Over the past two decades, China has become Venezuela's most important economic partner. At one point, Venezuela was the largest recipient of Chinese loans in the whole world, making up more than half of China's loan portfolio at approximately $60 billion. While those loans have long since dried up, and Venezuela still owes China tens of billions of dollars, China remains a key political and economic lifeline for the Maduro regime, importing Venezuelan oil in spite of U.S. sanctions, gifting medical supplies to combat the COVID pandemic, and generally providing quiet but crucial diplomatic support on the international stage.
In this episode we discuss the Venezuela-China relationship. To help us break it all down, we’re joined by Parsifal D’Sola Alvarado. Parsifal is a co-founder and director of the Andrés Bello China-Latin America Research Foundation, a think tank dedicated to the investigation and analysis of Sino-Latin American relations, and serves in his dual capacity as a foreign policy advisor to the interim government of Juan Guaidó.
We discuss China's history in Venezuela and overall strategy of supporting the regime of Nicolás Maduro despite Venezuela's continuing economic devastation.
Over the past month, Venezuela’s military has launched an offensive against irregular Colombian armed groups in the western state of Apure. About eight Venezuelan soldiers have died during the operations, which have caused over 5,000 people from the area to flee across the border into Colombia.
These armed groups include dissident members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist paramilitary insurgency operating in Colombia for decades until they signed a 2016 peace treaty with the Colombian government. These dissident groups rejected the peace treaty and have been operating in clandestine rebel units accommodated by the Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro.
In this episode, we're joined by Cody Weddle, an investigative freelance journalist based in Colombia who has been reporting for ABC affiliate WPLG Local 10 News from the Colombian border town of Arauquita, speaking with Venezuelans arriving in the area to escape the violence, and hearing firsthand the sounds of gunfire and explosions from across the Arauca River.
Cody was first based out of Caracas until 2019 when a group of armed Venezuelan officers raided his apartment with a court arrest warrant for treason and espionage. After being detained for over 24 hours, he was released, put on a plane to Miami, and effectively deported from Venezuela.
We discuss the escalating combat on the Colombia-Venezuela border, as well as the refugee crisis in Colombia, the special military unit created by Venezuela for the border region, and the harrowing stories about Venezuelan troops told by Venezuelans arriving from the makeshift war zone, including arbitrary detentions and murders of civilians.
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Cody Weddle: https://www.twitter.com/coweddle
Cody Weddle's Story of Detainment in Venezuela: https://youtu.be/804ClXU9p_E
WPLG Local 10 Story on the Venezuela-Colombia border crisis: https://youtu.be/OA5DDtIJ3RY
Intro/Outro Song: tu+yo by Sad Lacra (https://youtu.be/Xaax2S74XhE)
Saknas det avsnitt?
We’re back! In this first episode of 2021, we’re joined by José Niño, a Venezuelan-born freelance writer and author based in Austin, TX. José Niño has more than a decade of experience as a political operative. He works with major organizations on a host of political issues, from gun rights to foreign policy both as a policy analyst and a copywriter. In addition, José has years of experience writing for various outlets such as Ammo.com, Gunpower Magazine, and the Mises Institute. José’s articles have also been featured on Business Insider and Zero Hedge, and he’s appeared as a guest on such programs as the Tom Woods Show and Dana Loesch’s Relentless.
We discussed the themes from José’s e-book How Socialism Destroyed Venezuela and Why the U.S. Should Stay Out. Among the topics tackled are the historical origins of Venezuela’s collapse and the macroeconomic trends of the past that have led to the totalitarian leviathan in the present. We also discussed José’s observations on the failures of gun control laws in Venezuela, as well as the China-driven realignment of the geopolitical landscape and the consequential need to reevaluate the scope of American foreign policy under and after the Biden administration.
If you enjoy the show, please consider subscribing!
— José Niño —Twitter | https://twitter.com/JoseAlNinoNewsletter | https://bit.ly/3aR4svrE-Book | https://bit.ly/3p6hGcYWebsite | https://josealnino.comPatreon | https://t.co/c5mtqlddiw?amp=1
— State of Venezuela Social Media —Twitter | http://twitter.com/stateofvzlaInstagram | @stateofvenezuelaFacebook | https://www.facebook.com/stateofvenezuela
— INTRO / OUTRO —“tu+yo” - El Sad Lacra | https://buff.ly/38kRgeRYouTube | https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh14EnawNKUbpAE73Q9LpTw
To live in Venezuela is to survive. This is the case for the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans that did not flee the country and are now under strict lockdown measures imposed by the Maduro regime. We discuss at length in this episode the hardships of surviving Venezuela in 2020.
We're joined in this episode by Jorge Jraissati, President of the Venezuelan Alliance and a fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A syndicated columnist and Foundation for Economic Education alumnus, Jorge has been crucial to organizing the international community and its efforts to achieve a political and economic change in Venezuela. He has spoken about the Venezuelan crisis at numerous universities, including Harvard, NYU, and Cambridge (UK).
We discuss the harsh difficulties Venezuelans currently face on a daily basis trying to survive lockdown measures, a nationwide fuel shortage, and rampant hyperinflation. We also discuss Venezuela and Iran circumventing sanctions imposed by the United States, and what impact the U.S. elections and Venezuela's National Assembly elections will have on the political future of the country.
Jorge Jraissati (@JraissatiJorge) | Twitter
Iran and Venezuela are Circumventing American Energy Sanctions | National Review
The Public Discourse | Jorge Jraissati
Bloomberg Venezuela Café Con Leche Inflation Index
“The world has embraced the Responsibility to Protect—not because it is easy, but because it is right.” - Ban-Ki Moon, Former United Nations Secretary-General In this episode, we’re joined by Elisabeth Pramendorfer, senior human rights officer at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, to discuss the increasing efforts by the international community to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council began an independent investigation in Venezuela, a Fact-Finding Mission to determine the extent of human rights abuses. One year later, the Fact-Finding Mission reported back to the Human Rights Council and published what they found: a 411-page report describing in excruciating detail the human rights abuses we’ve spoken about on this podcast, including thousands of harrowing cases of torture and extrajudicial executions carried out by Venezuelan security forces. While these revelations are based on facts we already knew or long suspected, this report marks the first time that the United Nations officially recognizes that the Nicolás Maduro and members of his inner circle are directly responsible for crimes against humanity in Venezuela. These atrocity crimes are the basis of a request made by interim President Juan Guaidó in a speech during this year’s the United Nations General Assembly just several weeks ago. This request is the activation of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a United Nations doctrine that provides a framework authorizing measures for humanitarian intervention in a country by the international community, including through the use of force. What is the scope of the Responsibility to Protect? Can this global commitment lead to a solution that finally allows the international community a means to apply universal jurisdiction and put a stop to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela? Elisabeth’s focus at the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect is on Venezuela, so her knowledge of the country and the international legal precedent behind the R2P makes Elisabeth the perfect person for us to ask these incredibly important questions. Links: Elisabeth Pramendorfer | Twitter Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect | Twitter GCR2P | Official Website Detailed findings of the United Nations (UN) Independent International Fact-Finding on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Maduro’s Regime Commit Crimes Against Humanity. What Now? | Caracas Chronicles
In this episode, we speak with the team at Yakera, a newly launched platform designed to re-imagine peer-to-peer aid in Venezuela. Launched by a group of students at Kenyon College, Yakera is a platform with the potential to help Venezuelans transition from survival to resilience.
Skyrocketing hyperinflation and chronic food shortages amidst an ongoing global pandemic have pushed Venezuelans to a point of desperation, with a growing number relying on remittances sent from families living abroad. Remittances are in fact the single greatest resource of income stimulating the Venezuelan economy after oil and gas exports (and other illicit sources of income financing the dictatorship such as drug trafficking and gold mining, but more on that in other episodes). Humanitarian aid is often hoarded by the Maduro regime at the expense of Venezuelans facing the fourth-worst food crisis in the world according to the UN, and the regime has made it next to impossible to legally send money to Venezuelans who have no access to bank accounts.
Yakera aims to provide Venezuelans an alternative for aid and dollar remittances from abroad, and for donors to directly aid Venezuelans in desperate need. Through the use of cryptocurrency, transfers can take place freely without the regime intervening to take a percentage or enact foreign currency controls. Yakera recently announced that they have partnered with AirTM, the financial startup that is currently working with interim President Juan Guaidó to transfer bonuses to frontline healthcare workers in Venezuela.
In addition to the financial partnership with AirTM, we discuss how Yakera works for both donors and recipients to establish a pattern of sustained engagement, all while skirting the malicious incursion of the Maduro dictatorship.
Raúl Romero is a Venezuelan student at Kenyon College, and the founder of Yakera. He’s an award-winning alumnus of Middlebury College’s MiddCare Program for mentorship based program, where he came up with the idea for the Yakera initiative. Raúl is also an intern for the Human Rights and Democracy program at the McCain Institute.
Aaron Lambert, CFO at Yakera, is a student at Kenyon College majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Global Politics & Society in Latin America, and minoring in Spanish. Aaron is also a defender on Kenyon College’s Men’s Lacrosse Team.
Daniel Santos Ramirez, Yakera’s Head of Local Implementation and Partnerships, is a student at Trinity College (Hartford, CT), where he’s majoring in Economics and Political Science, with a concentration in comparative politics. Daniel is also a Strategic Planning & Policy Intern at the Venezuelan Petroleum Corporation.
For more information on Yakera, their social media, upcoming events, and ways to support and donate to their fundraising campaign, please visit their Linktree page to learn more: https://linktr.ee/yakera
In this episode, we discuss the emerging using of cryptocurrency in Venezuela and the potential use case for this revolutionary technology to combat the endemic hyperinflation that plagues the country’s economy.
Venezuela's national currency, the bolivar, is at the brink of extinction. The value has plummeted to such a degree that the currency is worth less than the paper is printed on. This severe devaluation has led to a de facto dollarization in the country, and a reliance on dollar remittances from families living abroad.
However, sending money across borders into Venezuela can be very difficult. US dollars are restricted, and capital controls affect the functionality of traditional remittance services like MoneyGram and Western Union. Many of the five million migrants spread across Latin America are unbanked (without a checking or savings account), and have to resort to remittance transfers in black markets that are often rife with high fees, delays, and potential fraud, affecting their ability to send funds to their families in Venezuela.
Cryptocurrency may be a solution. Venezuela now ranks third in cryptocurrency use worldwide. How is it being used? What advantages could cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have for Venezuelans who need to preserve their wealth and purchasing power amidst endemic hyperinflation and monetary restrictions by the Maduro regime?
We’re joined in this episode by Alejandro Machado, a Venezuelan entrepreneur and software designer. Alejandro is the co-founder of the Open Money Initiative (OMI), a research organization that looks into how people use money in closed economies, specifically how Venezuelans at home and abroad used dollars, Bitcoin, and bolivars. He’s also the Head of Research at Valiu, a Colombia-based startup and remittance service working to help fight inflation with synthetic U.S. dollars backed by Bitcoin.
We discuss how Bitcoin solves the problem of hyperinflation in Venezuela, and how remittance services like Valiu can help create new synthetic dollar accounts for Venezuelans who need a solution to avoid using bolivars, which can decrease in value at a literal hourly rate.
We also discuss the use of AirTM, another cryptocurrency exchange and remittance service, by the interim government of Juan Guaidó to send funds to health care workers battling COVID-19, and the efforts of the Maduro regime to block those transactions to prevent emergency funds from reaching Venezuela’s health care heroes.
Open Money Initiative
Valiu's Bitcoin dollars are changing remittances, starting in Venezuela | Decrypt
Venezuelans bypass Maduro’s blockade using digital wallet provider AirTM | Miami Herald
Venezuela Blocks Opposition From Disbursing $18 Million To Health Workers via Bitcoin Exchange Airtm | Bitcoin.com
In this episode, we recap and discuss one of the most convoluted and eventful weeks of the year in Venezuela.
In the short span of a week, we saw: the surprise release of a high profile political prisoner, the surprise pardoning of 110 people (50 of 110 also political prisoners), the announcement of a minority faction of the opposition to participate in upcoming rigged parliamentary elections, and the revelation that the release of the political prisoners was a prerequisite for the minority opposition to participate in these elections, in a deal between the breakaway opposition members and the Maduro regime, brokered by Turkey.
“Turkey has itself been criticized for its authoritarian practices, persecution of political opponents and manipulation of democratic institutions. What could [Turkish President] Erdogan possibly contribute to peaceful, pluralistic and democratic transition in Venezuela?”
This is the poignant question asked by Imdat Oner, former Deputy of Head of Mission and Political Officer at the Turkish Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela between 2014 and 2016, who joins us in this episode to discuss this sudden series of events.
Imdat an expert in Turkish politics, and has extensively published on Venezuela’s relations with Turkey, specifically Turkey’s growing role in the axis of foreign actors that are actively propping up the Maduro regime. He’s currently a policy analyst at the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy at Florida International University.
In this episode, we discuss Turkey’s role in brokering a deal between the Maduro regime and the breakaway opposition consisting of Stalin Gonzalez and Henrique Capriles, a three-time presidential candidate who has officially broken from interim President Juan Guaidó’s call for unity to participate in December’s questionable parliamentary elections.
We also discuss Venezuela’s gold-for-food scheme orchestrated in concert with Turkey to keep the Maduro regime afloat, as well as how to reconcile the authoritarian alliance between Maduro and Erdogan with the friendship between Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of elections that will inevitably shift the political dynamic in Venezuela.
Background: Imdat Oner | Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy
Venezuelan Opposition Politician Backs Elections in Break With Guaidó - WSJ
Venezuela's Trade Scheme With Turkey Is Enriching a Mysterious Maduro Crony - Bloomberg
Maduro Enjoys the Luxury of Reusing a Trap - Caracas Chronicles
In this episode, we discuss the response of the international community to the Maduro dictatorship with Vanessa Neumann, Ph.D., Ambassador and Chief of Mission for the Interim Government of Venezuela to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Ambassador Neumann was a central figure in a recent historic decision from the London High Court that “unequivocally” recognized the presidential legitimacy of Juan Guaidó over Nicolás Maduro. That decision also barred Maduro from accessing several dozen tons of gold bullion in the Bank of England worth billions of dollars, cutting off a major financial lifeline and escape route for the dictatorship.
Today, Juan Guaidó is recognized by the United Kingdom and roughly sixty other countries around the world as the rightful president of Venezuela. This international coalition of democracies has been instrumental in applying pressure to isolate the Maduro dictatorship by targeting the lingering fragments of its existence outside of Venezuela that allows the regime to count on exit strategies to survive.
In this episode, Ambassador Neumann and I discuss the United Kingdom’s support for the Venezuelan people, details of the case of the Venezuelan gold in the Bank of England, and the recognition of the international community of Juan Guaidó, not Nicolas Maduro, as the constitutionally recognized interim president of Venezuela.
Dr. Neumann is the founder of Asymmetrica, a political risk firm with a specialty in Latin American politics and security. She is the author of "Blood Profits," and a co-author of "The Many Criminal Heads of the Golden Hydra." She was also the academic reviewer for the United States Special Operations Command’s manual on the Assessing Revolutionary and Insurgent Strategies teaching manual on counterinsurgency in Colombia.
Dr. Neumann holds a Ph. D. in political philosophy from Columbia University, and fellowships at Yale University, Columbia University, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
In March 2019, Dr. Neumann was appointed Ambassador and Chief of Mission for Venezuela to the Court of St. James’s in the United Kingdom.
YouTube: Vanessa Neumann
Embassy of Venezuela in the United Kingdom and Ireland: @EmbajadaVE_UKI
UK and partners joint statement: Free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela
Nicaragua is a country that is going through many of the same elements of a political crises as Venezuela. The Central American country is ruled by a corrupt dictatorship under a man named Daniel Ortega, who, like his counterpart and close friend Maduro, rigged elections and brutally represses protests to his decades of consolidated rule alongside his wife Rosario Murillo, who serves as the country’s vice president.
In absolute terms, the repression's 2018 death toll (over 300) is comparable to that of Venezuela, but relative to Nicaragua's much smaller population, it ranks as one of the worst human rights crises Latin America has seen in decades.
Much of the political discontent stems from cuts to social security programs that were financed by Venezuelan aid and oil subsidies. For nearly a decade, Nicaragua received billions of dollars from Venezuela a part of the "PetroCaribe" program, a grand-scale project of oil exchanges with countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that ultimately served as a means of patronage for Venezuela to exert influence among allies throughout the hemisphere.
As Nicaragua heads towards presidential elections next year, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the parallels between Nicaragua and Venezuela to determine whether these parallels are by coincidence, or by design.
To answer this question, I’m joined in this episode by Ryan Berg, a research follow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on transnational organized crime and Latin American foreign policy. Before joining AEI, Dr. Berg served as a research consultant at the World Bank, a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, and a visiting doctoral fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also worked in Peru and São Paulo, Brazil. Dr. Berg obtained a PhD and an MPhil in political science and an MSc in global governance and diplomacy from the University of Oxford. Earlier, he obtained a BA in government and theology from Georgetown University.
Ryan has been following both Venezuela and Nicaragua very closely. In this episode, he provides a crash course on the political crisis in Nicaragua, points out some of the parallels between Nicaragua and Venezuela, and recommendations that the United States and international community should consider ahead of presidential elections set to be held next year.
Restoring democracy in Nicaragua: Escalating efforts against the Ortega-Murillo regime
Impact of the 2017 sanctions on Venezuela: Revisiting the evidence
In this episode, we turn our attention back to the subject of foreign interference in Venezuela, and set our sights on the actors that compose the Middle Eastern origin of the Venezuelan crisis: Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.
Hezbollah, a political party in Lebanon whose militant wing is designated as a terrorist organization by a number of countries abroad, has a deeply rooted history in Latin America through diaspora communities that are co-opted by the group to minimize the exposure or detection of its illicit activity in the region.
Apart from its expressed explicit support for Nicolás Maduro’s illegitimate dictatorship, international investigations have uncovered links between the Hezbollah and Venezuela dating back to the Hugo Chávez presidency. These links include include the delivery of thousands of counterfeit Venezuelan passports and visas to Hezbollah affiliates by Venezuelan immigration authorities. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is largely funded by Iran, a regime that has been gradually creating an entry point into Latin America through Venezuela over the past fifteen years.
In this episode, we’re joined by global security expert Joseph Humire, Executive Director of the Center for a Secure and Free Society, a national security think tank that specializes in trans-regional threats in the Western Hemisphere. Joseph testifies frequently before the U.S. Congress on national security issues and before other bodies of parliament in Europe and the Americas. He’s a regular national security commentator on English and Spanish language news outlets, and has been following Iran’s growing presence in Latin America very closely over the past several years.
Included among the many topics we discuss in this episode are Turkey’s growing support for the Maduro regime, as well as the role of Colombian businessman Alex Saab, Maduro’s primary money launderer, a regime partner in an uncovered food-for-gold scheme, and a key player in the emerging Hezbollah-Venezuela relationship.
Read more from Joseph Humire and the SFS:
Iran, Turkey, and Venezuela’s Super Facilitator: Who is Alex Saab?
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Lebanese Red Cross
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In this episode, we turn our attention to the Venezuelan diaspora, and the unique challenge of sharing their story at home, abroad, and on college campuses.
Today, there are many Venezuelan students and young professionals living in North America and Europe. They're largely eager to help outsiders make sense of Venezuela's complicated situation by sharing their personal experiences with the world. For many of them, however, storytelling becomes a challenge in and of itself when they're often confronted with a downplay of the country's economic collapse, or an outright denial of the systemic human rights abuses carried out by Nicolás Maduro's authoritarian dictatorship. In certain instances, the personal anecdotes of these young Venezuelans are redirected back to them by their peers and professors as lectures on how they're misinformed about the situation in their own country.
These positions are problematic because they abruptly dismiss the personal experiences of those who have survived conditions of conflict. It’s that unique challenge of sharing these perspectives with the world that we focus on in today’s episode.
I’m joined in this segment by Maria Fernanda Bello, an undergraduate student living in Virginia who serves as the Director of Coalition and Outreach for Young Americans Against Socialism, a college organization launched to educate young Americans on the realities of socialism in both a historical and contemporary context.
Like many young students growing up in Venezuela, Maria was an activist fighting against the Maduro dictatorship. The experiences Maria shares in our conversation are among the many that Venezuelans can relate to, and I hope you’ll enjoy listening to the stories that she wants to share with you all.
Maria Fernanda Bello: @mariafbello96
Young Americans Against Socialism: @yaas_america
In this episode, we turn our attention to the realm of international security. Despite the obvious signs that there needs to be a change in government, Venezuela still has a few allies remaining that continue to prop up Nicolás Maduro's dictatorship; these are countries that maintain an active presence right now in Venezuela, in varying capacities. So who are these allies and what interests do they have in keeping the Maduro regime in power?
Joining us to discuss in this episode is Alex from Aurora Intel, an investigative reporting platform that uses open source intelligence (OSINT) to cover geopolitical events. He’s better known as the Twitter account “Conflicts News World,” which specializes in geolocation and tracking movements of aircraft and weapons systems delivery around the world.
With a special focus and interest in Venezuela, Alex has a unique understanding of the clear extent of foreign interference in the country. Join us in Alex’s first ever interview as we highlight the foreign intervention of such actors as Russia, Cuba, and China, as well as the deep-seeded corruption that has beset Venezuela's military.
In the 1970s, Venezuela had the highest growth rate and lowest inequality in Latin America. Today, Venezuela is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, where 96.4% of the population now lives below the poverty line and on less than two dollars a day.
What led to the total collapse of Venezuela's economy in less than a decade? Was it mismanagement? Sanctions? Or was it the central planning philosophy of "21st Century Socialism" championed by Hugo Chávez to advance his Bolivarian Revolution agenda that ultimately set Venezuela on a downward spiral toward nationwide abject poverty?
In this episode we're joined by Daniel Di Martino, a syndicated Venezuelan economist, incoming PhD student, and research associate at the University of Kentucky's Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise. We begin with Daniel's experience growing up under Venezuela's authoritarian framework and later review the failed economic policies that drove the country to disaster. Join us as we listen to Daniel's thoughts on the efforts of the Juan Guaidó-led interim government, and consider whether Venezuela will learn from the mistakes of the Chavéz/Maduro regime, or if history is doomed to repeat itself after this dark chapter in Venezuela's history comes to a close.
Will history absolve Hugo Chávez? In this episode, I'm joined by Germania Rodriguez, a Venezuelan journalist based in the United States, where we discuss the propaganda campaign that continues to uphold Chávez's legacy and more. We examine the prevalence of polarization in both Venezuelan and American politics, as well as the problem of populism on a national and global scale. We also delve into the recently published White House memoir by former National Security Advisor John Bolton, which includes a chapter dedicated to his role in and observations of U.S. policy toward Venezuela.
Welcome to the State of Venezuela podcast! Our first episode features host Rafael providing a brief introduction to the podcast, followed by an interview with Joshua Collins, a journalist based in Colombia focused on the refugee crisis in Venezuela. We discuss a range of topics, from the misconceptions of the crisis and personal accounts from Venezuelan migrants, to the time Joshua was arbitrarily detained by the Venezuelan National Guard and accused of being a terrorist.