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Venezuela’s New Assembly Declares Itself All-Powerful

Constitutional Assembly delegate Carmen Melendez speaks from the podium during a session in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. The government-backed assembly that is recasting Venezuela's political system filed into the stately domed chamber where congress normally meets. In two previous sessions, the 545-member assembly met in an adjacent, smaller building. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS (AP) — The new constitutional assembly assumed even more power in Venezuela by declaring itself as the superior body to all other governmental institutions, including the opposition-controlled Congress.

That decree came Tuesday just hours after the assembly delegates took control of a legislative chamber and put up pictures of the late President Hugo Chavez, who installed Venezuela’s socialist system.

Delcy Rodriguez, the head of the ruling socialist party and leader of the body, said the unanimously approved decree prohibits lawmakers in Congress from taking any action that would interfere with laws passed by the newly installed constitutional assembly.

“We are not threatening anyone,” said Aristobulo Isturiz, the constitutional assembly’s first vice president. “We are looking for ways to coexist.”

Leaders of Congress, which previously voted not to recognize any of the new super-body’s decrees, said lawmakers would try to meet in the gold-domed legislative palace Wednesday, but there were questions whether security officers guarding the building would let them in.

The opposition to President Nicolas Maduro also faced another fight Wednesday before the government-stacked Supreme Court, which scheduled a hearing on charges against a Caracas-area opposition mayor. The judges convicted another mayor Tuesday for failing to move against protesters during four months of political unrest.

In calling the July 30 election for the constitutional assembly, Maduro said a new constitution would help resolve the nation’s political standoff, but opposition leaders view it as a power grab and the president’s allies have said they will go after his opponents. Before its decree declaring itself all-powerful, the assembly ousted Venezuela’s outspoken chief prosecutor, established a “truth commission” expected to target Maduro’s foes and pledged “support and solidarity” with the unpopular president.

The latest surge of protests began in early April in reaction to a quickly rescinded attempt by the government-supporting Supreme Court to strip the National Assembly of its powers. But the unrest ballooned into a widespread movement fed by anger over Venezuela’s triple-digest inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and high crime.

Opposition lawmakers said security forces led by Rodriguez broke into the congress building late Monday and seized control of an unused, ceremonial chamber almost identical to the one where lawmakers meet.

“This government invades the spaces that it is not capable of legitimately winning,” Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition lawmaker, wrote on Twitter, alluding to the opposition’s overwhelming victory in the 2015 congressional elections.

Before the assembly met Tuesday, the pro-government Supreme Court sentenced a Caracas-area mayor to 15 months in prison for not following an order to remove barricades set up during anti-government demonstrations. Read the rest of this entry »

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Venezuela: a Nation Devoured by Socialism

Rich Lowry writes: Venezuela is a woeful reminder that no country is so rich that it can’t be driven into the ground by revolutionary socialism.

People are now literally starving — about three-quarters of the population lost weight last year — in what once was the fourth-richest country in the world on a per-capita basis. A country that has more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia is suffering shortages of basic supplies. Venezuela now totters on the brink of bankruptcy and civil war, in the national catastrophe known as the Bolivarian Revolution.

The phrase is the coinage of the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, succeeded by the current Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro. The Western Hemisphere’s answer to Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Maduro has instituted an ongoing self-coup to make his country a one-party state.

The Chavistas have worked from the typical Communist playbook of romanticizing the masses while immiserating them. Runaway spending, price controls, nationalization of companies, corruption and the end of the rule of law — it’s been a master class in how to destroy an economy.

The result is a sharp, yearslong recession, runaway inflation and unsustainable debt. The suffering of ordinary people is staggering, while the thieves and killers who are Chavista officials have made off with hundreds of billions of dollars. At this rate — The Economist calls the country’s economic decline “the steepest in modern Latin American history” — there will be nothing left to steal.

[Read the full story here, at New York Post]

Any government in a democratic country that failed this spectacularly would have been relegated to the dustbin of history long ago. Maduro is getting around this problem by ending Venezuela’s democracy.

The Chávistas slipped up a year or two by allowing real elections for the country’s National Assembly, which were swept by the opposition. They then undertook a war against the assembly, stripping it of its powers and culminating in a rigged vote this week to elect a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. The opposition boycotted the vote, and outside observers estimate less than 20 percent of the electorate participated. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Journalists Challenge Censorship in Venezuela With ‘El Bus TV’

To fight state media censorship in Venezuela, journalists are using cardboard television screens to present news reports on city busses. “El Bus TV” is aimed at providing news to people who lack access to the internet or social media.


[VIDEO] Remy: The Venezuela Diet! 


[VIDEO] How Venezuela Perfected Marxist Socialism


OH HERE IT COMES: Venezuela Is Heading for a Soviet-Style Collapse 

Remember last time an oil economy crashed catastrophically?

Anders Aslund writes: Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.

There is, however, at least one — the Soviet Union’s similar devastation in the late 1980s. Its fate may be instructive for Venezuela — which is not to suggest Venezuelans, least of all the regime of Nicolás Maduro, will like what it portends.

Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in June 2014, and there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon. Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely. Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in 1981 and got worse from there.

“Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation.”

But the deeper problem for the Soviet Union wasn’t the oil price collapse; it’s what came before. In his book Collapse of an Empire, Russia’s great post-Soviet reformer Yegor Gaidar pointed out that during the long preceding oil boom, Soviet policymakers thought that they could walk on water and that the usual laws of economic gravity did not apply to them. Soviet policymakers didn’t bother developing a theory to make sense of their spending. They didn’t even bother paying attention to their results. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.

This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. The Venezuelan government, though it doesn’t claim to be full-fledged in its devotion to Marxism-Leninism, has been pursuing as absurd an economic policy mix as its Soviet predecessor. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies. Nonetheless the Venezuelan government, like the Soviet Union’s, has always felt it could afford these subsidies because of its oil revenues.

TOPSHOT - Demonstrators clash with the riot police during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas on April 20, 2017. Venezuelan riot police fired tear gas Thursday at groups of protesters seeking to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who have vowed new mass marches after a day of deadly unrest. Police in western Caracas broke up scores of opposition protesters trying to join a larger march, though there was no immediate repeat of Wednesday's violent clashes, which left three people dead. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images)

But as the oil price has fallen by slightly more than half since mid-2014, oil incomes have fallen accordingly. And rather than increase oil production, the Venezuelan government has been forced to watch it decline because of its mismanagement of the dominant state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

And now Venezuela seems intent on repeating the Soviet folly of the late 1980s by refusing to change course. This is allowing the budget deficit to swell and putting the country on track toward ultimate devastation.

The Soviet Union in its latter years had a skyrocketing budget deficit, too. In 1986 it exceeded 6 percent of GDP, and by 1991 it reached an extraordinary one-third of GDP. Venezuela is now following suit. The Soviet Union used its currency reserves to pay for imports, but when those reserves shrank, the government financed the budget deficit by printing money. The inevitable result was skyrocketing inflation.

It seems as if President Nicolás Maduro has adopted this tried-and-failed combination of fiscal and monetary policy. Venezuela already is dealing with massive shortages as a result of its controlled prices, because the government can no longer afford its own subsidies. But it will get worse from here.

Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation. Inflation is already believed to have reached 700 percent a year, and it is heading toward official hyperinflation, that is, an inflation rate of at least 50 percent a month. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela Now Officially a Dictatorship

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Venezuela Supreme Court Assumes Powers of Opposition-Controlled Congress.

CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela‘s Supreme Court has assumed all powers of the opposition-controlled congress, a move lawyers and rights activists said amounted to the effective dissolution of the legislature in Latin America’s largest oil producer.

“This ruling marks the point of no return for the dictatorship,” National Assembly Vice President Freddy Guevara said. Assembly President Julio Borges called the act a coup and urged Venezuelans to rally on Saturday to defend the country’s democracy.

“This is despotic rule. There is absolutely no counterweighting [to Mr. Maduro].”

Michael Shifter of policy group Inter-American Dialogue

The Supreme Court, which is packed with allies of President Nicolás Maduro, ruled late Wednesday that the congress was in contempt of court for having sworn in three lawmakers from the remote Amazonas state whom the ruling party had accused of electoral fraud. The court said it takes over all “parliamentary capacities” until the conflict is resolved.

“Maduro now has all powers in his hands, without any checks and balances,” Mr. Borges said. “This is the action of a desperate man who knows the whole world is turning against him.”

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Several opposition lawmakers who tried to enter the Supreme Court building Thursday afternoon were blocked by soldiers in riot gear and manhandled by government supporters shouting “get out.”

Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski called the court’s action unacceptable and recalled his country’s ambassador to Venezuela on Thursday. In Washington, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States called for an urgent meeting of member states to discuss “the subversion of democratic order” in Venezuela.

Venezuela’s opposition won overwhelming control of the assembly in December 2015, in a victory it called the first step toward ending almost two decades of rule by a far-left movement created by the late Hugo Chávez.

Since then, however, Mr. Maduro has marshaled allied judges and prosecutors to jail dozens of opposition officials and activists, torpedo a recall referendum on the president, and indefinitely postpone all scheduled elections for posts ranging from state governors to labor union heads.

Mr. Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party, or PSUV, never presented any evidence of wrongdoing by the three opposition lawmakers, and government-appointed prosecutors still haven’t requested voting data 16 months after the start of an investigation, according to electoral officials. Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Worship: Clap-Out Recalls Stalin’s Grim Loyalists 

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kevin-williamsonKevin D. Williamson writes: Applause was a serious business in the Soviet Union, as it is in Cuba, as it is in Venezuela, as it is in all unfree societies and at our own State of the Union address, which is modeled on the ex cathedra speeches of unfree societies. The less free you are, the more you are obliged to applaud. Joseph Stalin’s pronouncements were greeted with perfervid applause, which would continue, rapturously — no one dared stop — until Stalin himself would order its cessation.

“The desire to rule is complexly mixed up with the desire to be ruled, just as the most masterful among us bow the lowest and grovel the most enthusiastically when presented with a strongman-savior.”

But what to do when Stalin was not there? The mere mention of his name, even in his absence, would trigger fanatical applause, and nobody wanted to be the first to stop. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn related one famous story:

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The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall onend-is-near stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter.

[Read the full story here, at National Review]

[Kevin D. Williamson’s book  “The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome”  is available at Amazon]

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them.

That same night the factory director was arrested.

Stalin is long gone, and the Soviet Union, too, having been deposited, as Ronald Reagan predicted, onto the “ash heap of history.” But the craven instinct on display in the scene Solzhenitsyn described remains.

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The desire to rule is complexly mixed up with the desire to be ruled, just as the most masterful among us bow the lowest and grovel the most enthusiastically when presented with a strongman-savior. There is something atavistic in us that is older than the human part — the inner chimp — that makes those who listen to its voice keenly aware of their places in the social hierarchy. Even a predator instinctively recognizes a predator higher up the food chain.

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“The language there is interesting: She did not write that Price ‘did not applaud,’ ‘refrained from applauding’, or even ‘failed to applaud,” but that he refused to applaud, a formulation that converts passivity into a positive act, one from which we are to derive something of significance about his fitness for the role of secretary of health and human services.”

Which is not to say that National Public Radio’s Marilyn Geewax is a Stalinist, but rather that they were what she is, representatives of the same species.

[Read the full story here, at National Review]

Geewax, who is a senior business editor for NPR, is very interested in applause. This week, she expressed some concern that Representative Tom Price has been nominated to serve as the next secretary of health and human services. Read the rest of this entry »


As Socialism Shattered Venezuela, the Useful Idiots Applauded 

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Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that.

 writes: When the Cold War ended 25 years ago, the Soviet Union vanished into the ash heap of history. That left the West’s “useful idiots” — Lenin’s term for the ideologues and toadies who could always be relied on to justify or praise whatever Moscow did — in search of other socialist thugs to fawn over. Many found a new heartthrob in Hugo Chavez, the anti-Yanqui rabble-rouser who was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 and in short order had transformed the country from a successful social democracy into a grim and corrupt autocracy.

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“Violent crime is out of control. Shoppers are forced to stand in lines for hours outside drugstores and supermarkets — lines that routinely lead to empty shelves, or that break down in fistfights, muggings, and mob looting. Just last week the government deployed 3,000 troops to restore order after frantic rioters rampaged through shops and homes in the southeastern state of Bolivar.”

An avowed Marxist and protégé of Fidel Castro, Chavez gradually seized control of every lever of state power in Venezuela. The constitution was rewritten to strip the legislature and judiciary of their independence, authorize censorship of the press, and allow Chavez to legislate by decree. Before long, the government acquired a stranglehold over the economy, including the huge and profitable energy sector. (Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.)

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“In the beautiful country that used to boast the highest standard of living in Latin America, patients now die in hospitals for lack of basic health care staples: soap, gloves, oxygen, drugs. In some medical wards, there isn’t even water to wash the blood from operating tables.”

With petrodollars pouring in, Chavez had free rein to put his statist prescriptions into effect. The so-called Bolivarian revolution over which he — and later his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro — presided, was an unfettered, real-world example of anticapitalist socialism in action.

[Read the full story here, at The Boston Globe]

Venezuela since at least the 1970s had been Latin America’s most affluent nation. Now it was a showpiece for command-and-control economics: price and currency controls, wealth redistribution, ramped-up government spending, expropriation of land, and the nationalization of private banks, mines, and oil companies.

And the useful idiots ate it up.

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In a Salon piece titled “Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,” David Sirota declared that the Venezuelan ruler, with his “full-throated advocacy of socialism,” had “racked up an economic record that . . . American president[s] could only dream of achieving.” The Guardian offered “Three cheers for Chavez.” Moviemaker Oliver Stone filmed a documentary gushing over “the positive changes that have happened economically in all of South America” because of Venezuela’s socialist government. And when Chavez died in 2013, Jimmy Carter extolled the strongman for “improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.”

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In the real world, however, socialism has transformed Venezuela into a Third World dystopia.

Venezuela this Christmas is sunk in misery, as it was last Christmas, and the Christmas before that. Venezuelans, their economy wrecked by statism, face crippling shortages of everything from food and medicine to toilet paper and electricity. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] 3 Ways Bitcoin Is Promoting Freedom in Latin America

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How bitcoin is allowing Venezuelans to circumvent capital controls, Brazilians to get around tariffs—and might one day improve Latin America‘s overall business climate.


President Maduro Dances Salsa While Venezuela Suffers

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With hunger and violent crime gripping the country and the opposition calling for his head, this is Maduro’s new strategy for winning hearts and minds. That is an uphill battle; most Venezuelans would like him to leave power.

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelans are running short of food, medicine and patience, but fear not: President Nicolas Maduro is here to cheer them up — by dancing salsa.

“People say I’m crazy for dancing salsa.” 

— President Nicolas Maduro

Grinning under his black mustache, the burly, towering socialist swivels his hips and twirls his wife Cilia Flores in front of the cameras.

“Hands up everybody who dances salsa! Admit it, we’re all crazy!”

“People say I’m crazy for dancing salsa,” he said on one recent broadcast.

“Hands up everybody who dances salsa! Admit it, we’re all crazy!”

With hunger and violent crime gripping the country and the opposition calling for his head, this is Maduro’s new strategy for winning hearts and minds. That is an uphill battle; most Venezuelans would like him to leave power.

“He is ridiculous. It’s offensive. He is laughing at the people. Instead of spending money on television programs, he should be bringing us medicine.”

— Euro Bermudez, 62, coming out of a bank in Caracas after collecting his pension

Wednesday was a case in point as Maduro celebrated his 54th birthday with a live performance by old-school salsa greats El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico.

“What a surprise!” the president exclaimed before taking the first lady for a spin, dancing to the classic “Me libere.”

A former bus driver, Maduro has often sung and danced at campaign rallies.

But his continued capering amid the crisis, and his recent launch of a dedicated salsa radio show, seem like bad taste to some weary citizens.

“He is ridiculous. It’s offensive. He is laughing at the people,” said Euro Bermudez, 62, coming out of a bank in Caracas after collecting his pension.

“Instead of spending money on television programs, he should be bringing us medicine.”

Spoof photo “memes” of Maduro online have shown him dancing in various inappropriate settings: at the scene of a crime or in a long queue for food. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialism Kills More Babies than War 

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Chelsea Follett writes: Recent reports that infants now die at a higher rate in Venezuela than in war-torn Syria were, sadly, unsurprising – the results of socialist economics are predictable. Venezuela’s infant mortality rate has actually been above Syria’s since 2008.

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The big picture, fortunately, is happier. The global infant mortality rate has plummeted. Even Syria and Venezuela, despite the impact of war and failed policies, saw improvements up to as recently as last year. From 1960 to 2015, Syria’s infant mortality rate fell by 91% and Venezuela’s by 78%.

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[Read the full story here, at Foundation for Economic Education]

This year (not reflected in the graph above or below), Syria’s rate rose from 11.1 per 1,000 live births to 15.4, while Venezuela’s shot up from 12.9 to 18.6. Meanwhile, infant mortality rates have continued to fall practically everywhere else, and have declined even faster in countries that enjoy more freedom and stability. Consider Chile.

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Chile’s infant mortality rate in 1960 was actually above that of both Venezuela and Syria. It managed to outperform Syria by the mid-1960s, but was still woefully behind its richer northern cousin, Venezuela. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Democratic Socialism is Still Socialism

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Democratic socialism. It’s not the same as socialism socialism, because it’s democratic. Right? Or something, right? People are buying that; people buy that now, right? Apparently. As though adding the word “democratic” in front of a word changes what it means. Just because we toss something to a vote doesn’t change what that something is, nor does it alter whether that something is inherently good or bad.

A couple of examples, because I know you’ll ask: Hamas was democratically elected as the government in Gaza – despite the fact that the destruction of not only Israel, but the eradication of all Jews, is in their official charter. Robert Mugabe, or Bobby Mugabe if you prefer, was democratically elected by a loving majority in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe! How’s that working out?

Venezuela? Well, Hugo Chavez, noted personal favorite friend of Sean Penn, to whom he constantly pointed as being unfairly characterized as a dictator when, in fact, he was blackbookofcommunismdropdemocratically elected as a socialist.

[Order the book “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression” from Amazon.com]

Well, how’d that workout for Venezuela? Well, it’s now on the brink of collapse despite it being one of the most resource rich nations in the entire world. Basic things like eggs, milk, flour, and toilet paper are either too expensive for the average Venezuelan or simply out of stock… out of stock, mind you… democratically. I know, some of you will say, “Well that’s not fair, because really we knew all along it technically was a dictatorship.” Ok – that’s fair; let’s move on to example number two.

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Denmark? Ok, here’s the time where you point to an entirely homogenous population about one sixtieth the size of America’s, and you point to that as the blueprint? Ok – let’s go there. This is a place where the middle class can’t even afford a car because of the 180% new-car tax. And the Prime Minister was so fed up with Americans pointing to it as a beacon for socialist success that he felt compelled to clarify, “I would like to make one thing clear: Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy; Denmark is a market economy.”

Sweden? I love Sweden! Ok, great bikini team, and thanks to that country my armoire now doubles as a bookcase. Speaking of which, the founder of IKEA – let’s be honest, the only real cool export from Sweden aside from a few good hockey players – left Sweden because of the stifling high tax rate. So, Sweden – good place, not bad people – but a successful model for a viable economy in today’s global market? Incorrect.

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The fact is that, over time, the greatest enemy of socialism is reality. The reality that human nature will invariably pull certain people toward individualism and success and others toward laziness and collectivism. The tension between the makers and the takers always –  always! – leads to socialism’s inevitable collapse. But I know that I can give you examples of failed socialist economies until I’m blue in the face, and you won’t care. Because at least socialism is inherently more morally altruistic than the evil, greedy capitalistic war mongering seen in the West.

Greed? What’s more greedy than wanting to take from someone else something that you haven’t earned? Unlike capitalism – free enterprise, which can only occur truly through voluntary transaction – socialism can only occur at gunpoint. That’s what it comes down to. If you don’t pay your taxes, once you get through the IRS and the auditing and the lawyers and the PR stunts, people make you give the government your money, increasing amount of your money the more successful you are, or they send in scary men with guns to take you away.

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Now, so long as the people having their stuff taken away at gunpoint are in the minority, and the majority feels that they’ll get to benefit from more said taken stuff, you’ll always be able to win that decision through a popular vote and claim the moral high ground through democracy. Read the rest of this entry »


Nicolás Maduro es Encantador y Persuasivo! Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Threatens to Jail Opponents

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Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela‘s President Nicolas Maduro threatened on Friday to jail his political opponents if they follow through on their vow of launching a legislative trial to remove him from power.

Shrugging off a partially-observed strike which the opposition called to raise pressure on him, the socialist president went on the counterattack.

Maduro sharpened the tone in a volatile political and economic crisis that has sparked food shortages and riots in the South American oil producer.

“If they launch a supposed political trial, which is not in our constitution, the state prosecution service must bring legal action in the courts and put in jail anyone who violates the constitution, even if they are members of Congress,” Maduro said in a speech Friday.

Friday’s strike was called after authorities blocked a bid by the center right-dominated MUD coalition to hold a referendum on removing Maduro from power.

After that move, the crisis heated up this week. Opposition lawmakers vowed to put Maduro on trial and exchanged accusations of coup-mongering with the mustachioed president.

Friday’s strike seemed to be only partially observed.

In the capital Caracas and cities such as Maracaibo and San Cristobal, the streets were quieter than normal but public transport was running and banks and some schools opened as usual.

Clashes broke out in recent days between riot police and pro- and anti-government protesters around the country.

Maduro earlier threatened to break the strike by sending the army to take over firms that took part in it.

The center-right coalition’s latest move to pressure the unpopular leftist leader came after anti-government protests drew hundreds of thousands of people on Wednesday.

Maduro vowed to respond forcefully. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialists Enjoying Exercise: Venezuelan President Chased by Angry Protesters 

The confrontation occurred at a routine political event just days after thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to call for Nicolás Maduro’s ouster.

President Nicolás Maduro was chased at a routine political event by angry protesters banging on pots and yelling that they were hungry.

[Watch in Times Video »]

CARACAS, Venezuela — Nicholas Casey reports: President Nicolás Maduro was chased at a routine political event by a crowd of angry protesters banging on pots and yelling that they were hungry, just days after thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to call for his ouster, local news media reported on Saturday.

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

Scenes from the confrontation late Friday, which also appeared in videos uploaded to social media, captured the attention of Venezuelans, many of whom blame the unpopular president for the country’s food shortages.

In one video, Mr. Maduro tries to calm the pot-bangers by walking among them, only to be surrounded as the furious crowd yells obscenities.

“What is this?” an astounded voice behind the camera asks in one of the video clips.

Mr. Maduro had traveled from the capital, Caracas, to Margarita Island off Venezuela’s northern coast to inaugurate a number of new public housing units and give a televised address.

During the speech, he denounced his opponents’ calls for his removal from office, calling them “vampires” and saying they were preparing for violence.

Foro Penal, a Venezuelan human rights group, said 20 people had been arrested after the protest in the island town of Villa Rosa. Mr. Maduro’s office made no statement about the episode.

Venezuelan politicians wasted little time on Saturday in using the confrontation to advance their agendas. Read the rest of this entry »


Modern Socialist Success Story: Venezuelans Celebrate Spectacular Economic Abundance, Party Hard in the Streets of Caracas

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A forceful repudiation of the leftist politics that are falling out of favor across Latin America.

…The demonstration, aimed at speeding up a recall campaign against the 53-year-old president, was also a forceful repudiation of the leftist politics that are falling out of favor across Latin America.

At its peak in 2008, the left held the presidencies of eight of the 10 most populous countries in South and Central America. But those regimes have lost popularity as steep drops in commodity prices badly damaged their economies and left less money to spend on the poor.

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Candidates from the right recently won the presidencies of Argentina and Peru, and just this week, Dilma Rousseff was permanently ousted from the presidency in Brazil in an impeachment trial engineered by opponents from the right who now control the government.

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But nowhere in Latin America has the rise and fall of the left been as dramatic as in Venezuela, a country that has been on the brink of collapse for the last several months.

Venezuela had its own brand of socialism, known as Chauvismo for Hugo Chavez, the charismatic leader who was elected president in 1998 in a rejection of free-market policies that were encouraged by the United States but failed to deliver on their promise of wider prosperity. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela Prepares for Massive Protests By Arresting Activists 

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2008 Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize winner Yon Goicoechea is among the arrested.

 As Venezuela prepares for nationwide protests calling for the recall of its wildly unpopular President Nicolas Maduro scheduled for this Thursday, its socialist government is arresting activist leaders and opposition politicians.

In other words, business as usual for the “Chavista” regime, which continues to oversee a complete collapsevenezuelaprotests of the economy and the rule of law in an oil-rich nation once described by delusional liberal economic writers as an “economic miracle,” but which now features forced laborstarvation, triple-digit inflation, extreme scarcity of basic household goods, and frequent political violence.

Among the recently arrested activists is Yon Goiceochea, a former student activist who in the previous decade was a leader in the movement which stopped former President Hugo Chavez from altering the constitution to further consolidate power in the presidency.

[Read the full story here, at Reason.com]

At the height of the protests in late 2007, Goiceochea was quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “This is not a war of left and right,” adding, “We believe that Venezuela has to have democracy. Democracy means respect. Democracy means free expression. Democracy means saying what you want without repression.”

A firecracker explodes at the scene of protests in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Esteban Felix/AP

Goicoechea, who was awarded the Cato Institute’s 2008 Miltion Friedman Prize, was accused by the government of “possessing detonating cords for explosive devices,” according to Bloomberg. In a nationally televised address, Diosdado Cabello — called the “Frank Underwood of Venezuela” by The Atlantic and the Venezuela’s “No. 2 official” by The Wall Street Journal — cited the cash prize Goicoechea received from the Cato Institute as evidence that he was a paid agent of U.S. forces intent on stirring up a violent coup. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela’s Road to Literal Serfdom

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Friedrich Hayek’s classic book The Road to Serfdom describes the popular delusions that have led to the breakdown of civil society in Venezuela.

Barry Brownstein writes: In his classic 1841 book on financial bubbles, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay observed, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

“In societies turning to socialism, there is no appreciation of scarcity. There is no appreciation that ‘things cannot all be done at the same time, that anyone of them can be achieved only at the sacrifice of others.’”

Mackay covered religious and political delusions, too. “We see one nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed upon a religious scruple,” he recounts, “and serfdomneither of them recovering its senses until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and tears, to be reaped by its posterity.”

[Order Friedrich Hayek’s classic “The Road to Serfdom” from Amazon.com]

Venezuela is sowing its harvest of “groans and tears.” Due to the breakdown of civil society in the country, even war-plagued Syrians feel more safe in their homes than do Venezuelans. Venezuelans are so hungry that they cried at the sight of food in Columbia. Recently the hungry broke into a zoo to kill a horse for its meat. Literally, they have become serfs that may be required to work 60 days or more in agricultural fields.

“The hard to give up delusion of socialists is that there are coercive plans that will benefit all. Venezuelans have seen the means of production nationalized in the name of the common good and with every intervention their standard of living fell further.”

Venezuela has the world’s worst rate of economic growth, and the worst inflation rate. It has become like “a gangster state that doesn’t know how to do anything other than sell drugs and steal money for itself.” Socialism has virtually destroyed civilization in Venezuela making it seem like a “hurricane [has] swept things away.”

[Read the full text here, at Foundation for Economic Education]

When the history of this tragic period in Venezuela is written, the population will have plenty of “culprits” to blame. In blaming many will eschew their own responsibility. Some will blame Chavez; others will blame Maduro. Some will follow their beloved leaders and continue to blame the “elite” and the capitalists. The true believers will continue to insist there is no inherent flaw in socialism; they will simply say mistakes were made that will not be made again.

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“Believing that the “coercive or arbitrary intervention of authority,” can coordinate and adjust our individual activities is delusional. With this delusion comes disbelief that a market economy can solve problems and advance society. Those who cherish such delusions may find themselves hungry.”

We are not the victims of the world we see. Our delusions, our beliefs have consequences. The fact that our delusions are often invisible to us does not make them any less powerful or any less consequential. Again, Mackay observed that a population subject to delusions “only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

The new idea of freedom “gave the socialists another word in common with the liberals and they exploited it to the full.

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Venezuelans have not yet recovered their “senses.”  Caracas radio host Glen Martinez stubbornly insists that the “reforms” that Chavez instituted will never be reversed. “We are not the same people we were before 1999,” Martinez said. Many share Martinez’s sentiments; daily the true believers still march and  promise to spill their blood in support of the government.

“The fact that our delusions are often invisible to us does not make them any less powerful or any less consequential.”

There is no better book than Friedrich Hayek’s classic The Road to Serfdom to explain the popular delusions that helped to virtually eliminate the market economy and civil society in Venezuela. Writing during the depths of World War II, Hayek intended his book as a warning “to the socialists of all parties.” What happened in Venezuela can happen wherever a critical mass of the population begins to hold certain delusionary beliefs.

Popular Delusion 1: Freedom Means Freedom from Necessity

Hayek points out that freedom in Western countries traditionally meant “freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men.”

Socialists point to a “new freedom” which is “freedom from necessity” which releases us “from the compulsion of the circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us.”

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Hayek adds, “the demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for an equal distribution of wealth.”

Believing that these two types of freedom can be combined is delusional. Hayek points out that the new idea of freedom “gave the socialists another word in common with the liberals and they exploited it to the full….Few people noticed [that the word freedom was being used differently] and still fewer asked themselves whether the two kinds of freedom promised really could be combined.”

Popular Delusion 2. Only Coercive Planning Can Coordinate Activity

Almost every individual and organization plans. Writes Hayek, there is no “dispute about whether we ought to employ foresight and systematic thinking and planning our common affairs.”

Hayek thought that to plan or not to plan is not “the real question.” Instead, we should ask if “the holder of coercive power should confine himself in general to creating conditions under which the knowledge and initiative of individuals is given the best scope so that they can plan most successfully; or whether a rational utilization of our resources requires central direction and organization of all our activities according to some consciously constructed ‘blueprint.’”

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Those who cherish such delusions may find themselves hungry.

The humanitarian disaster in Venezuela has been a long time in the making. In 2010, the hungry waited while “2,340 shipping containers with more than 120,000 tons of rotting food (estimated to feed 17 million people for one month)” sat at the government run port of Puerto Cabello. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialism for the Uninformed 

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Why the destructive philosophy continues to attract followers.

sowell_squareThomas Sowell writes: Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster.

“Facts are seldom allowed to contaminate the beautiful vision of the left. What matters to the true believers are the ringing slogans, endlessly repeated.”

While throngs of young people are cheering loudly for avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, socialism has turned oil-rich Venezuela into a place where there are shortages of everything from toilet paper to beer, where electricity keeps shutting down, and where there are long lines of people hoping to get food, people complaining that they cannot feed their families.

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“In 2015, the 400 richest people in the world had net losses of $19 billion. If they had rigged the system, surely they could have rigged it better than that.”

With national income going down, and prices going up under triple-digit inflation in Venezuela, these complaints are by no means frivolous. But it is doubtful if the young people cheering for Bernie Sanders have even heard of such things, whether in Venezuela or in other countries around the world that have turned their economies over to politicians and bureaucrats to run.

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“The great promise of socialism is something for nothing. It is one of the signs of today’s dumbed-down education that so many college students seem to think that the cost of their education should — and will — be paid by raising taxes on ‘the rich.'”

The anti-capitalist policies in Venezuela have worked so well that the number of companies in Venezuela is now a fraction of what it once was. That should certainly reduce capitalist “exploitation,” shouldn’t it?

From the dustbin of history, the zombie socialists

From the dustbin of history, the zombie socialists

But people who attribute income inequality to capitalists exploiting workers, as Karl Marx claimed, never seem to get around to testing that belief against facts — such as the fact that none of the Marxist regimes around the world has ever had as high a standard of living for working people as there is in many capitalist countries. Read the rest of this entry »


As Hunger Mounts, Venezuelans Turn to Trash for Food

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Until recently, Julio Noguera worked at a bakery. Now he spends his evenings searching through the garbage for food.

“I come here looking for food because if I didn’t, I’d starve to death,” Noguera said as he sorted through a pile of moldy potatoes. “With things like they are, no one helps anyone and no one gives away meals.”

“We’re seeing terrible sacrifices across many sections of society. A few years ago, Venezuela didn’t have the kind of extreme poverty that would drive people to eat garbage.”

— Carlos Aponte, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela.

Across town, unemployed people converge every dusk at a trash heap on a downtown Caracas sidewalk to pick through rotten fruit and vegetables tossed out by nearby shops. They are frequently joined by small business owners, college students and pensioners — people who consider themselves middle class even though their living standards have long ago been pulverized by triple-digit inflation, food shortages and a collapsing currency.

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Venezuela’s poverty had eased during the administration of the late President Hugo Chavez. But a study by three leading Caracas universities found that 76 percent of Venezuelans are now under the poverty line, compared with 52 percent in 2014.

Staples such as corn flour and cooking oil are subsidized, costing pennies at the strongest of two official exchange rates. But fruit and vegetables have become an unaffordable luxury for many Venezuelan families.

“We’re seeing terrible sacrifices across many sections of society,” said Carlos Aponte, a sociology professor at the Central University of Venezuela. “A few years ago, Venezuela didn’t have the kind of extreme poverty that would drive people to eat garbage.”

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While some search through the garbage piles for food they can eat, many more are drawn by the opportunity to fetch a few bolivar bills by rescuing and reselling bruised produce.

On a recent evening, Noguera managed to retrieve a dozen potatoes.

“I’m a trained baker, but right now there’s no work anywhere here. So I make do with this,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


FEEL THE DECAY: As Venezuela Craters, Appeal of Socialism Remains

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It is safe to predict that more countries will refuse to learn from history and give socialism a go.

Marian Tupy writes: Three years ago, a well-known American leftist, David Sirota, wrote the following in a Salon essay titled Hugo Chavez’s economic miracle,

Chavez became the bugaboo of American politics because his full-throated advocacy of socialism and redistributionism at once represented a fundamental critique of neoliberal economics, and also delivered some indisputably positive results… When a country goes socialist and it craters, it is laughed off as a harmless and forgettable cautionary tale about the perils of command economics. When, by contrast, a country goes socialist and its economy does what Venezuela’s did, it is not perceived to be a laughing matter – and it is not so easy to write off or to ignore.

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Last Sunday, Nicholas Casey of The New York Times reported in an article Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals,

By morning, three newborns were already dead. The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward. Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died… The economic crisis in this country has exploded into a public health emergency, claiming the lives of untold numbers of Venezuelans.

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I start with these rather long quotations with a heavy heart. Contrary to Sirota’s glib prediction, I do not intend to laugh off as “harmless and forgettable” Venezuela’s “cautionary tale about the perils of command economics.” I do not find dying children laughable. But then, I did not laugh when I read about starving Ukrainians eating their children during Stalin’s Holodomor.

BERNIE-STALIN

I did not laugh when I read of Khmer Rouge soldiers shooting infants off their bayonets in communist Cambodia. And I certainly did not laugh when I saw with my own two eyes children reduced to starvation by the Marxist dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. In fact, there is nothing laughable about the almost incomprehensible degree of suffering that socialism has heaped upon humanity wherever it’s been tried. Read the rest of this entry »


Venezuela Isn’t Special, It’s a Perfectly Normal Example of Successful Socialism

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Caracas (AFP) – Marc Burleigh reports: If a visitor to Venezuela is unfortunate enough to pay for anything with a foreign credit card, the eye-watering cost might suggest they were in a city pricier than Tokyo or Zurich.

A hamburger sold for 1,700 Venezuelan bolivares is $170, or a 69,000-bolivar hotel room is $6,900 a night, based on the official rate of 10 bolivares for $1.

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But of course no merchant is pricing at the official rate imposed under currency controls. It’s the black market rate of 1,000 bolivares per dollar that’s applied.

But for Venezuelans paid in hyperinflation-hit bolivares, and living in an economy relying on mostly imported goods or raw materials, conditions are unthinkably expensive.

Even for the middle class, most of it sliding into poverty, hamburgers and hotels are out-of-reach excesses.

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“Everybody is knocked low,” Michael Leal, a 34-year-old manager of an eyewear store in Caracas, told AFP. “We can’t breathe.”

In Chacao, a middle-class neighborhood in the capital, office workers lined up outside a nut store to buy the cheapest lunch they could afford. Nearby restaurants were all but empty.

Superficially it looked like the of any other major Latin American city: skyscrapers, dense traffic, pedestrians in short sleeves bustling along the sidewalks.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (C) poses for a picture with his family while recovering in La Habana March 13, 2012. Chavez said he will return home from Cuba where he is recovering from cancer surgery next Sunday, to head up a re-election campaign. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace (CUBA -Tags: - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR2ZAC6

Hugo Chavez poses for a picture with his family in La Habana March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace

But look closely and you can see the economic malaise. Many stores, particularly those that sold electronics, were shuttered.

“It’s horrible now,” said Marta Gonzalez, the 69-year-old manager of a corner beauty products store.

“Nobody is buying anything really. Just food,” she said as a male customer used a debit card to pay for a couple of razor blades. Read the rest of this entry »


With Sean Penn’s Help, Venezuela Finally Achieves Utopian Socialist Paradise

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The country is poised between chaos and dictatorship

“THIS government is going to fall!” chanted hundreds of protesters alongside the Avenida Libertador in central Caracas. Staring them down were ranks of security forces—from the police, the national guard and the feared, black-uniformed SEBIN (secret police)—charged with making sure that does not happen. Looming above was a huge grinning portrait of the late president, Hugo Chávez.

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March 2013…good times, good times.

The protesters’ aim on May 18th was, as it has been on two previous occasions this month, to march to the offices of the National Electoral Council (CNE). The supposedly independent, but nakedly biased, institution has been delaying its consideration of a petition it was handed weeks ago, the first stage of a process to recall Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, through a referendum. With government forces blocking all routes to the CNE, the protesters were never likely to get close.

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When a handful broke through the cordon, some attacking the police, the authorities had the excuse they needed. Multiple, deafening volleys of acrid tear gas burst above the crowd. At least 18 people were wounded and 26 detained. Pamela, a retired agricultural engineer in her 70s, was standing outside her home overlooking the avenue, holding a small handwritten cardboard sign saying “Maduro. Resign Now!” Tears in her eyes, she retreated inside. “This breaks my heart,” she said.

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The regime may feel the day was a success. The protests were not huge. The poor have yet to stream down from the barrios en masse to demand the president’s ouster. But they are enraged and the government is worried. Almost 70% of Venezuelans want Mr Maduro to leave office this year, according to a recent poll. That demand is fuelled by the appalling deterioration of living standards under his incompetent rule. Venezuela is suffering the world’s deepest recession. Self-defeating price and currency controls and rampant corruption are causing shortages of everything from medicines to rice. “I am here because I am sick of queuing from dawn,” said José Galeano, a protester who describes himself as a poor man. “This has to end.”

No food, but plenty of tear gas in reserve

Across Venezuela, small protests are now commonplace. Social media are awash with videos of shoppers plundering supermarkets and brawling with each other. As crime soars, the lynching of petty criminals is becoming more common.

[graphics: A political and economic guide to Venezuela]

[Read the full text here, at The Economist]

The desperation such incidents reveal is dismissed by the increasingly delusional Mr Maduro during his endless television appearances. The shortages, he says, are the consequence of an “economic war” waged by enemies at home and abroad. Some in Caracas joke that he must be the only man who can claim to fight a fictional war, and then lose it. But they fear the direction his rule might now take. Read the rest of this entry »


Hugo Chavez’s Ambassador Daughter is Venezuela’s Richest Woman

High society: The daughter of Hugo Chavez may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion.

  • Diario las Americas claims that Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, has $4.2billion in assets held in American and Andorran banks
  • Hugo Chavez famously declared ‘being rich is bad’ and during his lifetime railed against the wealthy for being lazy and gluttonous
  • Efforts to determine Chavez’s wealth have been made before, without much luck

Pete D’Amato reports: The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets.

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports.

The figure would make Gabriela Chavez wealthier than media mogul Gustavo Cisneros, whom Forbes named the wealthiest Venezuelan earlier this year with $3.6billion in assets.

High society: The daughter of Hugo Chavez may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president's second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports

The Miami-based newspaper did not detail what evidence there was outlining Chavez’s assets, though there have long been rumors she held a sizable fortune.

Last year, reporter María Elvira Salazar displayed what appeared to be a receipt showing millions in a bank account belonging to Gabriela Chavez withdrawn in the United States.

The receipt displayed the name Frabz Federal Bank, a fictitious bank used in a meme of fake ATM receipts.

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president's second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2 billion

Others close to Chavez managed to build up great personal wealth that was kept outside the petrostate. Read the rest of this entry »


Frank Zappa on Communism

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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 »


PEOPLE POWER! #SOCIALISM WORKS!


Jonathan Sacks: The Return of Anti-Semitism

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Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, violence and hatred against Jews is on the rise, especially in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe

Jonathan Sacks writes: Last Tuesday, a group of Holocaust survivors, by now gaunt and frail, made their way back to Auschwitz, the West’s symbol of evil—back to the slave-labor side of the vast complex, with its mocking inscription Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work makes you free”), and back to the death camp, where a million and a quarter human beings, most of them Jews, were gassed, burned and turned to ash. They were there to commemorate the day, 70 years ago, when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz and saw, for the first time, the true dimensions of the greatest crime since human beings first set foot on Earth.

“Today Christian communities are being ravaged, terrorized and decimated throughout the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia, and scores of Muslims are killed every day by their brothers, with Sunnis arrayed against Shiites, radicals against moderates, the religious against the secular. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”

The moment would have been emotional at the best of times, but this year brought an especially disturbing undercurrent. The Book of Genesis says that, when God told Abraham what would happen to his descendants, a “fear of great darkness” fell over him. Something of that fear haunted the survivors this week, who have witnessed the return of anti-Semitism to Europe after 70 years of political leaders constant avowals of “Never again.” As they finished saying Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for mourners, one man cried out, “I don’t want to come here again.” Everyone knew what he meant. For once, the fear was not only about the past but also about the future.

Two Jews, kneeling at right, about to be put to death by the sword as revenge for the death of Jesus, who looks on at top left. Manuscript illumination, c1250, from a French Bible. PHOTO: THE GRANGER COLLECTION

Two Jews, kneeling at right, about to be put to death by the sword as revenge for the death of Jesus, who looks on at top left. Manuscript illumination, c1250, from a French Bible. PHOTO: THE GRANGER COLLECTION

The murder of Jewish shoppers at a Parisian kosher supermarket three weeks ago, after the killing of 12 people at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, sent shivers down the spines of many Jews, not because it was the first such event but because it has become part of a pattern. In 2014, four were killed at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. In 2012, a rabbi and three young children were murdered at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

“In 2008 in Mumbai, four terrorists separated themselves from a larger group killing people in the city’s cafes and hotels and made their way to a small Orthodox Jewish center, where they murdered its young rabbi and his pregnant wife after torturing and mutilating them.”

In 2008 in Mumbai, four terrorists separated themselves from a larger group killing people in the city’s cafes and hotels and made their way to a small Orthodox Jewish center, where they murdered its young rabbi and his pregnant wife after torturing and mutilating them. As the Sunday Times of London reported about the attack, “the terrorists would be told by their handlers in Pakistan that the lives of Jews were worth 50 times those of non-Jews.”

A copy of Adolf Hitler's ‘Mein Kampf’ is sold at a street shop in Cairo in 2009. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PESSE/GETTY IMAGES

A copy of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ is sold at a street shop in Cairo in 2009. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PESSE/GETTY IMAGES

An ancient hatred has been reborn.

Some politicians around the world deny that what is happening in Europe is anti-Semitism. It is, they say, merely a reaction to the actions of the state of Israel, to the continuing conflict with the Palestinians. But the policies of the state of Israel are not made in kosher supermarkets in Paris or in Jewish cultural institutions in Brussels and Mumbai. The targets in these cities were not Israeli. They were Jewish.

The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, inspects Bosnian SS members in 1944. PHOTO: ALAMY

The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, inspects Bosnian SS members in 1944. PHOTO: ALAMY

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, an Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009 on Al Rahma, a popular religious TV station in Egypt, made the contours of the new hate impeccably clear: “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.”

“Anti-Semitism has existed for a very long time. One critical moment came around the end of the 1st century C.E., when the Gospel of John attributed to Jesus these words about the Jews: ‘You belong to your father, the Devil.’ From being the children of Abraham, Jews had been transformed into the children of Satan.”

Not everyone would put it so forcefully, but this is the hate in which much of the Middle East and the Muslim world has been awash for decades, and it is now seeping back into Europe. For Jews, “never again” has become “ever again.”

The-Muslim-Defense-Forces-2-The-Most-Intense-of-the-People-in-Animosity-Toward-the-Believers-by-Sheikh-Muhammad-Hussein-Yaqub-e10227492

“If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.”

— Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub, speaking in January 2009

The scope of the problem is, of course, difficult to gauge precisely. But recent polling is suggestive—and alarming. An Anti-Defamation League study released last May found “persistent and pervasive” anti-Jewish attitudes after surveying 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories world-wide. The ADL found that 74% of those surveyed in the Middle East and North Africa held anti-Semitic attitudes; the number was 24% in Western Europe, 34% in Eastern Europe and 19% in the Americas. Read the rest of this entry »


Socialist Panic: Falling Oil Prices Risks Driving Venezuela’s Economy Off the Edge


Tres Más Muertos: Three More Killed in Venezuela Protests

A firecracker explodes at the scene of protests in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Esteban Felix/AP

A firecracker explodes at the scene of protests in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Esteban Felix/AP

Shootings in Caracas, Valencia and San Cristobal amid clashes between demonstrators, security forces and armed gangs

Three Venezuelans have died from gunshot wounds during protests against socialist President Nicolás Maduro, witnesses and local media have said, pushing the death toll to 34 from almost two months of demonstrations that have been answered with deadly force from both security forces and armed pro-government gangs.

“…Bus driver Wilfredo Rey, 31, died on Friday night after being shot in the head during a confrontation between demonstrators and hooded gunmen…”

Troops briefly clashed with a small group of protesters who attempted to block a highway in an upscale neighborhood of Caracas after thousands of opposition supporters marched to demand the release of students imprisoned during the unrest.

“…Jesus Labrador was hit by a bullet on Saturday in the Andean city of Merida during a shootout between armed protesters burning tires and hooded gunmen on motorcycle…”

Demonstrators complaining of soaring prices and product shortages have vowed to remain in the streets until Maduro resigns, although there are few signs that the country’s worst turmoil in a decade will force him from office.

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Venezuela, La Violencia Continúa: Police Clash with Anti-Government Protesters

Riot police in Venezuela have clashed with anti-government demonstrators who were protesting against the arrest of two opposition mayors.

The government said the protesters wanted to “mar the lives of Venezuelans”

Riot police in Venezuela have clashed with anti-government demonstrators who were protesting against the arrest of two opposition mayors.

[Check out Erika Johnsen’s comments]

Hundreds of demonstrators in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, threw stones and sticks at the police. They responded with tear gas and water cannon. The clashes came a day after Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano were detained over their alleged role in weeks of unrest that has left 31 people dead.

“The youth today have decided they’re ready to give up their lives for the country, for freedom.”

— Juan Requesens, a student leader at the protest

The government of President Nicolas Maduro has been the target of near-daily protests over the high murder rate, skyrocketing inflation and shortages of basic goods. He has blamed the violence on “fascist groups”.

One protester said they were ready to give up their lives for the country

One protester said they were ready to give up their lives for the country

Juan Requesens, a student leader at the protest, said the two mayors were “victims of persecution, abuse, and wrongful arrest”. Read the rest of this entry »


NYT Ross Douthat’s Post-CPAC Conclusion: The Candidate Best Suited to Unify Republican Factions: Senator Marco Rubio

StrawPollCPAC2014

Ross, You lost me at hello.

Douthat_New-articleInline“…But let me conclude with one that seems a little more likely: a rerun of Bush’s 2000 path, in which Marco Rubio wins by uniting religious and moderate conservatives.

Rubio had a tough 2013, thanks to his unsuccessful immigration push, and he lacks the ideologically committed support of a Paul or Cruz or Huckabee. But his domestic-policy forays (first on poverty, soon on taxes) have gotten smarter since the immigration debacle, and events in Venezuela and Crimea may be making his hawkish foreign policy vision more appealing to conservatives.

Moreover, as much as the party and the country have changed since the Bush era,  the best way to unify the G.O.P. is still to build bridges between religious conservatives and moderate conservatives  —  in effect, to seem relatable to Santorum voters while reassuring Romney voters.  And Rubio, in affect and background and positioning, may be the right politician for that task…”

NYTimes.com


Meet Venezuela’s Useful Idiots

Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Defenders of the Venezuelan regime would never allow the White House to arrest opposition leaders and shut down unfriendly media outlets. So why the double standard?

Dictatorship and Double Standard

Michael Moynihan writes:  At the southernmost point of Central Park, on a small strip of sidewalk abutting 59th Street, hundreds of Venezuelans swarmed a statue of Simon Bolivar, the Caracas-born liberator of South America and a figure now most commonly associated with the bolivarian revolution of Hugo Chavez and his rechristenedBolivarian Republic of Venezuela. But it’s an association that when mentioned inthis crowd produces furrowed brows and narrowed eyes, quickly followed by a rapid-fire recapitulation of Chavez’s many crimes.

“Duarte was merely cataloging the massive shortages of basic goods (rice, milk, toilet paper) that have crippled Venezuela in recent years, not engaging in a bourgeois, fascist bakeoff.”

The necessary symbolism of the meeting point trumped practicality: the crowd quickly swelled, spreading like an inkblot from the small patch surrounding Bolivar into a lane of midtown Manhattan traffic. They banged pots. They shouted slogans about the Cubanization of their patria, from which many are exiled. They carried signs detailing spiraling crime rates (23,000 murders last year), many plastered with grim photos of those abused and murdered, and others with mordant slogans (“In Venezuela everything is scarce, except bullets”).

We are far from the bloody streets of Caracas; these protesters are ringed not by heavily armed and body-armoured National Guardsman, but are politely attended to by a handful of paunchy and bored New York City cops. There was no threat of violence here–with the single exception of a slobbering, toothless, and possibly blotto Spanish speaker who, while ambling past the crowd, shouted something that drew the ire–and very nearly the flying fists–of a man with a large Venezuelan flag tied around his neck–the anti-Chavez superhero.

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Venezuela: The Left’s Favorite ‘Socialist Paradise’ is Sliding into Poverty and Dictatorship

Genesis Carmona is carried away by motorcycle, after being shot in the head (Photo: EPA)

Genesis Carmona is carried away by motorcycle, after being shot in the head (Photo: EPA)

Tim Stanley writes:  How are things coming along in Venezuela, that paradise of democratic socialism? You must remember Venezuela. That’s the country that Diane Abbott said was showing “a better way”, which Owen Jones told us had proven that “you can lead a progressive, popular government that says no to neo-liberalism”? The apple in the eye of Marx, the last hope for humanity in a world of fat cat banksters and austerity Scrooges. The Copacobana of the international revolution. Viva!

“How is Venezuela doing? …It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.”

How is Venezuela doing? Well, tens of thousands of protesters are in the streets, the army’s been sent to crush revolt, an opposition leader has been arrested and supporters of the government just shot dead a former beauty queen. It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.

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Rock the House: Hugo Chavez’s Daughters Refuse to Leave Presidential Party Palace

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (C) poses for a picture with his family while recovering in La Habana March 13, 2012. Chavez said he will return home from Cuba where he is recovering from cancer surgery next Sunday, to head up a re-election campaign. REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace (CUBA -Tags: - Tags: POLITICS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR2ZAC6

The late dictator’s children won’t move out of the president’s official residence, which is filled with antiques and priceless art

It’s hard times in Venezuela these days. The economy is in shambles, crime is spiraling, and the opposition is leading increasingly strident protests on the streets. To make matters worse, President Nicolás Maduro can’t even deal with the crisis from the comforts of the presidential palace.

Hugo Chavez's daughter Maria Gabriela tears up as her late father receives a posthumous award. (AFP/Getty Images/Leo Ramirez)

Hugo Chavez’s daughter Maria Gabriela  (AFP/Getty Images/Leo Ramirez)

Constitutionally, of course, Maduro has been able live in La Casona, a luxurious villa in the heart of the capital, since he was sworn in last year. The only problem: Almost a year after Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, passed away, his three grown children—Maria Gabriela, Rosa Virginia and Hugo Jr.—are still living in the villa. Apparently, they have no intention of leaving.

La Casona (Wikipedia)

The two daughters have allegedly converted La Casona into a social club for friends of the family. According to recent media reports, neighbors complain of “deafening” parties. Fast-food restaurants and catering agencies refuse to deliver to the mansion, allegedly, because the Chávez kids have stopped paying their bills. Even concert organizers are complaining; Chavez’s daughters allegedly force them to hand over dozens of free tickets so they can share them with their friends. (Both the country’s Information Ministry and the Chávez family were unavailable for comment.)

Originally built in colonial times, the glamorous La Casona residence was acquired by the government in the 1960s, during the presidency of Raúl Leoni. The mansion features six main bedrooms and several more for guests. There’s a swimming pool, a private movie theater and a series of private gardens.

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Krauthammer on Hillary’s Achievements as Secretary of State: ‘The U.S. antagonized Canada, for God’s sake. Canada, of all people…’

Hillary-Clinton1

Appearing on on Tuesday’s Hugh Hewitt Radio Show Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer declared that Hillary Clinton did not have one achievement in her four years running the State Department, and further, the U.S. position in the world actually went backwards during her tenure…

… Look, you know, when people talk about Hillary being a superb Secretary of State, I just ask one question. Name me one thing, just one, not three, give me one thing she achieved in her four years as Secretary of State. I have yet to hear an answer…

…I think she is the frontrunner. I don’t think the convention will be a coronation. It’s going to be a worship service. But that’s not exactly why we have a Secretary of State…

[Order Charles’ book: Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics from Amazon]

…I do think it’s really awful that you can have a four year term, achieve nothing, and as you say, go backwards with Russia, backwards on Iran, backwards on Syria, backwards on Venezuela, backwards in relation with just about all of our allies, including, I would add, Keystone, which sits on the President’s head, and antagonizing Canada, for God’s sake. Canada, of all people…

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[VIDEO] Oliver Stone Says Protesters in Venezuela are ‘Sore Losers’

Asked for his thoughts on the recent protests, Oliver Stone described the students as “sore losers.”

…Chavez successor, Nicolas Maduro, won a narrow election in 2013. But this came after former President Hugo Chavez announced he would alter the Constitution so he could be President for life and then announced he would rule by decree without any input from legislators…

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Venezuelan Regime Raids Homes Searching for Opposition Leader Amid Violent Protests

leopold-lopez-Reuters

Frances Martel  reports:  Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has a violent situation on his hands, as protests against the socialist regime escalate and the death toll rises. Reuters reports that protesters have vowed to continue until Maduro resigns, but Maduro has only escalated the oppression, raiding Caracas homes in search of opposition leader Leopoldo López.

[The Dictator’s Learning Curve at Amazon]

The streets of Caracas–already among the world’s most violent thanks to more than a decade of rule under Hugo Chávez–were aflame this weekend as Venezuelans used the national “Youth Day” holiday to trigger protests against the socialist dictatorship this weekend. This Youth Day, a holiday celebrating a battle of independence against Spain, three student protesters were reported dead and 23 injured thanks to government violence. The protest itself was peaceful; violence began when it culminated and police agitated the remaining protesters.

“I tell you, Maduro, you are a coward. You will not force my family nor myself to submit. To my family: Strength, I love you”

López tweeted yesterday. He also posted a video describing the protest and the next steps for his supporters…

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Why People Carry Guns: A Response to David Frum

Why-Carry

David French  writes:  I’m virtually certain that David Frum was simply trolling Twitter (a popular pastime) when he tweeted on Saturday: “Hypothesis: the people who most want to carry are the very last people on earth who should be allowed to carry.”

[See John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, Third Edition (Studies in Law and Economics) at Amazon]

In the remote chance that an otherwise-thoughtful person was actually arguing that the people who most want to exercise a constitutional right are the “very last people on earth” who should be allowed to exercise that right, I thought I’d take a moment to explain why a person carries.

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