Venezuela Arrests Former Oil Minister And Ex-Head Of PDVSA

Hoy la Clase soberana Petrolera recibe al compaero @MQuevedoF quin asume el @MinPetroleoVE y @PDVSA para continuar el legado de nuestro Comandante Chvez pic.twitter.com/6BH7IsgehW
— Eulogio Del Pino (@delpinoeulogio) November 27, 2017

As OPEC is set to celebrate the extension of the cartel’s oil production cut for another year in Vienna, Venezuela former-oil minister and the former head of the now defaulted state energy company PDVSA have no reasons to celebrate following their overnight arrests in Venezuela.
Taking a page out of the Saudi “anti-corruption” playbook, Reuters reports citing two sources that Venezuelan authorities detained former Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino and former state oil company PDVSA president Nelson Martinez overnight as a part of a broad anti-corruption probe.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 30, 2017.

Gun Control Laws Have Failed Latin America

It’s no secret that Latin America is rife with violence. A recent ranking from the Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice(CCSPJP) further illustrates this point with the top 10 most violent cities in the world being exclusively located in Latin America. Additionally, Latin America has the dishonor of having 43 of the 50 most violent urban centers located in the region.
These shocking levels of violence can be attributed to several factors – corruption, failed drug war policies, and the lack of rule of law in the region.
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But there is one elephant in the room that is largely ignored in the discussion of crime in Latin America: the stringent gun-control laws present in these countries.
While the previously mentioned factors cannot simply be discounted, the lack of coverage on Latin American gun control policy is rather alarming.
Countries like Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela feature some of the most draconian gun control policies in the region. With crime rates at already high levels, gun control simply makes matters worse for law-abiding citizens fearful of criminals.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on August 24, 2017.

Wall Street’s Latest Plot: Blame the Financial Crash on the French

Wall Street appears to have a plan to get the deregulation it wants by pinning the start of the epic financial crash of 2007-2010 on (wait for it) the French, rather than its own unbridled greed, corruption and toxic manufacture of junk bonds known as subprime debt that it paid to have rated AAA by ethically-challenged and deeply conflicted rating agencies. (The same rating agencies that are getting paid by Wall Street to rate its debt issues today.)
One of the men helping to peddle this narrative is Steve Hanke, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a taxpayer-subsidized nonprofit that was secretly owned by the billionaire Koch brothers for decades.
Hanke’s bio at Cato lists him as a Professor of Applied Economics at John Hopkins University in Baltimore and provides the following titillating background:
‘Prof. Hanke served as a State Counselor to both the Republic of Lithuania in 1994-96 and the Republic of Montenegro in 1999-2003. He was also an Advisor to the Presidents of Bulgaria in 1997-2002, Venezuela in 1995-96, and Indonesia in 1998. He played an important role in establishing new currency regimes in Argentina, Estonia, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ecuador, Lithuania, and Montenegro. Prof. Hanke has also held senior appointments in the governments of many other countries, including Albania, Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, and Yugoslavia.’

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade on August 21, 2017.

Intel Memo: Marco Rubio Targeted For Assassination By Venezuela Lawmaker

Senator Marco Rubio may have been targeted for assassination by one of Venezuela’s most powerful lawmakers and long time secretive head of the country’s security services. According to the Miami Herald, the US Department of Homeland Security disseminated a sensitive memo to federal agencies last month which identified Diosdado Cabello Rondon as behind the “order to have Senator Rubio assassinated,” while also noting the intelligence to be unverified as ‘no specific information regarding an assassination plot against Senator Rubio has been garnered thus far.”
Cabello Rondon is widely believed to be Venezuela’s second most-powerful man and head of the country’s military and security services. US media has referred to him as “the Frank Underwood of Venezuela” (from the TV series House of Cards) for his well-known history of corruption, suspicion of drug trafficking, and Machiavellian plotting against rivals and involvement in pro-Chavez military crackdowns. As a behind the scenes influential military leader he’s kept both the late president Hugo Chavez and current socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro in power.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 13, 2017.

One Way Or Another – Venezuela Will Send Oil Prices Up

In a desperate bid to survive its economic meltdown, Venezuela is lobbying other OPEC members to agree to steeper oil production cuts, a move that would likely lead to higher oil prices.
Venezuelan officials have reached out to their counterparts in Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia to press them on more collective action, according to Argus Media. If there was enough interest, the next step would be an ‘extraordinary meeting,’ which would weigh the option of cutting deeper.
The rumors about deeper OPEC cuts have been floating around since June, when oil prices collapsed into the low-$40s. The markets have grown deeply pessimistic about the health of the oil market, and doubt the OPEC cuts will balance the market by the end of the compliance period in March 2018.
But the behind-the-scenes effort from Venezuelan officials is notable, if only because the South American OPEC members was one of the earliest and most aggressive supporters of the original deal to reduce output. In 2016, for months the more powerful members of the cartel rebuffed Venezuelan pleas, but in the end they agreed to reductions in November after oil prices continued to wallow below $50 per barrel.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jul 19, 2017.

Venezuela Is The Wild Card In The OPEC Deal Extension

News coming out of Venezuela over the past two years has reeked of corruption and failed political leadership: a long list of shortages, rampant poverty, incrimination of the opposition, and a recent move that puts the regime of Nicolas Maduro one step closer to a dictatorship. And these are only the developments that are recorded, with a recent LA Times Op-Ed suggesting that a Venezuelan homicide epidemic rages ‘unreported’ due to the country’s scrapping of crime statistics reporting over a decade ago.
Despite all of this, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) expects Venezuela, endowed with the world’s largest oil reserves (depending on who you ask), to play a major role in the cartel’s plan to curb global supply. In OPEC’s November agreement, Venezuela accounted for almost 10 percent of the net supply cut from member nations (calculated as cuts minus allotted increases)

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 11, 2017.

How The Black Market Is Saving Two Countries From Their Governments

Ever since governments began banning and licensing different parts of the economy, the black market has made sure people still have access to the things they need. Unstable governments always turn on their own citizens by using price controls, heavy taxes, and even the threat of imprisonment to prop up their failing systems. As conditions inevitably deteriorate, as they have in Venezuela and Greece, the underground economy becomes invaluable to those living through the crisis.
The shadow economy refers to more than just the trade of illegal goods. A grey market, for example, provides legal products that have become difficult to find. Since basic things like toilet paper, medicine, and even food have disappeared from store shelves in Venezuela, the peer-to-peer network has become the only reliable way to secure life’s necessities. In desperate situations like this, the existence of independent merchants can mean the difference between life and death.
Even the value of Venezuela’s currency has started to move away from the government’s control. At one point, the official exchange rate was fraudulently set at 10 bolivars per U. S. dollar, while on the black market it was trading at 1,000 to one. This action hurt millions by suppressing wages across the country and eroding any remaining trust. Inflation has quickly become the most imminent threat to the Venezuelan people, stealing the value of their labor and savings. For years, the bolivar has experienced hyperinflation, increasing the cost of living almost exponentially.
The State’s desperate response was to institute price controls, but that has only led to shortages across the board. Luckily, the unregulated markets have been able to determine the true value of goods and provide vital support for the struggling communities. Many people think that so-called price gouging is unethical, but isn’t it better to buy what you need at twice the price than to not be able to get it at all?

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Mar 10, 2017.

Expropriation and Impoverishment: “Capitalist” Greece and “Socialist” Venezuela

Neocolonial “capitalist paradise” or crony “socialist paradise”: the net result is the same: expropriation and impoverishment. Yesterday I noted that not all assets will make it through the inevitable financial re-set. ( Which Assets Are Most Likely to Survive the Inevitable “System Re-Set”?) Those that are easy to expropriate will be expropriated, and those assets vulnerable to soaring taxes, inflation and currency devaluation will also be hollowed out. There are two real-time examples of these dynamics we can profitably study: “capitalist” Greece and “socialist” Venezuela. Both nations have impoverished their citizenry to preserve an oligarchy and its cronies. I hope it won’t be too great a shock that crony-capitalism and crony-socialism function in much the same fashion and generate the same result: the wealth of the nation is funneled (or expropriated) into the ruling Elites, impoverishing the non-elites.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on MONDAY, FEBRUARY 06, 2017.

Rex Tillerson Confirmation: ‘Exxon State Dept… Like Appointing Ronald McDonald to Agriculture’

A very powerful man is now facing the whole country in a very public way for what may be the first time. He appears a bit nervous and perhaps rehearsed.
Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, is facing confirmation hearing today as the next administration prepares to begin. Here’s some biographical info.
Nevertheless, it seems that former Exxon Mobil CEO will likely be confirmed as Secretary of State with ease. Many of the questions have been quite friendly, and perhaps even soft ball.
Key issues include foreign policy, his past ties with Russia, Middle East issues, a commitment to defense and use of war ‘to back up diplomacy.’
Also discussed were potential conflicts of interest with ExxonMobil, the company he spent his entire career with, as well as climate change policies. Oil (and natural gas) as a weapon of foreign policy has been little appreciated until now, but has played a huge role in Venezuela’s volatile economic crisis, and has stoked tensions with Russia.

This post was published at shtfplan on January 11th, 2017.

Will Latin America Finally Embrace Markets?

Much talk has been made lately about the Left’s recent defeats in countries throughout Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela most notably. These countries have been characterized by Leftist governments that had the luxury of exploiting commodity prices during the early-to-mid 2000s to finance their profligate social programs.
Various experts saw this new ‘pink tide’ as a viable alternative to free-market models of economic organization. However, the game has completely changed as of late. These very governments now find themselves on the ropes not only because of low commodity prices, but also due to increasing degrees of corruption and economic malaise – largely the result of years of economic interventionism now taking its toll on these nations’ economic and institutional foundations.
Essentially, the commodity price booms only masked the institutional rot that was dwelling underneath the economic house of cards many of these countries were already built on. Once prices plummeted, these governments could no longer maintain their artificial economies and quickly saw significant political reversals.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 23, 2016.

Could Venezuela Become The Next Syria?

Speaking of poor policymaking, hyperinflation and violence – Venezuela is sliding closer and closer to the brink of collapse, with some sobering consequences.
This was among the topics of conversation this week at the Mining & Investment Latin America Summit in Lima, Peru. While there, I had dinner with a couple of Canadian lawyers who represented a few Latin American oil producers, some of them based in Venezuela.
Things have gone from bad to worse, they informed me. Since 2013, when Nicols Maduro took power after the death of Hugo Chvez, the socialist country has struggled with skyrocketing inflation, food and medicine shortages, a shrinking economy and rising violence and corruption. (Its capital city of Caracas recently overtook San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for having the world’s highest homicide rate.)
These have only intensified since oil prices fell by half more than two years ago, as oil accounts for 95 percent of Venezuela’s export earnings.

This post was published at Zero Hedge by Frank Holmes, originally posted ValueWalk.com Oct 30, 2016.

Latin America’s Pink Tide Crashes on the Rocks

Ten years ago, South America was witnessing the rise of what came to be known as the “pink tide.” Characterized by an allegedly kinder and softer version of socialism than the “red” communism of Castro’s Cuba, the pink tide had begun with the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998, followed by the election of Lula da Silva in Brazil in 2002, and followed by the rise of the Kirchners in Argentina in 2003. The tide continued to roll in with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in 2006, and Rafael Correa’s election in Ecuador in 2007.
As these new leftist candidates gained traction, their success was said to herald a new era of leftist politics in South America that would bring to an end the “neoliberal” consensus and impose a new, more humane economics on Latin American society.
Eighteen years after Hugo Chavez’s inauguration, things haven’t gone quite as planned.
The economy of Venezuela is in seemingly terminal decline with riots, shortages, and enforced slave laborimposed in an attempt to force more production out of the population. Meanwhile, the economies of Brazil and Argentina – while not comparable to Venezuela – are among the worst in Latin America, with Brazil heading for its its worst depression since 1901.
As economies worsened, corruption and authoritarian tactics worsened as well. Venezuelans have gotten the worst of it with citizens groaning under the weight of a police state that shuts down small business and persecutes even the smallest entrepreneurs for alleged economic “crimes” such as being a “class traitor.” In her final years, Kristina Kirchner became increasingly autocratic and paranoid, going so far as to prosecute and impose fines on economists who made economic forecasts the Argentinian state found to be be unflattering. Meanwhile in Brazil, corruption reached new heights as President Rousseff – the pink-tide successor to da Silva – attempted to save the economy and her political career by showering her political allies with “stimulus” cash.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Sept 8, 2016.

Why Is The DHS Preparing To Take Control Of The US Election?

What do you do when you’re the dictatorial leader of an oppressive government regime looking to maintain power while simultaneously preserving the facade of free and open elections? Well, if you’re the Obama administration then you look for avenues to nationalize state-run election infrastructure.
But you can’t just seize control of infrastructure that has been successfully run at the state level for a couple hundred years…that kind of stuff only happens in Venezuela and we’re better than that. No, you need a catalyst for this kind of blatant power grab. “Coincidentally”, a catalyst just like the FBI’s warning a couple of days ago about “foreign hackers [read Putin] penetrating state election systems.” Then, once you’ve defined the super villain, all you need is a couple of political cronies to go on a fear mongering tour to whip the electorate into a frenzy. And wouldn’t you know it…Harry Reid recently did just that by sending a letter to the FBI voicing his “concerns” that the “Russian government” may be looking to tamper with the upcoming presidential election. Per the New York Times, Harry Reid’s letter to the FBI included the following:

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Aug 31, 2016.

Venezuela Isn’t Just in Crisis, But Faces ‘Total Societal Collapse’

Editor’s Comment: Obviously, things aren’t going to just get better. The people of Venezuela, forced to wait in long lines for basic necessities, are under the thumb of what has now proven to be a ruthless dictator. He has killed, and will increasingly use violence (and any means necessary) to hold onto power.
Eventually, Maduro will likely be ousted, but only after forcing his people into literal starvation. Yes, the U. S. likely is waging economic war on Venezuela, with tanking oil prices putting on the pressure; yes, the U. S. is involved in coups all across Latin Americas, but Venezuelans are now between a rock and a hard place. It is just indecent, and the world’s attention has been turned elsewhere.
Total Societal Collapse: What the Media Isn’t Telling You About Venezuela
Life in Venezuela now consists of empty grocery stores, record rates of violent crime, and widespread shortages of just about everything. The economic and political conditions have been deteriorating for years, but recent stories coming from this once-rich nation are astonishing. Bars have run out of beer, McDonald’s can’t get buns for their Big Macs, and rolling blackouts are a regular occurrence. The average person spends over 35 hours a month waiting in line to buy their rationed goods, and even basics like toilet paper and toothpaste are strictly regulated.
The fiasco began when the price of oil collapsed and sent Venezuelan finances into chaos. Theoil-dependent nation, despite its imposing government policies, couldn’t prevent the fallout. The current problems are further compounded by rampant corruption throughout the Venezuelan government. The likelihood of a peaceful resolution is decreasing by the day, and political dissents are likely to be met with brutal crackdowns. The desperation of the masses could explode violently under the right circumstances, and there are few things more dangerous to a nation than a hungry population.
The food lines seen throughout Venezuela are reminiscent of the Great Depression. Thousands fill the sidewalks and wait for hours to get their hands on basic staples. Tensions have risen so dramatically that several people have been killed in recent food riots and lootings. Dogs, cats, and birds are finding themselves on the menu, and a group even broke into the Caracas’ Caricuao Zoo to slaughter the animals for meat.

This post was published at shtfplan on August 24th, 2016.

USA Watchdog Interview

Greg Hunter does a nice job, and asked me to appear — here it is, embedded at the bottom.
The take-away from this, if you don’t feel like watching the interview, is quite simple: Without the Rule of Law we have nothing, and our nation currently faces a critical fiscal emergency at the federal level just a few years down the road — certainly, during the next President’s term.
There is no way out of that box without taking on the medical monopolies. None.
That’s the math.
2009 / Obamacare was an attempt to “buy more time” along with protecting said monopolies from a market-driven incipient collapse. This was rank public corruption on a grand scale, and it did nothing more than add a small amount of time, much like closing “watertight” doors on the Titanic when the water can cascade over bulkheads (as I expected it would and wrote on at the time) because all it could do is force more people onto a sinking ship. The compound growth nature of federal spending on medical care has remained unaltered; it was not flattened to zero, or even to the expansion of nominal GDP. Worse, the expansion rate for Medicaid, several years after its one-time expansion under Obamacare (in other words the one-time effects are gone), exceeds that of Medicare — so those who claim the cost escalation is due to people getting older are lying through their teeth.
The bigger-picture issue, and the one that threatens to turn this entirely-predicted fiscal catastrophe (one that I’ve talked about for 25 years and written about pretty-much continually for the last 8 right here in The Ticker) into an economic and social disaster never before seen in America (but seen repeatedly in other nations such as Venezuela and Argentina!) is that innovation has effectively collapsed at the same time.
Why?

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2016-07-31.