Sunday, 15 May 2016

Venezuela: the Empire Strikes back

Something big is happening in Venezuela

I look forward to some alternative commentary on this. Looks as if the Empire is now moving to take Latin America back - Brazil and now Venezuela.

Nothing yet from Sputnik or RT.

Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro declares state of emergency
Beleaguered leader invokes power to ‘confront threats’ as US officials warn country could disintegrate

14 May, 2016

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has declared a state of emergency, hours after US intelligence officials warned that the South American country could be on the brink of disintegration.

The powers Maduro obtains after Friday night’s declaration allow him “to stabilise our country, and confront all the international and national threats against our fatherland in this moment”, the president said, but he did not detail how he intends to use them.

The country is grappling with soaring inflation, a shrinking economy, chronic food shortages, and power cuts so bad that public servants have been put on a two-day week and the president personally urged women to stop blow-drying their hair to save electricity.

In December the opposition won parliamentary elections by a landslide, and is now pushing for a referendum on recalling Maduro from office, allowed under Venezuela’s constitution.

The president has vowed to see out his term, due to end in 2019, but the two US intelligence officials told journalists in Washington that it looks increasingly unlikely Maduro can hold on to power, even if he staves off a recall vote.

A leftwinger close to former President Hugo Chávez, the 53-year-old Maduro came to power after the founder of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution” died of cancer. But he lacks Chávez’s charisma or the oil bonzanza that funded his reforms. The former bus driver could be vulnerable to a “palace coup”, from colleagues frustrated by his handling of Chávez’s legacy, or an outright military grab for power, news agencies reported the unnamed officials as saying.

Maduro’s Friday night declaration of a 60-day state of emergency comes after a week that saw demonstrations for a recall vote escalate into violence, with protesters hurling stones and police firing teargas.

His biggest problem is the economy, which contracted last year and is forecast to shrink by a further 8% this year. Inflation is already in triple digits and expected to soar over 700% this year, which could leave the government too cash-strapped to even pay for printing new money.

As shortages of basic goods deepen, hours-long queues have become part of daily life for most Venezuelans, and looting is increasingly common, with mobs stealing flour, chicken and even underwear last week. Lengthy drought has created severe power shortages in a country heavily dependent on hydropower. Critics say mismanagement and lack of investment have exacerbated the problems.

The government’s efforts to manage the shortages have included moving clocks forward half an hour, closing schools on Fridays, sending civil servants home three days a week, and even drafting in Maduro himself to dispense energy-saving tips. “Cut the use of hair-dryers, or only use them half the time,” he said on a recent TV appearance. “Do you think you could do this, ladies?”

President Nicolás Maduro asked women not to blow-dry their hair, to save electricity.
President Nicolás Maduro asked women not to blow-dry their hair, to save electricity. Photograph: EPA
Caracas has become one of the most violent cities in the world, with people waiting to buy groceries leaving their cash at home while they queue, and summoning relatives to bring it to them at the last minute to avoid theft.

You can hear the ice cracking. You know there’s a crisis coming,” one US official said. “Our pressure on this isn’t going to resolve this issue.” The US government fears a return to the convulsions of 1989, when an earlier collapse in oil prices contributed to riots and looting in which more than 300 people died, the officials said.

Maduro denounced the press briefing as part of a conspiracy against his country. “Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela’s fascist right,” he said in a TV broadcast.

Any US intervention is sensitive in Venezuela because Washington has a history of both covert and open intervention across Latin America, from Chile to Nicaragua. In Venezuela there is lingering resentment at support for a shortlived 2002 coup against Chávez.

A surge in oil revenue, or fresh cash in the form of Chinese loans, might reinvigorate Maduro’s government, but there is little sign he can hope for either.

Work has all-but stopped on the Chinese bullet train that was intended as South America’s first and a symbol of socialist solidarity. It is now four years overdue, Chinese workers have pulled out, key sites have been looted and a government delegation to Beijing earlier this year came home empty-handed. ​And t​he retreat of two big oil services companies, Schlumberger and Halliburton, after the state firm failed to pay outstanding bills means crude production could fall below 2 million barrels per day for the first time in 20 years.

Is A Venezuela Coup Imminent? An Interview With A National Guardsman

14 May, 2016

Following several very disturbing stories about the start of Venezuela's social apocalypse, in the first case chronicling "Streets Filled With People Killing Animals For Food" and then last night documenting "Countless Wounded" After 5,000 Loot Supermarket Looking For Food, we concluded that "as civil war appears inevitable, as there are factions vying to oust Maduro, although we are confident the dictator will hang on for dear life (literally) and force his population to endure more of this socialist nightmare."

Today, now that speculation about a coup and/or civil war is becoming ever louder, we address some of these concerns courtesy of a must-read interview with a member of Bolivarian National Guard, the country's national guardsmen, conducted by PanAm Post, which provides a critical blueprint of the next very tragic steps in Venezuela, which unfortunately now appear certainly to conclude with a national coup.

From PanAm Post:

"Venezuela Is on the Brink of Social Collapse" National Guardsman
Food Shortages Cause Daily Looting, Energy Crisis Worsens as National State of Emergency Approaches

At the moment, the armed forces’ position vis-à-vis the government is not clear. Some speculate that the Bolivarian National Guard is divided. Others claim that the regime exerts full control over the Bolivarian National Guard’s members. The only certainty is that uncertainty abounds.

The PanAm Post had the opportunity to interview a Bolivarian National Guard member of middle rank, who asked to remain anonymous since his views could expose him to danger.

Why has the state launched an offensive against criminal groups?
The situation was getting out of hand for political reasons. The state has no means to control criminal groups. The country’s jails are in chaos. The streets themselves are in chaos. The state’s security personnel are unarmed.

The Maduro regime created the Organization for the Protection and Liberation for the People (OLP) to fight organized crime. Has that organization committed illegal acts as well?

From a legal standpoint, yes. Now from the point of view of the general population, no, because they tolerate harsh methods against the criminal bands.

But do they only kill criminals?

In the majority of case

Is the OLP really carrying out its operations strictly to end gang violence?
That is their main purpose. But there is also a political element. The OLP’s creation was a desperate measure. The government had given liberty to the gangs to do what they please. They armed them and now they are attacking them.

Is the OLP at war with gangs and with government officials at the same time?
Yes, because they can’t control them. They have become too powerful. They are armed and they teach military strategy. These criminals used to fight against each other. Now they have a truce between them and they fight the military and other security forces. They say, “as long as we kill them, we’ll survive.”

Does the state benefit by arming gangs? What is the regime trying to achieve?

Their goal is to have armed groups on their side in case of political turmoil. That is the final goal. Disarmament laws only affect innocent people. Criminal have many more weapons than we do at the National Guard. They also have much more power. We can’t control that now. Any solution will come too late.

The economic crisis and the public health crisis are becoming uncontrollable. The security forces are competent, but the government had to realize that the criminals were killing us all before they acted against them.

How corrupt is is the National Guard?

There is corruption in the National Guard, and there always has been. The difference is that, before, the system was more efficient. The National Guard decayed when it became political. Since we started to vote and to take part in the country’s political life, there has been no peace in the ranks.

Now there is pressure on us because we have to follow the constitution, but we also have to be loyal to our higher officers even when their orders don’t correspond to the laws. If their orders contradict the laws, you can’t follow them. So there is a rift between the security forces and the other institutions.

The government has an apparatus for persecution and espionage, so you can’t make negative statements about functionaries. The security services themselves are plagued by informants. You have to watch your every word.

All of those military upheavals denouncing the government, those attempts to overthrow the government — are they real?

No, the majority are false. There won’t be any coup attempts in Venezuela.

Why not?

Right now, all elements of the armed forces are under control. A coup-d’état takes place when you reach a breaking point and someone in the higher echelons of the armed forces decides that it’s time to act against the government. Right now in Venezuela, there are political divisions within the armed forces. There is neither the necessary unity nor the necessary organization for a coup to take place. Besides, officers fear the government’s informants. Everyone is on guard.
What will result from the current discontent?

The army and the National Guard are waiting. I can assure you that we are quite unhappy. But there is an entire structure above us, so it’s not easy to act. We receive criticism from all sides. Wherever I go, I come face to face with civilians’ displeasure and complaints. I also think the opposition has failed to take advantage of its opportunities to topple the government.

How so?

For example, when they won the parliamentary elections last December, the atmosphere was tense. The entire leadership knew what would happen. So did we. Former Speaker of the House Diosdado Cabello was willing to take the armed forces to the street against the opposition, but Padrino López, the Minister of Defense, didn’t allow him to do so.

What happened exactly on December 6?

The stories are true. That day there was a strong discussion between Padrino López and Cabello. López told Cabello that, if he ordered the troops to take the streets, he was going to have the army kill him

But did Padrino López only do it to save his own skin?

Of course. He would have been responsible if the army started to massacre people. López was not going to allow that to happen. So that day the army was ordered to guard the opposition.

On whose side does Padrino López find himself? That day, a rumor got out that he was defending Chávez’s revolution.

Padrino López is intelligent, and I don’t doubt that he’s a chavista. But all branches of the armed forces are dissatisfied with the current situation. Imagine if one day they let Diosdado Cabello commit a massacre. If something like that occurs, the army will support President Maduro.

And what has the Bolivarian National Guard done during the recent demonstrations? Why has the army remained silent?

Those are two different situations. Like I said, government intelligence is an obstacle to action. The risk of not obeying orders is very large, but there is a lot of discontent and resentment due to the measures carried out by the Bolivarian National Guard and other officials.

If discontent is so widespread, why is there no talk of a coup?

That’s already been discussed. The coup d’état, we hope, will not be repeated. We remember what happened in 2002 with Chávez and we don’t want something similar to happen in the future.

We are rather waiting for things to get truly out of hand. And that will happen in the following months. The situation is extremely unstable and the status quo can’t last. We are witnessing daily looting at supermarkets, and people are protesting.

The crisis at Guri Dam (Venezuela’s most important hydroelectric power station) will get worse. Everything will get worse and there will be an implosion.
At that moment, the country’s future will be determined. I don’t believe there’s much time left.

Are you sure that something drastic will happen soon?

Without a doubt. The Bolivarian National Guard has already discussed the matter.
The situation in Venezuela has never been as bad as it is now. The breaking point is near, but still not at hand. My recommendation is for people to prepare, to look for food and then to store it. Obviously, when the implosion occurs , it won’t last long. I believe it will last something like 10 days, but they will be difficult days.
There will be a state of emergency, and that will bring the crisis to an end.
What will happen with the recall referendum that the opposition is trying to unleash against President Maduro?

That’s not a serious option. The regime has demonstrated that it can violate the constitution without second thoughts. They are going to accept the referendum, but only if they know they can win with any method available. The situation will only come to a head when hunger and the lack of electricity force people to take direct action.

So are the Armed Forces ready for a social catastrophe to take place?
We are really willing to intervene if the country undergoes a social catastrophe. It’s as if we have water in a pot and it begins to boil very slowly. There will be a moment when, if the gas is not turned off, the water begins to overflow and disaster ensues.

This is where I take STRONG exception to Zero Hedge. They come frrom their libertarian/Austrian school position to report with a pathological hatred of Venezuela's socialist experiment that almost equals their criticism of Empire.

Presumably they won't mind if the Empire restores the "free market"

If you want a measure of the publication look at the comments.

Maduro's Last Stand: Venezuela Declares State Of Emergency

From extending the weekendto rationing electricityto running out of money to print money, we've been covering the real-time events that have occurred in Venezuela as it devolved into a completely failed state.

Sadly, last night as starving citizens looted marketplaces in search of food, we predicted that a civil war was almost inevitable, and that Nicolas Maduro would do what he could to hang on for dear life (literally). Today we learn, with his entire socialist utopia literally crumbling beneath him, Venezuelan president Maduro has declared a 60-day state of emergency.

Additionaly, as a last ditch effort to extend whatever is left of his time as president, Maduro is trying to drum up sympathy claiming that the United States was responsible for the chaos in his country.

"Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela's fascist right, who are emboldened by the coup in Brazil." Maduro said.

Maduro gave no further details on the "threats" that led him to declare the state of emergency, but the idea of a coup was naturally downplayed by opposition lawmaker Tomas Guanipa.

"Today Maduro has again violated the constitution. Why? Because he is scared of being recalled." Guanipa opined.
*  *  *
Unfortunately for the people of Venezuala, whatever turn this saga takes will be ugly to say the least...

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