Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Venezuela Cautions from Caribbean Safety and Security Net

Currently, tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela are extremely tight.  Sailors who are either in Venezuelan waters or thinking about transiting Venezuelan territory should carefully consider their options.  Entrance into Venezuela now requires a visa, along with all of the other documents previously required.

Privately, in not so private web casts, the Maduro regime has been bashing the U.S.  The rhetoric follows on the heels of Hugo Chavez, who rose to the podium at the United Nations after President Bush had spoken and said the air smelled like sulphur from "devil".  Chavez's words were an attempt at a humorous pun in which the "devil" might be the evil spirit himself or methane emitted from the President's body.  In any case, the inside joke, which only native Spanish speakers could understand despite it's translation, was a direct insult to the U.S. president and typical of a socialist government influenced by Cuba and unhappy with Washington.

Nicolas Maduro, following in the late Hugo Chavez's footsteps, has escalated the rhetoric as he works to gain support against growing detractors of the "Chavista"socialist philosophy.  With oil losing value, the Venezuelan government is fighting to maintain the status quo after having failed to help the country develop any export other than oil.  Venezuela produces almost nothing and is only a consumer, except for oil.  Even the oil industry is in ruins after years of pillaging petro dollars to give Venezuelan citizens a better life and to support Cuba, through the Venezuelan 3 to 10 billion dollar annual oil donation.

Public dissent has been effectively silenced in Venezuela.  The country even ousted CNN for a brief period after unflattering reports were made.  A student protest movement has been met with brutal repression, assasinations, disappearances and thuggery.  The Venezuelan government claims it has clean hands in the process while taking no action against the "effectivos", or popular watchdogs who keep tabs on citizen activity, block by block.  The efectivos are at least government sanctioned and appear to answer to no one, but attack anyone who speaks out against the Maduro regime.  That is a pretty big coincidence.

The U.S. seeks to place sanctions on known Venezuelan government officials who have U.S. assets, who send their children to U.S. schools, and who seem to swim in the same U.S. currency which is forbidden to the average Venezuelan citizen.  It seems inappropriate to the U.S. Congress that a select few Venezuelans should bask in the oil wealth of the country, spending the millions in the U.S., while opressing free speech a home.  As a result, Gustavo Gonzalez, head of the CIA-like Sebin, Manuel Perez, director of the national police and Justo Noguero who runs the state mining firm CVG but used to be a national guard commander, along with other officials known for abusing human rights, could have their bank accounts and properties frozen in the U.S.

Retaliation is expected.  U.S. citizens are likely to be the first targets.  Yachts are high value assets.  Both the government and the Venezuelan military are not happy with the U.S.  Sailors should take heed.

The Caribbean Safety and Security Net says:

If you are a US flagged vessel or carry a US passport and are planning to visit (even the offshore islands in an “en transito” mode) you should obtain the latest information available and make an informed choice.  All US citizens now require a visa for entry into Venezuela, and these must be obtained prior to entry. Arrival at any port , or an encounter with any official without the appropriate visa could result in denial of entry, or possibly detention and seizure. While foreign Venezuelan consulates can provide instructions and may process visa applications, travel to Venezuela by US flagged yachts or carrying US citizens should be considered at this time to be HIGH RISK.

CSSN encourages all US citizens currently in Venezuela, and any with assets there (boats, homes, businesses) to pay very close attention to the developing situation there. Historically,  response to this type of action by the US has been swift, but often poorly or inappropriately targeted. Cruisers and their boats could become the target for any local official hoping to improve their own standing in the Maduro regime. If you are a US citizen currently in Venezuela, it would be prudent to have a plan in place to depart on short notice.

US Announces New Executive Order Sanctions on Venezuela — Declares “National Emergency”

Monday 9 March 2015, United States President Obama issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela. Declaring any country a threat to national security is the first step in starting a U.S. sanctions program. The same process has been followed with countries such as Iran and Syria, U.S. officials said.

Link to full article

Venezuela Responds:
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela will respond shortly to new U.S moves to declare it a national security threat and sanction seven prominent officials, its foreign minister said on Monday. “We will soon make public Venezuela’s response to these declarations,” Delcy Rodriguez told reporters, declining to give further details.

Link to full article

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