Cyber-thugs blow out access to Venezuelan oil data at Johns Hopkins

What happens when you dig a little too deeply into Venezuelan state oil company data posted online?

A Johns Hopkins University professor found that Venezuela's ruling Chavistas really, really don't want anyone with knowledge of economics doing that.

On Thursday, they dispatched a cyber-thug team to deny access to the PDVSA state oil company website to all of Johns Hopkins University's computers, after Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics there, wrote extensively about the country's failing currency and its economic mismanagement at PDVSA.  Hanke told American Thinker in a phone conversation that his academic assistant had been burrowing through the muddy and obscure details of PDVSA's financials for hours recently.  For him, the ACCESS DENIED code to the page came with a rider not seen on the rest of the university's blocked-off computers: REPEAT OFFENDER.

See a screenshot of the episode here (and a photo at the end.)

Last month, Hanke wrote an article describing Venezuela's state oil company finances as "a death spiral" in a column for Forbes magazine, now reposted at Zero Hedge, titled "Venezuela's PDVSA: The World's Worst Oil Company," opening with this:

My Misery Index for 2016 placed Venezuela at the unenviable top spot: the world’s most miserable country. However, to gain a real appreciation of the depths of Venezuela’s socialist disaster, we must look under the hood of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned oil giant. After all, PDVSA is, for all practical purposes economically, Venezuela. Indeed, PDVSA accounts for virtually all of Venezuela’s foreign exchange earnings (93% over the past 5 reported years).

With Venezuela struggling to pay its bond issues and retain its ever fewer investors, it's not surprising that the people running the place should be so sensitive about their financials.  The country's involved in massive lawsuits with U.S. and Canadian investors over its uncompensated expropriations.  The other problem is that socialism is itself unsustainable, with running out of other people's money an absolute iron law of economics any place socialism is found.  Venezuela's doing its best to hide assets from foreign companies who demand their property back while at the same time convince other investors it remains solvent to pay its bonds.  It can't do both at the same time.

It goes to show that despite the high-profile thuggery seen against its dissidents, it reserves a special little cold spot for those who can read its finances.  One of its other enemies is a Home Depot salesman out in Alabama who runs a website that publishes unofficial currency exchange rates.  The other is obviously Hanke, who has written about its inflation rate via his Troubled Currencies Project, its economic misery index, and now its disastrous oil economics.  Apparently, three was just too much for them.

I identify the culprits as Chavista cyber-thugs, but realistically, it could be Cuban or even Russian agents in league with them, who have far more competence and experience in cyber-warfare.  Whoever it is, it's probably illegal, and the authorities should crack down hard if it is.  If not, it just goes to show the ends to which Chavistas will go to hide the reality of their disastrous socialist death spiral economy.

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