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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Michael Rowan: Sleeping with the Fishes in Venezuela
"Insolvency in the face of global dollar debts totaling several years of GDP is normally the end of the road for a government, but it may be the entrance ramp to an unlit highway for a mafia in control of a state" like Venezuela, predicts Latin American guru Michael Rowan.

By Michael Rowan

Insolvency in the face of global dollar debts totaling several years of GDP is normally the end of the road for a government, but it may be the entrance ramp to an unlit highway for a mafia in control of a state.

When the world shuns Venezuela as a formal state, it looks like the end of days. That is why Venezuela is trying desperately to retain the appearance of a state; but it is not a true state, it is a mafia controlling a state, pure and simple.

That mafia secretly ceded formal state status years ago. It ceded its political sovereignty to Cuba, which controls national security, identity and passports. It ceded its economic sovereignty to Russia and China, who now effectively control national oil and minerals. And it ceded its international credibility to rogue states such as Iran, Syria and North Korea, or political terrorist groups such as the FARC, Hamas and Hezbollah.

In the real world, mafia promises to pay foreign debts in dollars have about as much meaning as the dialogue on democracy that has been foiled since the 2004 Recall Referendum. Both of those are charades to keep what Lenin called the “useless idiots” busy believing some progress is being made, while the mafia at the center of power loots the treasury through myriad corruption schemes.

The unnoticed elephant in the room is the $300 billion missing from Venezuela public accounts since 2000, which represents one dollar for every three that entered the country in that period: where is that money?

The mafia is not going to stop feasting on its kill when so much oil remains under the turf it now controls with readied weapons. In a dog-eat-dog mentality, why should it? Do you think the mafia’s pals in Russia, China, Cuba, or Iran want Venezuela’s mafia expulsed so that a law and order regime can identify who has the $300 billion? No way.

Only eighteen years ago, Chavez rose to power unexpectedly through a legitimate election which he insisted was a revolution that would last a thousand years. As he became de facto president for life, eliminating Venezuela’s feeble protections against absolute power and absolute corruption, foreign predators pounced, giving him loans, weapons, and international support which remains to this day casting vetoes on the U.N. National Security Council.

Chavez died and his successor has not done well for the revolution, needless to say. But does that mean Venezuela will revert to the democratic roots of Betancourt and Leoni, or simply double down on Maduro’s replacement as mafia don? In fact, the choice for the mafia is leaving billions of future looting on the table and trying to fake it in the formal world; or to kill, imprison, maim or starve any Venezuelans who push back, in order to please the real owners of the country so that the feast of looting will continue.

After all, from the mafia’s perspective, it is just a matter of fairness. Stalin and his cult got 80 years in Russia followed by a bunch more for Putin. Khomeini and his cult got 38 years and counting in Iran. The Kim clan has controlled North Korea since World War II. The Castro’s have ruled Cuba for 57 years. Even Zimbabwe’s Mugabe and his cult got 37 years to rape and pillage a rich country. Following revolutionary logic, doesn’t the Bolivarian kleptocracy deserve another ten or twenty years?

If this sounds funny, strange, absurd or outrageous, it’s because you live in the formal world of law and order – the world where bad behavior is sanctioned. But in the world of the mafia, only their enemies are sanctioned: They are sent to sleep with the fishes.

Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America.


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