Release of Two Detainees After the First White House Trip to Venezuela in Two Decades

Important Takeaways:

  • Maduro Regime Releases 2 US Captives, Key Dem Blasts Biden for Negotiating with Putin’s Top Ally in Latin America
  • Following a secret visit to Venezuela last weekend by senior Biden administration officials, captives Gustavo Cardenas and Jorge Fernandez were released by Venezuelan authorities.
  • Eight other Americans remain in captivity. Cardenas and five other executives of Houston-based Citgo, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned oil giant, had been detained by Venezuela since 2017. The others have been detained on allegations of embezzlement and terrorism.
  • Senior U.S. officials visited with the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela over the weekend to discuss the chance of easing oil sanctions on the major crude-exporting country.
  • Maduro, who has been indicted in New York on drug trafficking charges, is Putin’s top ally in Latin America and his country is a top oil exporter. Venezuela’s reentry into U.S. energy markets could mitigate the fallout at the pump from a possible oil embargo on Russia.
  • Tim Stewart, president of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association told Just The News since cutting off Russian imports there are now only two ways for the U.S. to get oil.
  • “You have two options,” Stewart explained. “One, you import from the Iranians and the Venezuelans, two terrorism-sponsoring states. Or you open up the U.S. domestic production.

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Sen. Rick Scott: Biden is Considering Turning from Russia to Iran, Venezuela to Save Our Economy

Important Takeaways:

  • Rick Scott: Biden Is Making Iran, Venezuela Our Partners ‘To Save our Economy’
  • Broadcast of CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) criticized the Biden administration for reportedly looking to boost energy production in Iran and Venezuela and stated that doing so would make the authoritarian Maduro regime and Iran’s dangerous regime partners “to save our economy” and argued that every day America waits to boost domestic energy production
  • ”This idea that we’re going to go do business with Maduro, he’s killing his own citizen[s], or Iran, that wants to kill all the Jews and demolish Israel, we’re going to go — they’re going to be our partner to save our economy? Come on.”

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Hyperinflation in Venezuela has prices going up 80% every month

Rev 6:6 NAS And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Venezuelans Throw Worthless Money in Trash Amid Massive Inflation
  • “As Venezuela sinks deeper and deeper into the first hyperinflation the Western Hemisphere has seen in a generation, bolivar banknotes have come to be worth basically nothing,”
  • Caracas Chronicles news website said 20-bolivar bills were once worth about $2 US each but are now equal $0.0001
  • Prices on goods go up about 80 percent every month
  • “Rule No. 1 of surviving hyperinflation is simple: Get rid of your money,” The second you’re paid, you run out as fast as you can to buy something — anything — while you can still afford it. It’s better to hold almost any asset than money, because assets hold their value and money doesn’t.”
  • The country experienced an economic collapse in 2014 under its socialist government and has not rebounded. There are shortages of food, medicine, and basic necessities throughout the country.

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Russian expert says Cuba, Venezuela too far or too outdated. But there is another option to pressure the West

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Cuba, Venezuela or both? Russia wants USA to know what it feels like to be surrounded by NATO
  • Military expert Konstantin Sivkov believes that the deployment of Russian arms in Latin America will not give Russia any military advantages. Instead, it will simply become a symmetrical response to the American threat near the borders of the Russian Federation. In accordance with the state policy in the field of nuclear deterrence, Russia still limits the conditions, in which it can be the first country to strike a nuclear blow.
  • “In the event of a nuclear conflict, most likely, it is the Americans that will be the first to attack,” the expert believes.
  • In this case, a preemptive strike makes no sense. Therefore, the expert believes, the probable deployment of Russian weapons in Latin America will have political, rather than military significance.
  • According to Kartapolov, Russia does not need to deploy military bases in either Cuba or Venezuela, since the Russian army has hypersonic missiles in service. A ship or a submarine armed with Zircons can go on combat missions from anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean and then leave, Kartapolov said.

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Possible Russian military deployment to Cuba, Venezuela warns Russia its up to U.S.

Mark 13:8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia won’t rule out military deployment to Cuba, Venezuela
  • Russia on Thursday sharply raised the stakes in its dispute with the West over Ukraine, with a top diplomat refusing to rule out a Russian military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the United States mount.
  • NATO-Russia meeting in Vienna failed to narrow the gap on Moscow’s security demands amid a buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine.
  • While voicing concern that NATO could potentially use Ukrainian territory for the deployment of missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes, Putin noted that Russian warships armed with the latest Zircon hypersonic cruise missile would give Russia a similar capability if deployed in neutral waters.

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Migration to U.S. empties Venezuela’s once-booming oil capital

By Mariela Nava

MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) – It took accountant Anibal Pirela six days of travel and $7,000 to reach Austin, Texas from Maracaibo, the capital of Venezuela’s once-flourishing western oil state of Zulia.

Pirela traveled with his four-year-old son Daniel, joining a flood of emigrants emptying neighborhoods in Zulia, the top departure point for Venezuelans leaving their crisis-stricken homeland.

“The people I know who have left the country are almost too many to count,” Pirela, 48, said from his new home in Austin.

The number of Venezuelans detained by U.S. authorities on the southern border soared to 47,762 in the year to September, versus just 1,262 in the year-earlier period, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Hundreds of Zulians are leaving each month, advocacy groups say, though there are no official migration figures for any of Venezuela’s 23 states.

The state has historically been more insulated from economic hardship because of the oil industry, but that has been walloped by U.S. sanctions targeting the OPEC member, cutting off much-needed income.

Reuters spoke with eight families who fled Zulia in the past two months because of lack of public services, medicines and jobs.

Abandoned houses and buildings are increasingly common in Maracaibo, home to 1.7 million inhabitants, according to current and former residents.

In 2018, half of households in Zulia already had at least one relative living abroad but since 2019 that number has risen to 70%, according to the Zulia Human Rights Commission (CODHEZ), a non-governmental organization.

“There are neighborhood areas with few people left,” said CODHEZ general coordinator Juan Berrios.

POWER CUTS, WATER SHORTAGES

Zulia, at the end of national transmission lines for water and electricity, suffers more frequent outages than other parts of Venezuela, residents say.

The collapse of Venezuela’s oil industry – due in part to a series of recent U.S. sanctions by the Trump administration and what critics say is state mismanagement – has led to high unemployment. Some analysts say the sanctions have exacerbated the country’s worsening economic crisis.

Even those with jobs are so poorly paid that living costs are prohibitive – especially for imported or smuggled food.

Carmen Ortega, 74, cares for her eight grandchildren with what she earns as a street cleaner.

“We’re in extreme poverty,” Ortega said at her dirt-floored home, constructed out of cans. “We have two of the girls begging on the street. They bring a bit of bread; people give them flour.”

The children’s mother is unemployed and their father has left for Colombia. Ortega said the family have to start the day without food or coffee.

“I cry at night,” she said.

Venezuela’s monthly minimum wage is equivalent to just $3. Inflation reached 631% from January through November, according to the central bank.

Approximately 850 people per week crossed to Colombia from Zulia before the coronavirus pandemic, with about half returning after making purchases of medical supplies or other goods, according to Juan Restrepo, president of the region’s largest transportation union.

Now some 2,000 people leave every week, Restrepo said: just 30% return.

The United States is the ultimate destination for many.

Under pressure from Washington to stem the rise in Venezuelans entering the United States illegally across the southern border, Mexico announced last week it will impose visa requirements for them to enter the country, though it is unclear when the measure will take effect.

LONG ROAD NORTH

Residents of Maracaibo’s poor Altos de Milagro Norte neighborhood say food shortages are ever-present and their city’s collapse is even affecting burials.

Jose Amaya’s family made a hole in their outdoor patio to bury his brother.

“The funeral home will do it all for $170 but we don’t have the resources,” he said.

The community had 2,200 residents pre-pandemic but just 1,500 remain, social worker Maria Carolina Leal said.

To get his family to Austin, Pirela sold his car and withdrew pension benefits. That was enough to send his wife Daniela Mendoza, 31, and 12-year-old daughter Paula by airplane from Colombia.

Next, he sold his appliances and took out all his savings to get himself and Daniel on a series of flights north to Monterrey, Mexico.

A people smuggler, charging him $4,400, took them to a small building housing some 30 other Venezuelan migrants, about a third of them from Maracaibo, Pirela said.

The next morning, the group was driven seven hours north to the border, hiking some fifteen minutes to cross the Rio Bravo on foot and enter the United States.

He was met by migration officials and the next day was enrolled in a Department of Homeland Security program that allows migrants’ release with an ankle monitor, handing over his passport and giving his fingerprints.

Pirela has so far had one check-in appointment with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the first in what he says may be a long process to legalize his status. His next appointment is in February.

“Now I’m with my family, the reunion was beautiful,” said Pirela, adding he what he wants most is a work permit.

“I have to wait because I want to do things right.”

(Reporting by Mariela Nava in Maracaibo, additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Vivian Sequera and Aurora Ellis)

Exclusive-Mexico considers tighter entry rules for Venezuelans after U.S. requests -sources

By Alexandra Ulmer, Dave Graham and Matt Spetalnick

SAN FRANCISCO/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexico is considering setting tougher entry requirements for Venezuelans, partly in response to U.S. requests, after a sharp rise in border arrests of Venezuelans fleeing their homeland, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Currently, Venezuelans do not need a visa to enter Mexico as tourists. But as apprehensions of Venezuelan migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border soar, Mexico is looking at making their entry subject to certain criteria, a Mexican official familiar with the government’s internal discussions said.

New entry rules could be applied soon, the official said.

A second Mexican government source said Mexico was reviewing its options, and holding discussions with Venezuela to explore alternatives to imposing visa requirements.

A third person familiar with Mexican-U.S. talks said Washington is urging Mexico to impose visa restrictions on Venezuelans, noting that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been complaining about the increase in Venezuelans.

Options under review include making Venezuelans show they are economically solvent and in employment, and have a return plane ticket when they enter in order to ensure they are not using Mexico to enter the United States, the first source said.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Washington was working with Mexico to address root causes of irregular migration in a “collaborative, regional approach” when asked by Reuters whether the Biden administration was pressing Mexico to tighten entry requirements for Venezuelans.

“The United States appreciates Mexico’s efforts that contribute to safe, orderly, and humane processes for migrants at and within its borders,” the spokesperson said.

The White House, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither Mexico’s foreign ministry nor Venezuela’s Information Ministry replied to a request for comment.

The discussions come as encounters of Venezuelans at the U.S.-Mexico border have leapt to 47,762 in the year through September from just 1,262 during the previous 12-month period, according to U.S. government data.

Total apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have hit record levels this year. That has put pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of congressional elections next November, with many voters in Texas border towns upset https://www.reuters.com/world/us/migrants-school-buses-texas-town-feels-caught-middle-2021-09-21 and Republicans accusing his administration of pursuing an “open border” policy.

One of the Mexican sources said Washington had lobbied Mexico to slow arrivals from Venezuela, but that Mexico also wanted to make sure people were not entering on false pretenses.

A fourth source, in U.S. government, said efforts to lobby Mexico to tighten entry requirements from OPEC member Venezuela had increased since Venezuelan arrivals jumped this summer, and that requests for cooperation had been made informally by diplomats and the DHS. The source said Washington was not leaning hard on Mexico.

Tighter entry rules could seriously affect migration plans of many Venezuelans, who pay smuggling networks to help them escape economic devastation under President Nicolas Maduro, who has presided over a severe financial meltdown amid heavy U.S. sanctions. Many of the Venezuelans depart with little money.

Venezuelans arriving from elsewhere in Latin America like Colombia or Chile, where they often work for a few years to save in hard currency before heading north, would likely be less exposed to requirements centering on their solvency.

Rights activists on Friday decried the potential move to restrict Venezuelan arrivals.

“Venezuelan migrants and refugees are fleeing a complex humanitarian emergency, lack of justice, an absence of freedom, and violence,” said David Smolansky, an exiled Venezuelan opposition leader who coordinates the Organization of American States’ response to Venezuela’s migration crisis. “In the face of such a situation, it is fundamental that they receive protection.”

Reuters reported in October that the Biden administration wanted Mexico to impose visa requirements on Brazilians to complicate their path to the U.S. border. And in September, Mexico suspended visa exemptions for Ecuadorians for six months following a steep increase in that country’s nationals trying to cross the U.S. border.

The U.S. government source said Biden’s aides could raise the Venezuelan migrant issue with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s delegation when he visits Washington next week for a U.S.-Mexico-Canada summit.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco, Dave Graham in Mexico City and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Mica Rosenberg in New York, Vivian Sequera in Caracas and Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

EU election observers begin work ahead of Venezuela regional, local vote

By Vivian Sequera

CARACAS (Reuters) – European Union election observers began their mission in Venezuela on Thursday, as campaigning kicked off for regional elections next month which are set to include opposition candidates.

It is the first time in 15 years the EU has sent observers to Venezuela.

Opposition parties are participating in the Nov. 21 contest after boycotting presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 and 2020 respectively, votes where they have alleged President Nicolas Maduro and his party notched illegitimate wins.

“The opposition is going to participate in these elections (…) we want to hear from everyone,” mission chief Isabel Santos told reporters before observers set out from capital Caracas to cities around the country.

More than 3,000 positions – including governors, mayors and municipal councilors – are up for grabs next month, according to Venezuela’s elections authority. Some 21 million voters are eligible to participate.

A total of 44 EU observers have arrived in Venezuela so far. They will work in 22 of the country’s 23 states, Santos said, adding no personnel will be sent to the Amazonas state due to transport difficulties and the coronavirus pandemic.

The observers will release a preliminary report two days after the vote, with the final report expected to take two months, said Santos, a member of the European Parliament from Portugal.

Observers will remain deployed across the country until Nov. 29.

The Carter Center, a U.S.-based advocacy group, also plans to send four international electoral experts to Venezuela in early November, it said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Sandra Maler)

EU to deploy election observation mission to Venezuela

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will send observers to regional elections in Venezuela scheduled for Nov. 21, on the invitation of the country’s National Electoral Council, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said in a statement on Wednesday.

“An unprecedented electoral process will take place, with the concurrence of the majority of political forces for the first time in recent years, to elect more than 3,000 regional and municipal representatives in Venezuela,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said.

“The EU Election Observation Mission will undertake an independent technical assessment of all aspects of the electoral process and will propose recommendations to improve future elections,” he said.

The vote comes after three years of opposition election boycotts and a failed U.S.-backed effort to force Socialist Party President Nicolas Maduro from power through sanctions and the creation of a parallel opposition-led government.

The regional elections are expected to pose little threat to Maduro’s control of Venezuela. He has hung on to power despite a breathtaking collapse of the country’s economy as well as the broad U.S. sanctions program meant to force him from power.

The EU will send 11 election experts who will arrive in Caracas in October and will be joined by the end of that month by up to 62 long-term observers who will be deployed in the country’s regions.

A further 34 EU short-term observers and 20 locally recruited ones will reinforce the mission on election day. The EU team will stay in Venezuela until the completion of the electoral process, the EU statement said.

The EU observers will issue a preliminary statement and hold a news conference in Caracas after the elections and will also issue a final report with recommendations for future elections after the finalization of the electoral process.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Colombia arrests 10 over bombing, shooting of president’s helicopter

By Oliver Griffin

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia arrested 10 people accused of involvement in attacks on a helicopter carrying President Ivan Duque and a military base last month that officials said on Thursday were planned by former FARC rebel leaders based in Venezuela.

The car bombing at the base in the northeastern city of Cucuta, home to the army’s 30th brigade, wounded 44 people, including two U.S. military advisers. Later in June, a helicopter approaching city with Duque and other officials aboard was strafed by bullets.

The 10 people captured in Norte de Santander province are former FARC rebels who reject a 2016 peace deal, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a press conference broadcast via social media, and belong to the dissidents’ 33rd front.

Three took part in the planning and execution of both attacks and have been detained and charged, while another is a retired army captain, Barbosa said.

Orders to carry out the attacks came from former FARC leaders who are operating from Venezuela, Defense Minister Diego Molano said during the conference.

He said the incidents demonstrated the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sheltered FARC dissidents, calling them “terrorists”.

“It’s clear that this attack against the president, against the 30th brigade, was planned from Venezuela,” Molano said.

The Venezuelan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colombia’s government has long accused Maduro of turning a blind eye to the presence of Colombian rebels on his country’s territory. Maduro, in turn, has said Venezuela is a victim of criminals from Colombia.

(Reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Joe Bavier)