Venezuela is starting to take hostages

Venezuela arrested two Chevron employees in Caracas Monday on trumped up charges of corruption.

On the surface, the act looks just plain insane: Venezuela's oil industry has cratered into a heap of rubble.  Production of oil has fallen to 1949 levels, and five-digit inflation is destroying the value of the currency.  Those two events are related: some 25,000 highly skilled state oil company employees have walked away from their jobs, unable to stand working for worthless currency that won't even buy them a cup of coffee.

Oil is responsible for 90% of Venezuela's export earnings and pretty well finances the Chavista government.  The only hope this disastrous oil-collapsed country has left for any reprieve is in its foreign investors, such as Chevron.  Even the Chinese and the Russians, who had been Venezuela's great white sugar-daddy hope, aren't touching them.  There's just Chevron and a few other companies, hedging their bets that the Chavistas won't last by their willingness to wait them out.

And now Venezuela is arresting them.

Suicide?  Naaah.  Last year, the Chavistas, in a good imitation of what their Iranian and Cuban allies do, took a U.S. hostage.  He was a Mormon kid from Utah who fell in love with a Venezuelan woman and foolishly agreed to visit her in that country.  For his trouble, he got arrested and thrown into in a Chavista dungeon, where he remains to this day, a sad hostage to the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro.  The motive for the senseless arrest was to use the kid as a bargaining chip for the two nephews of his wife, who were busted by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Haiti for big-league drug-trafficking while actually living in the palace household.  The Mormon kid was taken as an exchange chip for getting the two drug-dealers out of the U.S. can.  Thus far, it hasn't worked.

Now we see the same bargaining-chip behavior going on with foreign investors and oil workers.  The Chavistas are under grave threat of sanctions, and all of their schemes to evade them, whether through the issuance of crypto-currency or courting Hollywood celebrities to sing their socialist praises, have come to naught.  Now they're taking hostages.

Last weekend, Venezuela became the pig at the garden party of democracy at the annual Summit of the Americas in Peru, the nation singled out for its dictatorial socialism and its willingness to drive out vast portions of its people.  There actually were pigs released into the streets of Lima to illustrate the point.  The sanctions talk was strong, and more are about to be piled on.

Venezuela has no way out of this because the thugs in the presidential palace intend to hold on to power forever.  They also have no external influence and no allies.  But we know they watch North Korea admiringly and were pleased as punch about the North Korean murder of innocent U.S. student-hostage Otto Warmbier.

They looked, they saw, they considered their increasingly thin options – and, like outlaws, they grabbed two Chevron employees as hostages.

This is thuggishness taken beyond ordinary Chavista extremes.  They are going to be grabbing more people as times goes on.  It's all the more reason to enact the sanctions, and maybe something more forceful.  Nothing must be left out there for them to retaliate against.

Photo credit: Nick Youngson, Blue Diamond Gallery via Creative Commons 3.0.

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