Tag Archives: Sean Penn

Failed States: Puerto Rico in second day of massive blackout; Venezuelans eat garbage for food

Like Venezuela, Puerto Rico is a failed state — mired in debt, with a decaying infrastructure.

In June 2015, Puerto Rico went bankrupt, from $70 billion in debt. (See “America’s Greece: Puerto Rico is bankrupt”)

Two days ago, the entire island was plunged into darkness when a fire at a power plant led to a massive power outage.

Puerto Rico in second day of massive power outage (photo by Reuters)

Puerto Rico in second day of massive power outage (photo by Reuters)

The AP reports (via Wall St. Journal), Sept. 22, 2016, that repair crews worked through the night trying to restore electricity to the island by morning. But some schools canceled classes for the day as a precaution, while Puerto Rico’s largest public hospital canceled elective surgeries and nonurgent appointments, and government officials and private groups put off dozens of scheduled events.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency, saying, “This is a very serious event. The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude.”

Wednesday’s outage caused 15 fires across Puerto Rico as a result of malfunctioning generators, including at the upscale Vanderbilt hotel in the popular tourist area of Condado and at the mayor’s office in the northern coastal town of Catano. All those fires were extinguished, and no one was injured, officials said. The blackout knocked out traffic lights, snarling the island’s roads. Businesses, universities and government offices closed early, putting even more cars on chaotic roads. Some people opted to not go home, and hotels in the capital of San Juan quickly filled up. As the sun set, people crowded into restaurants running on generators; others chatted with neighbors while standing or sitting at opened doors and windows trying to beat the hot night.

The outage was the latest hit for an island mired in a decadelong economic crisis and whose government has warned it is running out of money as it seeks to restructure nearly $70 billion in public debt.

The Electric Power Authority (EPA) said investigators were trying to determine what caused the fire that broke out Wednesday afternoon at a power plant in southern Puerto Rico that serves a majority of customers on the island. The fire began at a switch and caused two transmission lines of 230,000 volts each to fail. EPA executive director Javier Quintana said he expected most power to be restored by morning and that airports, hospitals, police stations and water-pumping stations would get priority. But many Puerto Ricans expressed doubts that power would be restored quickly, saying the economic slump has affected basic government services. Hundreds of people took to social media to criticize the EPA, noting they already pay bills on average twice that of the U.S. mainland.

It is unclear how much damage the fire caused or where the power company would obtain the money to repair or buy new equipment as the EPA already is struggling with a $9 billion debt it hopes to restructure as it faces numerous corruption allegations. Company officials have said they are seeking more revenue to update what they say is outdated equipment.

Gov. Padilla, however, insisted that the switch where the fire began had received proper maintenance and that no amount of money or maintenance would have prevented the fire.

USA Today reports that late last night, lights slowly began to flicker on across Puerto Rico as electricity was restored to more than 390,000 of the 1.5 million homes and businesses served by the Electric Power Authority.

Gov. Padilla said he expects more than half of EPA’s customers to have power by this morning and that 90% of customers will likely have power by Saturday. However, he cautioned: “Problems may arise. I don’t want to create false expectations.”

Puerto Rico map

Puerto Rico is not only a sober reminder to us of the result of government mismanagement and spiraling debt, the island’s bankruptcy also directly impacts the U.S. as more and more Puerto Ricans resettle in the U.S. mainland, not as foreign immigrants, but as U.S. citizens. They may even decide who will be America’s next president.

Note: Puerto Rico is an incorporated U.S. territory in the Caribbean with a total population of around 3.5 million people, 12.5% of whom are black or sub-Saharan African. As such, people born in Puerto Rico are natural-born citizens of the United States. The territory operates under a local constitution, and Puerto Ricans elect a governor. However, Puerto Rico lacks voting members in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, both of whom have plenary jurisdiction over it under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. A 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of Puerto Rico’s electorate) disagreed with “the present form of territorial status” and preferred full statehood in the USA. (Source)

As reported by CNN on August 9, 2016, more than a million Puerto Ricans now live in Florida, a number that rivals the state’s Cuban population who have long dominated Latino political power in Florida. A majority of recent new residents are resettling in the counties along the “I-4 corridor” in Central Florida, which is known as a crucial swing region for elections.

Esteban Garces, the Florida state director of Mi Familia Vota, a “progressive” advocacy group that aims to register more than 30,000 Latino voters in the state before Election Day, said: “Central Florida is a key region of this swing state. And there’s a swing vote in this swing region in this swing state, and that’s the Latino vote. Specifically, it’s the Puerto Ricans. They’re going to decide really who the next president is.”

Venezuelan woman picks through garbage for food

Venezuelan woman picks through garbage for food

Meanwhile, across the Caribbean Sea in Venezuela, people literally are on the brink of starvation.

Venezuelans are killing their pets and zoo animals for food. A new study found that over 15% of Venezuela say they depend on eating garbage — food waste discarded by commercial establishments — to survive, while half of the population say they have had to take time from work to search for food. (Breitbart)

But socialist actor Sean Penn, with an estimated net worth of $150 million, is still no where to be seen in Venezuela helping its starving people, although he was BFF with the country’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, who died in March 2013 with a family fortune of around $2 billion — similar to the personal fortunes of the socialist Castro brothers (Fidel and Raúl) in socialist Cuba.

Instead, Penn was last spotted on August 23, having dinner at the elegant Mediterranean restaurant Il Piccolino in West Hollywood, where the menu includes steaks, chicken, veal, lamb, artisan duck sausages, seafood pasta, and octopus appetizers.

See also “$150 for a dozen eggs: Venezuela in 720% hyperinflation death spiral“.

~Eowyn

$150 for a dozen eggs: Venezuela in 720% hyperinflation death spiral

Susan Warner writes for The Gatestone Institute (via ZeroHedge), that Venezuela, an oil-producing OPEC state that at one time claimed to be the most prosperous nation in Latin America, “is unraveling at breakneck speed”:

  • A dozen eggs now cost $150, as inflation will hit 720% this year according to the International Monetary Fund.
  • It’s not just insanely overpriced food; there is a shortage of food to buy, as well as medicine, electricity and water. For some months now, there are reports of people waiting in supermarket lines all day, only to discover that expected food deliveries never arrived and the shelves are empty.
  • A once comfortable middle-class Venezuelan father is seen scrambling desperately to find his family’s next meal, sometimes hunting through garbage for salvageable food.
  • Desperate people are killing household pets and zoo animals for food.
  • The 75% majority of Venezuelans who were in poverty before the economic collapse reportedly are verging on starvation.
Typical grocery story in Venezuela

Typical grocery story in Venezuela

But President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chavez — actor Sean Penn’s BFF — is doubling down on the proven failed policies and philosophies of “Bolivarian Socialism,” while diverting attention away from the crisis by blaming Venezuela’s collapse on foreign “enemies” such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and others.

Only 9 years ago, U.S. policy “experts” celebrated Chavez’s socialist revolution. In a 2007 study, “The Chávez Administration at 10 Years: The Economy and Social Indicators,” for the liberal Washington, D.C. think tank, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, economists Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval wrote:

“[a]t present it does not appear that the current economic expansion is about to end any time in the near future. The gains in poverty reduction, employment, education and health care that have occurred in the last few years are likely to continue along with the expansion.”

mark-weisbrot

There’s a name for people like Weisbrot, Sandoval, and Penn.

It’s “useful idiots”: People who, unwittingly, are propagandists for a cause the goals of which they are not fully aware, and who are used cynically by the leaders of the cause.

Except that in the case of intellectuals like Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval, they are not unaware ignorants. Neither is Sean Penn. There should be another name for them:

Malevolent useful idiots

It’s just too bad these “malevolent useful idiots” for socialism are never there to pick up the pieces for Venezuelans and other peoples across the world, including the American poor and middle class, when it all goes bad — which it always has and inevitably will.

Meanwhile, as the people of Venezuela starve, Sean Penn is still nowhere to be seen in their country to help out the starving poor.

With an estimated net worth of $150 million, Penn has lived a privileged life since birth as the son of actor-director Leo Penn (and grandson of Ashkenazi Jewish emigrants from Lithuania and Russia). Sean has been signed to star in a new movie, Professor & the Mad Men, with Mel Gibson, and was last spotted on August 23, having dinner at the elegant Mediterranean restaurant Il Piccolino in West Hollywood, where the menu includes steaks, chicken, veal, lamb, artisan duck sausages, seafood pasta, and octopus appetizers.

Sean Penn at Il Piccolino restaurant, August 23, 2016

Sean Penn at Il Piccolino restaurant, August 23, 2016

See also:

~Eowyn

Venezuela at the abyss: 500,000 swarm streets of capital to demand recall of president

After months of hyperinflation, and food, water, and medical shortages, the people of Venezuela finally took to the streets to tell their socialist government they’ve had enough.

On Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, an epic surge of half a million people converged on the capital, Caracas, to insist that an election to recall President Nicolas Maduro, the 53-year-old successor to the late Hugo Chavez, take place as planned.

Massive demonstration in Caracas, Venezuela, Sept. 1, 2016

Mery Mogollon and Chris Kraul report for the Los Angeles Times that the legions of anti-Maduro protesters, mostly dressed in white, stretched for as far as the eye could see. Estimates put the crowds at 500,000.

The marchers carried posters reading “No more socialism,” “Maduro Out,”  “Venezuela wants a recall,” and banners demanding the release of political prisoners. They said life in Venezuela has become a daily ordeal of standing in endless lines for food, for government services, for medical care. A common sentiment of the demonstrations was frustration — frustration over having water or electricity service cut off, frustration for hyperinflation that destroys the value of their wages. The Venezuelan flag was everywhere — on hats, shirts, skirts, rendered in face paint. Many wore flags as capes. The protesters came from all over Venezuela, including indigenous community representatives from Amazonas state. Some marched bare-chested and in loincloths while carrying spears.

Bordering the streets occupied by the masses of protesters were several cordons of riot police. They used tear gas to disperse some protesters who mounted one of Caracas’ freeways, but otherwise there were no violent incidents or confrontations reported.

Caracas demonstration 9-1-2016

Among the demonstrators were:

  • Nelson Rivas, 35, who was determined that nothing would stop him from demonstrating — not his wheelchair, not the six-mile distance over uneven pavement, not the whiffs of tear gas, not the ominous threats of arrests from Maduro. He said, “I came to demand that the recall election take place according to the constitution. Whatever your point of view, the condition of the country is the worst.”
  • Marching near Rivas was hairdresser Adela Hernandez, 56, who said she had reached her limit of tolerance: “Everything is a disaster. We’re tired of the insecurity, of scarcities, of inflation. We want a peaceful change, according to the constitution, that’s why we want a recall vote. It’s our right.”
  • Agustín Perez, a 30-year-old carpenter who lives in the poor east Caracas barrio El Atlantico who walked five miles to the protest after Maduro closed down the subways close to the protest route to discourage attendance, said: “We want the Venezuela we had 20 years ago, when there was food, security, medicine, when the money you made was enough to buy what you needed. Maduro can’t offer any of that.”
  • Jesús Belisario, a 38-year old laborer who came from San Cristobal in western Tachira state, said: “Recall now. The government can’t stop it. Discontent is very high.”
  • Opposition leaders in the march included Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, national Assemblyman Julio Borges, and Maria Corina Machado, the fierce assemblywoman who was physically attacked on the floor of the national legislature, while the chamber’s president, Diosdado Cabello, stood by smiling.

The demonstration was a forceful repudiation of the leftist politics that are falling out of favor across Latin America. At its peak in 2008, the left held the presidencies of 8 of the 10 most populous countries in South and Central America. But those regimes have lost popularity as steep drops in commodity prices badly damaged their economies and left less money to spend on the poor. Candidates from the right recently won the presidencies of Argentina and Peru, and just this week, Dilma Rousseff was permanently ousted from the presidency in Brazil in an impeachment trial engineered by opponents from the right who now control the government.

But nowhere in Latin America has the rise and fall of the left been as dramatic as in Venezuela, a country that has been on the brink of collapse for the last several months.

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

Venezuela had its own brand of socialism, known as Chauvismo for Hugo Chavez — actor Sean Penn’s best bud, who was elected president in 1998 in a rejection of free-market policies that were encouraged by the United States but failed to deliver on their promise of wider prosperity. Chavez fueled his social programs with revenue from the country’s vast oil supply. But falling oil prices and out-of-control spending threw the economy into turmoil as the leadership turned to more repressive measures to stifle growing discontent.

Maduro, who was vice president under Chavez, took over after the latter died in March 2013 and was narrowly elected to a six-year term the next month. Maduro’s support plummeted as the economy continued to deteriorate to the point that analysts warn that Venezuela is at risk of becoming a failed state.

The opposition had thought winning a majority of seats in the National Assembly in last year’s elections would lead to changes. But the Maduro-controlled Supreme Court has declared 24 laws passed by the body to be illegal.

Still, Maduro has supporters who held a counter-march of tens of thousands on Thursday in a section of Caracas closer to the Miraflores presidential palace. The anti-Maduro forces say the pro-government marchers were paid to be there.

Pro-Maduro counter-rally, 9-1-2016

Pro-Maduro counter-rally, 9-1-2016

On Sept. 14, protests will be convened at all the state capitals to demand that the national electoral council convene the “recall Maduro” vote. While the council has verified that enough signatures were collected earlier this year to initiate the process, it has not set a firm time line for the next phase, which opponents claim is a delaying tactic.

Meanwhile, still no sign of Sean Penn in Venezuela.

The actor-activist was last spotted on August 23, having dinner at Il Piccolino in West Hollywood, Calif. The elegant Mediterranean restaurant’s menu includes steaks, chicken, veal, lamb, artisan duck sausages, seafood pasta, and octopus appetizers.

Penn has lived a privileged life since birth as the son of actor-director Leo Penn. His paternal grandparents were Ashkenazi Jewish emigrants from Lithuania and Russia.

Sean Penn at Il Piccolino restaurant, August 23, 2016

See also:

~Eowyn

Let them eat cake: Venezuela gov’t celebrates dead Hugo Chavez’s birthday with $100,000 cake while the people starve

While Venezuelans are desperate to find food (see links at the end of this post), their president, Nicolás Maduro, saw fit to spend $100,000 on a cake to celebrate the birthday of a dead man — his predecessor in criminal government and actor Sean Penn’s best bud, Hugo Chavez.

Maduro eats cake

ZeroHedge reports, July 30, 2016:

Nothing describes socialism more aptly than baking a 4 feet tall cake weighing 90 kilos for Hugo Chavez’s birthday (a dead man) while the rest of the country starves, cannot find basic necessities

The cake is a recreation of the “Cuartel de la Montana”, the palace that Chavez famously stormed in 1992 as an army commander to protest Carlos Andres Perez’s government.

Cuartel de la MontanaAccording to a local newspaper, the following ingredients were used to make the cake — all in short supply in Venezuela’s supermarkets:

  1. 720 eggs
  2. 23 kilos of butter
  3. 90 kilos of flour
  4. 90 kilos of sugar
  5. 44 gallons of milk

Meanwhile, hungry Venezuelans cry at the sight of food, as the country’s economic crisis deepens.

While it is true that it was the Venezuelan people who had bought into the socialist pipe-dream and elected Hugo Chavez and his successor Maduro, even fools don’t deserve to starve while their president, who can lose a few pounds, and the political élite eat cake.

And still not a peep from Sean Penn.

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

Sean Penn and BFF Hugo Chavez

See also:

~Eowyn

Venezuela is shutting down

We are witnessing someting unprecedented in our life time: An entire country, Venezuela, is shutting down before our eyes.

Here’s the latest on the increasingly desperate situation in Venezuela, from The New York Times, May 28, 2016:

(1) Electric blackouts: Electricity is being rationed. To save electricity:

  • Courts and other government offices operate for only two half-days a week, the equivalence of one full day.
  • Public schools are closed on Fridays.

(2) Water shortage: Water is also being rationed. As an example, water arrives just once a week, on Thursdays, to the neighborhood of San Antonio de los Altos. But the water is a brownish color and is making people sick. Many Venezuelans say they have gotten skin irritations from showering or from the inability to bathe and wash their sheets and towels.

(3) Food shortages:

  • Last week, protests turned violent in parts of the country where demonstrators demanded empty supermarkets be resupplied.
  • Coca-Cola Femsa, the Mexican company that bottles Coke in Venezuela, said it’s halting production of sugary soft drinks because it ran out of sugar.

(4) Many people cannot make international calls from their phones because of a dispute between the government and phone companies over currency regulations and rates.

(5) There is little traffic in the capital, Caracas, because so few people, either for lack of money or work, are going out. Buildings downtown, including government buildings, are empty.

Scene in a Venezuelan hospital

Scene in a Venezuelan hospital

(6) Public health crisis: People are dying in hospitals, from electric blackouts, broken medical machines (X-ray, dialysis, scanning, incubators), and chronic shortages of medicine (antibiotics, intravenous solutions), bandages, soap, gloves, beds, water (doctors preparing for surgery at the University of the Andes Hospital in Mérida clean their hands with bottles of seltzer water), and even food. Whatever supplies there are are stolen by hospital staff to sell on the black market. The government can no longer afford to buy imported medicine. Patients are asked to bring their own blankets, sheets, pillows and toilet paper. The result: the rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry, from 0.02% in 2012 to to over 2% in 2015; the rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period.(Source)

Venezuela’s socialist government blames the problems on an “economic war” being waged by elites who are hoarding supplies, as well as the U.S. government’s efforts to destabilize the country.

President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez, rejected the political opposition’s call for accepting international aid and described the move as a bid to undermine him and privatize the hospital system. Instead, Maduro insisted that “I doubt that anywhere in the world, except in Cuba, there exists a better health system than this one.”

But most economists agree that Venezuela is suffering from years of economic mismanagement, including over-dependence on oil and price controls that led many businesses to stop making products. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, yet when oil prices were high, the government saved little money for hard times. Now, oil prices have collapsed — they are around a third what they were in 2014.

sean_penn_hugo_chavez_not_a_dictato
Meanwhile, Sean Penn, buddy of the late Hugo Chavez, is still no where to be seen in Venezuela. He’s in France, screening his new movie, The Last Face, at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie, directed by Penn, has been booed by audiences and savaged by critics.

See also:

~Eowyn

Apocalyptic Venezuela: 5,000 loot supermarket; president declares state-of-emergency

The socialist utopia of Venezuela, with more oil than Saudi Arabia, is unraveling before our eyes.

The country is running out of water, electricity, and food.

Over the last two weeks, several provinces have hosted scenes of looting in pharmacies, shopping malls, supermarkets, and food delivery trucks. In several markets, the people shouted “we are hungry!”.

People are hunting dogs, cats, and pigeons for food in urban streets.

On April 27, the Venezuelan Chamber of Food reported that the country’s food producers only had 15 days left of inventory.

As reported by PanAmPost, on the morning of May 11, 2016, some 5,000 Venezuelans converged on a supermarket in central Venezuela because there were rumors that some products not found anywhere else would be sold there.

5,000 Venezuelans loot supermarketWhat resulted was a scene out of the Apocalypse.

According to the testimonies of merchants, people started jumping over the gates of the Maracay Wholesale Market. One eye witness told El Estímulo, “They took milk, pasta, flour, oil, and milk powder. There were 5,000 people.” Another witness said, “There were 250 people for each National Guard officer . . . lots of people and few soldiers. At least one officer was beat up because he tried to stop the crowd.”

An entrance gate collapsed under the weight of the crowd. The looting and mayhem resulted in at least two deaths, countless wounded, and millions of dolars in losses and damages.

Here’s the horrifying video:

It will get worse.

Oscar Meza, Director of the Documentation Center for Social Analysis, told Web Noticias Venezuela, “We are officially declaring May as the month that [widespread] hunger began in Venezuela.

Meza explains that in March, Venezuela’s hyperinflation led to a 582.9% increase in food prices, at the same time as basic products became increasingly scarce — “Prices are so high that you can’t buy anything, so people don’t buy bread, they don’t buy flour. You get porridge, you see the price of chicken go up and families struggle … lunch is around 1,500 bolivars… People used to take food from home to work, but now you can’t anymore because you don’t have food at home.”

On May 13 in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, riot police faced off a hungry mob of protesters.

Caracas on May 13, 2016As reported by Reuters, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency. Shifting the blame from his failed government and without providing specifics, he justified the state of emergency as a counter-measure against a plot to subvert him by Venezuela’s “fascist right” and the United States. According to a recent poll, nearly 70% of Venezuelans now say Maduro must go this year.

Meanwhile, as Venezuela circles down the drain, self-styled humanitarian Sean Penn — who was BFF with Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez — was busy having sushi in balmy Malibu, California.

Looking like a homeless bum, 55-year-old multimillionaire Sean Penn goes out for sushi in Malibu, May 14, 2016.

Looking like a homeless bum, 55-year-old multimillionaire Sean Penn goes out for sushi in Malibu, May 14, 2016.

~Eowyn

Venezuela into the abyss: people are killing pets for food

This is Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, on May 13, 2016:

Caracas on May 13, 2016 As AgainstCronyCapitalism reports, the pic above is of hungry Venezuelans protesting that they do not have enough water or electricity, and that their children are dying from lack of food and medicine — in a country with more oil than Saudi Arabia, after years of two-cent gasoline and free housing socialism. The government has stolen all the money and now threatens peaceful protesters with bombs, or hauls them to prison and tortures them.

Venezuela3½ months ago, FOTM posted on Venezuela’s crippling 720% inflation and how the country’s supermarket shelves are bare and people must wait in long lines for rations.

Since then, the situation has only worsened further — people in city streets are hunting down dogs, cats, and pigeons for food. According to the PanAm Post:

Ramón Muchacho, Mayor of Chacao in Caracas, said the streets of the capital of Venezuela are filled with people killing animals for food.

Through Twitter, Muchacho reported that in Venezuela, it is a “painful reality” that people “hunt cats, dogs and pigeons” to ease their hunger. People are also reportedly gathering vegetables from the ground and trash to eat as well.

The crisis in Venezuela is worsening everyday due in part to shortages reaching 70 percent […] six Venezuelan military officials were arrested for stealing goats to ease their hunger, as there was no food at the Fort Manaure military base.

And as desperate people increasingly turn to crime, their victims are exacting vigilante mob justice.

As reported by the Daily Mail, Roberto Fuentes Bernal, 42, was caught trying to mug passersby in the streets of Caracas. Before police arrived at the scene, the crowd took the law into their hands by surrounding Bernal, taking turns beating and kicking him, then burning him alive. Bernal was taken to a nearby hospital and is receiving treatment for burns covering 70% of his body.

H/t ZeroHedge

sean_penn_hugo_chavez_not_a_dictatoMeanwhile, not a peep from Sean Penn, BFF of Venezuela’s late socialist ruler Hugo Chavez.

I wonder what happened to the $2 billion “family fortune” Chavez had amassed looted?

Just remember that this is the socialism that good ol’ Bernie Sanders wants for America.

~Eowyn