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Venezuela: How could such a rich country become so poor (Part III)





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Chavez was a new kind of neo-messiah for many… a long-awaited saviour. His charisma was magnetic…and thousands placed all their hopes on him as the key out of poverty and the gate to happiness, but this was not to be.

Sometimes the world is cruel regardless of any beautiful and appealing aspirations a country may hold dear. Venezuela has finally collapsed. There is no water, no electricity, no food… A truly sad story of ‘from hero to zero…and beyond zero, to misery’.

We finished last week’s piece by explaining that Venezuela’s self-destructive governance mess started with the undermining of three essential governance pillars: Nepotism, coupled with a deep disdain for knowledge-based competence, a dysfunctional and unsustainable economic model, and the rejection of the rule of law as an essential pillar of democracy.

Improvisation and good governance

Good governance cannot be improvised. Governance and improvisation do not walk together. Improvisation is not sustainable, and when governance systems are badly thought out and poorly designed or executed, the results are tragic. Even though things may work out for a little while (perhaps by chance or miracle) it all crumbles and collapses sooner than later.

A good number of friends, including Samuel Ndirangu, have asked me repeatedly, ”what about the U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela? Could they have triggered the crisis?” Was Maduro sincere when he blamed his woes and troubles on the sanctions placed by the European Union and the United States on deals with the Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA? Was he being truthful when he blamed Venezuela’s shortage of medicine on Britain’s refusal to repatriate the country’s gold reserves?

These sanctions are not the cause of Maduro’s woes, which backdate to a dysfunctional system which he inherited and made flourish. These sanctions had two different short-term effects.

First, they made the recent crisis more acute by making money-flow more difficult and complicated, with credit card transactions blocked and little cash available. Second, they have also made it more difficult for the government to steal and ransack public coffers in the face of an almost imminent implosion.

From Argentina to Mexico, from The Gambia to Congo, from The Philippines to Germany and from Spain to Nicaragua, it has always been a common pattern that failed leaders empty public coffers of gold, jewels, cash and art before taking to their heels, to secure a ‘decent’ future for themselves; a future that is ‘commensurate’ with their lavish and extravagant lifestyle.

Yet, again, how could Britain deny Venezuela its own gold? After all, why should gold reserves be kept by Britain and not by the Venezuela’s own central bank?

This is where we jump now into the exciting and contradicting world of international law. Britain could deny Venezuela’s repatriation of gold because the one making the repatriation request was not Venezuela, but Maduro, and Britain does not recognise Maduro as Venezuela’s president since January 2019.

Maduro became president after Chavez’ death in a hotly contested and controversial election in 2013. The company that created the winner spilt the beans. They added virtual voters to a vicious election. Here, I recommend the reading of Nanjala Nyabola’s book Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics.

Maduro’s popular support waned and repression increased. To ensure political survival he had to win over the military’s loyalty. He did this by creating thousands of generals…so much so that Venezuela’s army has practically become an inverted pyramid.


Just over two decades ago, Venezuela had less than 30 active generals. Today, Venezuela has almost 2,000 generals (the US Army, for example, has around 900). Most of the Venezuelan generals were promoted in a hurry (195 were appointed in one day). Their powers and benefits are unlimited. Generals head almost half of the 30 cabinet ministries and provincial governments.

Generals have also been appointed CEOs and heads of oil companies, aluminium, gold, iron ore, electricity, water, universities, etc. They did not have the knowledge and competence to run such huge and technical enterprises, but this is what inverted meritocracy does; and so, it secured loyalty. People in these circumstances owe it all to their leader, and they are ready to kill and be killed before losing or betraying the giver of the privilege and the privilege itself.

In 2018, the government called for a sort of snap election. The electoral commission, in the hands of the government, changed the date twice, and the courts, also in the hands of the government, banned all relevant opposition parties and candidates. This was the only way to prevent a repeat of the shocking defeat the government party suffered in the 2015 legislative election.

The shocking defeat that wrecked the revolution

In 2015, Maduro’s party lost the National Assembly and had to invent a parallel body (a constitutional assembly) that assumed all the powers of the National Assembly. This body was supposed to come up with a new Constitution but to this day it has never done so and it may never do…it just achieved what it was created for, to replace the National Assembly and annihilate any possible opposition.

But again, how could Britain deny Venezuela’s repatriation of gold? Because most of Venezuela’s partners and neighbours did not recognise Maduro’s snap election, with no opposition, partisan observers and the highest absenteeism in the country’s democratic history. And this is where Juan Gerardo Guaidó jumped on stage.

Juan Guaidó was little known to Venezuelans. He became president of the National Assembly on January 5, 2019, thanks to a political compromise made by opposition parties with the majority in the House. The parties have a rotational presidency every year, and 2019 was Guaidó’s turn.

Maduro’s six-year term expired on January 10, just a few days after Guaidó became president of the Assembly. Maduro’s re-election had been marred by controversy, accusations and manipulation. The end of his term, combined with a sham election, loss of people support and general discontent of neighbours and partners conspired together against Maduro’s last breath of legitimacy.

This gave the opposition a God-sent power vacuum to push little-known Guaidó into the spotlight, which was now shining on him. Maduro underestimated little-known Guaidó and went ahead and staged his second-term installation and swearing in.

This installation was boycotted by everyone outside Maduro’s very small circle of allies plus a few pretenders like the president of South Ossetia, a region of Georgia that only Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have recognised as a state.

The stage was now set for a power revolt backed by the Constitution, which foresees that in case of the President’s absolute absence, the president of the National Assembly shall step in. Maduro’s untimely insistence on sticking to power transformed him from president to usurper.

On January 23, in front of a majority of members of the National Assembly and thousands of supporters gathered in Caracas, Guaidó took the oath as Venezuela’s interim president. How did he do it? Was he self-proclaimed? Who is he anyway and why hasn’t Maduro arrested him?


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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard




Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.


However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard




President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health




Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.


Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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