Translated by Javier Liendo
The black market dollar rate passed the 1,000 bolivar mark this Wednesday, after hovering around Bs. 900 for more than a month. The minimum wage, at Bs.9,648 is now worth $9, making it the lowest in the Americas, even lower than Cuba, where the equivalent is $25. ¡Pero agárrense! The Wall Street Journal says in an article that since our highest denomination bill is Bs.100, and since our mint, Casa de la Moneda, ran out of supplies (both paper and metal) Venezuela has been paying millions of dollars to import minted coins and printed bills by the planeload.
We don’t have dollars to import medicine or food, but there’s plenty to bring in more and more monopoly money.
The Inter-American Press Association slammed CONATEL and the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex as coercive instruments against the media. Claudio Paolillo, president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said this measure was a mechanism to extort the media, and demanded intergovernmental institutions throughout the continent react immediately. He also explained that 800 radio and TV broadcasters have been unable to renew their licenses.
Carlos Correa, who runs Espacio Público, a local NGO, reported that the list of victims of free speech violations – including intimidation, administrative restrictions, harassment and censorship – is aimed at journalists; with regulatory agencies and state officials among the main perpetrators, alongside pro-government “colectivos.” To take care of newsprint shortages, the National Assembly created a special commission to question Hugo Cabezas, who heads the Alfredo Maneiro Editorial Complex.
Six government officials were to be questioned this Wednesday in the National Assembly, but not one of them showed up. Officials from the Central Bank, CENCOEX and the Ministry of Finance asked the Commission on Foreign Policy to reschedule their summons without giving any reasons for their absence.
Jorge Arreaza, Minister of Education, also failed to turn up to his second hearing, saying that he’s outside of Caracas on Nicolás’s orders, even though he was the one to set a date and time to his hearing. Jordan Rodríguez, president of VTV and José Viloria, director of Ramo Verde military prison, also failed to attend. Do they have something to hide? Or maybe this is the new Standard Operating Procedure to challenge the National Assembly’s authority?
Proposed New Tax Unit
A.N. member Alfonso Marquina, chairman of the Assembly’s Commission on Finance, underlined the need to publish the complete inflation data for 2015 so that SENIAT – the Tax-Collection Agency – can apply the official methodology and submit the new Tax Unit rate back to the Assembly. SENIAT’s proposed Tax Unit for 2016 only increased by 18%, which doesn’t come near reflecting the cumulative inflation rate from January to September 2015, which the Central Bank has at 108%.
Luis Emilio Rondón, Electoral Rector of the CNE, says it’s unjustifiable that Amazonas State remains without representation in the Assembly just because the Electoral Chamber of the Supreme Court hasn’t reached a decision yet. The CNE completed the entirety of the electoral process without any challenges. In his opinion, “the Electoral Chamber chose to align with particular rather than collective interests […] damaging the political rights of Amazonas voters […] If there are no issues with the voting sheets or inconsistencies, then there was no fraud. The causes for invalidation are clearly established in the law,” he said.
Pensioners and retirees
Miguel Pizarro, president of the Assembly’s Permanent Commision on Social Development, announced this Wednesday that a bill on food bonuses (cestatickets) and medicines for pensioners, retirees and surviving relatives of the Social Security service, was presented to the Assembly, estimating that it would get its first reading next week. They started discussing the law with representatives of the beneficiaries, encouraging citizens to “take ownership” of the bills and make them their own. After the first discussion, Parliament will start a massive public inquiry about this paliative measure -as he called it- created to help beneficiaries face the crisis and improve their living conditions.
The Health Ministers of 13 countries in the hemisphere agreed today in Montevideo to work together to provide appropriate responses for observing and controlling diseases caused by the Zika virus, Chikungunya and Dengue (all of which have a significant presence in Venezuela.) They also agreed to request international aid to face this severe epidemiological situation, according to Jorge Basso, Uruguay’s Minister of Health, who acted as spokesperson of the meeting. A statement of 16 key points to strengthen the role of healthcare authorities to coordinate responses was published, involving their countries’ respective governments at all levels.
An information and education campaign will be launched and additional budget resources will be requested to carry out the initiatives. The Pan-American Health Organization and the World Health Organization will support this strategy and help channel resources.