Can You Find the Hidden Word to Explain Venezuela’s Escape Economic Collapse?

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 The New York Times Can’t.

WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao — Nicholas Case reports: The dark outlines of land had just come into view when the smuggler forced everyone into the sea.

Roymar Bello screamed. She was one of 17 passengers who had climbed onto the overloaded fishing boat with aging motors in July, hoping to escape Venezuela’s economic disaster for a new life on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

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Can you guess what word NYT’s Nicholas Casey failed to use even one time in his report on Venezuela’s economic crisis?

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Afraid of the authorities, the smuggler refused to land. Ms. Bello said he gruffly ordered her and the others into the water, pointing toward the distant shore. In the panic, she was tossed overboard, tumbling into the predawn blackness.

But Ms. Bello could not swim.

As she began to sink under the waves, a fellow migrant grabbed her by the hair and towed her toward the island. They washed up on a rocky cliff battered by waves. Bruised and bleeding, they climbed, praying for a lifeline: jobs, money, something to eat.

“It was worth the risk,” said Ms. Bello, 30, adding that Venezuelans like her, “are going after one thing — food.”

Maria Piñero at an empty grocery store in La Vela, Venezuela. “I’m nervous,” she said. “I’m leaving with nothing. But I have to do this. Otherwise, we will just die here hungry.” Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s richest countries, flush with oil wealth that attracted immigrants from places as varied as Europe and the Middle East.

[Read the full story here, at he New York Times]

But after President Hugo Chávez vowed to break the country’s economic elite and redistribute wealth to the poor, the rich and middle class fled to more welcoming countries in droves, creating what demographers describe as Venezuela’s first diaspora.

Now a second diaspora is underway — much less wealthy and not nearly as welcome.

Well over 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year alone, the highest in more than a decade, according to scholars studying the exodus.

Hundreds of Venezuelans lined up at a grocery store in La Vela in September to see if food would be delivered.Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

“It’s hard to see a solution to this problem because hunger is involved. Venezuela doesn’t have enough food for its people, so some are coming here.”

— Mayor Altemir Campos

And as Mr. Chávez’s Socialist-inspired revolution collapses into economic ruin, as food and medicine slip further out of reach, the new migrants include the same impoverished people that Venezuela’s policies were supposed to help.

“We have seen a great acceleration,” said Tomás Páez, a professor who studies immigration at the Central University of Venezuela. He says that as many as 200,000 Venezuelans have left in the last 18 months, driven by how much harder it is to get food, work and medicine — not to mention the crime that such scarcities have fueled.

“Parents will say: I would rather say goodbye to my son in the airport than in the cemetery,” he said.

Two would-be migrants waiting for the boat that will take them from Venezuela. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Desperate Venezuelans are streaming across the Amazon Basin by the tens of thousands to reach Brazil. They are concocting elaborate scams to sneak through airports in Caribbean nations that once accepted them freely. When Venezuela opened its border with Colombia for just two days in July, 120,000 people poured across, simply to buy food, officials said. An untold number stayed.

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But perhaps most startling are the Venezuelans now fleeing by sea, an image so symbolic of the perilous journeys to escape Cuba or Haiti — but not oil-rich Venezuela.

“It has all totally changed,” said Iván de la Vega, a sociologist at Simón Bolívar University in Caracas. About 60 percent more Venezuelans fled the country this year than during the year before, he added.
Read the rest of this entry »


Celebrating #Socialism with Extrajudicialism: Angry Venezuelans Resort to Mob Justice

A graffiti that reads "Get ready, thief, here we burn you. Regards, Kerdell" is seen at a residential block in Valencia

The Venezuelan Observatory of Violence estimates there were 40 cases in 2014 of lynchings, usually defined as extrajudicial killings by mobs.

VALENCIA/CARACAS (Reuters) – Alexandra Ulmer and Diego Oré report: When a man they believed to be a thief sneaked into their parking lot in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, angry residents caught him, stripped him and beat him with fists, sticks and stones.

“The police can arrest criminals, but then the courts free them. As long as there’s no response from the state, lynchings will increase.”

— Elisio Guzman, the head of state police in the state of Miranda

They tied him up and doused him in gasoline, according to witnesses, in one of what rights groups and media reports say are an increasing number of mob beatings and lynchings in a country ravaged by crime.

That August night, as locals say is common, three people had sneaked into Valencia’s Kerdell residential block. In past such break-ins, thieves have made off with car tires, batteries and radios.

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“President Nicolas Maduro’s administration often blames violence on political rivals seeking to sabotage the socialist government. Authorities have also accused foreign media of exaggerating crime in Venezuela.”

But this time, one resident spotted the trespassers and alerted other neighbors, according to the witnesses.

“‘Kill him, give it to him,’ they shouted,” recounted Trina Castro, 82, in this once middle-class and peaceful area that is now plagued with garbage and graffiti. One reads: “Get ready, thief, here we burn you. Regards, Kerdell.”

“I tried to stop the mob but the level of violence endangered anyone who opposed them,” said another witness, asking to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

The unconscious man, who was not torched, was evacuated and is now in the local hospital’s trauma ward, according to witnesses and Valencia’s police. The police said they had no further details and did not identify the man.

A source at the Interior Ministry, who asked to remain anonymous because the minister is the only person authorized to speak on the record, said it does not usually comment on cases under investigation. Venezuela’s state prosecutor’s office said it had not issued a statement on the incident. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialist Utopia: Venezuela’s Food Shortages Trigger Long Lines, Hunger and Looting

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Violent clashes flare in pockets of the country as citizens wait for hours for basics, such as milk and rice.

LA SIBUCARA, Venezuela— Maolis Castro and Kejal Vyas report: Hours after they looted and set fire to a National Guard command post in this sun-baked corner of Venezuela earlier this month, a mob infuriated by worsening food shortages rammed trucks into the smoldering edifice, reducing it mostly to rubble.

“In past years, when oil prices were high, Venezuela’s leftist government flooded markets with subsidized goods ranging from cooking oil to diapers. It gave citizens in border towns like La Sibucara not only access to cheap supplies, but also a source of income as many people trafficked products—including nearly free gasoline—to neighboring Colombia, drawing handsome profits.”

The incident was just one of numerous violent clashes that have flared in pockets around the country in recent weeks as Venezuelans wait for hours in long supermarket lines for basics like milk and rice. Shortages have made hunger a palpable concern for many Wayuu Indians who live here at the northern tip of Venezuela’s 1,300-mile border with Colombia.

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“We are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot.”

—María Palma, 55, of La Sibucara

The soldiers had been deployed to stem rampant food smuggling and price speculation, which President Nicolás Maduro blames for triple-digit inflation and scarcity. But after they seize contraband goods, the troops themselves often become targets of increasingly desperate people.

“Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections.”

“What’s certain is that we are going very hungry here and the children are suffering a lot,” said María Palma, a 55-year-old grandmother who on a recent blistering hot day had been standing in line at the grocery store since 3 a.m. before walking away empty-handed at midday.

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“If people aren’t outside protesting, they’re outside standing in line for goods.”

—Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict

In a national survey, the pollster Consultores 21 found 30% of Venezuelans eating two or fewer meals a day during the second quarter of this year, up from 20% in the first quarter. Around 70% of people in the study also said they had stopped buying some basic food item because it had become unavailable or too expensive.

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An authentic socialist candidate soars in popularity in the U.S., the citizens of Venezuela are feeling the Bern

“They’re committing treason against our country, taking food and crossing the border.”

—National Guard Gen. Manuel Graterol

Food-supply problems in Venezuela underscore the increasingly precarious situation for Mr. Maduro’s socialist government, which according to the latest poll by Datanálisis is preferred by less than 20% of voters ahead of Dec. 6 parliamentary elections. The critical situation threatens to plunge South America’s largest oil exporter into a wave of civil unrest reminiscent of last year’s nationwide demonstrations seeking Mr. Maduro’s ouster.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

“It’s a national crisis,” said Marco Ponce, head of the Venezuela Observatory of Social Conflict, noting that unlike the political protests of last year, residents are now taking to the streets demanding social rights. Read the rest of this entry »


Congress Acts To Reign In ‘Agents Gone Wild’

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Grassley is calling for a zero-tolerance policy on soliciting prostitutes.

Congress is finally using protection after several embarrassing stories about very sexually active federal law enforcement agencies.

“The majority of federal law enforcement agents serve our nation honorably and bravely. However, in recent years there have been some episodes of agents gone wild, which raise serious concerns about the culture at federal law enforcement agencies, most notably at the Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Administration.”

— House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte

The Department of Justice issued a memo Friday to all justice department employees telling them not to solicit prostitutes even if they are in a country where it is legal, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is saying it isn’t enough.

Grassley is calling for a zero-tolerance policy on soliciting prostitutes.

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“There is no place in the federal government for employees who purchase sex,” Grassley said in a statement Monday. “This memo itself says that such activity ‘creates a greater demand for human trafficking,’ but fails to impose a sufficiently serious policy that would deter employees from engaging in this practice.  The memo is a good first step, but more needs to be done.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte will hold a hearing Wednesday entitled “Analyzing Misconduct in Federal Law Enforcement” to get to the bottom of all the problems surrounding the Justice Department, particularly it’s employees high libido. Read the rest of this entry »


HOT GOVERNMENT SEX: DEA Agents also Arranged Hookers for Secret Service

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Susan Crabtree reports: Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Colombia who allegedly engaged in “sex parties” with prostitutes hired by local drug cartels also arranged for paid sex for at least two Secret Service agents traveling to the country to protect President Obama in 2012.

The Justice Department inspector general uncovered the DEA’s sex parties after allegations arose about misconduct by the Secret Service and DEA agents in the Newspaper-legs-red-tint2012 prostitution scandal in Colombia. The IG on Thursday released a 97-page report detailing the allegations, including an explosive charge that local drug cartels funded the “sex parties.”

“Many of the contacts deleted had telephone numbers that the OIG was able to link to sexual services websites in Colombia.”

While the allegations about the DEA facilitating paid sex for Secret Service agents in Colombia is not new, the Washington Examiner obtained detailed information through a Freedom of Information Act request last fall about how three DEA agents stationed in Cartagena allegedly made the arrangements.

According to a DOJ Office of Inspector General report of the investigation, on the night of April 13, 2012, three DEA agents stationed in Cartagena, Colombia, had dinner with at least two Secret Service agents at a local restaurant and invited them back to one of the agent’s government-furnished apartments for drinks afterward.

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“The pair retreated to a spare bedroom where the woman performed oral sex during the massage, according to the report. The OIG determined that after the encounter took place, one of the DEA agents provided the woman a ‘wad’ of pesos in exchange for $50 in U.S. currency, which one of the agents provided the woman for her services.”

The OIG report is redacted to exclude the names of the DEA and Secret Service agents involved.

During the dinner, at least one agent was on his cell phone texting or emailing women, and two women joined the group after the meal.

Back at the apartment, one of the women offered an agent a massage, and one DEA agent interceded and negotiated a price of 150,000 Colombian pesos or $75 U.S. dollars for the massage.

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According to one Secret Service agent‘s account in the report, before the pair retreated to a spare bedroom, one of the DEA agents allegedly offered the Secret Service agent two condoms “in case you need them.”

The DEA agent who rented the apartment denied providing the condoms.

“When confronted with that information, the two Secret Service agents admitted to paying for and receiving ‘erotic massages’  that included oral sex.” 

The Secret Service agent in question denied being interested in sex at first and said he shoved the condoms into his pocket because he didn’t want to refuse them.

The pair retreated to a spare bedroom where the woman performed oral sex during the massage, according to the report. The OIG determined that after the encounter took place, one of the DEA agents provided the woman a “wad” of pesos in exchange for $50 in U.S. currency, which one of the agents provided the woman for her services. Read the rest of this entry »