Venezuela, Corbyn, and Brexit

Dan Hannan, MEP for SE England, on Venezuela, via Conservative Home. Good Stuff.

To grasp the full extent of Venezuela’s tragedy, consider just one statistic. In 1959, GDP per head in Venezuela was 10 per cent higher than in the United States. That’s right. Venezuela wasn’t just the richest country in Latin America; it was one of the richest countries on the planet.

When I was growing up in Peru in the 1970s, Venezuela was the place people aspired to emigrate to. Not just from South America, either. People came in their tens of thousands from southern Europe in search of a better life.

One man, even during those plentiful years, fretted about the future. Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, a former Venezuelan energy minister and a founder of OPEC, pronounced what now looks like a spookily apt prophecy in 1976: “Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see, oil will ruin us.”

In the event, he was out by 20 years: the ruin came in the 2000s. And for once the word “ruin” is literally accurate. Inflation in Venezuela is running at ten million per cent. There are verified deaths from malnutrition. Far from importing immigrants, the country has lost three million people since Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution, the worst refugee crisis in the history of the Western hemisphere.

What caused a collapse on this scale? Was it the “resources curse”, the name economists give to Pérez Alfonzo’s theory that unearned wealth wrecks an economy? Was it, as Corbynistas are now claiming, external sabotage? Or was it something else?

It is certainly true that oil can have a devastating effect on a country’s political system. Think of Iraq, Iran, Nigeria or Russia. Politics becomes a scramble for what Pérez Alfonzo called “the devil’s excrement”. To be more precise, the politicians who can place themselves between oil reserves and oil companies can make such vast fortunes that they can buy elections with their loose change.

But the “resources curse” is not inevitable. It did not destroy democracy in, say, Norway or Alberta. Several Gulf states – perhaps because they are aware of Pérez Alfonzo’s gloomy thesis – are now careful to place some of their oil bonanzas in sovereign wealth funds, aimed at diversifying their economies.

In the case of Venezuela, the spike in the cost of a barrel of oil during the early Chávez years had the effect of temporarily masking the worst effects of his policies. “There are no good or bad presidents,” Venezuelans say, “only presidents when the oil price is high, and when it’s low”. Chávez, needless to say, did not use his oil bonus to diversify the economy or build up reserves. He used it to cover the massive costs caused by his imposition of price controls, nationalisation and exchange controls. Anything he had left over went to backing Leftist insurgents elsewhere in Latin America. It was during those early years that the international Left (not only Momentum types) lectured the rest of us about how the rest of us ought to copy the Venezuelan example.

When the oil boom ended, the calamity of the command economy caught up with Venezuela. Like every other socialist strongman in human history, Chávez had made people poorer. Much poorer. Stories of hunger and emigration spread, opposition groups were harassed or closed down, but overseas Leftists still wanted to support the regime. So they began to claim that US sanctions were to blame. In fact, the only US sanctions in place before August 2017 were asset freezes and travel bans aimed at a handful of Chavista politicians and their cronies. (Many of the children of Venezuela’s socialist élite have scandalised their countrymen with their conspicuous consumption at luxury resorts around the world, and Chávez’s daughter is said to be worth four billion dollars.) There is no way that such personalised micro-sanctions could conceivably have harmed the Venezuelan economy as a whole. Even after 2017, eight years into the economic crisis, the sanctions were extended only to a ban on buying government bonds or bonds in state-owned enterprises.

He goes on to show how Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party still worship at Maduro’s feet, it’s both true and sad. It’s also one reason that Teresa May remains Prime Minister, very few people can stomach the thought of Corbyn as PM, nor does anyone appear willing to take on May in the Tories. In short, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Sad, not least because it functions as a spanner in the gears to properly negotiating Brexit as well. Yes, I know not everything is Brexit, and yet Brexit is so fundamental, to Britain moving forward, that almost everything is.

Venezuela, and Maduro

On Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Venezuela. He was beyond outstanding, as he spoke very clearly indeed.

The UN, being its normal useless self, has, of course, ignored the situation, as SECSTATE says

“My former colleague, Ambassador Haley, lobbied for a year to get the council to address Venezuela but her pleas fell on deaf ears. This meeting is long overdue. And you all know why it’s overdue.” 

He also spoke of how bad it really is down there:

Maracaibo, Venezuela. Credit: pixabay. Free for use.

“Today nine out of ten citizens live in poverty. Millions lack access to drinking water and food. Three out of four hospitals have been abandoned. Three million Venezuelans have been forced to flee their homeland thereby flooding the region and threatening international peace and security.”

Then there clattered very loudly a gauntlet thrown on the floor, by the United States

“And now it’s time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.

Some countries have publicly taken former President Maduro’s side. China, Russia, Syria, and Iran are just four of them. . . .”

And to be fair, some, especially in Europe, reluctantly picked it up, Spain, France, Britain, and Germany voting for a free Venezuela. Not, of course, that (other than Britain, perhaps) they’ll be of any real use. But at least they didn’t vote with Russia.

Scott Johnson over at PowerLine says he the best Secretary of State since George Schultz. I have no argument with that.

In something that may prove significant Venezuela’s military attache to the United States, Col. José Luis Silva issued a statement Saturday, as well.

“As the Venezuelan defense attaché in the United States, I do not recognize Mr. Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela.”

“My message to all armed forces members, to everyone who carries a gun, is to please let’s not attack the people. We are also part of the people, and we’ve had enough of supporting a government that has betrayed the most basic principles and sold itself to other countries.” [adding]

“Captains, commanders: Think about everyone who suffers. Don’t forget that your wives also can’t find milk for your children. Don’t forget that your mothers and fathers also can’t find pills for their [blood] pressure.”

In the meantime, the Russians sound like the Soviets with their warmed over rhetoric. I mean, really?

“Venezuela does not pose any threat to peace and security. The intention of the United States is to orchestrate a coup d’etat.” 

Washed up, repetitive and past their sell-by date, that’s the Russian Confederation. The world moves on, and they simply aren’t that effective a threat anymore. See ya around, Vlad.

And now I see that former Reagan administration Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams is appointed our new special enjoy for Venezuela.  Excellent.

 

The Venezuelan Implosion

In case you missed it in the uproar over the Covington Kids (God bless them) over the last few days the situation in Venezuela has come to a head.

A few days ago there was what looked like an attempted military coup which was put down. Only two days later the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has declared Maduro’s presidency as constitutionally illegitimate. He has been recognized as the legitimate head of the government by the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and others. Mexico and Bolivia have not. Maduro has severed diplomatic relations with the US and given US diplomats 72 hours to leave. The State Department has replied that Maduro is no longer head of Venezuela’s government and we are not leaving, quite brave on Pompeo’s part, or foolhardy, depending on how things turn out.

And so that is the situation now in the country with the largest oil reserves in the world, and with a government that Bernie Sanders would be proud of, as people fight over rats to eat and haven’t seen toilet paper in years.

Now what?

The big powers in the western hemisphere are the US, Brazil, and Colombia. Brazil has a pretty new, right-wing populist government under Jair Bolsonaro, and yes, there are many parallels and comparisons to Trump. There were also reports that the refugees from Venezuela played a part in his election, after years of a left-wing rule of their own.

So Brazil is somewhat weaker than it has been but it is still the neighborhood leader and an ally of the US. Colombia tends to follow Brazil.

Maduro is backed by Cuba, Iran, and Russia. In other words, the usual suspects. Solve this correctly, and we not only save many, many Venezuelan lives but we also damage terrorism in the western hemisphere quite a lot. Both matter.

It’s probably (according to most analysts) a bad idea for the US to get directly involved militarily, but it would also be very unwise to sit by idly.

I think Brandon J. Weichert has it reasonably close to right in The Spectator when he says this.

From its perch in North America, the United States can do much to support a humanitarian aid mission into Venezuela (air dropping supplies, for instance) while lending covert assistance to Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuelan dissidents. Yet, the most powerful punch that the United States could pack would not be through overt military force, but rather through covert action and diplomacy.

For instance, Cuba is key regional problem in this scenario. Cuba has been the conduit through which Iranian, Russian, and Chinese support for the Maduro regime has flowed. America must impose harsh sanctions against Havana until it ceases its illicit involvement with Maduro. I never understood why the Obama Administration attempted to normalize relations with Cuba. It only empowered Havana to misbehave more in Latin America.

Also, the United States Southern Command must be given greater resources. At present, USSOUTHCOM is woefully underfunded and has few military assets that it could deploy to help buttress American allies in the region. Some U.S. Navy warships should be diverted from other theaters and sent to operate under the command of USSOUTHCOM.

The essential element in this scenario would be American leadership as opposed to direct American military intervention. While this method may take longer and, therefore, prolong human suffering in Venezuela, this is the only viable option. After all, freedom isn’t free, and the United States has had ample evidence over the last several decades that it cannot fight for other peoples’ independence.

The locals must do the heavy-lifting here and the United States being a global power must put pressure on the outside forces (namely Cuba) that are empowering the Maduro regime’s disgusting reign.

That sounds pretty sensible to me. There’s always resentment when US troops are involved, but something needs to be done, and Brazil (and perhaps Colombia) is likely the best one to do it, with US backing and support. Both have borders with Venezuela. Nor would it hurt to have a USN presence to hold the ring.

And as the local superpower, and acting in accordance with long tradition, going back to President Monroe, it is the American role to let our South American neighbors figure out their own problems, without other powers sticking their noses in.

I also note that the hospital ship USNS Comfort is close to wrapping up a mission to various South American countries. It probably should be extended if necessary in the area.

The Dying Narrative

Medellín at La Sierra. Image by Monica Showalter.

Last Sunday, there was an election in Columbia, which is next door to Venezuela. You might have heard there was going to be, but I’d bet money you haven’t heard much about the results. Why? ‘The Narrative’ lost. from Monica Showalter in American Thinker.

Sunday’s election of a hard-core conservative in Colombia has left the media elites and their pundits befuddled. Some are calling Ivan Duque, the 41-year-old new conservative president-elect a ‘populist‘ as if to suggest that both President Trump and the late unlamented Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chavez, are all dreadful peas in the same pod. Others are speculating that Colombia elected another Emmanuel Macron, the youthful centrist French president, as if the namby-pamby Macron somehow amounted to a comparable sea change that this election represents or something. We heard of the new president (who does favor corporate tax cuts) summed up as ‘pro-business’ by the Wall Street Journal, as if that was all he was about to voters, and more pointedly still, summed up as ‘right-wing’ by Agence France-Presse and National Public Radio, both of which are clearly displeased. He’s also been accused of being a ‘puppet’ of former President Alvaro Uribe, the country’s Reagan-like conservative leader from 2002-2010 who put terrorists on the run and singlehandedly changed Colombia’s reputation from night-haunted hellhole to downright vacation paradise. The press dutifully spread the puppet stuff far and wide.

The best story I saw, however, comes from a local, on-the-ground source, Colombia Reports, run by a Dutchman, Adriaan Anselma, whose news site has almost always been fair and objective. Here’s Colombia Report’s headline:

Iconic Medellin slum votes Duque to avoid ‘another Venezuela’

Now the clarity comes. Poor people voted for a genuine conservative out of terror of becoming another Venezuela, because they know what it is up close. And yes, that’s the much-vaunted poor that for years we have been hearing are so poor they can only vote for candidates who offer to shovel the most pork. They didn’t.

Yet that didn’t merit any headlines?

It gets worse for the press, because the Colombia Reports story is chock-full of on the ground shoe-leather reporting illustrating just that from the poor, an absolutely clear-eyed rejection of socialism, based on the example coming, and coming, out of Venezuela:

“You know what everyone’s saying,” said Teresita Alvarez, 63, as she walked to the polling station with her daughter and granddaughter.

“He [Petro] could bring Colombia down – he could make it like Venezuela. No one here wants that.”

Strangely, both Teresita and her 36-year-old daughter, Liliana, who have always lived in La Sierra, voted for centrist Sergio Fajado the first time round. Their second vote was a massive swing to the right.

Builder Alex Gutierrez, 40, picked Duque for the same reasons.

“We’ve seen the problems with Venezuela. We don’t want to risk that happening here,” he said.

Read it all at: Buried news: Colombia’s shantytowns rejected socialism, big time, to avoid ‘another Venezuela’ 

Imagine that, poor people voting for a conservative, instead of more goodies. How ‘Deplorable’. Good to see Columbia choosing to move towards a better life instead of death and destruction.


I haven’t much to say about the separation firestorm swirling around. It is not optimal to separate kids from their parents, but what does one do with kids who show up without parents, or whose parents are criminals? I don’t know, and I think the President is doing the best he can to take care of them. That’s all one can do, really. The job we elected him to do is to enforce the law, fairly and equitably, without exception. That is what he is doing.

America is a sovereign country, whose citizens get to decide who comes here. In large part that is why we elected Trump, to stop the invasion of migrants, who benefit the Democrat Party (as voters) and Big Business (as cheap and exploited workers), thereby reducing the wages of American citizens. Monica Showalter also has a list of those screaming about this necessary policy…

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

Michelle Obama seconds Laura Bush’s criticism of child separation policy

Romney backs Laura Bush on border: ‘We need a more compassionate answer’

Hillary: Separating Families Contrary to Religious Values – Jesus ‘Did Not Say Let the Children Suffer’

Jeb Bush: Trump should end ‘heartless’ policy separating migrant families

Eric Holder: ‘Unbelievably the Bible is’ being used to defend zero-tolerance border policy

Former Obama aide: Trump’s policy separating migrant families is “immoral”

Speaker Paul Ryan says he disagrees with Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border

Gov. Kasich says it’s “not an American value to be breaking up families”

McCain rips Trump’s family separation policy as affront to American decency

Sen. Kamala Harris: Trump’s “intent” to put “children in cages”

Colorado governor bars state resources for Trump family separation policy

Former CIA Chief Compares Trump Administration to Nazi Germany Over Border Policy

Has Trump finall gone too far? -by Max Boot

Blumenthal, immigrant families condemn separation of children at border

Lindsey Graham says the S-word live on CNN

Senator Ted Cruz Promises a Bill to Deal With the Family Separation Crisis at the Border

Senators Graham and Cruz appear to be looking for solutions, and that is good especially Cruz’s contribution. The others are simply blowing emotional crap that simply condemns without any thought of fixing anything. Why? I think because the free entry and the cheap labor it provides benefits them. I must also mention that I have rarely seen the left (and the GOPe) more completely unhinged. Must be important to them – that makes it important to stay the course.

In other words, Trump is once again upsetting the overseers on the plantation. Good on him. Those overseers are why the country got into such a mess.

And you know, from what I’ve seen of those centers, I doubt those kids ever had it so good, and sooner (more likely than later) they will be reunited with their parents, either in the United States or where they came from. Call it a vacation from destitution. And they could always put all that energy into improving their own country, instead of running away to what we have built.

Hey Sam Don’t Bee Rosie; the Picture Edition

mm

Heh!

Winning!

Kaitlin Bennett one more time!

Mostly PowerLine and Patriot Humor – No Difference this week.

Venezuela: Socialism Fails Still Again

So, just how bad is Venezuela? Bad enough that the AP is gone. From John Hinderaker at PowerLine.

The time comes when a country has spiraled so far downhill that it is no longer safe for journalists to cover its demise. That time has arrived in Venezuela. Hannah Dreier, who has been the Associated Press’s reporter in Venezuela since 2014, writes that she is going home: “Departing AP reporter looks back at Venezuela’s slide.” While her article doesn’t say this, it sounds like she won’t be replaced.

I don’t know Ms. Dreier, and I assume you have to be left-leaning to work for the Associated Press. But Dreier’s reporting from Venezuela has been clear-eyed and at times harrowing–appropriately so for a country in the last stages of socialism.

Dreier’s farewell article begins with her apprehension by a pair of Maduro’s thugs:

The first thing the muscled-up men did was take my cellphone. They had stopped me on the street as I left an interview in the hometown of the late President Hugo Chavez and wrangled me into a black SUV.
***
“What should we do with her?” the driver asked. The man next to me pulled his own head up by the hair and made a slitting gesture across his throat.

Well, they didn’t which is a very good thing, the rest of her article is a retrospective of her time there, and it’s pretty good.

I came to Caracas as a correspondent for The Associated Press in 2014, just in time to witness the country’s accelerating descent into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Venezuela had been a rising nation, buoyed by the world’s largest oil reserves, but by the time I arrived, even high global oil prices couldn’t keep shortages and rapid inflation at bay.

Life in Caracas was still often marked by optimism and ambition. My friends were buying apartments and cars and making lofty plans for their careers. On weekends, we’d go to pristine Caribbean beaches and drink imported whiskey at nightclubs that stayed open until dawn. There was still so much affordable food that one of my first stories was about a growing obesity epidemic.

Over the course of three years, I said good-bye to most of those friends, as well as regular long-distance phone service and six international airline carriers. I got used to carrying bricks of rapidly devaluing cash in tote bags to pay for meals. We still drove to the beach, but began hurrying back early to get off the highway before bandits came out. Stoplights became purely ornamental because of the risk of carjackings.

There was no war or natural disaster. Just ruinous mismanagement that turned the collapse of prices for the country’s oil in 2015 into a national catastrophe.

No doubt there was mismanagement, it’s a given if humans are involved (even in the programming). But, really, that merely means that no one is capable of managing the economy, no matter how brilliant they are. It simply can not be done. The only thing that works is everyone acting in what they perceive as their own interest, however they perceive that. Dreier seems to vaguely recognize that.

As things got worse, the socialist administration leaned on anti-imperialist rhetoric. The day I was put into the black SUV in Chavez’s hometown of Barinas coincided with a government-stoked wave of anti-American sentiment. The Drug Enforcement Administration had just jailed the first lady’s nephews in New York on drug trafficking charges, and graffiti saying “Gringo, go home” went up around the country overnight. An image of then-President Barack Obama with Mickey Mouse ears appeared on the AP office building.

The government of President Nicolas Maduro blames the U.S. and right-wing business interests for the economic collapse, but most economists say it actually stems from government-imposed price and currency distortions.

There often seemed to be a direct line between economic policy and daily hardship. One week, the administration declared that eggs would now be sold for no more than 30 cents a carton. The next week, eggs had disappeared from supermarkets, and still have not come back.

The collapse has been so quick that the trappings of flusher times have not yet disappeared. The capital is still filled with fine restaurants, though tables are often empty. Luxury car dealerships still line the streets and lure people with access to dollars or who have gotten rich off corruption.

John wraps up with this:

Do I really need to link to this one more time? Socialists are the most greedy and corrupt people on Earth. Hugo Chavez’s daughter and his finance minister are both multi-billionaires, as we wrote here and elsewhere. Socialists are not more moral than the rest of us. On the contrary, they are greedier and more cynical.

Socialism is evil, and must be ostracized as such. Venezuela’s collapse is just the latest in a long series of stories that remind us that the only path to freedom and prosperity is free enterprise.

Yep, you know that, as I do, and as most of us do. So why do those such as Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, and so many others keep pushing this nightmare. Could it be that in their corrupt souls they know they have nothing that would keep them in their desired station, so like the corrupt cronies in Caracas, they will attempt to steal it from those that earned it. Just like Lenin and Stalin. Just like Hitler and Mussolini. And just like Mao and Castro, and their hero Che Guevara. What was it Einstein said about doing the same thing over and over the same way and expecting a different result?

Do read the linked articles, there’s more there.

Any further questions? I thought not.

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