In an NPR story out recently, reporter John Otis took to the streets in Venezuela – a country that is going through one of its worst economic periods ever – to investigate the government accusation, that bakers, and not government offices, are hoarding flour.
This NPR report of what may sound silly—the government accusing bakers of hoarding flour—highlights the seriousness of the economic breakdown happening in Venezuela.
As hour-long lines form at the cash register of a bakery — one of the few yet to be shut down by the government — the only more time-consuming ordeal is the two-hour wait to enter the bakery. Customers are let in five at a time, which is why it can take a family an entire morning just to receive the two loafs of bread allowed per purchase. It is also the only way to keep fights from breaking out. With armed guards there to keep the peace, it’s like something out of a movie, but much worse, it’s real life.
According to the audio, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, claims that bakers are hoarding flour in order to make brownies, and by doing so are undermining the economy in a conspiracy to bring down his government.
If brownies are capable of destroying your economy, then flour hoarding, whether real or imagined, is the least of your concerns.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro accused both the U.S. and Colombian governments of trying to stage an invasion. President Maduro accused made the accusations towards the beginning of May when two Americans were arrested with a group of other people.
Both the U.S. and Colombia have denied any report of an attempted coup on Venezuela.
On May 3, a group of Venezuelan rebels and two Americans allegedly began a coup attempt in Venezuela. They began on the northern tip of the country and reportedly had plans to take control of Maracaibo and Caracas. They were all immediately captured and 8 Venezuelans in the group were killed during the conflict.
According to the Daily Mail, Jordan Goudreau, 43, was involved with the coup and told a close friend about it. It is alleged that Goudreau bragged about having a contract with the U.S. government to protect oil interests in Venezuela.
The mercenaries behind the attempted coup claim to have done security for a President Trump rally in 2018.
Goudreau, who has been described as the mastermind of the coup attempt, owns the security company Silvercorp. An old Instagram post shows the Florida-based company running security for a Trump rally back in 2018. The company has since deleted the Instagram posts after news broke about their failed attempt to train Venezuelan rebels and capture the South American country.
“He came out to Colorado,” Drew White, Goudreau’s former business partner told Daily Mail. “He said he had a deal from the State Department to protect oil interests in Venezuela. He was saying it was handed to him directly. He was saying it was directed and passed down by the State Department, that it was a legitimate operation and they also had some private funding backing, which isn’t unusual with these kinds of things. Essentially he was like, ‘We’re going to topple Maduro.’ At that point I was like, ‘This doesn’t seem legitimate” and we broke ways.”
Goudreau claims that the Trump administration and Venezuelan resistance leader Juan Guaidó green-lit the operation.
The U.S. and Venezuela have had a contentious relationship over the past few years. The political unrest in Venezuela has continued to draw criticism from the international community as Venezuelans have protested for a new leader. When the relationship with Trump soured, Maduro began to claim that the U.S. was attempting to overthrow the government.
Both the U.S. and Colombian governments have denied any involvement in the alleged coup.
Reports state that the group of men attempting to topple the Venezuelan government did nothing to hide their plan. The security group was tweeting their plans to the open-world alerting anyone with a Twitter account to their plans. SilverCorp USA has since deleted their Twitter account. Experts and officials have decisively denied any collaboration between the mercenaries and the two governments.
“There is no way that I can see any kind of U.S. involvement,” Fernando Cutz, who served as a Latin America adviser on the National Security Council under both Obama and Trump, told the Huffington Post. “There were no logistics, the numbers were a joke, they clearly didn’t have any intel. A group of high schoolers would have done a better job.”
Social media has spent time dragging the security company over its failed coup attempt.
There is still a lot of speculation swirling around the “coup.” However, Goudreau’s friend is pretty sure that the missions was not as official as Goudreau claims.
“He’s a good man,” White told Daily Mail. “He was the best man at my wedding. We have a lot of history together and it never seemed like he was lying like that. But once you started looking at it, none of it really added up. He kept asking to meet with people for funding. But typically with a State Department contract, the funding is shored up. You might have some private entities helping here and there. But it was pretty obvious that it was not a state-sanctioned activity.”
Despite a global pandemic – or maybe because of it – Venezuela’s two governments are holding high-level talks, according to several sources – as reported by Reuters.
The breaking development comes as the U.S. ratchets up pressure on the Venezuela and a growing number of countries now recognize the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
The two sides are discussing everything from the Coronavirus pandemic to fuel shortages and hyperinflation.
According to a report by Reuters, the two sides have come together to discuss a variety of issues despite a growing bitterness between the two leaders.
Obviously, Venezuela faces ongoing crises but the global health pandemic has heightened fears within the country of all out chaos. The country is barely equipped to handle normal, everyday health emergencies let alone a global pandemic.
The U.S. and its international allies have also tightened the already unprecented sanctions on the country and has issued an arrest warrant for Maduro. Many within the government, according to sources, say this has motivated them to seek political survival under a possible change of government.
Other than the Coronavirus and ongoing domestic economic issues, the talks are said to have no clear agenda.
It’s not entirely certain what either side is hoping to achieve with these talks. “There are two extremes: Maduro and those who believe that the virus will end Guaido’s leadership, and those on the other side (who) hope this crisis will bring down Maduro,” said an opposition legislator in favor of the discussions.
Maduro and Guaidó are competing with one another to help combat the effects of the pandemic, with each side convinced the outbreak will undermine the other politically. But it remains to be seen which side will come out ahead given the vacuum of leadership and the growing crisis everyday Venezuelans face.
Activists and rights groups around the world have urged the two factions to seek a truce in order to coordinate the delivery of aid and boost gasoline imports.
Meanwhile, the United States has put ‘maximum pressure’ on the Maduro regime to try and force a change of government.
The US state department in March offered to begin lifting parts of the sanctions if members of the Socialist party formed an interim government without Maduro, a plan backed by Guaidó but quickly shot down by the government.
The U.S. has also issued an international arrest warrant for Maduro – accusing him of drug trafficking and money laundering. This allegedly has members of his government looking for an exit strategy.
Venezuela has so far escaped the worst effects of the Coronavirus.
Venezuela is particularly vulnerable to the wider effects of the pandemic because of its ongoing socioeconomic and political crisis causing massive shortages of food staples and basic necessities, including medical supplies. The mass emigration of Venezuelan doctors has also caused chronic staff shortages in hospitals.
So far, the country has seen just 311 confirmed cases and 10 deaths related to the virus – but these numbers are suspected to be unreliable because of a lack of testing in the country.
Maduro has reacted to the pandemic by reversing his opposition to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and asking for $5 billion in international aid to help his government combat the virus. The county has also suspended all international flights and borders between Venezuela and Colombia and Brazil have been closed since mid-March.