By Juan Cristobal Nagel in Caracas Chronicles:
Venezuela is becoming a crude importer. Discuss.
Our friend Marianna Párraga of Reuters published a major scoop yesterday: Venezuela is exploring the idea of importing crude oil for the first time in its history. Read it here. Now, I’m no oil expert, but a few questions pop into my head:
- The story makes for interesting headlines, but as we evolve from a light-crude producer to a heavy-crude producer, wasn’t this bound to happen at some point? Venezuela needs the light crude to mix it with its heavy crude in order to extract the latter, which is kind of like tar in its consistency and, hence, difficult to pump. Previously, the country was using processed products (such as a variant of gasoline), but given the ongoing crisis in our refineries, we were having to import these at massive prices. Why, then, don’t we use our own light crude for this? I guess that is the real question here. Is it incompetence? Is it simply that light crude wells are running out? And whatever happened to the Tomoporo field in Zulia, the largest find of light crude in western Venezuela in decades? Finally, why can’t we come up with more clever ways to exploit our heavy-oil resources?
- One has to wonder why Venezuela has not built more refining capacity inside the country. Venezuela famously ships its crude to places such as Mary Landrieu’s backyard and El Pollo Carvajal’s happy island, but why aren’t we refining more of our crude here at home? Some people say the refining business has small margins and, hence, is not a good use of money. I say – refining generates knowledge, and only knowledge will get us out of this mess. Venezuela needs a comprehensive downstream oil policy, one that includes private actors and allows them to open up their own refineries. Instead of importing products, we need to export more of them, no matter the margin. That is where the know-how is.
- Psychologically, these news could not come at a worst time for Maduro. As the country reels from a general feeling that things are not going well, we get the news that we are now importing oil. Never mind that we have the largest reserves in the world. Never mind that we still export a lot of oil. Leave all the technical mumbo-jumbo aside. We. Are. Importing. Oil… Tell that to a doñita standing in line for four hours waiting to get milk. Tell that to a professional who can’t find the medicine he needs. There’s simply no way of spinning this favorably. The idea that we are now both members and customers of OPEC is simply too much for the average Venezuelan to swallow. It provides a nifty soud-bite for the opposition, one that pretty much everyone understands.
As we digest these news, we have to wonder if this is rock bottom. ‘Cause if it isn’t, it sure feels like it.
By Anddy Sierra Alvarez in Translating Cuba:
In the End, How Much is My Money Worth?
The Cuban population has no idea of the real worth of a Cuban peso. So many private taxi drivers, like the pioneers of money devaluation–the state snack bars–never stop annoying people with measures outside any legal range.
If the government pays you 24 Cuban pesos (CUPs) for one Cuban convertible peso (CUC), and sells you each CUC for 25 CUPs, why do the State centers devalue the CUC to 23 Cuban pesos.
They do everything for their own benefit or to play along with the government. Every time you exchange one currency for another, they make money.
Monetary union will come at the time when the Cuban pesos has no value relative to the artificial CUC. For those who travel it seems to be a game of “Monopoly of Capital.” Will there be a Cuban currency exchange? Where a Cuban would have to worry about making arrangements for several currencies before leaving the country.
Buying CUCs to then look for someone to exchange the CUCs for dollars for the least loss possible. For many it’s a headache.
Modern slaves before the eyes of the world
The government looks for ways to avoid so many loses from the taxes and penalties on Cuba for dealing in dollars, along with strategies to recover them at the mercy of its citizens.
Limitations internationally exploit Cubans, a modern slavery, invisibly but tangible for those who suffer it.
Since the State knew what it can do with its pawns, it allowed the limited circulation of the dollar among its population. Only at that time, only a small group of people were authorized to handle foreign exchange: merchant seamen and embassy workers.
With the passage of time the Cuban pesos came to be even with the dollar. Then it came to be 120 Cuban pesos for one American dollar, always internally. And later it was maintained in a range of 20 to 30 pesos for one American dollar, until now.
Now, private drivers, administrators and State workers exchange convertible pesos for Cuban pesos, at rates that favor themselves, not as set by the government.
The issue is visible and many year for the monetary unification to avoid inconveniences and the loss of money to opportunists. Still, most question what value the Cuban pesos will have in the near future.
By dissident blogger and photographer, Yusnaby Perez:
Why work? I can make more money just selling three avocados a day.
Before his alleged death last year, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez visited Cuba several times to undergo multiple surgeries, all of which were shrouded in mystery. Now we know the purpose behind all those surgeries, and it was not about cancer. Instead, it appears obvious it was a sex change operation. While conventional wisdom at the time dictated Chavez was under the careful watch of Raul Castro and Fidel Castro, he was instead being cared for by Cuba's self-appointed princess and "sexologist," Mariela Castro, who apparently has helped Hugo become what she always wanted to be.
In fact, many Cuban blacks suffered longer incarceration in Castro and Che’s dungeons and torture chambers than Nelson Mandela suffered in South Africa's (relatively) comfortable prisons. In fact, these Cubans qualify as the longest-suffering political prisoners in modern history. Eusebio Penalver, Ignacio Cuesta Valle, Antonio Lopez Munoz, Ricardo Valdes Cancio, and many other Cuban blacks suffered almost thirty years in Castro's prisons. These men (and many women too, by the way, black and white) suffered their tortures 90 miles from U.S. shores.
But you’ve never heard of them, right? And yet from CNN to NBC, from Reuters to the AP, from ABC to NPR, Castro’s Stalinist-Apartheid fiefdom hosts an abundance of U.S. and international press bureaus and crawls with their intrepid “investigative reporters.”
On the other hand, you can’t swing a dead cat in the media without hitting the name Nelson Mandela. Interesting how that works.
Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi received both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Freedom, among many other human rights honors worldwide, (though suffering only lengthy house arrest, as did Mandela towards the end.)
"Hummmm? Let me guess: Above me isn't that Sly and the Family Stone? I heard they're reuniting for a tour?"
Our friends at Townhall help disseminate items utterly unknown outside the tiny Cuban-American informational ghetto.
Party girls Milana Muzikanti and Lila Ratmanski before their flight to Varadero
Some time in the future some Cuban historian might be able to collect and display photos of all the Canadian tourists who visited Castrogonia and collaborated in the enslavement of the Cuban people.
Maybe a Hall of Shame can be built in a free Cuba, some day, where all these callous bastards do an eternal walk of shame.
Maybe. But that day is way off in a hazy distance.
For now, though, Babalu can make a small contribution towards that goal with its own virtual walk of shame.
Party girl Milana Muzikanti dragged from Skywing cabin by Canadian police
Here you see photos of the Skywing Varadero party girls, featured in an earlier post.
They have ended up in trouble with the law because of their rowdiness, not because they wanted to enjoy themselves in Castrogonia. That's not the real shame here.
The real shame is that there was an entire jetliner full of Canadians going to Castrogonia, to enjoy their apartheid vacations and to pump money into the pockets of the Castro regime. You can be sure that all the other passengers ended up in Varadero after this detour, and that they are enjoying their fun in the Cuban apartheid tourist paradise.
In the highest court of law -- that of the Golden Rule -- everyone on that plane and all planes like it should be prosecuted for callousness against humanity and blatant racism.
Bonus item: an update on their legal troubles back home in the Great White North.
Lilia Ratmanski (left) and Milana Muzikante (right). looking a bit less glamorous in courtroom sketch.
From CP24 news:
Women charged in Sunwing Airlines disturbance granted bail, but one still in custody
Two women charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft after a Cuba-bound flight had to return to Toronto escorted by fighter jets have been granted bail, but one of the women is still in police custody.
The incident happened on Aug. 27 on a Sunwing Airlines flight en route to Varadero from Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Janine Chapman, a Sunwing spokesperson told CP24 that two passengers had “consumed a significant quantity of their duty-free alcohol” in the plane’s lavatory and lit a cigarette setting off the smoke alarm.
“These passengers proceeded to get into a physical altercation with each other and made a threat against the aircraft, which was considered non-credible given their condition,” said Chapman.
A decision was made to turn the plane around and two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets were launched to monitor the situation from the air and escort the plane back to Toronto.
More HERE (includes more photos):
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Should the U.S. Follow Europe's Fickle Lead?
In its latest edition, Americas Quarterly debates:
"Will warming Cuba-EU ties open up U.S.-Cuba relations?"
On one side, Sarah Stephens, Executive Director of the Castro-friendly, Center for Democracy in the Americas, argues that the U.S. should follow Europe's lead.
(You can read her ir-rationale here.)
It's really hard to argue with a straight-face that we should take Europe's lead in any foreign policy issue, particularly as the world witnesses first-hand Europe's fickleness in dealing with Russia's Vladimir Putin.
(Don't miss this great description of Europe's fickleness.)
Think about it: Ukraine finds itself a victim of Russian aggression simply because it wanted closer ties to Europe. Despite this, Europe has been unwilling to challenge Putin and defend Ukraine -- for it's too busy fawning all over Russia's oil and oligarchs. Instead, the U.S. has had to take the lead to defend Ukraine (and vicariously Europe's long-term interests).
Why in the world would anyone trust Europe in dealing with any tyrant?
Unless, of course, you're rooting for the tyrants.
The counter-argument in Americas Quarterly is written by Cuban labor rights activist, Joel Brito.
Read his rationale below:
The EU is engaged in a discussion that will yield no change in human rights conditions on the island. The U.S. would be wise not to follow the EU's lead.
In March, the European Union (EU) and the Cuban government announced a renewal of bilateral talks on trade and investment. Lured by Cuba’s proposed social and economic reforms, including a new foreign investment law, the expansion of self-employment, and loosened travel restrictions, the EU agreed to return to the negotiating table for the first time since the establishment of the Common Position in 1996, including human rights and democracy in the discussion on improved economic relations.
But it would be misguided to assume that the Cuban reforms are a sign of genuine change within the regime. Rather, they represent an attempt to adapt the revolution’s principles of “protect and perpetuate” to changing circumstances: a strategy that has allowed the regime to survive repeated economic and political shocks over the past 55 years.
Continue reading HERE.
Monsignor Bruno Musaro, the Papal Nuncio to Cuba, on the only thing that can offer any hope to the Cuban people.
Via El Nuevo Herald (my translation):
"I am very grateful the Pope invited me to this island and I hope to leave only after the socialist regime here has disappeared permanently. [...] Only liberty can bring hope to the Cuban people."
Those charming Canadian tourists who keep the Castro regime afloat sometimes can't wait to unleash their inner animal.
Sometimes they start partying on the flight to Varadero, whip out the duty-free booze they just bought, and get rowdy.
It happened this week when two Canadian twenty-somethings began their Cuba party in their airliner's bathroom.
Maybe it's the excitement caused by the prospect of a vacation among sub-human creatures who will cater to their every whim and perform half-naked for them.
Yes! You gotta love those shows that Cuban savages put on for tourists in their native garb!
Maybe it's the prospect of long-delayed unlimited sex with subhuman minors that tips them off balance.
Mr. McTurk, convicted Canadian pedophile tourist
Or maybe it's the subconscious realization that they are going to a place without hockey games.
When anyone is immoral enough to vacation in a slave plantation, it's kind of hard to fully figure out why they do what they do.
Canadians in Castrogonia
Cubans in Castrogonia
From CNN via WAPT News:
Two drunken would-be tourists force Cuba-bound Canadian flight to return to Toronto
(CNN) —Airborne for white, sandy beaches, turquoise Cuban waters and swaying palms, two women apparently broke out their duty-free booze on Wednesday and partied hearty in a passenger jet bathroom.
So terribly hearty, that they got Sunwing Flight 656 a military jet escort back to the Canadian airport from which it departed.
Prosecutors on Thursday charged Melana Muzikante, 26, and Lilia Ratmanski, 25, each with two counts of mischief, one count of smoking on an aircraft, one count of endangering the safety of an aircraft and with uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm, according to Constable Lillian Fitzpatrick of Peel Regional Police.
A judge released them on $2,500 bail each after they spent a night in a Canadian jail, but Fitzpatrick said Muzikante's surety won't arrive until Friday, meaning she'll spend Thursday night behind bars.
Continue reading this hilarious story HERE
Viva Canada! Cerveza o muerte! Los serviremos!
Via Café Fuerte (my translation):
Pitcher Diosdany Castillo escapes Cuba and begins preparations in Mexico
Sources close to Cuban pitcher Diosdany Castillo Vergel have confirmed his successful escape from the island and that he is now training in Mexico to fulfill his dream to play in the major leagues.
The 27-year-old Castillo fled Cuba by sea in mid August. During a previous attempt to escape this summer he was captured and indefinitely suspended from his team, Villa Clara. He was also expelled from the national team for "serious lack of discipline" this past July.
"Diosdany is another person fleeing revolutionary oppression and fatigue, harassed for one instance of denunciation," said Orlando Chinea this Thursday, a baseball trainer in Mexico who his helping the pitcher with his preparations.
Continue reading (in Spanish) HERE.
The government of the Cayman Islands continues its cruel and inhumane policy of pushing desperate, escaped slaves from Cuba back into the rough, shark-infested Caribbean.
Via DNA India:
Boat with 16 Cuban migrants turned away from Cayman Islands despite rough seas
A small, homemade aluminum boat carrying 16 Cuban migrants sought refuge from rough seas in Grand Cayman on Thursday but local officials prevented a landing, citing a migration agreement with Cuba.
Local law enforcement would not allow the migrants to receive drinking water, food or supplies from well-wishers onshore. The 20-foot boat, a patchwork of fiberglass and metal with large inner tubes attached to makeshift outriggers, was allowed to anchor offshore while their fate is determined.
Under the 1999 migration accord Cuban boats are allowed to pass through Cayman waters as long as they do not seek any assistance. If the migrants come ashore, they are taken into custody and usually repatriated to Cuba.
Boats smuggling Cubans seeking to flee the communist-run island are frequently seen off the Cayman Islands, located in the Caribbean less than 100 miles (160 km) south of Cuba.
They are usually headed for Honduras, about 400 miles away, from where migrants make the long journey overland to reach the US border with Mexico. Under the US so-called "wet foot, dry foot policy," Cuban migrants who make it onto United States soil are allowed to remain while those intercepted at sea are turned back.
"We left (Cuba) because there are no jobs or the basic items for living," said the boat captain, who identified himself as Angelo. "We built the boat in secret near the sea and we left at night to avoid detection," he added.
The captain said the passengers, 11 men and five women aged 18 to 40, were from Manzanillo in eastern Cuba. He said the boat had been at sea for five days since leaving eastern Cuba, surviving rough seas whipped up by the passage of hurricane Cristobal to the east.
The boat had no shade from the blazing summer heat and the group appeared to have run out of water.
Cayman officials confirmed that immigration officers were at the scene. "It appears that two of the migrants were here before and were repatriated in early January," said spokesperson Bina Mani.
Estimates are that 200 to 300 Cuban migrants have passed through the Cayman Islands so far this year and stopped for various reasons including bad weather, engine problems or lack of water.
Angelo estimated only one in 10 boats make it to Honduras.
Local islanders calculate that at least double that number pass near Cayman Islands without stopping, and others are intercepted by the Cuban government vessels and the United States Coast Guard.
The US Border Patrol said in late July that more than 13,500 Cubans without the proper papers had tried to cross the southwestern US border since Oct. 1, 2013, more than during all of the previous 12 months. Four years ago, the 12-month total was about 5,500.
(From last Dec.) President Obama goes out of his way to greet the lily-white dictator whose regime jailed and tortured the most black political prisoners in the modern history of the Western hemisphere.
Cuban black lynched by an all white Castroite firing- squad after "conviction" by all-white Castroite prosecutors. (while progressives worldwide CHEERED!!! themselves hoarse.) Video of lynching here.
The Castroites were affirmative-action murderers. Given that Cuba's blacks tended to side with fellow black Batista and were heavily represented in Cuba's police and military, a high proportion of the lynchings of "Batistianos" in 1959 befell Cuban blacks (not that you'd guess this from Godfather II.)
"I really like your treatment of negroes. In Cuba all negroes are marijuaneros [marijuana smokers, dope fiends] and Batistianos. (Castroite July 26 recruiter in New York to recruit Neil MaCauley, upon learning his new recruit was from Georgia, 1957.)
Our friends at WorldNetDaily help disseminate items utterly unknown outside the miniscule Cuban-American informational ghetto.
Via The Devil's Excrement:
Government Paralysis Even At The Simplest Levels In Venezuela
That ideology screws up the implementation of the Venezuelan Government’s plans is obvious. What is incredible is how the belief that the anyone can do anything (Chávez was President, Maduro follows…) has led to the total destruction of the Government. There is no longer institutionality. As people have been put in charge of institutions they had no clue about, the decision making process has ground to a halt. We are not talking about rocket science here, we are talking about simple things like printing currency, for example. A function the Venezuelan Central Bank used to cover rather efficiently. As inflation increases and monetary liquidity goes up, you have to print bills in higher denominations. It’s sort of obvious and as long as there were some technical people left at the Venezuelan Central Bank, it was routinely done.
Then the revolution and with it some military officers, arrived…
And a friendly reader who has some some form of contact or works at the Central Bank, sent me some slides of a report that has been circulating at the Central Bank for apparently quite a while.
The report enunciates the problem rather simply: From 2008 to 2011 bills in circulation in Venezuela increased in value by 210%. The report, which apparently was done in 2012, predicted similar growth in 2011 to 2014 of 192%, coming up short, but that is in the end a minor detail.
In 2011, according to the report, there were 1.6 billion Bills in Venezuela, that is 55 bills per citizen. Of these, 40% were in Bs. 50 and Bs. 100 bills. But, these two denominations represented 82% of the Bills in Venezuela by value. Thus, the report predicted, without really expecting it, that these bills would become 95% of the bills by value by 2016 if nothing was done. (Nothing has…)
Continue reading HERE.
By Miriam Celaya in Translating Cuba:
A Thief Who Steals from a Thief…
“Beds, furniture, mattresses, heaters”, is the soft cry from a reseller who prowls around the Carlos III Market entranceway. A few steps away, another dealer advertises his wares: “airs,’microgüeys’, washing machines, rice cookers, ‘Reina’ brand pots and pans…” The cries are not too loud, but measured, uttered in a tone just loud enough to reach the ears of the nearby walkers, or of those people who enter or leave the market.
Speculators move around with stealth and pretending, like one who knows well that he is operating at the margin of what is legal. So, as soon as he sees a cop or some individual he suspects of being an “inspector”, the cries are abruptly suspended. Many turn away instantly, but the more adventurous stay and buy themselves a beer and adopt the carefree air of one who just wants to cool off from the heat wave of this merciless August air. They know they don’t fool anyone, but neither can they be charged with a crime if they are not caught dealing in the illegal market.
For years, black market traders have flourished all around shops operating in foreign currencies. They speculate in several different products, from sophisticated electronics equipment to cosmetics or toothpaste. They come in quite a few categories, depending on the product they sell, but all belong to this illegal trade network that is many times more efficient than the legal markets: the chain formed by hoarders and/or burglars-resellers-receivers. There is currently an official media campaign being developed against the first two links (hoarders-resellers).Government media particularly blame those who traffic in products that are scarce, while shortages–another epidemic that has turned endemic–affect the country’s commercial trading networks.
Speculation, an evil concomitant with a society marked by material shortages of all kind.
This crusade against corruption and illegal activities, however, does not stand out for “uncorking” before public opinion the obvious problem of speculation, a concomitant evil to the system, and fitting to a society scored by material shortages of all kinds. In fact, this type of crime is nothing new, but just the opposite: we could almost state that there isn’t a “pure” Cuban who is able to survive outside of illicit trading in any of its many forms.
Thus in Cuba there is currently an unwritten law: those who do not steal at least receive stolen products. A situation that is based on the failure of the social project built on an economy that is fictitious and eternally dependent on external subsidies.
However, the official media not only points an accusing finger at the usual dealers, among which are common criminals, lazy opportunists, thugs of all kinds, thieves by vocation, and other specimens classified as social stigmas anywhere in the world but that proliferate with impunity and force in economically and morally deformed societies.
The immaculate criers of the regime also accuse of being “hoarders and resellers” those traders in the abused sector of “the self-employed” who take advantage of the shortage to profit from the sale of items previously purchased from retail networks, often by agreement with corrupt managers or employees. The self-employed are now the blackbirds [the weather] that everything gets blamed on, as were the “Free Market” farmers of the distant 80’s, and later, in the bloody Special Period of the 90’s, artisans and Cathedral Square vendors, the first outposts of self-employment.
Continue reading Reports from Cuba: A thief who steals from a thief…
More visual evidence of Cuban misery from Martha Beatriz Roque.
Here is the hovel in which a mother and her four children have lived for the past four years, in the Havana neighborhood of Guanabacoa. This is not the remote countryside. This is Havana.
The oldest child is seven years old, the second is five, the third is only eighteen months old, and the youngest is a three-month-old infant. All four are asthmatics, and the five-year-old also suffers from epileptic seizures. The youngest infant is fragile and in very poor health.
The children were fathered by three different men.
The shack measures twelve by nine feet. The zinc roof leaks. There is no electricity or running water. The privy is a ramshackle outhouse, just a few feet away.
Many of the family's quotidian activities take place outdoors, in a truly Revolutionary patio.
The young mother -- who looks like a teenager -- has been petitioning the authorities for better housing, and continually cites the poor health of her children in these pleas. But she remains stuck in this hovel, and keeps having more kids. The mother's social worker rebuffed her last request for new housing by asking: "Quién te mandó a parir tanto? (Who ordered you to have so many kids?)
Good question, one might say. But there are many others that are more pertinent:
Where are the three fathers, these "new men" who have been taught to emulate Che Guevara? Is this grim scenario the best one can expect from their Revolutionary spirit?
Where did the luxury baby stroller come from? Who paid for it?
How many more children will be born to this mother in this hell hole and how many different fathers will they have?
What does the future hold in store for these children?
Where are the reporters from AP, Reuters, CNN, PBS, etc.... ? Where are Michael Moore's cameras? Where are the people-to-people tours?