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BLACKWATER USA | DAILY BRIEF


China

  • Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong launched a campaign to run for the territory’s legislature in Sep. 6th elections. Wong was barred from running in previous elections, and probably will be again. Only half the legislature’s seats are directly elected anyway.

  • Separately, the UK is expected to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong today, out of displeasure with China’s new national security law for Hong Kong.

North Korea

  • Kim Jong Un fired public officials building a hospital because they’d asked the public for contributions. It’s probably not unusual for North Korean officials to ask the public they serve for a little extra, but it is unusual for that sort of corruption to be called out so publicly in DPRK.

DRC

  • Pres. Tshisekedi shook up his army’s leadership, but only timidly: he sidelined a controversial Kabila-friendly general, John Numbi, but reinstated other sanctioned officers to senior positions. The U.S. had urged him to make deeper changes to the army’s top brass, and had hoped he wouldn’t promote human rights violators or war criminals.

Venezuela

  • Pres. Maduro blamed returning refugees for bringing coronavirus into Venezuela, calling them a “biological weapon.” Maduro’s government is confining returnees to crowded and poorly-stocked quarantine centers, which certainly doesn’t help.

  • A National Interest article pasted below covers the complicated mess surrounding Crystallex—a Canadian mining company with claims to Venezuelan funds—and the U.S. effort to block it from CITGO funds, which the U.S. wants to reserve for Pres. Guaido’s potential future government.

Mexico

  • Pres. AMLO put the Mexican military in charge of customs at all land and marine ports of entry to prevent drug trafficking. The military had previously supported customs operations, but this move will give it more responsibility over them.

Libya

  • A new U.S. DoD IG report estimated that Turkey paid 3,500 to 3,800 Syrian fighters to go to Libya in the first quarter of 2020, changing the course of the war in the GNA’s favor.

  • The Turkish Defense Minister recently visited Qatar, raising concerns that Qatar may deploy the Somalis it’s been training to Libya to back the GNA. Those concerns seem speculative, but not impossible.

Other News

  • EU leaders still haven’t come to an agreement on how to spend a massive stimulus package. Some richer northern countries want needier southern and eastern member states to be held more accountable for instituting reforms. Talks resume today.

  • The right-wing government of the poorest EU nation, Bulgaria, is facing widespread protests that started when the public found out a prominent businessman was able to reserve a public beach for his private use.

  • The UAE’s Mars mission finally launched from Japan this morning, after several weather delays.

  • And Saudi’s 84-year-old King Salman was hospitalized for medical checks on an inflamed gallbladder.

Venezuela’s Dictator Stole from this Company. Now, America’s Government is Stopping Justice From Being Served (National Interest)

Entrepreneurs, not dictators or corrupt politicians, deserve to keep what they own and invest.

Since the sad days of the Chavez regime, the Venezuelan people have had to deal with wanton expropriations and confiscation of their hard-earned property. Dictator Hugo Chavez would tour Caracas, the capital city, pointing his finger at stores and buildings directing his staff to take them over from their rightful owners. Thousands of companies both small and large, foreign and Venezuelan, were wiped out of existence as the Venezuelan government took them over and ran them to the ground.

Finally, one of the victims of the robberies of Venezuela’s late dictator Hugo Chavez—mining company Crystallex—is getting its day in court. But the U.S. Treasury Department is standing in its way. For the sake of property rights across the globe, the Trump administration must allow justice to be served.

When Chavez rose to power in 1999, many naively saw him as a cure for the nation’s ills, and surging oil prices helped paper over the problems caused by his socialist policies. But all the natural resources in the world couldn’t make up for the terrible consequences of socialism and Chavez knew that something had to be done to prop up his failed regime once he lost popular support. His desire to stay in power led him to bribe the military and involve them in corruption schemes so they were happy to oppress freedom-loving Venezuelans seeking to oust him and later Maduro.

To achieve this, the South American dictator confiscated the property of his citizens and set his sights on foreign-based companies operating within Venezuela’s borders.

Such was the case of Canadian mining company Crystallex, which employed hundreds of Venezuelans. Crystallex was granted mining rights in the “Mina Las Cristinas,” whose gold reserves of nearly 17 million ounces are valued in the billions of dollars. The company spent millions of dollars in feasibility and environmental impact studies, invested in infrastructure, hired workers, provided training programs, built a healthcare facility, constructed a water treatment plant, and built new sewer lines since 2002 only to lose all their investment when Chavez nationalized it without compensation months before the development of the mine was scheduled to occur.

After Chavez took it over, the mine became an essential part of the system of payoffs that keeps the regime in power. It’s now controlled by irregular armed groups, corrupt officials and members of the military who commit frequent human rights violations against the workers, including amputations according to Human Rights Watch.

Fortunately, some international institutions safeguard property against the violent whims of dictators. In 2016, the World Bank’s international arbitration facility in Washington ruled that the company is owed $1.4 billion in restitution by Venezuela’s government.

But now it’s 2020. It’s been four years since the World Bank ruling, and twelve years since the seizure of Las Cristinas mine, yet Crystallex has not received their due from Chavez’s successor Nicolás Maduro, nor by the U.S.-recognized president, Juan Guaido.

Since the World Bank ruling, numerous U.S. courts, including the Court of Appeals for the Third District, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, affirmed Crystallex’s right to be compensated.

Last month, the Supreme Court denied to hear a case involving an appeal against Crystallex, effectively letting U.S. federal courts auction a $10 billion business called CITGO Petroleum Corporation owned by the Venezuelan government and operating here in the United States. Surely, Crystallex can be awarded a fraction of CITGO’s wealth to be repaid.

Yet the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is not allowing this auction to happen and has yet to make a final decision on the matter. Officials are hoping to keep CITGO assets under the control of Juan Guaido’s government, who the United States has recognized as Venezuela’s president since 2019 in the hope they will use it to help Venezuela if Maduro is overthrown. But the likelihood of Maduro leaving power is sadly extremely low. Just like his Cuban allies, Maduro could last decades more in office and transfer power to another handpicked dictator like Chavez did.

If the Treasury continues blocking Crystallex from accessing the CITGO shares that U.S. courts have awarded them, they would set a devastating precedent for property owners around the world. Dictators mulling over expropriation in their own countries would be given the green-light to steal billions of dollars without ever having to pay them back if they set up “alternative” governments abroad.

It’s time for the Trump Administration to ensure that Crystallex gets its due. Entrepreneurs, not dictators or corrupt politicians, deserve to keep what they own and invest.

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