Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute
The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.
A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.
The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more
European Fellow Travelers Refuse to Criticize Venezuelan Dictator
Seventeen Latin American nations, including those run by leftists, agree Venezuela is now a “dictatorship” under Nicolás Maduro.
For most of his presidency, Maduro has ruled by decree. When the opposition won a majority of the seats in parliament, he replaced it with a Constituent Assembly full of cronies. Critical lawmakers have been arrested. A “truth commission” is being established to investigate thoughtcrimes. Instead of seeing high crime and low growth rates as evidence of the failure of Venezuela’s socialist experiment, the crude and homophobic Maduro entertains anti-American and anticapitalist conspiracy theories.
Yet left-wing admirers of Hugo Chávez will not see his heirs for the thugs they have become. Read more
Surges of protests against a deeply unpopular government have catapulted Venezuela from back-burner regional crisis to a hemispheric one. It’s only a Russian presidential visit away from becoming the world’s next geopolitical hot spot.
Medical supplies are running short, opposition leaders are calling for nationwide boycotts and now the Americans are rousing themselves to begin a sanctions regime against the beleaguered Maduro government.
It’s quite the fall from grace. From 2004 until 2013, Venezuela’s economy rocketed upward, bringing a measure of prosperity to a country long accustomed to hardship. It appeared, in those heady days, that Hugo Chávez, the country’s authoritarian ruler, could bring about his socialist Bolivarian Revolution and economic prosperity. For the Latin American left, Venezuela was proof that one did not have to conform to the neoliberal capitalism of the United States to be successful.
Alas, since 2013, the economy has slid further and further while inflation has hammered the country’s currency to the point of worthlessness.
With America now poking its nose directly into Venezuelan affairs, with the opposition building a shadow government and with the Russians trying to shore up Nicolás Maduro’s government through increasingly generous aid shipments, the country has all the ingredients of a major geopolitical crisis.
The Americans could find themselves sucked into an ever-expanding role in managing the Maduro regime; the opposition could give up on peaceful politics altogether and embark on an armed struggle; an opportunistic Vladimir Putin might wedge Russian power into South America in hopes of throwing the Americans off balance in Europe. Read more
Venezuela has plummeted to new depths. In an act of blatant disregard of the separation of powers, the Supreme Court has stripped the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its lawmaking power and revoked immunity from all assembly members after accusing parliamentarians of “contempt”.
This latest step toward authoritarianism was denounced as a “coup” and “a final blow to democracy” — not just by opposition parties, but by the international community and even some within the government (the state attorney general). Read more
Trump Could Bring Enemies in South America Closer Together
The alliance between Cuba and Venezuela has lost prominence in recent years as the former normalized its diplomatic relations with the United States while the latter doubled down on a self-described anti-imperialist policy.
Now Donald Trump’s presidency threatens to bring the two countries closer together again. Read more
When Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won a two-thirds supermajority in the National Assembly last year, it represented an unquestionable shift after sixteen years of socialist rule. There was desire for change. Not just from the traditional array of opponents to the ruling party government, but also from those who still call themselves Chavistas.
Those clamors, in part mobilized by the MUD, have become noticeably louder in recent weeks and months and protests have been firmly met by riot police and tear gas.
The country, home to the world’s largest oil reserves and previously one of the most developed in Latin America, is now suffering from the world’s highest inflation rate, varying between 180 and 700 percent. In the boom times, oil (which accounts for 95 percent of exports) helped pay for a million homes for the poor. Now, after three years of decline, with the sovereign wealth fund depleted and the economy expected to shrink by 8 percent, default is a distinct possibility.
Everyday Venezuelans are feeling the bite through shortages in electricity, food, water and medicine. The bare essentials of society have been stripped away and replaced by blackouts, endless queues for basic household goods, violence and looting. The country has the second highest murder rate in the world.
Desperation is in the air and its manifestations can no longer be passed off by the government as “revolts of the rich,” as was the case following similar protests in 2014. Read more