcerated support my belief. And I’m sure we don’t know about all of them.

        Just my personal opinion though.

      • Oh yeah. I’m sure VZ coverage in Canada is AMAZING!

        Coverage worldwide is pitiful, with the exception maybe of Colombia.

      • “Carlos, I know the role and the influence that the Cuban regime has had in Venezuela under chavismo, but I think it is vastly overstated -particularly now- compared to the assistance that Venezuela gets from Russia and China, and the fact that the regime relies on, still in large measure, oil exports to the USA (and elsewhere, but in largest measure to the USA).”

        Maybe. But to quote an unverified quote credited to the brilliant and brutal warlord Timur, “It is better to be on hand with ten men than absent with ten thousand.” And if the situation in Venezuela today is anything like it was in Mozambique, Angola, or most of the post-1961 Hispanic America I’d wager that there are a LOT more Cuban neck snappers, leg breakers, and listeners in the dark than there are PRC or Russian ones.

        The PRC and Russia are certainly much, MUCH larger pools of patronage and resources than Cuba is (and indeed the Castros have relied on Russian support for essentially their entire misbegotten reigns), but Cuba’s in the neighborhood for the Chavistas in a way the Kremlin and Beijing simply are not. And so they can dedicate more focus to it than Xi or Putin can, and are probably more invested in keeping it red.

        Put simply, Cuba is something like the Big Brother to Venezuela, even if Russia and the PRC are the Big Brother to Castro Cuba.

        “Therefore I think the areas where Venezuela would feel the most pressure would be where its main sources of support are seriously threatened or diminished. ”

        The problem is that pariah states can survive an Amazing amount of time with minimal support as long as they retain the favor of a handful of powerful patrons, and the means of coercion. North Korea is case in point for this but it is anything but unusual. Cutting off and sanctioning Venezuela will help the situation- that’s why I have always supported them against the Castros- but I don’t have that much faith in them being enough to outright topple the edifice by themselves. Especially not if the Chavistas can still bilk their patrons on the cheap.

        “The international community is slow to address this crisis, but the trend is on the right track- increased political and economic pressure/sanctions.”

        Agreed there.

        ” That pressure could be applied directly to the regime’s sponsors as well, which is a tricky operation to be sure, but worth a hard look.”

        It could be. But it probably isn’t going to be. As bad as the Chavistas are, they are nowhere near as bad as the DPRK. And we’ve not seen a huge amount of effective putative measures against the PRC for their double dealing, now have we?

        “A coup, or some notion of a targeted military strike, premised on the idea that chavismo and the social divisions it reflects somehow reside in the brain of a handful of people only, are ridiculous ideas and would just increase the level of violence and chaos, prolong a crisis, and would render any recovery far more difficult than it already looks to be.”

        Sorry, but I’m starting to find this train of thought unconvincing for several reasons.

        Starting with the fact that the Chavistas- both the ideological “true believers” and their heirs- were never, Ever interested in giving up power peacefully. That’s why I found the report I read about how Chavez originally preferred abstaining from the election he ultimately won, because he was certain that the establishment parties and gov’t would never allow him to win (because I think he was projecting himself onto them).

        Secondly, it also ignores the above mentioned durability of pariah states. I know you’ve written that you took part in the Velvet Revolution that ultimately toppled the Czechoslovak Communist Dictatorship and if true you deserve laurels. But the Czechoslovak Communists were incredibly weak- especially compared to what they Had been- just before. They were pushed into a corner by the Soviets making it increasingly obvious (and increasingly PUBLIC) that they would not send troops and Chekists to prop up their satraps, even if it meant outright losing said satrapies.

        That changed the strategic equations from what they were in ’56, ’68, and even ’83.

        I see no reason why this is similar in Venezuela today. Say what I will about the Castros, but they DO have a strong track record of putting their necks out and standing up for their allies, be they the Derg in Ethiopia. North Vietnam, or the MPLA in Angola. And those were half a world away and of much less direct importance to Habana than Caracas is.

        And as we’ve seen time and again over the last several years, Chavism is an inherently violent and inherently totalitarian ideology. It has not hesitated to use mortal violence to crush dissent and opposition before. After all, it’s never seriously backfired on them: it has never made them less likely to retain power rather than more.

        And with the Castros and other cousins we’ve seen how totalitarian dictatorships can last decades upon decades if allowed to calcify and left without outside or inside opposition, even as living conditions collapse and people leave. And that no matter how damaging the combat actions of the Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs, the Orientale Rebellion, or the FARC insurgency, they are much MUCH less so than an undisputed communist dictatorship.

        So why not at least *consider* the matter of military resistance?

        I don’t type that lightly, or as some kind of wargaming grognard nerd who has never fired a gun (well, ok, that’s Mostly true) and who has no consideration about how terrible a civil war will be. But one has to measure how awful that is against how awful allowing Chavismo to continue.

        “I think it is a good bet that this regime cannot last a lot longer.”

        A good bet? Eh, maybe.

        But a certainty? No. Definitely not. Again, the Castros and Lukashenko kindly demonstrate that fact.

        And I certainly think it’s much, Much more likely that the regime will end sooner rather than later if they have to at least consider in the backs of their peanut sized brains the possibility that the next time they start shooting up a crowd, some bullets are going to fly back at them.

        “The economy cannot support the massive web of clientelism and patronage on which the regime has relied.”

        DPRK.

        Angola.

        Belarus.

        Russia.

        PRC.

        Cambodia.

        PRI Mexico in the 1970’s….

        Need I go on?

        Ultimately, a totalitarian government that relies on patronage to maintain its power will prioritize the patronage system over the health of the economy. After all, we’ve seen multiple demonstrations that these regimes can survive economic implosion to some degree far better than they can survive mutinies from inside the state.

        “People massively rejected the ballot the regime offered them, and for those who voted, that vote will produce nothing better. ”

        And the regime does not give a single flying damn. After all, it can afford to for as long as the people who reject the ballot are not discontent enough to start considering how to remove them by any means necessary.

        “If history is any guide people will increasingly express their will in other more direct ways”

        This is true.

        But as an amateur historian, if history is any guide those people will be smashed down by a ruthless, relatively united state apparatus and its allies as long as adequate support remains to deal with the internal problems, and there is no serious cleavage in that internal unity or moves to reform.

        There’s a reason why most of the Communist dictatorships that tried to adopt Perestroika fell, while those that rejected it had a better chance of surviving. Even when said rejection was only temporary or delayed a few decades. An iron fist can clasp tightly; it’s when you try and loosen it (either by choice or due to desperation/lack of option) that you really start risking the chance things will drop from it.

        “But the international community can work around this crisis to mitigate it by ratcheting up the political, economic and diplomatic pressure and continue to target key individuals in power.”

        Which is true, but this alone is no guarantee that these changes will see off the regime. Again, the DPRK and Russia come to mind.

        “My experience is that the coverage of the crisis in Venezuela in the international media is pretty good. Certainly in Canada it generates major stories in newspapers and the television media on a regular basis. I suppose the answer to that is that few people read newspapers (online or otherwise) or watch the news on television anywhere anymore, but in any event, the coverage is there for those who care to look for it.’

        Thanks for the info! And glad to hear.

    • The support of Cuba is relatively cheap. Putin sees this as an inexpensive way to annoy the U.S.

      Venezuela is much more expensive to support. And, the assholes in charge cannot be counted on to keep their word.

      Russia will write off Venezuela, when the cost exceeds any foreseeable benefit. There is no ideology involved in the decision. For Putin it will be a purely cost/benefit decision.

  7. DT exchange rate finally broke 1M – is now 1.144 M Bs to 1 USD.

    I know you folks believe DT to be out of vogue, but they still lose their minds over it on Aporrea.

    If they delay the roll out of the Bolivar Supremo another 3 months, should be at 10M:1 at its present trajectory. Three zeros off will accomplish nothing at all.

  8. The only time the “rest of the world” gets good coverage of Latin America when they play World Cup Matches (that is a whole level of corruption in is own right). I don’t care “Canucklehead” and others say, you would live it to understand it I’m Gringo, and have worked as engineer in in oil industry (It spent 6+years works working for PDVSA) followed five years in Ft. Mac. / Calgary/ Edmonton. (I happened go to Chile for after Canada). The news in Canada, EU and USA is always biased- on way or another. I Really to prefer getting new Chile after a awhile (the crime rare there is about same Canada’s). Just comment I left a few day ago – Maybe MRubio can reply

    2. Doughbouy May 24, 2018 at 11:01 pm
    Classic money laundering. speaking of which. I still remember When I first went to Amuay in 1996, we drove to the east side of the Paraguaná, going to Cabo San Roman. When we got 15 kilometer from the cape we noticed the big set of deserted building / oblivious a former hotel site. Ruinas del Complejo Medano Caribe – I was told (but I know how true it was) that a Caracas bank money laundered 2.25 billion dollars (in late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Let’s see that much – 1) It’s on the beach, 2) you can see Aruba and Curacao. 3) you over 200 rooms to chose. 4) The Nearest airport is over 90 minutes away. 5) the roads are n ot good and you have stop frequently to let the burros go bye, 6) and lastly, there a salt evaporation pond next door (for over three miles. Sound like a place you would want invest in.
    Reply
    o Mary May 25, 2018 at 3:23 am
    I had to look that up!
    http://escombrosdeltiempo.blogspot.com/search/label/Paraguana
    Reply
     NET. May 25, 2018 at 7:42 am
    Really impressive pictorially-a metaphor for Venezuela today (also somewhat similar to the “Industrias Basicas” of Ciudad Guayana). Bank which financed went belly-up, high-profile bank pres. (family relative of real bank owners) was in Vail or Aspen with his former Miss Universe lover at time of bankruptcy, bank was semi-bailed out by Ven. Govt., though individual depositors only finally collected up to a relatively low max limit per deposit, and depositors of U.S. dollars in bank store-fronts in Aruba/Curacao lost everything.
    Reply
     Doughbouy May 25, 2018 at 9:47 pm
    Plus, I almost forgot – the other engineers that worked with said you can not discuss it (and many other thing – this was before Chavez). Any wonder that left (class of 2002). I still miss Venezuela coffee

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here