The Day of Indignity

Your daily briefing from Naky Soto for Friday, February 4th, 2016.

For Friday, February 4th, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo

“Lorenzo Mendoza has crossed the line […] We will not allow Lorenzo Mendoza to keep sabotaging the country’s economy!” Nicolás Maduro.

Libertador Avenue in Caracas started the day with heavy traffic thanks to the privileges chavismo accords itself. Their arrogance is enough to turn the 24th anniversary of the failed coup d’etat on February 4, 1992 into a celebration. The Armed Forces (politicized and partial) gathered in the former Museum of Military History (Cuartel de la Montaña), where Diosdado Cabello claimed that the coup’s failure had given the people the opportunity for independence, sovereignty, peace and patria; that those involved in the coup are absolutely loyal to el finado – as if they had any choice -; and that they declare themselves in open rebellion against “the right’s attempts to restore capitalism and the 4th Republic.”

Falling for distractions

Nicolás’ version of the 90s is a much darker period than the one we’re going through right now. It’s that pretext that allows them to refer to Chávez’s generation as “heroic,” making this 24 years cycle: “The longest dark period Venezuela has had to endure in 500 years,”

The supposed “Day of National Dignity” had a curious motto: Let us face up to the storm. In clear dissonance with that exhortation, Nicolás questioned the National Assembly’s performance and called Lorenzo Mendoza, president of Empresas Polar, a thief, a traitor, a criminal, an oligarch, a hypocrite and a deceiver. A man responsible for the country’s bankruptcy, suggested to a successful businessman that he should hand his company to the people if he couldn’t manage it. Nicolás hasn’t read Datanálisis’ study on Polar’s performance: 92% of respondents rate positively the company’s management; 85% rejects any form of intervention or threats against Polar; and 76% stated that if Polar and Mendoza were to manage expropriated companies, they would soon recover productivity.

He also dedicated some words to Henry Ramos Allup, president of the National Assembly because, according to Nicolás, he dreams of ruling the country again. In fact, Nicolás seemed to be hunting for an excuse to claim that nothing and nobody will take the presidency from him. He called for rebellion against the possibility that the people can be owners and against acknowledging the Assembly’s efforts to pay salaries and pensions. Tan bonito.

Amnesty Law

The MUD caucus presented their bill on Amnesty and National Reconciliation before the chamber on Friday. It was a long debate, in which the Unity argued that the political reasons which led Chávez to decree two amnesties (on April, 2000, for soldiers involved in the events of 1992, and in 2007, to pardon those involved in the coup of April, 2002) are equally valid now.

For the PSUV, this bill doesn’t reflect the people’s priorities. They argue it’s only a pretext to allow impunity; that criminals can’t pardon themselves.

Nonetheless, the opposition caucus voted unanimously approved the bill, which was officially delivered to the Assembly’s secretariat. A second reading is to take place in 15 days. By then, the Committee on Internal Policy will present the final document with a list of political prisoners who would benefit from the Amnesty. There has been talk of 78 political prisoners but the number could grow to the thousands, if they include people arrested during the coup of 2002, those involved in the oil strike, those under régimen de presentación before the courts and dissidents who have suffered from political persecution.

No bread, no pasta.

Juan Crespo, president of the Federation of Flour Workers, warned that wheat flour inventories for bakeries and for producing pasta will only last until late February. This sector is also hard hit by the country’s food crisis, putting 80,000 direct and indirect jobs at risk, and also the existence of key food products for the country. Crespo explained that the cost of a basic product like bread (canillas), could shoot up to Bs. 250, since a 45 kg of bag of wheat flour already costs Bs. 5,500. The shortage, he further explained, is not only hitting wheat, but also yeast and sugar.

Billion-Dollar Debt with Panama

Dulcidio de la Guardia, Panama’s Minister of Economy and Finance, reported this Thursday that they’re yet to get a response from Venezuela’s government on the need to restart negotiations about the huge debt owed to Panamanian companies by Venezuelan importers. De la Guardia wrote last year to the former Minister of Finance, Rodolfo Marco Torres and has done the same with Rodolfo Medina, the current minister, urging them to seek a resolution to the debt which rises over a billion dollars.

Zika

This Thursday the majority of the National Assembly approved a few ideas to handle the Zika Virus epidemic, demanding the Minister of Health to divulge a national action plan against the disease. Deputy José Manuel Olivares presented other proposals before the chamber:

  1. Continuing the publication of the Epidemiology Bulletin.
  2. Establishing a national action plan to fight Zika.
  3. Using cadena broadcasts to campaign for prevention against the virus.
  4. Urging governors’ offices and mayors’ offices to start fumigation and abatement campaigns with the funds that the Pan-American Health Organization will donate to that end.

In Olivares’ opinion, there could be as many as 3,000 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome this year, which demands an action plan to keep the disease from spreading; he added that operations at the state-owned company Quimbiotec -which should be producing immunoglobulin- are at a standstill, which leaves the country without a key component of the treatment plan for patients afflicted by Guillain-Barré.

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