Baseball and the crisis in Venezuela

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For decades, the Caribbean Series was baseball at its most passionate level.

The series was played between the professional winter league champions from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.

Cuba dropped off in the 1960’s, and it was replaced by other countries.

My parents, and grandparents, told me lots of stories about these championships, from watching the games in Havana to catching them on the radio, and later TV in the 1950s. It was like watching the Yankees and the Red Sox play a double-header every day for two weeks.

In recent years, big contracts have discouraged many major-leaguers from playing winter ball. Nevertheless, the pressure on the local players is intense, from Minnie Minoso in pre-Castro Cuba to Ivan Rodriguez in recent years.

MLB has just advised its players to stay away from Venezuela, as we see in this report:

Major League Baseball is recommending in the “strongest terms” that players and staff not travel to Venezuela for the Caribbean Series, which is to start Feb. 2.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared he was temporarily assuming presidential powers in a bid to unseat Nicolas Maduro.

President Donald Trump this week supported Guaido’s claim to power.

Maduro called home all Venezuelan diplomats from the U.S. and closed its embassy in Washington.

MLB says in a statement Friday the commissioner’s office is “actively seeking advice on the political, legal, and safety implications of this still-developing situation, and we will inform clubs of any effects as soon as they become clear.”

MLB adds: “In the meantime, we advise club personnel in the strongest terms to immediately cease travel to Venezuela for any reason.”

MLB’s position is understandable.  Nevertheless, it’s sad to see this happen.

Once upon a time, I heard the expression that revolutions never happen during the baseball season.

Well, that was then, and this is now. It looks as though baseball is taking a back seat to what we see in the streets of Venezuela.

Let’s hope that we can play ball next year.

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Does Hugo Chavez still inspire Sean Penn?

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Not long ago, Sean Penn embraced socialism in Cuba and Venezuela in an effort to establish his left-wing credentials.

Remember when Penn said that Hugo Chavez was an “inspiration”? As my late father used to say:   “Que estupidez,” or translated, “What stupidity.”

Down in Venezuela, the opposition to Maduro could use a little support. Over the last 24 hours, the opposition leader was arrested as we see in news reports:

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Sunday said that President Nicolas Maduro’s adversaries were “not afraid” even though he was briefly detained by intelligence agents, days after announcing he would be willing to replace the increasingly isolated president.

Mr. Guaido represents a lot of Venezuelans. I am delighted that President Jair Bolsonaro announced that Brazil recognizes him as the president.

We’ve reached a point where Maduro cannot govern the country. Venezuela is about as polarized as any nation in the world.

What should happen next? The U.S. should follow Brazil’s example and demand Maduro’s resignation.

In the meantime, the media should be calling Sean Penn and get statements about Maduro and the current state of Venezuela.

PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Wonder if El Chapo knows who is stealing the gasoline in Mexico?

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Down in Mexico, he is AMLO, or Presidente Andrés Manuel López-Obrador.

As you know, he won a big election in Mexico last July and assumed the presidency on December 1.

So far, President López-Obrador cannot be happy with the items on his agenda.  My good guess is that he did not plan to spend the early days of his presidency enhancing security on the Guatemala border or chasing down criminals stealing gasoline.

Down on their southern border, Mexico will get proactive to prevent the entry of illegal aliens.  I wonder what will happen when that other caravan from Honduras reaches the Guatemala-Mexico border!  According to my contacts in Mexico, public opinion is against allowing these people into the country.

Around Mexico City, a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people and God only knows how many millions of automobiles, there is a shortage of gasoline.

This is from news reports:

A major fuel pipeline that supplies Mexico City remained closed after two ruptures in a single day, the president said on Friday, as the government works to stem shortages that have frustrated motorists and triggered economic risks.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s offensive against fuel robbers marks the leftist’s first attempt to tackle entrenched corruption since taking office on Dec. 1.

Criminal groups have tapped pipelines and stolen tanker trucks carrying diesel and gasoline in the oil-producing country for years, costing the government billions of dollars.

The government will assign 8,300 police and 1,400 security vehicles over the next 48 hours to safeguard fuel trucks so they can deliver to gas stations, said Mexico’s National Chamber of Freight Transport (CANACAR).

The economy is an issue, but there are bigger questions.

Who is behind this operation to steal gasoline from pipelines?  It has to be a major criminal enterprise, or cartels.  It’s hard for me to believe that these are teenagers pulling off a Friday night prank.  The operation has all of the makings of a disciplined project, or people who know where the pipelines are and own the tools to steal the gasoline.

Maybe they should question El Chapo about this!

Are any PEMEX officials behind the thefts?  I just heard from a Mexican friend that PEMEX officials are stealing the gasoline and selling it under the table to retailers.  I can’t confirm that but my friend said it’s true!

It’s complicated, as everything in Mexico always is.

Again, ask El Chapo about these shortages!

In the meantime, get ready for some long gas lines if you are driving down to Mexico.

This is not the way that Lopez-Obrador had planned to spend first first 45 days!

PS: You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Bolsonaro off and running down in Brazil

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During the presidential campaign, many of my Brazilian friends voted for Mr. Bolsonaro but doubted that he’d keep his campaign promises. It was sort of the Portuguese version of “all politicians make promises, you know.”

Yes, all politicians say things during the campaign that come back to haunt them, from “Mexico will pay for the wall” to “I will close Guantanamo.”

Down in Brazil, President Bolsonaro ran a very specific campaign by promising to end support for Cuban doctors, get tough on Venezuela, crack down on criminals making life miserable in most of the country, and stop people from coming into the country.

So far, he is fulfilling his promise about Cuban doctors and isolating Venezuela.

Let’s add another one:  President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil said Wednesday that his government would no longer be a party to a United Nations migration accord signed last month, arguing that “not just anyone can come into our home.”

This is a big promise for two reasons.  First, he is not going along with the UN or rejecting a corrupt organization.  Second, he is letting everyone know that he is looking out for Brazil.

So far, Bolsonaro is the real thing and moving beyond “Lula”.  In the end, that’s good news for Brazil!

PS:    You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

It’s time for Maduro to step aside

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Last May, they had an election in Venezuela and lots of people in and out of the country did not buy the results.

This week, a group of Latin American countries are calling on Maduro to step aside, as we see in this report from The New York Times:

Thirteen nations announced on Friday that they would not recognize the legitimacy of the new presidential term of Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who is set to be inaugurated next week for a second time.

Diplomats from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and St. Lucia issued a joint statement after meeting in the Peruvian capital, denouncing last year’s election as flawed and urging Mr. Maduro to hand power to the opposition-controlled National Assembly until another election could be held.

So what will Maduro do? It depends who you ask; you get answers both ways.

My favorite answer came from a Venezuelan friend in Dallas. He is here and trying to get his wife out of the country. Back home, he was a journalist and ran into trouble with the regime over news reporting.

His position is that Maduro is waiting for a deal, or some kind of guarantee that he won’t be jailed and protection for his team.
Who would be in a position to give him a sanctuary?

Cuba is out because the regime is calling on citizens to tighten their belts again.

Mexico is out because they don’t like to get involved.

Brazil is out because new President Jair Bolsonaro would probably throw Maduro in jail with Lula.

Colombia is not going to do it. Forget Argentina.

It leaves two options: Canada or Spain. My guess is that Spain would be a better fit because of the natural historical relationship between the two countries.

No matter where he goes, my sense is that Maduro would like an option to get out. The alternative is to stay as president and that’s not going to work.

PS:   You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Vlad in Caracas!

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We know two things about Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro. Putin loves to navigate in choppy waters and stick it to the U.S. Maduro is desperately looking for a “sugar daddy”.

We learned that Russia is active down in Venezuela, to say the least:

In exchange for modest loans and bailouts over the past decade, Russia now owns significant parts of at least five oil fields in Venezuela, which holds the world’s largest reserves, along with 30 years’ worth of future output from two Caribbean natural-gas fields.

Venezuela also has signed over 49.9 percent of Citgo, its wholly owned company in the United States — including three Gulf Coast refineries and a countrywide web of pipelines — as collateral to Russia’s state-owned Rosneft oil behemoth for a reported $1.5 billion in desperately needed cash.

Russian advisers are inside the Venezuelan government, helping direct the course of President Nicolás Maduro’s attempts to bring his failing government back from bankruptcy. They helped orchestrate this year’s introduction of a new digital currency, the “Petro,” to keep oil payments flowing while avoiding U.S. sanctions on the country’s dollar transactions.

Venezuela’s still-formidable defense force, once an exclusively U.S. client, is now equipped with Russian guns, tanks and planes, financed with prepaid oil deliveries to Russian clients. Maduro scoffed last year at President Trump’s public threat to use the U.S. military to bring him down, saying Venezuela, with Russian help, had turned itself into a defensive “fortress.”

When will see Russians walking around Caracas or enjoying the beaches as they did in circa 1961-Cuba? As my parents used to tell me, the big joke in Cuba back then was about the super “white skin colors” of the new visitors. Cubans were asking each other whether anybody in Russia ever got a suntan.

What’s Putin up to? What military advantage is there in placing bombers in Venezuela? Wouldn’t they be taken out within minutes in the event of a crisis?

What’s Maduro up to? I spoke with several of my local Venezuelan friends and they don’t see much upside for Maduro.

First, it’s going to take a lot of cash to bail out Venezuela and I’m not sure that Putin has it or is that generous.

Second, Venezuelans are already furious with the Cuban presence. What makes you think that they are going to love their new Russian suitors? At least, they can argue with the Cubans and tell them where to go in “expletive deleted” Spanish.

Third, what about the legal implications of Citgo used as collateral? Are there investor lawsuits in the future?

Again, my friends in Venezuela are hoping that this is the opportunity for President Trump to intervene. I don’t think that will happen but it depends of what Putin’s intentions are.

Putin in Caracas? Something to keep an eye on.

PS:  You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

“Noche Buena & Navidad”: Remember the military families!

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Once again, thousands of families will spend Christmas away from their husbands, daughters & and sons. In our case, our third son was in the US Army and spent four holiday seasons away from home.

We appreciate these families. I remember how emotional it was to salute the young people in our church who made it home for the holidays. It was quite an impressive scene with all of those elegant uniforms as well.

We appreciate the ones serving the country, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the Korean peninsula to the fleet protecting the oil flow in The Straits of Hormuz. They are doing very important work.

Here a few details about military families:

More than 1.3 million men and women currently serve in the U.S. military.
Of those, roughly 55 percent are married and 43 percent have children.

Remember that more than 52,000 U.S. Service members have been wounded in action since 9/11! Many more have suffered from combat-related stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Often, the military family is impacted directly by this.

It goes without saying that the world is safer because our armed forces are defending freedom.

If you can, salute a military family in your neighborhood. They will appreciate it a lot. They may not show it but there is an empty chair at the Christmas table this year.

PS:   You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.

Apollo 8 and my mother saying “Que cosa mas grande Dios mio”!

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50 years ago, our family was celebrating our 5th “Navidad” in Wisconsin. As usual, we had a big “Noche Buena” meal and headed to the midnight mass. We were very fortunate that my father had the night off.  He worked at a hotel and generally on duty during holidays.

1968 was actually a very tough year for everyone. There were riots all over the world, from Paris to Detroit. It was chaotic to say the least, from the assassinations of Reverend Martin Luther King to Senator Robert F. Kennedy.  We had a very divisive political campaign, from Governor George Wallace to the police battling rioters at the Democrat Convention in Chicago.  Over in Prague, Warsaw Pact tanks crushed the opposition without mercy. It was memorable for those of us who remember. And the #1 song of the  year was “Hey Jude”, a 7-minute 45 by The Beatles with “Revolution” on the B-side!

Yet, 1968 ended with a bit of good news.

Apollo 8 went around the moon and gave us the most memorable moment of 1968.

I can still remember Christmas 1968 and listening to the 3 astronauts reading from Genesis somewhere around the moon.

It was one of those moments that will live with me forever.

And my mother reacting to the whole thing saying:  “Que cosa mas grande Dios mio”.

PS:   You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.    And here is the message from the moon:



Adios Macron!

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We learned that President Macron has backed down, or made a U-turn on his newest global warming fuel tax, according to news reports.

U-turn? It looks more like hitting the brakes and driving off the road!

President Macron made two big mistakes here:

First, he can’t relate to people living in the real world.

It’s one thing to talk about climate change with a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t drive to work or who take public transportation.

It’s quite another to force a bunch of French commuters, farmers, and tradesmen to pay more for gasoline so that President Macron can get accolades from the bureaucrats at The European Union or ex-President Obama.

Climate change is one of those topics that makes a lot people feel relevant and smart. Just talk to them. They tell you that they are saving mankind from The Big Flood coming — whenever it comes. Or they want to protect Africa from starvation. Or they tell you that those fires in California are the direct consequences of some of us driving a large SUV or truck.

Of course, they want more taxes and control over our lives. Why not? They are smart and we are not!

Second, and perhaps more consequential, President Macron forgot one of Napoleon’s rules of leadership: “When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna“!

In other words, President Macron cracked under pressure. He will now be seen as weak. Everyone in France with something to protest about will now burn and burn more cars. Get your car out of Paris unless you want it to go up in smoke.

Is it over for President Macron? Probably.

Is it over for climate change politics? Absolutely! Don’t expect another democratically elected leader in the West to call for a carbon tax to save us from floods and fires.

PS:   You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow my blog.

Lopez-Obrador faces big challenges

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On Saturday afternoon, we watched newly inaugurated Presidente Andrés López-Obrador speak before Congress. He saluted Vice President Pence, Mrs. Pence,  Ivanka Trump and said President Trump had treated him respectfully since the election. It was a generous move and a hopeful sign of better relations to come.

Then he went on to deliver a message about corruption and poverty. He didn’t really say much, but I did not expect specifics.

Presidente López-Obrador faces various challenges, starting with the caravan and a very skeptical middle class that voted for the other candidates.

Down in Tijuana, an angry mayor and citizens want nothing to do with the caravan.

Then you have the matter of domestic politics.

On the left, Presidente LO is under pressure to keep a ton of promises.  On the right, he faces a business community not sure if he will spend all of that money promised in the campaign.  After all, it is the business sector that will pay the taxes!

Then there is the peso eroding in the background.

Today’s peso won’t be devalued because it floats in the marketplace. However, the erosion could be quick, and foreign companies may hold up investments in a heartbeat.

As my Mexican friend said on the phone Sunday morning, López-Obrador raised expectations, and now he has to deliver!  Can he deliver without tearing up the country?

PS:   You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow my blog.

Churchill and socialism

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We remember that the great Winston Churchill was born on this day in 1874.  He died in 1965,

Churchill was one of the giants of the 20th century as well as a lover of Cuban cigars.

And this is what he said socialism:

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

P.S.   You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.