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Old 02-02-2019, 10:05 PM
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Default Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Juan Guaidó of the Opposition is challenging Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela over the presidency of the country, and a number of nations have taken sides; the US government explicitly backing Guaidó. The nation of Venezuela itself has been enduring an ongoing economic crisis. I'm going to outline what I see as key points on each of these subjects, and make the argument that the US should allow the Venezuelan people to exercise their sovereignty and resolve political disputes without interference by the US government.

Nicolás Maduro. Maduro took the reigns of the Venezuelan government after Chavez' death in 2013, winning a special election. His attempts since, to manage the troubled economy and to hold power, have had increasingly negative results, and his popularity has dropped significantly.
A 2017 constitutional crisis has raised the stakes- Maduro wants to rewrite the 1999 Constitution, and raised very legitimate fears that the Constitution would be rewritten only by his allies, further consolidating his power. The National Assembly that was elected in 2000- the Venezuelan legislature- had its law-making power stripped by the newly elected Constituent National Assembly (composed for the purpose of rewriting the constitution) in a 2017 election- one boycotted by the Opposition and condemned by international observers.
The timing of these moves appears entirely tied to gains by the Opposition to actually challenge the power of Maduro; packing the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) with Chavistas at the point when the Opposition was about to take the majority in the National Assembly and Maduro recall referendums were springing up; the TSJ also stripping the National Assembly of power, and packing the CNE with Chavistas, destroying their legitimacy as independent overseers of elections.
The 2018 election was marred again by questionable decisions by Maduro and his allies in power that reduced the previous standards of transparency.

Juan Guaidó of the Opposition was named President of the (essentially powerless) National Assembly January fifth, and then named himself Interim President of Venezuela on January 23rd, arguing that the Presidential election in 2018 was illegitimate, therefore the office of President is unfilled.

Economic crisis. Venezuela's economy is entirely tied to petrochemicals- Venezuela has one of the largest reserves in the world of some of the dirtiest, lowest grade oil to be found. The price of oil has to be above $28 a barrel minimum to cover refining and extraction costs in Venezuela, compared to Saudi Arabia's light sweet crude costing about $10 a barrel. The end of 2014 saw the global price per barrel drop from a ten-year trend of $80-100 per barrel, down to half of that, closer to $40-50 per barrel. That change cut Venezuela's revenues significantly.
I recommend this opinion piece as a decent overview of economic mismanagement by Chavez and Maduro.
The Opposition party is dominated by the economic elites in control of the rest of the economy, the media, and owning most of the land, who were upset by Chavez' win and their loss in 1998; they made every effort internally to undermine Chavez' policies. Venezuelan businesses began to move their capital away from the Bolivar and out of Venezuela (either as protest or fear); Chavez moved to control foreign exchanges to prevent this; then initiated price controls, which resulted in black markets springing up in currency arbitrage, hoarding, smuggling, and profiteering. Chavez began restricting the pro-opposition, anti-Chavista media, increased government propaganda, and currency devaluations.
Maduro inherited a system barely held together by high global oil prices and Chavez' tweaks, and then made decisions that further exacerbated the issues, especially the inflation-depreciation spiral, but without Chavez' charisma or the oil revenues. Venezuela still imports significantly more food than it produces, and the poverty rate in Venezuela is in the 80% range. Shortages of medicine and food, as well as economic uncertainty has led to an estimated 3 million people fleeing Venezuela, and a regional refugee crisis. The Maduro regime blames an oligopoly of large businesses using hoarding and speculation to create log jams and shortages of key goods, in an attempt to profiteer and sow political chaos. The Opposition party blames Maduro's policies.

The Opposition. They are composed of a number of internal factions; brought together for their hatred of Chavez and Chavismo. They lost power to Chavez as a result of the economy flailing in the years after the oil industry collapse in the 1980's. This article references an interesting point:
Quote:
Given Maduro’s deep unpopularity and the widespread chaos, hunger, violence, and scarcity of basic goods under his rule, an obvious question arises: After three years of determined, ceaseless efforts, why has the opposition failed to unseat him? Partly because, a recent poll shows, a slight majority of the electorate remains either neutral (37 percent) or on his side (17.7 percent); he owes much to the Chavista government’s comprehensive welfare programs, which for more than a decade helped reduce extreme poverty and illiteracy in the country. The 42.9 percent opposing Maduro and turning out for the demonstrations are a vocal, and highly visible, minority.

The reason for the opposition’s minority status lies, then, in an incontrovertible, self-perpetuating fact: its high-profile failures have generated a pessimism among the public about its chances for success.
The elites that rally and control the Opposition party struggle to connect with the poor that make up the majority of the people in Venezuela.

US history in the region, in Venezuela, and now backing Guaidó.
The US has intervened in the Americas through coups, coup support, or support of dictators in the following countries: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Haiti, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Grenada, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Results nearly entirely have been disastrous for the nations where we intervened; for example we overthrew the democratically elected government of Guatemala, trained death squads, and propelled Guatemala into a 30-year civil war.
The US, despite all our flustered hand-wringing at Russian interference in our elections, routinely interferes in foreign elections, including in Venezuela:
Quote:
These Washington agencies have also filtered more than $14 million to opposition groups in Venezuela between 2013 and 2014, including funding for their political campaigns in 2013 and for the current anti-government protests in 2014. This continues the pattern of financing from the US government to anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela since 2001, when millions of dollars were given to organizations from so-called “civil society” to execute a coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. After their failure days later, USAID opened an Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in Caracas to, together with the NED, inject more than $100 million in efforts to undermine the Chavez government and reinforce the opposition during the following 8 years.
The CIA backed the short-lived 2002 coup, and the strike by oil-industry administrators in 2002-2003.
The sanctions imposed against the Maduro regime by the Obama Administration in 2015, and additional sanctions are being put into place by the Trump Administration. The current set of sanctions additionally attempts to prevent the Venezuelan government from accessing accounts and reserves overseas that it might use to maintain the government.Here's comments from a UN Special Rapporteur:
Quote:
“Economic sanctions are effectively compounding the grave crisis affecting the Venezuelan economy, adding to the damage caused by hyperinflation and the fall in oil prices. This is a time when compassion should be expressed for the long-suffering people of Venezuela by promoting, not curtailing, access to food and medicine,” Mr. Jazairy said.
Additionally the compromised media in the US as a rule supports unquestioningly the US-government propaganda regarding interventions in the sovereign nations of the Americas:
Your Complete Guide to the N.Y. Times’ Support of U.S.-Backed Coups in Latin America Spoiler alert: support was 10 times out of 12. The most relevant quote:
Quote:
The reason the CIA and U.S. military and its corporate partisans historically target governments in Latin America is because those governments are hostile to U.S. capital and strategic interests, not because they are undemocratic.


US support for Guaidó. They support him because they clearly believe he will give corporations access to oil.
John Bolton, neocon war criminal, speaking on FOX News:
Quote:
It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we can have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela; it will be good for the people of Venezuela, it will be good for the people of the United States. We both have a lot at stake here making this come out the right way.

Additionally, Elliot Abrams has been hand-picked to lead the US approach to Venezuela. Here's an article covering some of his war criminal background:
Quote:
As a member of George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, Abrams encouraged, according to credible reports, a (briefly successful) military coup against the democratically elected government of Venezuela in 2002, poisoning the US relationship with that government once it returned to power. He also worked to subvert the results of the 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories, a move that ended up strengthening the most radical elements of Hamas and undermining—perhaps forever—the possibility of a democratic peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

But these are still relative misdemeanors in the Abrams dossier, paling in comparison with the role he played in the Reagan administration. As assistant secretary of state for human rights, Abrams sought to ensure that General Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemala’s then-dictator, could carry out “acts of genocide”—those are the legally binding words of Guatemala’s United Nations–backed Commission for Historical Clarification—against the indigenous people in the Ixil region of the department of Quiché, without any pesky interference from human-rights organizations, much less the US government.

As the mass killings were taking place, Abrams fought in Congress for military aid to Ríos Montt’s bloody regime. He credited the murderous dictator with having “brought considerable progress” on human-rights issues. Abrams even went so far as to insist that “the amount of killing of innocent civilians is being reduced step by step” before demanding that Congress provide the regime with advanced arms because its alleged “progress need[ed] to be rewarded and encouraged.”

Promoted to assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Abrams repeatedly denounced the continued protests by organizations seeking to call attention to the mass murders of both Ríos Montt and the no less bloodthirsty President Vinicio Cerezo Arévalo, who came to power fewer than three years later.
Conclusion. Venezuela's in a rough place economically and politically; US intervention would most likely make it worse for the people of Venezuela and only better for global capital, specifically the oil industry. The US should stop funding Opposition groups in Venezuela, should stop supporting regime change, and end sanctions; let the people of Venezuela determine their own course forward.
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Old 02-02-2019, 10:58 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

I nodded along with most of that, and would like to add:

Tascón List - Chávez government used a petition against his government to deny signers access to government services, mass firings, confiscated assets, etc. Sources: Tascón List - Wikipedia and my sister in law.

This resulted in a lot of skilled workers fleeing the country. Canada at last time I looked had about a thousand skilled Venezuelan oil workers in Calgary. Many other skilled positions saw the installation of 'politically correct thinking' replacements regardless of skills, or even literacy.

Part of the problem there is as mentioned in the OP, the gigantic mass of extreme poor, which was alleviated, if briefly by the electrification of the barrios (slums) and some transit options being added as the slums were typically up some fairly steep hills. Metrocable (Caracas - Wikipedia)

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Originally Posted by chunksmediocrites View Post
Conclusion. Venezuela's in a rough place economically and politically; US intervention would most likely make it worse for the people of Venezuela and only better for global capital, specifically the oil industry. The US should stop funding Opposition groups in Venezuela, should stop supporting regime change, and end sanctions; let the people of Venezuela determine their own course forward.
With much respect to Chunks, I've a different conclusion. In the wake of American, and to a wider extent western first world, interference, it's my belief that Latin America would benefit from something like a Marshall Plan administered locally and through the UN, rather than on behalf of say, the United Fruit Company.
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Old 02-02-2019, 11:19 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Maduro sucks, Trump sucks, Abrams sucks, I don't know much about Guaidó.

Hell, even if you WANT to support Guaidó, fact is that US support (particularly with Abrams's involvement) may be more likely to backfire and rally more support for Maduro and make the outcome more violent. That is, Guaidó may have a higher chance of taking power, and doing so peacefully, if the US takes a hands-off approach.

If you don't like either side, then you also probably don't want to do anything.

If you're a tankie who likes Maduro, maybe you think that ideally the US would intervene on his behalf, but nobody is delusional enough to consider that a likely outcome (and Maduro probably would refuse anyway).

So I'm not sure there's an argument for the US doing much of anything regardless of what you want to happen there.

And that's before you get to the part where it would be Trump, with most decisions delegated to Bolton and Abrams, in charge of doing stuff there with Rubio cheerleading...
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Old 02-02-2019, 11:25 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

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Originally Posted by chunksmediocrites View Post
The sanctions imposed against the Maduro regime by the Obama Administration in 2015, and additional sanctions are being put into place by the Trump Administration. The current set of sanctions additionally attempts to prevent the Venezuelan government from accessing accounts and reserves overseas that it might use to maintain the government.Here's comments from a UN Special Rapporteur:
Quote:
“Economic sanctions are effectively compounding the grave crisis affecting the Venezuelan economy, adding to the damage caused by hyperinflation and the fall in oil prices. This is a time when compassion should be expressed for the long-suffering people of Venezuela by promoting, not curtailing, access to food and medicine,” Mr. Jazairy said.

Spoken like a true diplomat. What it actually amounts to is massive economic warfare right out of the playbook. It's not like falling oil prices are some act of God either.
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Old 02-02-2019, 11:33 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

I'm for letting the Venezuelans figure out what the Venezuelans want.
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Old 02-03-2019, 12:03 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

The problem as I see it is that there is essentially no trustworthy faction in Venezuela. Chávez, for all his numerous faults, made sincere and wide-ranging efforts to alleviate poverty and illiteracy throughout the country. Maduro seems to have no such intentions. The opposition seems united more in its dislike of Maduro than in any particular concern for the poor of the country. The United States has a long history of making things worse by intervening in Latin America; even if we had a trustworthy government, which we absolutely do not, there would be no guarantee that our efforts wouldn’t backfire.

“Let the people of Venezuela decide what to do” sounds good in principle, but there’s no guarantee that (1) there would be free and fair elections (2) that wouldn’t lead to a result like Brazil’s (though I don’t particularly believe those were free or fair elections either).

I will say that one factor I find particularly alarming is the rate of hyperinflation. You saw that sort of thing in Germany during the Great Depression, and to put it mildly, that did not do wonders for the long-term survival of the Weimar Republic.

I don’t know what can be done. It’s obvious there’s a massive humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. It’s not obvious that anyone proposing foreign intervention has any ideas that would actually be likely to alleviate the problems there; in fact, the evidence seems to suggest quite the reverse.
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:08 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kamilah Hauptmann View Post
With much respect to Chunks, I've a different conclusion. In the wake of American, and to a wider extent western first world, interference, it's my belief that Latin America would benefit from something like a Marshall Plan administered locally and through the UN, rather than on behalf of say, the United Fruit Company.
The UN and administered locally, agreed, as long as it doesn't have the Marshall Plan outcomes:
Quote:
Most of the Marshall Plan money actually was transferred from one bank to another in the United States. There was a big problem at the time, a major problem, of industrial overproduction. The US had a big surplus of industrial production, and the world just didn’t have markets. The world was virtually devastated by the war. So part of the attempt to create markets for US excess production was what I described before, ensuring that the former colonial areas would provide dollars to Europe, so they could purchase US industrial production, called triangular trade programs.
Another was the Marshall Plan, which did provide funding to purchase American exports. In the course of it Europe did develop. Incidentally, I think, about probably 2 billion dollars of the 13 billion dollars went for oil imports. That was part of the US effort to turn Europe into an oil dependent economy. The United States controlled the oil, Europe had coal, not oil, same in Japan. They tried to turn them into oil-dependent economies; the reason that was expressed clearly by George Kennan was that if we did that we would have what he called veto power over their policies, because we would essentially control the energy spigots.
All of that is not to deny what in fact is true: it did help European recovery to some extent. How much is argued. But to some extent it did develop the European economy, but it was also a big boost to the United States. In fact, if you look at business literature in the United States, they described this program, correctly, as the source of the modern multinational corporation. It provided opportunities for US multinationals, then beginning to develop extensively, to move into Europe as a major area for investment, production, marketing and so on. Governments aren’t altruistic institutions. They’re working for their interests. And that means the interests of dominant elements within the society. And they can sometimes have beneficial effects, but those are rarely the driving forces, not just in the United States, but anywhere else as well.
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Originally Posted by The Man View Post
“Let the people of Venezuela decide what to do” sounds good in principle, but there’s no guarantee that (1) there would be free and fair elections (2) that wouldn’t lead to a result like Brazil’s (though I don’t particularly believe those were free or fair elections either).
International election monitoring and reporting sound great; additionally anything from truth and reconciliation committees to reparations in the form of humanitarian aid, medicine and infrastructure support or just straight up cash would be great.

I would like some international election monitoring in the US as well, by the way.
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Old 02-03-2019, 01:59 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

In the election prior to the most recent there were voting locations that reported 100% turnout including the people who'd died before election day and not yet been struck from the rolls.

But Jimmy Carter says. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Other observation:
Zimbabwe -> no oil -> lol
Venezuela -> oil -> Intervention?
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Old 02-03-2019, 03:17 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

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Originally Posted by Kamilah Hauptmann View Post
In the election prior to the most recent there were voting locations that reported 100% turnout including the people who'd died before election day and not yet been struck from the rolls.

The well-known weblog devilexcrement.com cites excel tables from some website named esdata.info and says that somewhere 90 out of 20012 voters were actually dead, then extrapolates that to 0.4 percent of the national vote and asks, how much further can we extrapolimagine?


If that's not a smoking gun, I don't know what is.
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Old 02-03-2019, 06:25 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Ah yes, I neglected to mention Daniel's blog, since Miguel hasn't been as active since his injury.

Relevant for anyone interested in Venezuelan opposition:
Venezuela News And Views
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Old 02-03-2019, 06:58 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

My brother Jim lived in Caracas for four years, he says Bolton is an idiot and so is the man who hired him if they think the U.S. can easily invade and conduct a regime change. He wrote a lengthy post on the subject on Facebook.
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Old 02-03-2019, 07:17 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Need a sign in for that. Would he be willing to let you repost it?
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:53 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

I will ask him.
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Old 02-03-2019, 05:10 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

Quoting my brother's Facebook post, with permission.

Venezuela: A quick and dirty primer

[too long, didn't read: John Bolton is an idiot and so is the man who hired him; the US will never invade Venezuela; Maduro, of Venezuela, is a power-grabbing, election-stealing kleptocrat; (more points to come)]

So: as some of you know, I spent 4 years in Venezuela (1996-2000). My middle daughter was born there, and was technically a Venezuelan citizen, I suppose, although we never bothered to get any papers to that effect - two passports were enough for her anyway.

Which, of course, makes me a gigantic expert on the country, right? Right? Well, no. But does that stop anyone else from being a pundit?

I'm mainly offering this up because there are couple of things I haven't seen discussed in reporting on the situation. I also have to admit that I have being repeatedly murdered with work for the past month, so I might have missed something. If any of you have any better information than I do or would like to correct me on my facts, please feel free to do so - I'm trying to understand the situation myself.

Now on with the story:

1. Hugo Chávez (died of cancer in in office 2013, age 58) ushered in Venezuela's new era of autocracy when he was elected president in 1998 on promises of helping the poor. This endeavor saw some success, as the price of oil rose more or less steadily from Chávez's inauguration in 1999 until the global financial crisis of 2008 (some countries count from a different year - Russians call it the crisis of 2010 (I think) because it only hit there at that time).

2. After the crisis, it was rough going. The rich already were depatriating their assets after Chávez was elected. Those who owned homes abroad started considering citizenship in other countries. Miami was a favorite destination, and many wealthy parents flew to the U.S. in their last months of pregnancy to give birth there (there were, for example, triplets born the same year as my middle daughter whose parents lived in our building and did just that). The middle class, which had already been hollowed out in the 80s and 90s, became even worse off.

3. Chávez died in 2013, and Nicolás Maduro (now 56) was his hand-picked successor. By 2013, the country was in full crisis mode. Venezuela had always depended on oil for the bulk of its income (about 98% of its exports according to OPEC) - oil accounts for about 1/6th of the total economy.

4. Historically, the leaders and elites of Venezuela more or less treated PDVSA (the country's main oil company, which was fully nationalized under Chávez) as a giant piggy bank. Just enough was doled out to the poor to keep them off the streets. The poor lived lives of more or less quiet desperation, tucked up on the flood-prone hillsides around Caracas. What it doesn't keep from happening is gang violence and theft, which is endemic in Venezuela.

5. Example: Have you ever heard of beds being chained to the walls of hospitals? That conjures up the image of an insane asylum, right? Bedlam. Why are they chained to the walls in the public hospitals? So people won't steal them. And I'm not talking about now - I'm talking about 1995. Before Chávez.

6. I don't know if the hospitals even have walls to chain beds to any more. Everything is gone. In the 90s, if you went to a public hospital (which about 90% of the people had to do, because the private clinics that we colonialists went to were too expensive for them), you had to bring your own antibiotics, your own sheets, your own cotton pads for surgical procedures, your own EVERYTHING.

7. The situation is supposed to be even more desperate now, but I have not read that much about it. Except that there are almost no medicines available for anyone who doesn't have access to a diplomatic pouch (or equivalent) for shipments.

Crap. It's getting too late. There's too much to add. I'll continue this with the same numbering tomorrow, so if you do read the long version, you can skip ahead to number 8.

You can stop here. The following paragraphs are just a few notes that I'll try to shape up tomorrow if I have time.

--------------------------------------------------

Random notes:

Just one last note for tonight: the attached Google maps screenshot shows the lay of the land around Caracas. There is a chain of mountains directly between Caracas the sea. The peaks are up to 9000 feet high, which doesn't sound that impressive. But their prominence (rise above immediately surrounding plains is 8000 feet - the same as Pike's Peak, for reference. It is an imposing chain, and there are few roads over them. I've been up those roads in a Jeep Cherokee - it's touch and go. It's wooded, it's wet, there's no maintenance - and again, that was in the 1990s. Now? Can't even image.

You could also come a bit around those major peaks, directly from the airport (32km, 20 miles away). A single major rockfall can put the road out of commission (or a flood, like the big one in 1999 that wiped out entire towns and poor neighborhoods (barrios) built on crumbling hillsides (see above).

In short, this is why the US will never invade Venezuela. Its military is probably totally useless (even half a million strong as it is, with 1.5 million in militias), but a single bridge going out would keep any invading forces from entering Caracas for weeks.

Otherwise, it's all huge rivers (like the Orinoco), rain forest, jungle, as far as the eye can see. Imagine Texas or France, plus Belgium or Oklahoma thrown in, and really really crappy infrastructure. This is not Iraq, where tanks can roll across hundreds of miles of desert. The only people who could get into Caracas would be paratroopers.

So John Bolton carrying around a yellow legal pad with a handwritten note that says "5,000 troops to Colombia", visible to the press, is just idiocy. If he's trying to scare Maduro, it's not going to work. He knows the lay of the land.

However, Maduro has other problems, and he needs to go. He is in no way a legitimate leader of Venezuela, and he needs to go. The people of Venezuela are wonderful and warm, and they deserve better than this. The country is resource-rich, and stunningly beautiful. It was poorly managed enough for the first two hundred years of its independence from Spain (in 1810, the first of the Latin American republics to break from Spain). They deserve better. But they don't deserve an invasion from the U.S.
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Old 02-03-2019, 07:16 PM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

That lines up with my experiences and more.
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Old 02-04-2019, 12:09 AM
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Default Re: Let's talk Venezuela and US intervention

I spent a week in Caracas in March 1999. I went down to the local newstand every day to buy an English language Venezuelan newspaper and a coca-cola (~130 Bolies, or about 26 cents). The news there then was all for Chavez, man of the people and all.
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