For Monday, February 15th, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo.
On Saturday, Nelson Bocaranda posted a series tweets warning about the Government’s decision to seize Alimentos Polar and arrest Lorenzo Mendoza, which sparked digital madness. I don’t mean only the RT’s but also the hundreds of WhatsApp messages I got about the decision, with the expected reactions referring to it as “el acabose”, “the end of the line” and “hasta aquí nos trajo el río.”
I was just thinking of the irrelevant solidarity we’re allowed in a collapsing country. We all care about Polar but can do nothing to show it without basic guarantees like the right to protest, or stable access to the products we need. We’re left to make do with what we find daily. And it doesn’t matter how many times Luis Vicente León says that 82% of Venezuelans reject attacks against Polar. We already know how people supported Radio Caracas Television in 2007, yet it did nothing to prevent the government from shutting it down. There are some who say that the situation revealed by Bocaranda could actually be the Government’s attempt to divert public attention from the Army’s drug trafficking scandal.
Remember I closed Friday’s summary with the case of a major of the Army arrested while transporting cocaine? Well, there’s more information about him: Juan José Sorja Ojeda, is a sergeant and nursing technician who became an officer by the grace of the Chávez family, working as a nurse and personal assistant for el finado’s father, as proven by his Facebook profile. The Public Prosecution Office said that the major and the civilians who were with him will appear in court in Mérida. Even though they were all in uniform, only Sorja had credentials. The National Guard arrested these men while they carried 503 kilos of cocaine. Nobody knows if this is a message or mere happenstance.
Lieutenant Yorjan José Ojeda Páez was arrested this Saturday while carrying 500 packages of marijuana and ten of alleged cocaine. The Ministry of Defense issued a statement saying the drugs were hidden in boxes inside the back seats of a Hilux pickup truck belonging to the Operational Strategic Command of the National Armed Forces (CEOFANB). This lieutenant, who worked at the Meteorological Intelligence Station of La Guajira, was arrested by officers of the Anti-drug Division of the 111th Military Detachment in Punta de Piedra, Maracaibo bridge, Zulia.
To minister Padrino López, the relevance of these two events is that “they damage military honor and the respectability of the armed forces.” He didn’t speak about the meaning of finding two caches of such size in 24 hours, about the pattern and what each Venezuelan must be wondering now: if these two were discovered, how many more go unnoticed daily? I don’t think the Polar affair will help cover up these military drug scandals, but it can help stall the consequences.
What they don’t tell you
Bloomberg dedicates a major story to the gift Nicolás just made to the Army. Decree Nº 2,231, published on the Official Gazette Nº 40.845 -dated February 10- was mostly ignored by local outlets, but it establishes the creation of the Military Corporation for Mining, Oil and Gas (Camimpeg), under the Ministry of Defense; it’s authorized to participate in a wide range of oil, mining and gas operations, including maintenance of oil wells and drilling platforms, transportation and marketing of chemical products.
Analysts interviewed by Bloomberg have varying interpretations about this event. Some believe that Camimpeg would be a tool in case the Government has to confiscate PDVSA’s assets due to debt default: “The Government can remove PDVSA’s rights at any moment, making it useless as a protection for creditors”; it could also help keep operations if payment commitments to suppliers and partners in joint ventures start to damage production, and it could provide room for negotiation in any agreement with China. Others had a different interpretation, as they say confiscating PDVSA’s assets is not the intention, but rather that this is an advancement in the Government’s efforts to widen their capacity to produce dollars. But with the Army, mind you.
They won this time. Malls that can’t generate their own power will be allowed to operate from 12 m until 7 pm, starting next Tuesday. The decision, it seems, comes from a meeting between representatives of the Chamber of Shopping Centers and Malls (Caveco) and Aristóbulo Istúriz and the serving officer who acts as minister of Electrical Energy, Luis Motta Domínguez. There’s no official confirmation of this, though.
In Caveco’s original proposal, these hours would save 20% more energy than those imposed by Motta Domínguez. What’s suspicious -apart from the agreement- is that inspections of buildings and malls to verify energy rationing will be performed by the Operational Strategic Command of the Armed Forces, just as the Army’s credibility is being challenged. Add this to the role they play in the country’s bankrupt economic scene and what we get is another impending disaster.