Cristal Montañéz: A Failed Criminal Narco State
Never in Venezuela’s history has there been
such widespread and shameless corruption.
As a former Miss Venezuela and a naturalized U.S. citizen, and a pro-democracy human freedom activist, I feel a tremendous responsibility and deep commitment to my country of origin.
I strongly condemn the narco-terrorist state that has befallen my country under Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez. Both men, following orders from Castro controlled Cuba, have pushed the country from democracy to dictatorship.
When I lived in Venezuela, my country was an enticing paradise and lucrative place for business. Venezuela's inviting tropical climate mirrored the folkloric, fun, and fresh personality of her people. Although the government was not perfect, my country was a peaceful, exotic and progressive melting pot. Venezuela was considered by many an example of democracy and a political model to be replicated in Latin America. Separation of power and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law characterized our government. There were food programs for the schools. The public healthcare system, Instituto Venezolano de Seguro Sociales (I.V.S.S.), was able to serve its population and offered outpatient medical services, surgery, and hospitalization as well as free prescriptions.
I remember with pride the creation of PDVSA Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), in 1975, the inauguration of the Caracas Metro in1983, and the Grand Mariscal de Ayacucho scholarship program that educated so many petroleum engineers and professionals.
Those were years of growth, efficient international relations, and much respect for Venezuela. All this was before Chávez and Maduro came to power.
CRIMINAL AND CORRUPT REGIME
For the last two decades, Venezuela has been run by two-insane-populist Fidel Castro wannabes, first Chavez and now Maduro. Both dictators supported the invasion of thousands of Cuban intelligence agents in Venezuelan military, civilian and state institutions and subsidized the Castro brothers with Venezuelan resources. Cuba has an “occupying army” in Venezuela, according to the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro.
Today, Venezuela is a failed state experiencing its worst economic crisis. Venezuelans are struggling to survive in a country with escalating criminal and political violence, and with the world’s highest inflation rate expected to reach 1,600 percent according to the International Monetary Fund. It is almost impossible to find needed medicine and basic food items. People are searching in trash cans for food. Consequently, children are suffering from malnutrition and patients are dying in contaminated hospitals. The humanitarian crisis in unsustainable, as Venezuelans are going hungry with many dying!
For the last four months, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against Maduro’s proposed illegal Constitutional Assembly, corruption, crime, violation of human rights, and to demand justice, freedom, fair elections, and Maduro’s resignation. The dictator’s forces, ‘colectivos’ (armed men on motorcycles), National Guard and local police confronted the unarmed citizens with brutal repression and violence using fire-arms and tear gas which has resulted in more than 120-people killed, over 4,000 wounded, and 5,051 people arrested, 1,383 of which remain behind bars.
The Venezuelan people expected the Venezuelan armed forces to act as defenders of the nation’s constitutional order and to intervene to restore the rule of law, but it did not happen. Defying the U.S. and the international community, Maduro annulled the elected National Assembly and illegally instituted an all-powerful Constitutional Assembly. A Cuban-style Congress, to rewrite the country’s constitution to consolidate his power as dictator.
NARCO MILITARY STATE
My father was a military man and I grew up with great respect for the men who dedicate their lives in defense of the state. The Venezuelan Constitution established that the armed forces "are at the exclusive service of the nation, and in no case at the service of any person or political partisanship."
Unfortunately, Chávez and Maduro, converted the Venezuelan armed forces, including the reserves and territorial guards, into their political appendage and ensured they serve his interests. Cubans were inserted into the Venezuelan armed forces to keep an eye out for deflectors. Most of the armed forces’ leadership are involved in drug trafficking, contraband, and other illicit activities. Now, the armed forces primary purpose is to spread political ideology and serve as "local resistance before an internal aggression or invasion of foreign forces."
STATE SPONSOR OF TERRORISM
Maduro dictatorship’s newly appointed vice president, Tareck El Aissami, was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control as a ‘drug kingpin’ for playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking and money laundering. El Aissami has close ties to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon and provides logistic and financial support to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
Furthermore, El Aissami has been accused of using information technology developed by Cuba to issue Venezuelan passports and ID’s to Middle East individuals linked to Hezbollah. Iran and Venezuela are leveraging this network to export terrorist cells and drugs to hubs in the United States and throughout North America.
Never in Venezuela’s history has there been such widespread and shameless corruption.
Before Chávez took over in 1999, the Venezuelan state-owned PDVSA was the world's second-largest energy company and one of the leading foreign suppliers of crude oil and refined petroleum products to the U.S. Under Maduro’s dictatorship, Venezuelan oil production is 20% lower than when Chávez took power.
The dictator has used the ‘poor’ as a political flag to gain power. It's communist, and militarist model is funded by oil wealth that belongs to all Venezuelans. While PDVSA resources play a significant role in the Maduro revolution in Venezuela, Citgo Petroleum (a subsidiary of PDV America a U.S. unit of PDVSA) is used as his political instrument in the U.S. to buy political loyalty. PDVSA has owned Citgo since 1980.
CASH FOR OIL
As the country’s economy deteriorates to the brink of collapse, Maduro desperately looks for cash to stay in power at all costs, and avoid debt default or a political coup. Billions of dollars are owed to Russia and China.
Many believe Maduro annulled the elected National Assembly to remove any obstacles in the way of gaining access to billions of dollars in loans from Russia’s state-owned Rosneft in exchange for Venezuelan oil to finance its revolution and bond payments. So, PDVSA placed (49.9%) of its stake in Houston-based Citgo as a bond in exchange for $1.5 billion loan made by Rosneft.
There is a serious concern that if PDVSA cannot pay its debt on time, Rosneft could take over control Citgo and its refineries. All Rosneft would have to do is to buy PDVSA's bonds to have more than 50% ownership of the Houston-based Citgo. The company has annual revenues (2004) above $32 billion ($30 billion Euros), a network of pipelines and terminal that runs through 24 states, and three U.S. refineries with a refining capacity of 749,000 barrels of crude per day. Citgo refineries are located in Texas, Louisiana, and Illinois.
U.S. Bi-Partisan Senators called on the Secretaries of State and Treasury to scrutinize the Rosneft’s deal with PDVSA since the Russian has a lot to gain through the PDVSA-Rosneft-Citgo asset transfer. The consummation of this deal would be detrimental to U.S. interests and national security.
The U.S. is committed to stand with the people of Venezuela which are suffering under this tyranny. On August 25, 2017, the U.S. Press Secretary announced financial sanctions signed by executive order on Venezuela. The sanctions prohibit financial institutions from providing new money to the Maduro dictatorship or state oil company PDVSA. It also restricts PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, from sending dividend to Venezuela and prohibits dealings in two bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector.
MOSCOW- CARACAS SEPARATE OIL DEAL
Maduro and Putin are discussing a separate oil deal that would allow Russia and Venezuela to evade additional U.S. sanctions. Under the new deal, Rosneft would exchange its collateral in Citgo for stakes in three other PDVSA oil fields in Venezuela, as well as two natural gas and fuel supply contracts, as reported by Reuters.
There is no doubt Russia is leveraging its position as Venezuela’s financier to gain more control over the OPEC nation’s crude reserves, the largest in the world. Also, Rosneft has placed itself as a trader of Venezuelan oil and resells about 225,000 barrels per day, 13 percent of Venezuela’s total production, which gives Russia a stronger position in energy markets across the U.S. and the Americas according to Reuters.
ARMS FOR OIL
According to Moscow, between 2005 and 2007, Venezuela signed 12 contracts for weapons purchases from Russia for a total of more than $4.4 billion.
Maduro’s Venezuela and Putin’s Russia deep ties in energy and defense represent a threat to U.S. interests and the stability of the region.
THREAT TO THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
Considering the Maduro dictatorship strategic alliances with North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, China, and Russia, the Venezuelan conflict is a tragedy with serious implication for our Latin American neighbors, the U.S., and the Western Hemisphere. The Trump administration has taken the first step to strengthen its relations with the countries in the area by demonstrating its commitment to work with their leadership to help rescue and sustain democracy, freedom, and security.
Cristal Montañéz a former Miss Venezuela and a pro-democracy human freedom activis. @cristalmontane Los puntos de vista expresados no necesariamente son los de Petroleumworld.
Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by International Focus (IF) Magazine, Octubre, 2017. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Petroleumworld and its owners.
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Petroleumworld News 11/13/2017
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