Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

Venezuela: A Ray of Light Amidst the Encroaching Darkness?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

When last we checked, Venezuela had come down with a case of Terminal Socialism. Here’s an update.

Faced with crippling inflation and a shortage of basic goods due to endemic cronyism, horrible mismanagement and laughable official exchange rates, Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government has finally thrown in the towel and instituted floating exchange rates… sort of:

A dollar will cost you 6.3 bolívares if you are the government, or if you can persuade Cencoex (the government’s foreign-trade body) that you intend to import vital goods such as food or medicine. Then there’s the Sicad I rate, currently just over 10 bolívares to the dollar, but contingent on irregular, “auctions” (which are nothing of the sort). The new Sicad II process, which is as close to a free market as the government will allow, opened at a whopping 50 bolívares to the dollar. But even that is a bargain compared with the unofficial exchange rate, which at the time of writing stands at almost 68 bolívares.

Meanwhile, shortages of basic goods mean Venezuelans get to enjoy that classic staple of late stage socialism: waiting in line to get food:

And the violent crackdown against opposition protesters continues:

Naturally, as a prelude to cracking down on the opposition, they followed the old socialist playbook by outlawing private ownership of guns. It’s always so much easier to oppress people once they’ve been disarmed. Even so, as the following video (via Legal Insurrection) shows, police don’t always get the upper hand:

Security forces have also committed dozens of documented instances of torture.

Are there any rays of home in the grim situation? Yes, Maduro’s government and opposition leaders have agreed to talks. Whether these can actually accomplish anything remains to be seen, but the fact that Maduro “ruled out any changes to the course of what he calls the Bolivarian revolution, the distinct brand of socialism created by his predecessor in office, Hugo Chavez,” tends to indicate that the prognosis is still grim.

Other Venezuela news:

  • An interview with the jailed opposition leader.
  • Two relative of opposition figures murdered.
  • Globovision assignment editor Nairobi Pinto kidnapped.
  • Spain halts shipments of riot gear.
  • LinkSwarm for March 21, 2014

    Friday, March 21st, 2014

    Enjoy your complimentary Friday LinkSwarm, and be sure to tip your waitress!

  • Fourteen different ways you can you can avoid the ObamaCare tax.
  • Joaquin Castro to boycott Buc-ees? He should have almost as much luck in Texas boycotting air conditioning and football. Hey, when Castro can offer outstanding fudge and the largest, cleanest restrooms in the state, let me know…
  • Democratic Senators decide they’d like to avoid committing political suicide by voting for Obama’s gun-grabbing Surgeon general nominee.
  • Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall proves once again that taxes are for the little people.
  • Democrats recruit the perfect candidate for congress: an 86-year old ex-felon.
  • Rich liberal environmentalist Tom Steyer is 100% opposed to Keystone pipeline. Well, except when endangered Democratic Senators are involved.
  • What liberals are leaving out of their hagiography of Cesar Chavez: he opposed illegal aliens and would have hated amnesty.
  • Liberals hate the Koch brothers so much they freak out even when they’re donating money to a hospital.
  • How dare some racist Americans call some Muslims pedophiles just because they want to marry 8-year olds?
  • America could hurt Russia by lifting natural gas export restrictions.
  • Swell story of resurrecting a badly damaged B-2. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • It’s gotten to the point I can no longer tell liberal ranting from parody of same.
  • More Yelp hilarity for the Backstreet Pub and Grill owner who went out of his way to insult gun owners.
  • Supporting Neil Young and Scarlet Johansson against the Israel haters.
  • “Set in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that each represent a different virtue….” Yeah, that’s pretty much where I stopped reading.
  • Solider adopts dog. Dusty room ensues.

  • On Barack Obama’s “Flexibility” With Russia

    Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

    Bloody Ukriane

    Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Ukrainian Dictators

    Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

    First word came that Yanukovich had left Ukraine for various rumored destinations from Russia to Dubai. Then came word that Yanukovich was denied exit from the country.

    But the delight of the day was ordinary Ukrainians touring the abandoned Presidential vacation palace, which such amenities as:

  • A classic car collection
  • A private zoo
  • A gold toilet
  • An actual galleon (helpfully named GALLEON; this pretty much confirms what we suspected of the vast range of Mr. Yanukovich’s imagination…) floating on an artificial lake.
  • Some Tweets on the theme:

    Also, Russia has a sad.

    “Take the deal or you’ll all be dead.” (Afternoon Ukraine Update for February 21, 2014)

    Friday, February 21st, 2014

    A small update on easing Ukrainian tensions. Lots of details remain to be worked out, and a lot of Euromaidan members aren’t happy with Yanukovych staying through December. But it’s sounding like they were made an offer they couldn’t refuse…

  • Polish minister to Euromaidan: “Take the deal or you’ll all be dead.”
  • Ukraine Parliament moves to release opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
  • Inside Kiev’s makeshift hospital/morgue.
  • Problems with Ukraine’s economy, and the Russian loan that helped kick off the crisis.
  • This warms my heart:

  • There are calls for Ukraine’s Parliament to impeach Yanukovych. I can hardly imagine Yanukovych or Putin taking that lying down…

    Ukraine Update for February 21, 2014: Yanukovych Caving? Actual Peace?

    Friday, February 21st, 2014

    Early reports indicates that Yanukovych may finally have gotten a clue:

    Viktor Yanukovych conceded to the major demands made by protesters, he announced Friday on his website. He had been holding out against their raging street demonstrations for months.

    Yanukovych said he has initiated new presidential elections and a return to the old constitution that would cut presidential power, and also form a national unity Cabinet.

    Now word is comning down that Euromaidan leadership has signed off on the agreement.

    Great news, if it holds.

    There are also unconfirmed reports of police either leaving or coming over to Euromaidan. Presumably these are the regular police and not the Berkut riot police.

    Now the question becomes: What will Yanukovych’s puppet-master Vladamir Putin do? He met with his security council, and the discussion sounds more than a little ominous:

    “Putin emphasized that it is imperative to immediately stop the bloodshed and take urgent measures to stabilize the situation and suppress any extremist and terrorist sorties.”

    Is Putin willing to go to war to keep Ukraine is Moscow’s orbit?

    Stay tuned…

    Tweets

    Afternoon Ukraine Update For February 20, 2014

    Thursday, February 20th, 2014

    A super-brief update on Ukraine:

  • Current conformed death toll for recent fighting at 67, unconfirmed at 100 dead.
  • Euromaidan captures 67 policemen.
  • EU agrees to impose sanctions, including asset freezes and visa bans. It’s a start. Refusing to pay for any Russian oil or gas until democracy is restored in Ukraine would have a lot bigger effect…
  • Map of Russian gas pipelines in Ukraine. I differ with Zero Hedge in that I don’t think this is an all-encompassing explanation for the conflict…
  • Forget Sochi; Ukraine shows that it’s the same old Russia: “At the heart of the battle lies a fundamental question: Is Ukraine a free nation or is it a piece of Moscow — a piece on Putin’s chessboard?”
  • Obama’s White House: months late and several dollars short on Ukraine.
  • Video

    Battle footage with CNN talking heads:

    More random fight footage:

    Military base torched:

    More Tweets

    And holy fark is Gary Kasperov pissed:

    Evening Update on Ukraine for February 19, 2014

    Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

    A truce has been declared between Euromaiden and Yanukovych’s forces. This is good news, as it means there’s fierce probably internal resistance in the armed forces to carry out the traditional “slaughter everyone with reach of a machine gun” method of putting down dissent. It may also mean that Putin isn’t quite willing to cross the Rubicon by intervening militarily to prop up his puppet.

    Also, Obama finally condemns the violence in Ukraine and threatens vague “consequences” if it gets worse. It’s a start.

    I’ve done so much Ukraine reporting today that I think I’ll just put up this short blurb for tonight, unless all hell breaks lose again…

    Ukraine/Euromaidan Afternoon Update

    Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

    Events in Ukraine are galloping at a furious rate:

  • Death toll currently at 26.
  • Yanukovych moves toward declaring martial law, though in the thinly disguised form of “anti-terror operations.”
  • He also just fired his army chief, presumably because he wasn’t keen on gunning down fellow Ukrainians. They’re also reporting that pro-democracy forces have seized the Kiev post office.
  • Lviv, on the Polish border, has declared independence from Yanukovych’s rule.
  • And soldiers there have “surrendered” to the Euromaidan opposition.
  • The Lviv defection is just one of many acts of defiance across the western Ukraine.
  • What we’re seeing in Ukraine mirrors Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968: the brutal crushing of freedom at the direction of Moscow.
  • The ten most important events of the last two days.
  • UK PM David Cameron issues meaningless hen-clucks of disapproval, without a hint of actual action by his government.
  • At least this cadre of European politicians and intellectuals is asking for real sanctions.
  • The European Investment Bank has frozen its activities in Ukraine.
  • Canada closes its embassy.
  • A live blog of the situation on the Conflict Journal.
  • Dramatic pictures from Independence Square, including considerable bloodshed.
  • Not including this one:

    More tweets and pics:

    More scenes from the Battle of Independence Square:

    Morning Ukraine Update For February 19, 2014

    Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

    Current Ukraine status:

  • 26 dead so far, including 10 riot police and journalist Vyacheslav Veremei.
  • Putin’s government gave Yanukovich’s another $2 billion payout.
  • Yanukovich demands people live the Maidan before any concessions. Protestors tell him to get stuffed.
  • On the diplomatic front:

  • Victor Davis Hanson via SooperMexican: Obama’s feckless foreign policy has emboldened Putin in the Ukraine.
  • A BBC report via Instapundit, in which various EU diplomatic grandees make meaningless noises of “concern.”
  • Though they’re at least considering sanctions.
  • And Secretary of State John Kerry? While Kiev burns, he’s lecturing the world on…global warming.
  • Some videos:

    PC carrier tries unsuccessfully to breach Euromaidan lines in a hail of molotov cocktails:

    Another view:

    Scenes from the fighting:

    An overview of the fighting:

    More clashes:

    Livestream again, though it looks like mostly video clips right now: