No more Diablitos, but less people drowned this year.

Your daily briefing for Tuesday, March 29 - 2016.

The strange sincerity

For Tuesday, March 29, 2016. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Aristóbulo Istúriz, Vice-President of the Republic, delivered an official closing balance on Easter 2016. It was a war report. He spoke of the quantities of looting, kidnappings, robberies (helpfully categorized into: ATMs, residences, educational institutions and hospitals); accidents, injuries and fatalities. He tried to invest the same energy into giving out positive figures, saying that more than 18 million people travelled throughout the country, thanks to the 200,000 government officials who participated in the operation, in addition to the 62% decrease in fatalities by drowning. He failed.

He invited everyone to celebrate the country’s income, estimated at Bs. 60 billion and the number of vacationers happily traveling to places without water or electricity, without food or medicines, but supported by a “robust technological security platform” developed by we-don’t-know-who or in service of what variables. But data from the Venezuelan Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism contradicts the Vice-President’s numbers, because for them, the tourism sector experienced a 30% drop this Easter, with Bolívar, Nueva Esparta and Mérida being the most affected states.

The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict took advantage of ​​Aristóbulo’s acknowledgement of the severe situation of looting in the country, which they have documented in their research, providing tweet after tweet filled with figures that far exceed the official reports. Hopefully the Vice-President will read them, because the Observatory’s request is precisely the implementation of public policies to deal with hunger and despair, which are both causes of looting and robberies.

We didn’t save any energy

Nobody expected it. With great sorrow, Deputy Minister for Electrical Power, Freddy Brito, said that residential consumption -40% of national electrical demand-  increased this Easter. The extension of Easter vacation by the government as a means of cutting down on consumption was a failure, the expected objectives weren’t met, which will presumably justify new power rationing measures. You should watch the video, it’s embarrassing, but it still falls within the unexpected and almost adorable wave of official sincerity.

We couldn’t find food either

On the topic of prices, February’s  basic family basket reached the absurd figure of Bs. 176,978, an increase of more than Bs. 19,000 in just one month. 18 minimum wages are needed to acquire it, and the increment is 424% between February 2015 and February 2016. The Center for Documentation and Social Analysis of the Venezuelan Federation of Teachers (Cendas) stated what we already know: all products increased in price, less of them are available and the difference between regulated prices and the market is 2.211%.

Add to the news that General Mills announced the sale of all its businesses in Venezuela, including the legendary Diablitos Underwood. They lost an estimated $35 million, but they leave convinced of being able to find other growth opportunities within the “portfolio in Latin America.”

The version of the game

“We don’t tolerate intolerance” Diosdado said this Monday, in his role as first vice president of the PSUV. It must be quite complex for him to live with himself, an icon of intolerance, enough as to state that “The Argentine model should never be imposed on Venezuela” while the chavista model must endure. Probably inspired by Adriana Azzi’s announcements of retirement, he predicted something we already know: In January 2017, Henry Ramos will not be President of Parliament, and Leopoldo López will remain in prison.

In his version, the only option that will please the opposition in general is a Coup d’Etat against Nicolás, saying that opposition supporters haven’t even read the new Law on Referendums. His disappointment on the opposition’s performance in the Assembly overwhelms him, he doesn’t understand the MUD’s lack of creativity, or aberrations such as the Amnesty Law; nor agendas like the one for tomorrow, with the sole point of discussing Pope Francis’ words in his speech at the Mass of Resurrection. His justification for tolerating this? That Nicolás is well advised, a statement supported by their submitting all of Parliament’s decisions to the Supreme Tribuna of Justice’s (TSJ) Constitutional Chamber, dominated by judges imposed by PSUV, which in this case is going to assess the changes in the Law of the Central Bank of Venezuela. Anything that allows blocking any autonomies or disrespecting the Assembly’s authority, must be consulted. Sadly, Diosdado didn’t talk about the $262 million that the BCV owes to DeLaRue -banknotes manufacturer-, who are demanding a payment of $71,421,039 from the BCV before March 24.

Mutinous prisoners, intimidated journalists

There was a riot in El Marite prison (Maracaibo). The balance of three wounded policemen shows the extent of the mess. The news was being covered by journalists from various local papers. Reporters from Versión Final, Noticia al Día and La Verdad were arrested by the regional police. Phrases as inspiring as: “Are you going to give us the camera yes or no? Because if you don’t, I’ll shoot you and leave you here,” said to Version Final’s photographer by an officer, summarize part of the abuse; but they were also beaten, threatened and their material was wiped from their cameras and phones. They have since been released and their equipment was returned to them, but we all know how those lessons are processed. These are the occasions in which Governor Francisco Arias Cárdenas neither makes statements nor tweets. The origin of the prison riot is still unclear, but it includes stolen vehicles within the prison, which speaks of the moral stature of the Bolivarian Police of Zulia State (CPBEZ), responsible for guarding the prison.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.