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Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters “We Are Coming For You”; Calls John Kerry A “Murderer” | Zero Hedge

Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters “We Are Coming For You”; Calls John Kerry A “Murderer” | Zero Hedge.

As the daily street protests grow bloodier and bloodier, Venezuelan President Maduro has escalated his comments today, exclaiming that he “won’t be bullied,” and warning “prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” if protesters don’t “go home within hours.”

  • *VENEZUELAN PROTESTERS HAVE ‘HOURS’ TO CLEAR BARRICADES: MADURO
  • *MADURO SAYS HE’LL SEND ARMED FORCES TO ‘LIBERATE’ PROTEST AREAS

With 28 dead in the last month of protests, things are very serious but as we warned previously, Maduro still enjoying the support of the poor – as EuroNews reports, it appears he is not going anywhere soonJohn Kerry also came under fire as the foreign minister called him “a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests.

As Bloomberg reports,

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro says he will send armed forces to clear barricaded areas if “protesters don’t go home within hours.”

“Prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” Maduro tells soldiers at army event in Caracas

Plaza Altamira in eastern Caracas, the center of the protests, first to be “liberated,” Maduro says

As tensions with the US continue to rise:

The United States on Friday brushed aside “absurd” accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that it was meddling in the country’s internal affairs by intervening in anti-government protests.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua had earlier called top US diplomat John Kerry a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests that have killed 28 people in five weeks.

“The solution to Venezuela’s problems lies in democratic dialogue among Venezuelans, not in repression or in hurling verbal brickbats at the United States,” a state department official said on condition of anonymity.

“Venezuela’s government needs to focus on solving its growing economic and social problems, not on making absurd allegations against the United States.”

Maduro, however, charged that “the desperate government interventionism of the United States is clear.”

“There’s a slew of statements, threats of sanctions, threats of intervention. There has been lobbying by the highest officials in the US government,” he said.

As Stratfor notesthese protests could mark a turning point as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quoPerhaps things could be changing for Maduro…

Relatively large student-led opposition protests convened in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and many other cities throughout the country. Rough Stratfor estimates put the crowd in Caracas at between 15,000-20,000 people based on aerial photos posted on social media. Venezuela’s students are very politically active and protests are frequent. However, the relatively large turnout and widespread geographic distribution of this week’s protests indicate that the movement may be gaining traction.

The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.

But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.

How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.

Perhaps it is the use of armed forces directly and aggressively that will roil the “poor”‘s perspective – we will see

Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters "We Are Coming For You"; Calls John Kerry A "Murderer" | Zero Hedge

Maduro Warns Venezuelan Protesters “We Are Coming For You”; Calls John Kerry A “Murderer” | Zero Hedge.

As the daily street protests grow bloodier and bloodier, Venezuelan President Maduro has escalated his comments today, exclaiming that he “won’t be bullied,” and warning “prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” if protesters don’t “go home within hours.”

  • *VENEZUELAN PROTESTERS HAVE ‘HOURS’ TO CLEAR BARRICADES: MADURO
  • *MADURO SAYS HE’LL SEND ARMED FORCES TO ‘LIBERATE’ PROTEST AREAS

With 28 dead in the last month of protests, things are very serious but as we warned previously, Maduro still enjoying the support of the poor – as EuroNews reports, it appears he is not going anywhere soonJohn Kerry also came under fire as the foreign minister called him “a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests.

As Bloomberg reports,

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro says he will send armed forces to clear barricaded areas if “protesters don’t go home within hours.”

“Prepare yourself, we are coming for you,” Maduro tells soldiers at army event in Caracas

Plaza Altamira in eastern Caracas, the center of the protests, first to be “liberated,” Maduro says

As tensions with the US continue to rise:

The United States on Friday brushed aside “absurd” accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that it was meddling in the country’s internal affairs by intervening in anti-government protests.

Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua had earlier called top US diplomat John Kerry a “murderer of the Venezuelan people,” accusing him of encouraging the protests that have killed 28 people in five weeks.

“The solution to Venezuela’s problems lies in democratic dialogue among Venezuelans, not in repression or in hurling verbal brickbats at the United States,” a state department official said on condition of anonymity.

“Venezuela’s government needs to focus on solving its growing economic and social problems, not on making absurd allegations against the United States.”

Maduro, however, charged that “the desperate government interventionism of the United States is clear.”

“There’s a slew of statements, threats of sanctions, threats of intervention. There has been lobbying by the highest officials in the US government,” he said.

As Stratfor notesthese protests could mark a turning point as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quoPerhaps things could be changing for Maduro…

Relatively large student-led opposition protests convened in Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and many other cities throughout the country. Rough Stratfor estimates put the crowd in Caracas at between 15,000-20,000 people based on aerial photos posted on social media. Venezuela’s students are very politically active and protests are frequent. However, the relatively large turnout and widespread geographic distribution of this week’s protests indicate that the movement may be gaining traction.

The challenge that the student movement will face is in finding a way to include Venezuela’s laboring class, which for the most part still supports the government, and relies on its redistributive policies. Their inability to rouse broad support across Venezuela’s social and economic classes was in part why previous student uprisings, including significant protests in 2007, failed to generate enough momentum to trigger a significant political shift.

But the situation has changed in Venezuela, and as the economic situation deteriorates there is a chance that protests like this could begin to generate additional social momentum in rejection of the status quo. President Nicolas Maduro has been in office for less than a year, and in that time the inflation rate has surged to over 50 percent and food shortages are a daily problem. Though firmly in power, the Chavista government is still struggling to address massive social and economic challenges. Massive government spending, years of nationalization and an overreliance on imports for basic consumer goods have radically deteriorated inflation levels, and undermined industrial production.

How the government responds will play a key role in the development of these protests going forward. The government cannot afford to crack down too hard without risking even worse unrest in the future. For its part, the mainstream opposition must walk a careful line between supporting the sentiment behind open unrest and being seen as destabilizing the country. Maduro retains the power to punish opposition politicians, and reaffirmed that Feb. 11 when he stated on national television that he intends to renew the law allowing him to outlaw political candidates who threaten the peace of the country. The statement was a clear shot over the bow of opposition leaders, and may foreshadow a more aggressive government policy designed to limit political opposition.

Perhaps it is the use of armed forces directly and aggressively that will roil the “poor”‘s perspective – we will see

Venezuela Also Is Being Overthrown By The Criminal Regime In Washington — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org

Venezuela Also Is Being Overthrown By The Criminal Regime In Washington — Paul Craig Roberts – PaulCraigRoberts.org.

Dear Readers, now that US Secretary of State John Kerry has issued an ultimatum to Russia, telling Putin that he has until Monday to follow Washington’s orders or else,
hopefully everyone can see the repeat of the March of Folly that produced World War 1.
In my last column, “Merkel Whores For Washington,” I mistakenly attributed to Khrushchev all transfers of Russian territory to Ukraine. The first gifts of Russian territories to Ukraine were made by Lenin, and the last was Sevastopol in the early 1990s. I have posted today Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s account of how Russian territory was given to Ukraine. In the meantime, Washington’s puppet regime in Kiev has sent in thugs to commit violence against protesting Russians who want nothing to do with Washington’s stooges in Kiev, prompting Russia to issue another warning that the Russian military will protect Russians. Clearly, Washington is doing everything it can to provoke Putin into sending the Russian Army into eastern Ukraine. Now that Merkel has sold out Europe, the course of Ukrainian events seems clear, which provides an opportunity for me to address Washington’s coup-in-the-making against Venezuela.

Venezuela Also Is Being Overthrown By The Criminal Regime In Washington

Paul Craig Roberts

The Washington orchestrated coup in Ukraine has kept Venezuela out of the headlines.
A confrontation with nuclear armed Russia is more dangerous than with Venezuela. But the violence that Washington has unleashed on Venezuela almost simultaneously with Ukraine is testimony to Washington’s stark criminality.

South America has always consisted of a tiny Spanish elite with all the money and power ruling over large majority populations of indigenous peoples who have not had political representation. In Venezuela, Chavez broke this pattern. An indigenous president was elected who represented the people and worked in their behalf instead of looting the country. Chavez became a role model, and indigenous presidents were elected in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Chavez was hated by Washington and demonized by American presstitutes. When Chavez died of cancer, Washington celebrated.

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, was inclined in favor of granting asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Consequently, Washington ordered its European puppet states to deny overflight permission to President Morales’ airplane on its return to Bolivia from Russia. Morales’ airplane, in violation of every diplomatic protocol, was forced down and searched. Morales has since suffered other indignities at the hands of the Washington criminals.

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, made himself a target of Washington by granting political asylum to Julian Assange. On Washington’s orders, Washington’s British puppet state has refused to grant free passage to Assange, and Assange is spending his life in the London Embassy of Ecuador, just as Cardinal Mindszenty spent his life in the US Embassy in Communist Hungary.

With Chavez’s death, indigenous Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro became president. Maduro does not have Chavez’s charisma, which makes him an easier target for the tiny Spanish elite that owns the media.

Washington began the attack on Maduro by attacking the Venezuelan currency and driving down its value in currency markets. Then university students, many of whom are the children of the rich Spanish elites, were sent out to protest. The falling Venezuelan currency raised prices and spread dissatisfaction among Maduro’s poor indigenous base. To put down the rioting, property damage, and unrest that Washington is using to launch a coup, Maduro had to turn to the police. Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled the government’s effort to reestablish public order and forestall a coup a “terror campaign against its own citizens.”

Having orchestrated the protests and plotted a coup, Kerry blamed Maduro for the violence that Kerry unleashed and called on Maduro “to respect human rights.”

For Washington, it is always the same script. Commit a crime and blame the victim.

If Washington can overthrow Maduro, the next target will be Correa. If Washington can get rid of Correa and re-empower a puppet government of rich Spanish elites, Washington can have the Ecuadoran government revoke the political asylum that Correa granted to Julian Assange. The Ecuadoran Embassy in London will be ordered to kick Assange out into the waiting arms of the British police who will send him to Sweden who will send him to Washington to be tortured until he confesses to whatever Washington demands.

The poor gullible dupes demonstrating in Venezuelan streets have no more idea of the damage they are doing to themselves and others than their counterparts in Ukraine had. Venezuelans have already forgot what life for them was like under the rule of the Spanish elites. It appears that Venezuelans are determined to help Washington to return them to their servitude.

If Washington reconquers Venezuela and Ecuador, Bolivia will be next. Then Brazil. Washington has its sights on Brazil, because the country is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), and Washington intends to destroy this organization before the countries can establish a trading bloc that does not use the US
dollar.

Not long ago a US official said that as soon as we (Washington) get Russia in a bind, we will deal with the upstarts in South America.

The program is on schedule.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |.

March 6, 2014 | Author 

Happy Death of Chavez Day

Venezuela  commemorated the late ‘Commandante’ Hugo Chavez on Wednesday – as is so often the case, the fact that the dear leader of the revolution is no longer among the quick probably helped with a good bit of nostalgic transmogrification.

One feels reminded of the many crying babushkas in the streets of Moscow when news of Stalin’s departure from this earthly plane hit, even while his former colleagues in the party probably got ready for a week of vodka-drenched partying to celebrate the psychopathic tyrant’s demise. No longer did they have to worry about who was going to be purged next.

Chavez was of course no Stalin (not by a long shot), we merely want to highlight that no matter how bad a ruler, once he goes to his eternal reward, many of those left behind begin to see him in a better light than he probably deserves. Chavez did of course shower some of Venezuela’s oil riches on the poor, and they loved him for it. However, he incidentally ran the country’s oil industry into the ground, so it was a decidedly mixed blessing, by dint of being completely unsustainable and leaving everybody poorer in the end.

Anyway, there may be a subtle subconscious message in the fact that the rulers of Venezuela have decided to commemorate Chavez’s death rather than his birth. Just saying.

As it happens, the timing was fortuitous from president Maduro’s perspective, as he has an ongoing counter-revolution problem on his hands. He used the opportunity to try to imitate the dear departed “Commandante” by declaring Panama a lapdog of the capitalist enemy deserving to be banned from polite socialist company. Chavez’ cousin meanwhile spontaneously dispensed some valuable advice to Maduro.

Reuters reports:

“Followers of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez flooded the streets of Venezuela on Wednesday for the anniversary of his death, an emotional but welcome distraction for his successor from violent protests raging for the last month.

A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, his self-proclaimed “son,” President Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his rule from an explosion of anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths since February.

Though the protests do not appear likely to topple Maduro, neither do they seem to be going away. A hard core of students are determined to maintain street barricades and militant opposition leaders organize daily rallies around Venezuela. Wednesday’s military parade and other events to honor “El Comandante” gave Maduro, 51, an opportunity to reclaim the streets and show that he too can mobilize his supporters.

“This anniversary is enormously sad. There’s not a single day I don’t remember Hugo,” Chavez’s cousin, Guillermo Frias, 60, said from Los Rastrojos village in rural Barinas state, where the pair used to play baseball as kids.

“He changed Venezuela forever, and we cannot go back. Maduro also is a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine. Perhaps he just needs a stronger hand,” he told Reuters.

Tens of thousands of red-clad “Chavistas” gathered for rallies in Caracas and elsewhere in honor of Chavez, whose 14-year rule won him the adoration of many of Venezuela’s poorest, while alienating the middle and upper classes. Cannon-shots marked the precise time of his death, 4:25 p.m.

Maduro used the occasion to announce the breaking of diplomatic and commercial ties with Panama, whose conservative government he accused of joining the United States in “open conspiracy” against him.

“We’re not going to let anyone get away with interfering with our fatherland, you despicable lackey, president of Panama,” Maduro said in fiery language reminiscent of Chavez.”

(emphasis added)

Poor Maduro just ‘needs a stronger hand’. Doesn’t every good leader? Well, he sure showed that ‘despicable lackey’, the president of Panama. We have no idea what the latter actually did to become the target of such opprobrium. However, Panama reportedly has a great deal more economic freedom than either Venezuela or the US. You may therefore regard us as part of the despicable lackey’s fan club.

Meanwhile, although there seems to be widespread agreement that Maduro cannot be toppled by the protests, the demonstrations actually seem bigger than those seen in Kiev recently (judging just from a quick glance at the pictures, mind). The Kiev protests were probably only more visually arresting due to the constant Molotov cocktail throwing. Here is a picture from an anti-government march in Caracas last Saturday:

Venezuela Protests

A tiny handful of counter-revolutionary malcontents disturbs traffic in Caracas last Saturday. Yes,  Maduro may need a ‘stronger hand’.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

Elsewhere, currency traders on the black market seemed to celebrate Chavez’ death day as well, by temporarily pushing the bolivar’s true exchange rate higher:

black market bolivar

The ‘parallel’ bolivar strengthens to 79,50 to the dollar from its recent record low of about 90.

We have little doubt it is a selling opportunity, given that Maduro is demonstrably utterly clueless about matters economic.

For all its faults, Venezuela still has a stock market though, which gives those with assets to protect a chance to escape the effects of the inflation of the currency. Recently, the index was subject of a cosmetic 1000:1 split (an index value of 2,700 looks more credible than one of 2,700,000):


 

caracas, decade, log

A bubbly decade on the Caracas Stock Exchange. A similar stock market boom occurred in Zimbabwe, in spite of the economy imploding completely, with formal economy unemployment reportedly soaring to 80%. As Kyle Bass remarked about that particular boom: ‘In the end, you could buy three eggs with your gains’ – click to enlarge.


El Commandante Didn’t Die – He ‘Multiplied’

The celebrations were apparently not exactly lacking in unintentional comedy either:

“Maduro presided over a parade in the capital before leading crowds up to the hilltop military museum where Chavez led a 1992 coup attempt that launched his political career. His remains have been laid to rest in a marble sarcophagus there.

“Hugo Chavez passed into history as the redeemer of the poor,” the president said, comparing his mentor to both Jesus and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Prominent leftist allies including Cuban President Raul Castro joined the lavish ceremonies in Caracas.

[…]

State media have rolled out round-the-clock hagiographical coverage of the late president. Some Chavez loyalists seem barely able to use the word “death,” preferring euphemisms such as his “physical disappearance” or “sowing in the sky.”

“Chavez didn’t die; he multiplied!” said state TV.

(emphasis added)

Well, if he is comparable to Jesus, then it is presumably no wonder that he ‘multiplied’. Look at it as a kind of Chavista selfie version of the luxury miracle at the Wedding of Cana.

What is less funny is that so far, 18 people have died in the protests. The government meanwhile tried to take the edge off the demonstrations by declaring a 6 day-long carnival holiday. As one protester remarked:

“A long six-day national holiday for Carnival and now the anniversary of Chavez’s death have taken some wind out of the protests, but a rump of demonstrators stay out daily.

“Various presidents are here and we want to show them that Venezuela is sick,” said Silvana Lezama, a 20-year-old student, standing in front of a Venezuelan flag as she stood guard at a barricade in the upscale El Cafetal district of Caracas.

“We’re not insulting Chavez, but when he died last year there was a week of mourning. Now we have 18 people dead from protests and they declared five days of Carnival holiday.”

(emphasis added)

Evidently, not everybody feels like there is a good reason for celebrations at this time.

A Chicken in Every Pot Becomes a Plasma TV in Every Home

One wonders what the malcontents are complaining about. After all, Maduro promises the provision of endless material delights, the establishment of the long promised socialist Land of Cockaigne in our lifetime:

In order to combat the country’s massive inflation of over 50 percent, Maduro has introduced price controls. Shops that demand prices that he believes are too high are simply occupied. “We will guarantee everyone has a plasma television,” the president has said, and has forced stores to sell them cheaply.

“It is plundering under the aegis of the state,” says Diego Arriaformerly Venezuela’s UN ambassador. “Maduro is destroying the private sector.”

Many shops are empty, with even corn flour, milk and toilet paper subject to shortages. Lines like those seen in Cuba have become common and people are desperately trying to get their hands on dollars. “A perfect storm is brewing in Venezuela,” says Arria.

The government has been having difficulties supplying even the basics in the slums of Caracas. In the vast quarter of “23 de enero,” people stand in long lines in front of the state-run supermarket; they are issued numbers on strips of cardboard. Chavistas control entry to the store and glorify Maduro and the revolution to shoppers. Most of those waiting remain silent. Every three days, they mumble quietly when the guards aren’t paying attention, their food coupons will get them chicken from Brazil and two kilograms of flour, but nothing more.

(emphasis added)

No wonder Arria is a ‘former’ ambassador, he obviously doesn’t properly grasp the  wisdom of supplying everybody with a Plasma TV with a wave of the presidential magic wand (but not, apparently, with toilet paper and other staples). Those silent shoppers who only “mumble quietly when their guards aren’t paying attention” would make us nervous if we were a guard…

Here is a recent photograph of a store in Maracaibo:

store-empty-shelves

Maracaibo, Super Lider store. Image via @orlandobuesomir: Empty shelves in a PDVAL store in Venezuela.


Maracaibo! In the early days of personal computing we regularly conquered its fortress as one of the freebooters in Sid Meyer’s ‘Pirates’ game. Don’t worry, it was all legal, we had a letter of marque. Moreover, we managed to win the hand of the governor’s daughter after convincing her of our dancing prowess (it was a simple, but really funny game).

For some reason not all Venezuelans seem equipped with Plasma TVs yet, so something has apparently gone wrong. Could it be the fault of global warming? After all, it was just identified as being responsible for the budding ‘guacamole crisis‘, among approximately 5,000 other things it is held to be the cause of. So why not the appalling lack of Plasma TV saturation in Venezuela? Makes more sense than the old ‘socialism just doesn’t work’ canard, right?

We can however confidently state that Maduro is not completely without cunning. He sure knows whom he needs to keep on his side, even it that is allegedly not really working out the way it was supposed to either:

“Venezuela’s military has more power under Maduro, a civilian, than it did under the former officer Chávez. Maduro has handed out senior jobs to some 2,000 soldiers and the military now occupies key positions in business and controls entire companies. Late last week, Maduro sent a parachute battalion to Táchira to curtail the protests there.

But even in the military, dissatisfaction is spreading. “The soldiers just haven’t yet had the courage to open their mouths,” says one administrative employee who works in Fuerte Tiuna, a military base on the outskirts of Caracas.

Even Chávez had begun to realize that the enemy was within. He had officers and a former defense minister who had been critical of him arrested and imprisoned on charges of corruption. Some of them remain locked up in the Ramo Verde military prison not far from Caracas — just a few cells away from Leopoldo López.”

(emphasis added)

Still, buying off the military by handing its leaders ‘senior jobs’ and letting them occupy key positions in business is a strategy that has e.g. worked extremely well in Egypt, where the military controls 40% of the economy and in spite of a temporary setback continues to rule as if Mubarak had never gone away.

venezuela-0218-horizontal-galleryPolicemen during protests in Caracas. So far, they are being hit with stuff that looks a lot more harmless than the Molotov cocktails thrown in Kiev.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

As one Chavista told reporters (also dispensing advice to the hapless Maduro, so that he may ‘find his own voice’ one day):

Maduro’s had it tough. He has to find his own path, his own ideas, his own speech. He’s not Chavez. The commander is gone; we can’t mourn him permanently. There’s so much work to do, errors to correct,” said Marisol Aponte, a diehard “Chavista” and community activist from a poor zone of west Caracas.

She urged Maduro to purge his cabinet and modernize Chavez-era social programs.”

(emphasis added)

There you go! A good, old-fashioned purge! Even if Chavez failed at this task,  Maduro has an opportunity to one-up him that he only needs to firmly grasp, by ruthlessly employing that ‘strong hand’ Chavez’ cousin is pining for. Can he perhaps become like Stalin?

Naah. Not with that attire:

 


 

maduro-bird-hat

Nicolas Maduro, wearing a landing pad for errant birds.

(Photo via Reuters)

 


 

 

Charts by: BigCharts, dolares.eu

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |

Meanwhile, in Venezuela … |.

March 6, 2014 | Author 

Happy Death of Chavez Day

Venezuela  commemorated the late ‘Commandante’ Hugo Chavez on Wednesday – as is so often the case, the fact that the dear leader of the revolution is no longer among the quick probably helped with a good bit of nostalgic transmogrification.

One feels reminded of the many crying babushkas in the streets of Moscow when news of Stalin’s departure from this earthly plane hit, even while his former colleagues in the party probably got ready for a week of vodka-drenched partying to celebrate the psychopathic tyrant’s demise. No longer did they have to worry about who was going to be purged next.

Chavez was of course no Stalin (not by a long shot), we merely want to highlight that no matter how bad a ruler, once he goes to his eternal reward, many of those left behind begin to see him in a better light than he probably deserves. Chavez did of course shower some of Venezuela’s oil riches on the poor, and they loved him for it. However, he incidentally ran the country’s oil industry into the ground, so it was a decidedly mixed blessing, by dint of being completely unsustainable and leaving everybody poorer in the end.

Anyway, there may be a subtle subconscious message in the fact that the rulers of Venezuela have decided to commemorate Chavez’s death rather than his birth. Just saying.

As it happens, the timing was fortuitous from president Maduro’s perspective, as he has an ongoing counter-revolution problem on his hands. He used the opportunity to try to imitate the dear departed “Commandante” by declaring Panama a lapdog of the capitalist enemy deserving to be banned from polite socialist company. Chavez’ cousin meanwhile spontaneously dispensed some valuable advice to Maduro.

Reuters reports:

“Followers of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez flooded the streets of Venezuela on Wednesday for the anniversary of his death, an emotional but welcome distraction for his successor from violent protests raging for the last month.

A year after Chavez succumbed to cancer, his self-proclaimed “son,” President Nicolas Maduro, faces the biggest challenge to his rule from an explosion of anti-government demonstrations that have led to 18 deaths since February.

Though the protests do not appear likely to topple Maduro, neither do they seem to be going away. A hard core of students are determined to maintain street barricades and militant opposition leaders organize daily rallies around Venezuela. Wednesday’s military parade and other events to honor “El Comandante” gave Maduro, 51, an opportunity to reclaim the streets and show that he too can mobilize his supporters.

“This anniversary is enormously sad. There’s not a single day I don’t remember Hugo,” Chavez’s cousin, Guillermo Frias, 60, said from Los Rastrojos village in rural Barinas state, where the pair used to play baseball as kids.

“He changed Venezuela forever, and we cannot go back. Maduro also is a poor man, like us. He’s handling things fine. Perhaps he just needs a stronger hand,” he told Reuters.

Tens of thousands of red-clad “Chavistas” gathered for rallies in Caracas and elsewhere in honor of Chavez, whose 14-year rule won him the adoration of many of Venezuela’s poorest, while alienating the middle and upper classes. Cannon-shots marked the precise time of his death, 4:25 p.m.

Maduro used the occasion to announce the breaking of diplomatic and commercial ties with Panama, whose conservative government he accused of joining the United States in “open conspiracy” against him.

“We’re not going to let anyone get away with interfering with our fatherland, you despicable lackey, president of Panama,” Maduro said in fiery language reminiscent of Chavez.”

(emphasis added)

Poor Maduro just ‘needs a stronger hand’. Doesn’t every good leader? Well, he sure showed that ‘despicable lackey’, the president of Panama. We have no idea what the latter actually did to become the target of such opprobrium. However, Panama reportedly has a great deal more economic freedom than either Venezuela or the US. You may therefore regard us as part of the despicable lackey’s fan club.

Meanwhile, although there seems to be widespread agreement that Maduro cannot be toppled by the protests, the demonstrations actually seem bigger than those seen in Kiev recently (judging just from a quick glance at the pictures, mind). The Kiev protests were probably only more visually arresting due to the constant Molotov cocktail throwing. Here is a picture from an anti-government march in Caracas last Saturday:

Venezuela Protests

A tiny handful of counter-revolutionary malcontents disturbs traffic in Caracas last Saturday. Yes,  Maduro may need a ‘stronger hand’.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

Elsewhere, currency traders on the black market seemed to celebrate Chavez’ death day as well, by temporarily pushing the bolivar’s true exchange rate higher:

black market bolivar

The ‘parallel’ bolivar strengthens to 79,50 to the dollar from its recent record low of about 90.

We have little doubt it is a selling opportunity, given that Maduro is demonstrably utterly clueless about matters economic.

For all its faults, Venezuela still has a stock market though, which gives those with assets to protect a chance to escape the effects of the inflation of the currency. Recently, the index was subject of a cosmetic 1000:1 split (an index value of 2,700 looks more credible than one of 2,700,000):


 

caracas, decade, log

A bubbly decade on the Caracas Stock Exchange. A similar stock market boom occurred in Zimbabwe, in spite of the economy imploding completely, with formal economy unemployment reportedly soaring to 80%. As Kyle Bass remarked about that particular boom: ‘In the end, you could buy three eggs with your gains’ – click to enlarge.


El Commandante Didn’t Die – He ‘Multiplied’

The celebrations were apparently not exactly lacking in unintentional comedy either:

“Maduro presided over a parade in the capital before leading crowds up to the hilltop military museum where Chavez led a 1992 coup attempt that launched his political career. His remains have been laid to rest in a marble sarcophagus there.

“Hugo Chavez passed into history as the redeemer of the poor,” the president said, comparing his mentor to both Jesus and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Prominent leftist allies including Cuban President Raul Castro joined the lavish ceremonies in Caracas.

[…]

State media have rolled out round-the-clock hagiographical coverage of the late president. Some Chavez loyalists seem barely able to use the word “death,” preferring euphemisms such as his “physical disappearance” or “sowing in the sky.”

“Chavez didn’t die; he multiplied!” said state TV.

(emphasis added)

Well, if he is comparable to Jesus, then it is presumably no wonder that he ‘multiplied’. Look at it as a kind of Chavista selfie version of the luxury miracle at the Wedding of Cana.

What is less funny is that so far, 18 people have died in the protests. The government meanwhile tried to take the edge off the demonstrations by declaring a 6 day-long carnival holiday. As one protester remarked:

“A long six-day national holiday for Carnival and now the anniversary of Chavez’s death have taken some wind out of the protests, but a rump of demonstrators stay out daily.

“Various presidents are here and we want to show them that Venezuela is sick,” said Silvana Lezama, a 20-year-old student, standing in front of a Venezuelan flag as she stood guard at a barricade in the upscale El Cafetal district of Caracas.

“We’re not insulting Chavez, but when he died last year there was a week of mourning. Now we have 18 people dead from protests and they declared five days of Carnival holiday.”

(emphasis added)

Evidently, not everybody feels like there is a good reason for celebrations at this time.

A Chicken in Every Pot Becomes a Plasma TV in Every Home

One wonders what the malcontents are complaining about. After all, Maduro promises the provision of endless material delights, the establishment of the long promised socialist Land of Cockaigne in our lifetime:

In order to combat the country’s massive inflation of over 50 percent, Maduro has introduced price controls. Shops that demand prices that he believes are too high are simply occupied. “We will guarantee everyone has a plasma television,” the president has said, and has forced stores to sell them cheaply.

“It is plundering under the aegis of the state,” says Diego Arriaformerly Venezuela’s UN ambassador. “Maduro is destroying the private sector.”

Many shops are empty, with even corn flour, milk and toilet paper subject to shortages. Lines like those seen in Cuba have become common and people are desperately trying to get their hands on dollars. “A perfect storm is brewing in Venezuela,” says Arria.

The government has been having difficulties supplying even the basics in the slums of Caracas. In the vast quarter of “23 de enero,” people stand in long lines in front of the state-run supermarket; they are issued numbers on strips of cardboard. Chavistas control entry to the store and glorify Maduro and the revolution to shoppers. Most of those waiting remain silent. Every three days, they mumble quietly when the guards aren’t paying attention, their food coupons will get them chicken from Brazil and two kilograms of flour, but nothing more.

(emphasis added)

No wonder Arria is a ‘former’ ambassador, he obviously doesn’t properly grasp the  wisdom of supplying everybody with a Plasma TV with a wave of the presidential magic wand (but not, apparently, with toilet paper and other staples). Those silent shoppers who only “mumble quietly when their guards aren’t paying attention” would make us nervous if we were a guard…

Here is a recent photograph of a store in Maracaibo:

store-empty-shelves

Maracaibo, Super Lider store. Image via @orlandobuesomir: Empty shelves in a PDVAL store in Venezuela.


Maracaibo! In the early days of personal computing we regularly conquered its fortress as one of the freebooters in Sid Meyer’s ‘Pirates’ game. Don’t worry, it was all legal, we had a letter of marque. Moreover, we managed to win the hand of the governor’s daughter after convincing her of our dancing prowess (it was a simple, but really funny game).

For some reason not all Venezuelans seem equipped with Plasma TVs yet, so something has apparently gone wrong. Could it be the fault of global warming? After all, it was just identified as being responsible for the budding ‘guacamole crisis‘, among approximately 5,000 other things it is held to be the cause of. So why not the appalling lack of Plasma TV saturation in Venezuela? Makes more sense than the old ‘socialism just doesn’t work’ canard, right?

We can however confidently state that Maduro is not completely without cunning. He sure knows whom he needs to keep on his side, even it that is allegedly not really working out the way it was supposed to either:

“Venezuela’s military has more power under Maduro, a civilian, than it did under the former officer Chávez. Maduro has handed out senior jobs to some 2,000 soldiers and the military now occupies key positions in business and controls entire companies. Late last week, Maduro sent a parachute battalion to Táchira to curtail the protests there.

But even in the military, dissatisfaction is spreading. “The soldiers just haven’t yet had the courage to open their mouths,” says one administrative employee who works in Fuerte Tiuna, a military base on the outskirts of Caracas.

Even Chávez had begun to realize that the enemy was within. He had officers and a former defense minister who had been critical of him arrested and imprisoned on charges of corruption. Some of them remain locked up in the Ramo Verde military prison not far from Caracas — just a few cells away from Leopoldo López.”

(emphasis added)

Still, buying off the military by handing its leaders ‘senior jobs’ and letting them occupy key positions in business is a strategy that has e.g. worked extremely well in Egypt, where the military controls 40% of the economy and in spite of a temporary setback continues to rule as if Mubarak had never gone away.

venezuela-0218-horizontal-galleryPolicemen during protests in Caracas. So far, they are being hit with stuff that looks a lot more harmless than the Molotov cocktails thrown in Kiev.

(Photo by Juan Barretto / Getty Images)

As one Chavista told reporters (also dispensing advice to the hapless Maduro, so that he may ‘find his own voice’ one day):

Maduro’s had it tough. He has to find his own path, his own ideas, his own speech. He’s not Chavez. The commander is gone; we can’t mourn him permanently. There’s so much work to do, errors to correct,” said Marisol Aponte, a diehard “Chavista” and community activist from a poor zone of west Caracas.

She urged Maduro to purge his cabinet and modernize Chavez-era social programs.”

(emphasis added)

There you go! A good, old-fashioned purge! Even if Chavez failed at this task,  Maduro has an opportunity to one-up him that he only needs to firmly grasp, by ruthlessly employing that ‘strong hand’ Chavez’ cousin is pining for. Can he perhaps become like Stalin?

Naah. Not with that attire:

 


 

maduro-bird-hat

Nicolas Maduro, wearing a landing pad for errant birds.

(Photo via Reuters)

 


 

 

Charts by: BigCharts, dolares.eu

Abe Approval Rating Plunges (But Japan Is Not Venezuela, Yet) | Zero Hedge

Abe Approval Rating Plunges (But Japan Is Not Venezuela, Yet) | Zero Hedge.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has seen his approval ratings collapse for the first time since his ‘devalue-to-glory’ strategy was unveiled a year ago. Kyodo News reported, support for Mr. Abe fell 10.3ppt to 47.6%, while Japan News Network reported a 13.9-point fall to 54.6% as WSJ reports, public concern over the controversial secrecy bill (designed by Kafka, inspired by Hitler) and its nationalist overtones merelyexacerbated Japanese people’s concerns about their pocketbooks (as incomes stagnate and costs rise). As Abe plays lip service to economic issues (with a very Maduro-like speech recently on profit margins and wage increases), there is little but public outrage to hinder his plans as his ruling Liberal Democratic Party has big majorities in both houses of parliament, with no election scheduled until 2016. So much for Abenomics…

The secrecy bill has finally raised the Japanese peoples’ ire it would seem

*JAPAN UPPER HOUSE PANEL ADOPTS SECRECY BILL AMID UPROAR

*ABE: SECRETS BILL NECESSARY TO PROTECT LIVES AND PROPERTY

The right to know has now been officially superseded by the right of the government to make sure you don’t know what they don’t want you to know. It might all seems like a bad joke, except for the Orwellian nature of the bill and a key Cabinet member expressing his admiration for the Nazis, “just as Germany needed a strong man like Hitler to revive defeated Germany, Japan needs people like Abe to dynamically induce change.”

Via WSJ,

All three media surveys signaled public concern after the ruling coalition steamrolled the passage of a controversial bill to set stricter penalties for intelligence breaches amid objections from opposition parties.

Around 80% of those questioned in all three polls felt that the bill wasn’t thoroughly debated in parliament.

In a news conference Monday, Mr. Abe said it was necessary to push through the secrecy bill quickly to protect public safety, but acknowledged the criticism.

“We must sincerely and humbly accept the people’s harsh criticism,” Mr. Abe said, adding that “I myself should have taken more time to carefully explain” the bill.

Mr. Abe’s high poll numbers early in his rule created a virtuous circle that allowed him to push through policies that were seen as aiding the economy and lifting the stock market, which in turn further sustained his popularity, allowing him to win a key election, and extend his power.

His sustained high support rate over the past year has been unusual among recent Japanese prime ministers. Starting with Mr. Abe’s own first one-year term, which ended abruptly in September 2007 after his party lost an election and his popularity plunged, Japan ran through six unpopular prime ministers in six years.

One big change for Mr. Abe between his first term and his second has been his focus in his most recent stint on pulling Japan’s economy out of its long slump. Long seen as a conservative nationalist, devoted to building up Japan’s military and global clout, he devoted much of his first term to those causes.

“The Cabinet must understand the risks involved in moving ahead with Mr. Abe’s agenda,” Mr. Nakano said. “It faces a tough decision, whether to push ahead with Mr. Abe’s conservative goals, or to focus on Abenomics in a bid to revive popularity.”

So, it’s for your own good Japan…

It seems Abe is going to need to raise that stock market even more to keep his popularity…

Meanwhile, the nationalist talk continues…

  • *ABE:NO PROSPECT OF SUMMITS WITH CHINA, SOUTH KOREA NOW

And yet last night’s speeches sounded awfully like an awakening of the Maduro-style -ism of Venezuela’s control system “economy”

  • *ABE: REAL BATTLE FOR ECONOMIC RECOVERY STARTS NOW
  • *ABE CALLS FOR COMPANIES TO BOOST WAGES MORE THAN PRICE GAINS
  • *ABE SAYS TOYOTA, HITACHI EXECUTIVES PLEDGED TO RAISE WAGES

Raise wages, cut margins, or else… we can only hope this stress does not bring on another bout of chronic diarrhea (as none of these Japanese leaders are getting any younger).

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Venezuela Dispatches Army To Enforce Appliance “Fair Price” Ceiling After Looting Ensues | Zero Hedge

Venezuela Dispatches Army To Enforce Appliance “Fair Price” Ceiling After Looting Ensues | Zero Hedge.

Over the weekend, in “Venezuela Government “Occupies” Electronics Retail Chain, Enforces “Fair” Prices“, we reported that unpopular president Nicolas Maduro ordered the “occupation” of a chain of electronic goods stores in a crackdown on what the socialist government views as price-gouging hobbling the country’s economy. Various managers of the five-store, 500-employee Daka chain – the local equivalent of Best Buy – have been arrested, and the company would be forced to sell products at “fair prices.” Since then things have escalated rapidly. Because as we queried, and many wondered, the first question that arose is how would Maduro i) assure that prices were indeed kept at their “fair values” and ii) how would the cool, calm and orderly social order be preserved when suddenly everyone scrambles to buy all those flatscreens (which may have certain operational problems once the socialist paradise is hit with daily electric brown and blackouts very soon) they have been dreaming of for years. Now we know: with the help of the army.

NBC reports that in his “fight” against the economic “war” that he says the political opposition, in collusion with the United States, is waging against Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro ordered the military occupation of a chain of electronics stores over the weekend, forcing the company to charge “fair” prices. This is happening hours after Maduro also promised that he will lower prices of mobile phones: will battalion regimens be tasked with making sure iPhone 5S are sold at a net profit for Apple?

But back to serious matters such as how brilliant socialist decrees result in immediate looting:

Pictures shared on social media as well as local newspaper reports said that one store in the country’s central city of Valencia faced looting. Some critics suggested that the entire operation was a form of looting organized by the government, just in time for municipal elections in December.

“This is for the good of the nation,” Maduro said on state television. “Leave nothing on the shelves, nothing in the warehouses … Let nothing remain in stock!”

Pay attention: this is coming to every “developed” banana republic near you.

Head of the High Commission for the People’s Defence of the Economy Hebert Garcia Plaza attempted to explain the government’s decision to take over Daka on state television on Friday, accusing the chain of unfair markups.

 

From a Daka store in Caracas, the government minister tweeted a picture of a washer/dryer that “cost 39,000 VEF on November 1 and today costs 59,000 VEF, a nearly 100 percent rise in a week.”

And while observed from the outside what is going on in Venezuela is a hoot, it hardly is to those stuck in the socialist paradise:

Local economist Jose Guerra, a former Central Bank official, was critical of not just the events at Daka but the bigger picture. “Food today, hunger tomorrow,” he wrote on Twitter.

 

Venezuela’s opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, has long blamed the government for the state of the country’s economy. On Saturday, he tweeted: “Everything Maduro does leads to further destruction of the economy.”

 

“Today it’s Daka. Tomorrow it’ll be the banks where you save your money,” tweeted Maria G. Colmenares, a professor at a local university.

 

Oscar Diaz resorted to sarcasm to make his point:“Daka had flour, sugar, milk and other basics. The shortage is over! Ah sorry, they sell [appliances]! Oops.”

At this point there is little left to comment on either Venezuela, or the rest of the world that has adopted the same “fairness doctrine” principle. Best to just sit back and consume the trans-fat free popcorn.

Goldman Warns Of Venezuela Hyperinflation Threat | Zero Hedge

Goldman Warns Of Venezuela Hyperinflation Threat | Zero Hedge.

Venezuela President-Elect Warns Opposition Protests Are A Death Wish | Zero Hedge

Venezuela President-Elect Warns Opposition Protests Are A Death Wish | Zero Hedge.

 

Deaths in Venezuela post-election violence – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Deaths in Venezuela post-election violence – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

 

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