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Joshua Curzon

Articles by Joshua Curzon

Venezuela Campaign: Cut off Cuban cash to free Venezuela

4 days ago

News has just leaked out of the bravery of a Venezuelan tanker captain who has been arrested by Maduro’s intelligence services for refusing to deliver a cargo of diesel fuel to Cuba. His crew was threatened with court martial and treason charges and forced at gunpoint to deliver the fuel under the command of a temporary captain. Any hesitancy by the crew was overcome by. But why did the captain refuse to carry out his orders, and why was an oil shipment to Cuba deemed important enough to justify the attention of the intelligence services?There is huge resentment in Venezuela of Cuban interference in their country’s affairs. Venezuelans see the Cubans as partly responsible for their suffering, both directly and indirectly. Cuba has been a close ally of the regime for almost twenty years

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Venezuela Campaign: Chavista Anti-Semitism

11 days ago

Anti-Semitism has formed a key part of Chavismo, Hugo Chávez’s political ideology, and is now maintained by Chávez’s successor Nicholas Maduro. From the early days of his presidency, Chávez targeted Venezuela’s small Jewish community with abuse and sought to push them out of Venezuela. This was despite the absence of any anti-Semitic tradition in Venezuelan culture, which was always welcoming towards its Jewish population. When Chávez came to power in 1999, 30,000 Jews lived in Venezuela. Now only an estimated 5,000 remain after two decades of persecution.Chávez propagated classic tropes of anti-Semitism, including the notion that Jews controlled world finance and had “taken possession of all the wealth of the world.” Also prominent was the argument that Jews were dangerous fifth

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Venezuela Campaign: Shortages are a feature, not a bug of the system

24 days ago

Despite a near-total economic collapse and against expectations, the Chavista regime in Venezuela endures. How so? In a centrally planned economy, the ruling class can use goods in short supply as a political instrument of control. In Soviet times, party members could get access to special shops where they could buy goods unobtainable elsewhere. The same is true of Chavista Venezuela, where elites benefit from the profusion of shortages. This principle is ingrained in the Venezuelan system so deeply that even currency is subject to the same manipulation and control. However, shortages only work as a political tool when goods remain available. When Chavista managers control a nationalised factory, they can sell goods at high prices on the black market and generate extra personal income. But

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Venezuela Campaign: How Chavez destroyed accountability

April 15, 2019

It is a common feature of totalitarian regimes that their leaders face no accountability. In order to exercise total control over a state, totalitarian regimes systematically erode financial, judicial, and political systems designed to check the power of the executive. Such regimes also seek to establish a monopoly on information. Venezuela is no exception to this rule.Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, is both the primary earner of foreign currency in Venezuela and the primary source of government revenues. While its earnings were previously passed to the Ministry of Finance, Chavez decreed that the spending would be done directly by PDVSA under his personal control, with no accountability or transparency over how the funds were spent. On Chavez’s instructions PDVSA stopped publishing

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Venezuela Campaign: Trading oil for repression

March 24, 2019

The Venezuelan and Cuban totalitarian regimes have built a symbiotic relationship based on oil, in which Venezuelan oil keeps Cuba’s centrally planned economy afloat, and Cuban military, intelligence, and political services allow Maduro’s regime to counter and suppress political dissent. Every day more disturbing facts about the relationship between Cuba and Venezuela emerge. The New York Times has just published an exposé about how Cuban doctors in Venezuela are instructed to use the provision of medical treatment as a means of political control. This ranges from handing out medicine in return for sign-ups to the ruling socialist party, to outright denial of treatment to opposition supporters with life-threatening ailments.Sixteen Cuban doctors have come forward to discuss these

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Venezuela Campaign: Living in darkness under Maduro

March 10, 2019

This week Venezuela experienced one of the most severe and widespread blackouts in recent memory. The city of Caracas and nineteen of Venezuela’s twenty-three states were plunged into darkness for nineteen hours initially, with the blackout continuing for another day in most of the country. Every aspect of Venezuelan life was affected – Caracas’s metro and international airport shut, hospitals couldn’t function, and schools closed. Like the rest of Venezuela’s creaking infrastructure, its power grid has fallen victim to decades of political mismanagement. In 2007, ten state-owned and six private-owned electricity companies were nationalised to form the giant Corpoelec. Competent leadership of this massive and vital company was essential. However, the installation of Chavista managers

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Venezuela Campaign: Aid helps, but fundamental reform is needed

February 24, 2019

While most of the West sits around paralysed, debating whether to give any credence to Maduro’s claims that Venezuela does not need aid, people are dying. In Caracas’ only functioning children’s hospital, children are dying every day because the dialysis machines are not working. Other children are dying of malnutrition or are being permanently stunted. Due to a lack of medication, cancer and AIDS patients cannot receive the treatment required to keep them alive.While aid is desperately needed, it is by no means a long-term or even medium-term solution. Aid is a sticking plaster, and it is wholly inadequate to treat Venezuela’s gaping and festering wounds. A vast quantity of aid is required to feed starving Venezuelans and prop up Venezuela’s collapsed healthcare system. It would be

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End the Cuban occupation of Venezuela

February 10, 2019

Fifteen thousand Cuban intelligence operatives and ‘military advisers’ bar the path to democracy in Venezuela. Luis Amalgro, Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States, has described them as “an occupation army that teaches to torture, to repress, to do intelligence tasks, civil documentation, migration.”Former President Chavez brought in the Cubans in 2002, following a failed attempt that year to remove him from power. The role of the Cubans was clear: protect Chavez and his regime from any Venezuelan opposition. Under Chavez’s successor Maduro, some 400 Cuban military advisers are attached to the Presidential guard. Cubans effectively run the Maduro regime’s intelligence services.   In the early years of the Chavez regime the Cuban Government established its own Independent

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Venezuela Campaign: How to destroy an economy

January 27, 2019

We are now hopefully witnessing the death throes of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Latin American countries, the US, Canada, and many other states have declared National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the legitimate President. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets to show their support for Guaido, notably from the deprived barrios that once backed Chavez. Now that the end of Chavismo is in sight, it is worth reviewing how the Chavistas succeeded in ruining the richest country in Latin America, the country with the largest oil reserves in the world. The Chavista regime has destroyed much of the Venezuelan economy, crippled its oil production, and soon it will soon lose the remaining oil revenues that are sustaining it.Attacks on property rights and the rule of

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Venezuela Campaign: Chavez’ Cuban healthcare fiasco

January 20, 2019

Hugo Chavez’s apologists have always used his healthcare spending in the early years of his presidency to counter criticism of his appalling human rights and economic records. A cursory google search brings up many fawning articles to this effect. However, a closer examination of Chavez’s healthcare policy reveals a decidedly ugly picture. Chavez subcontracted a large chunk of Venezuelan healthcare provision to Cuba in a programme called Barrio Adentro, paying huge sums to Cuba for the provision of doctors. Very little of the money goes to the Cuban doctors, the vast majority (96%) is pocketed by the Cuban state. This funding helped Chavez finance Cuban security and intelligence support for his regime. Cuban intelligence has been vital to the Chavista regime’s ability to control both its

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Venezuela Campaign: Telecoms for control, not communication

December 31, 2018

In 2007 Hugo Chavez nationalised CANTV, Venezuela’s primary telecoms provider. Prior to its nationalisation CANTV had a reputation as South America’s leading telecoms operator. The company utilised the latest equipment, paid staff well, and trained staff thoroughly. However, the nationalisation has had a disastrous effect on CANTV. Today the network is falling apart.  State imposed price controls have crippled the company’s ability to generate sufficient revenues to finance its operations. Additionally, investment in new technology has ceased and many skilled staff have left the company. An in-depth investigation by Reuters has revealed that to pay its employees CANTV has to seek funds every month from the Venezuelan Central Bank. Wage levels are below $8 a month and pay often arrives

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Lights out for Chavismo

December 9, 2018

In Chavista Venezuela it is not just running water that is no longer available, but electricity too.  Inadequate investment and a lack of maintenance has collapsed the electricity grid, plunging much of the country into darkness for prolonged periods of time.Electricity used to be partially privately-owned, part state-owned, but in 2007 former President Hugo Chavez expropriated the assets of the largest private power producer, Electricidad de Caracas. Chavez merged all electric companies into one big state monopoly, the Corporación Eléctrica Nacional (CORPOELEC).Power cuts due to underinvestment and poor management began in 2009 and have increased in both frequency and severity over time. In 2016 public sector employees were put on a three day week in order to preserve power. While $50

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Venezuela Campaign: The taps run dry for the Chavista revolution

December 2, 2018

Venezuelan President Maduro and his predecessor Chavez have an extraordinary ability to create scarcity from abundance. Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, but now suffers from petrol shortages. There was once a flourishing agricultural sector, now children die of malnutrition and people have lost an average of 11kg in the past year.Venezuela has the twelfth largest fresh water reserves in the world, but fully 82% of Venezuelans now lack access to running water. That’s worse than 20 years ago—in 1998 nearly 87% had running water. Three quarters of public health centres do not receive regular running water, and the breakdown of the sewage system in hospitals has led to a surge in patient deaths. In a recent interview with The Venezuela Campaign, SOS Telemedicina Cursos’s

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Venezuela Campaign: building crisis cements Maduro’s failed legacy

November 18, 2018

Cement is a vital building material that is largely unavailable in Venezuela due to the collapse of the state-owned cement industry. Venezuela’s massive cement scarcity has resulted in the ruin of the construction industry.Hugo Chavez nationalised the cement industry to increase production in the ‘strategic’ sector. The Venezuelan assets of the four major private cement companies were expropriated in 2007-8, and construction of a new state-owned cement plant was started in co-operation with Iran. Ten years later this new plant is not yet complete. Chavez merged existing enterprises into the state-owned Socialist Cement Corporation, which controlled 90% of cement production in Venezuela. This move has been disastrous for the industry. Cement production plummeted by 42% from 10.2 million

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Venezuela Campaign: the amazing corruption machine

October 28, 2018

In 2003 Hugo Chavez implemented a currency control system in Venezuela, which in turn created a black market for foreign currency and the means for corrupt insiders to manipulate these controls to earn huge sums of money.PDVSA, the state oil company and the source of almost all of the nation’s export earnings, was required to transfer dollars to a new agency, the Commission for the Administration of Foreign Currency (CADIVI), which then sold those dollars at an overvalued artificial official rate, but only to a selected few. Those who do not have access to this official rate must turn to the black market to obtain foreign currency.The rigged central exchange rate through the state-controlled DICOM auction system as of 22 October 2018 was 63.81 Sovereign Bolivars (VES) to 1 USD. The

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Venezuela campaign: How nationalisation caused food shortages in Venezuela

October 21, 2018

Venezuela is currently in the grip of a devastating food shortage. Reports estimate that in 2017 the average Venezuelan lost an average of 12kg, following a 9kg weight loss the previous year. 60% of Venezuelans said they woke up feeling hungry each day. Nationalisation, a key policy of the Venezuelan regime, is an important cause of the hunger. Also called expropriation, it was applied to every aspect of the food chain from basic agriculture to food processing and retailers. Chavez introduced a Land Law in 2001 permitting the expropriation of agricultural land. Seized estates were turned over to co-operatives and regime supporters. The new farmers lacked the technical know-how, management skills and capital necessary to maintain production. Moreover, as state retained title to the land,

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Venezuela Campaign: bad governance to blame

October 7, 2018

Venezuela’s collapse can be largely attributed to a failure of governance. While foolish economic policies garner much attention, at root they are the product of a corrupt and anti-democratic approach to governance.Hugo Chavez’s central political principle was to seize as much power for himself as possible. He eliminated or emasculated all institutions that could possibly restrain him. Congress was replaced with a new National Assembly, which he controlled. Chavez used this Assembly to remove Presidential term limits. His intention was to rule for life, which he duly did for 14 years until his death from cancer in 2013.  He switched to rule by Presidential decree and made up the law as he went along.Chavez used the National Assembly to end judicial independence and pack the Supreme Court

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Venezuela Campaign: tragedy of hyperinflation

September 16, 2018

Hyperinflation in Venezuela has reached astonishing levels, making life extraordinarily difficult for ordinary people and causing immense economic damage. Inflation is currently running at some 200,000 per cent and is projected by the IMF to reach 1 million percent by the end of the year.The effects of hyperinflation at such levels are extreme, and radically different from the levels of 2% or 3% experienced in Europe in recent decades. Money becomes almost entirely worthless shortly after one receives it. There is no point in saving as the value of savings is wiped out, and thus little is invested. There is also no point in lending money as interest and capital repayments soon become valueless. Instead there is capital flight, as ordinary people are desperate to get their money out of a

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Venezuela Campaign: Sanctions

August 26, 2018

Supporters of the Venezuelan regime promote the idea that sanctions on Venezuela are responsible for its current economic woes, and that if the US and EU would withdraw these sanctions then everything would return to normal. This belief is categorically untrue and those who advocate it are at best disingenuous. This article will examine sanctions on Venezuela, and the reasons why they have had nothing to do with Venezuela’s economic catastrophe.The EU began sanctions against Venezuela in November 2017 with an arms embargo, and escalated its sanctions with asset freezes and travel bans on seven Venezuelan officials in January and eleven in June 2018. To argue that an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on 18 people are responsible for a Venezuelan economic crisis which began in 2012 is

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Venezuela Campaign: The tragedy of failing zoos and starving strays

August 19, 2018

Animals in Venezuela are suffering from acute malnutrition in a country where even most people find it difficult to feed themselves. They are often simply allowed to starve to death, despite efforts to transport them abroad to better conditions.As early as 2016, more than 50 animals in the Caricuao zoo in Caracas died of starvation. After an inspection in February 2018, the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park was declared ‘unsuitable to receive visitors’ and was closed until further notice. Some of Zulia’s weaker animals were being fed to bigger ones. Several of their specimens were eating each other out of sheer desperation. Of its 1000 animals, 80% are still in critical condition.‘What is being seen in Zulia can only be understood in countries with armed conflict’, said the zoo’s chief

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Venezuela Campaign: Corruption & Catastrophe

July 29, 2018

Running a country in crisis is challenging for even the most capable politicians. When thinking of those that have successfully led a country out of crisis, you might think of a leader with the vision of Roosevelt and the personality of Churchill. What then of a country where politicians are not only incompetent, but extraordinarily self-interested?Venezuela is such a country.Ranked 169th in the world by Transparency International in its Corruption Perceptions Index, with the seventh lowest score, Venezuela is one of the most corrupt places on the planet. Elections are widely regarded as shams, political accountability is non-existent, and former President Hugo Chavez’s daughter is worth billions.Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis may be a direct result of falling oil prices, but corruption and political cronyism have exacerbated the situation. After a failed strike in 2003, Chavez fired 18,000 employees of Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA.  The skilled and experienced workers who left were replaced by Chavez’s political supporters, regardless of their qualifications. This started a catastrophic decline in oil production, as valuable technical knowledge was lost.Faced with declining oil production and falling oil prices, Venezuela’s political elite were faced with a tough decision.

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Venezuela Campaign: Forgotten Refugees

July 15, 2018

South America has a new refugee crisis. Nearly a million Venezuelans have left their home country in the last 2 years, some claiming that the number may be as high as 4 million. On the 12th of March 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that a very significant proportion of those who had left were in need of international protection.Venezuela’s refugee crisis is driven by the implosion of its economy and the collapse of law and order in the country. Since August 2017, 250,000 Venezuelans have surged into Colombia. In recent months, more than 70,000 have entered Brazil, triggering a state of emergency in Roraima state.There are warnings that the Venezuelan refugee crisis could surpass Syria’s in scale and speed. The number of Venezuelans leaving their own country could exceed the 1.5 million who left Cuba during Castro’s rule, and has already exceeded the half million who fled El Salvador’s war during the 1980s.Venezuelans have scattered as far as Colombia, Panama, Peru and Brazil. In January 2018, the Venezuelan government blocked all traffic to and from the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao in response to the numbers of fleeing Venezuelans. Polls have shown that over half of young Venezuelans remaining in the country want to flee abroad permanently.These migrants are subjected to difficult conditions at home and little better awaits them abroad.

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