Come on admit it, you loved 2016. You want more 2016! You need to relive it, right?
Thought so. Never fear, we have you covered…here’s the crash course on everything that happened in Venezuela in the first half of last year.
The year kicked off off with the first of many a controversial ruling from the TSJ (which had just been just re-packed with PSUV loyalists days earlier) suspending the four Amazonas State deputies and therefore, depriving MUD of the two-thirds majority it had won in elections a month before.
Then they decided to steal the National Assembly’s TV channel, ANTV and keep it for themselves.
On the eve of the new AN’s opening session, the question that occupied us was who would be its new President. Both Henry Ramos Allup and Julio Borges wanted the gig, so the MUD used a secret ballot to choose. Ramos Allup was easily elected by 62 votes to Borges’s 49.
As the opening session approached, Ramos Allup had to deal with a national budget approved by the previous PSUV-controlled AN and the overall control of the Central Bank taken away via Enabling Law.
Maduro changes his cabinet the following day. Aristobulo Isturiz is named Vice-President.
And then Maduro hands full control of the economy to a trio of ideological nutjobs — remember Luis Salas?!
PSUV makes its move: a mere two days after it took office, it asks the TSJ to declare all actions of the new AN unconstitutional, because of the Amazonas State deputies. The Electoral Chamber quickly complies.
The National Assembly is caught in a dilemma: to either ignore the TSJ ruling and force a showdown or step back, regroup and plan a brand new strategy. They chose the latter.
Seems like communications between Henry Ramos Allup and Aristobulo Isturiz are the key here. On the 15th, Maduro makes his first annual trip to the new AN for his yearly “memoria y cuenta” speech.
On the economic front, the government finally releases some official data. But the craziness of the new Economic VP Luis Salas cannot be more overstated, and Finance Minister Rodolfo Medina is not much better. Meanwhile in Argentina, Mauricio Macri shows how to dismantle a brutal currency control.
A new conflict appears: Maduro announces an “Economic Emergency Decree” to deal with what he calls “Economic War”. But it needs AN’s approval and parliament refuses to be a rubberstamp. They asked the government to make its case. But the ministers don’t even dare to show up.
The decree is rejected by the Assembly. Chavismo is not pleased.
Outside of the political struggle, another crisis awaits: the electric one. Guri has all the signals.
At the end of the month, a strange event in Margarita takes center stage: the murder of local pran “El Conejo” and his massive funeral. It’s official: Prannation is here to stay.
At the same time, there’s a controversy erupts involving MUD’s Secretary-General Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba and the priority (or not) regarding the issue of same-sex marriage in Venezuela
Finally, Caracas Chronicles launches the “Protagonistas de Moneda” project. Given that new banknotes are going to be needed sooner or later, we asked our readers to choose historical figures and natural wonders that should be included. The project is so successful that even in December, media outlets are still using those proposals in their stories without giving us credit (obvs.)
Buck up, we’re just one month in! February begins with Globovision showing some teeth to the communicational hegemony.
The discussion about how to get rid of Nicolas Maduro heats up in the opposition as Andres Velazquez proposes a constitutional amendment in order to get presidential elections ASAP.
Meanwhile, the government is importing banknotes like crazy. Funny that they surely lose their value in a matter of months. And that’s something to remember as you wonder what to do with the loose hundreds you still have left.
In a special project, Caracas Chronicles launches “CADIVI Diaries”, a series of stories about our love-hate affair with the currency control system that have eaten us and the nation alive all these years.
The everyday crisis is quite intense. Just ask the new NYT correspondent Nick Casey.
There’s also the debate about what Madurismo really is. The answer is quite simple: It’s the victory of the arbitrageurs.
Then on February 11th, the dead “Economic Emergency Decree” is resurrected by the TSJ.
It was a simpler time: we still had it in us to be surprised by TSJ mamarrachadas back then.
The very same day, strong protests over water shortages in Guarenas brings echoes of 1989.
Only after a little more than a month in office, the lunatic economic VP Luis Salas is unceremoniously sacked.
The discussion about how to get rid of Maduro gets back in the open: Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles takes up the flag of recall referendum.
The world is shaken by the Zika outbreak. But here, the government demonstrates its trademark incompetence.
On February 17th: Maduro announces in cadena nacional the long-delayed raise of gas prices. He also depreciates the bolivar (once more, with feeling) and proposes some sort of tax reform. Under the radar, the BCV publishes more discouraging official data from last year.
As Emi goes through hell as she fights chikungunya, she uses that as a sample of the urgent state of things in the country (including a strong defense of La Salida).
Did you know that Caracas Chronicles wet micro-viral in Japan? Kanako (our executive editor’s wife) explains.
PDVSA prepares for a possible worst-case scenario, by moving its bank accounts to China.
The month ends with the MUD proposing a half-baked bill to keep the Central Bank in check. Even that would be declared unconstitutional in due course.
And Pedro Rosas makes an interesting case that we should think of Maduro as just an ineffectual mob boss.
Anabella and Carlos gave us a brief history of the minimum wage in Venezuela, to make the case that raising it every few months is not a wise thing to do.
Quico shares the story of another struggling petro-state (puts glasses, reads paper) Ca-Na-Da.
(Sorry, Quico.. I couldn’t resist, eh!)
On March 2nd, The TSJ strikes again by killing the AN’s constitutional oversight powers.
Rodrigo tells about how Climate Change is already affecting us, as we’re not doing much about it.
And new contributor Monica Correa tackles the myth of Simon Bolivar. A must-read piece.
Anabella’s mom tries urban agriculture: Great as a hobby, terrible as national food policy.
Raul shares his first-hand experience with the death of the comandante eterno, three years ago to the day.
Quico’s sister has a series of misadventures during her trip to Barquisimeto to see the Divina pastora. It includes an ill-starred visit to the local blood bank.
Everybody says that PDVSA will default in 2016, but Daniel Urdaneta strongly disagrees.
The new economic czar, Miguel Perez Abad, launches a new currency exchange rate system, DiPro. In one of our favorite posts of the year, Anabella takes the chance to explain how things have evolved since the birth of CADIVI.
Meanwhile, the health crisis is quite real. We get an inside glimpse to a private clinic in Miranda. “Dengue, malaria, cancer, AIDS, Zika, Parkinson, diabetes…you name it, we can’t treat it.”
Three months after the December legislative election, we ask: Which pollsters delivered on 6-D?
We’re up to March 15th: The central government wants to renew its economic emergency decree. What Would Maduro Do? Send VP Aristobulo to Capitolio. It didn’t go as planned.
In mid-March, the worst-case scenario of the electric crisis looks terrifyingly real. Rodrigo Linares advises us to get on our knees and prays blackouts are on the way. (In case you’re wondering, that’s an Oasis song). Three days later, Maduro gives everyone one week off in order to slow down Guri’s rate of depletion. JC used the subject to talk about the word many want to avoid in the conversation: Privatization.
2016 is unquestionably the year of the Donald. Quico wrote about it back in March, when he sewed up the GOP nomination. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Primero Justicia proposes a bill for local production. Sounds awesome, but when you look under the hood you realize it doesn’t make sense.
As food shortages abound, the government has the greatest idea evah: Shifting which the days on which people with different ID numbers can shop. Otra que se nos había olvidado.
Great stuff, right? (Also, line-ups made from the night before outside stores are now verboten).
We can’t forget the hegemony. They use the judiciary to go after Guayana’s only “rebel” paper. At the same time, Newsprint-geddon catches up with Valencia’s largest newspaper, El Carabobeño. Later this month, the hegemony cries foul over Telesur being dropped by Argentinan government.
Margarita Island is in bad shape, but known chef Sumito Estevez want to turn the other cheek and promote it to tourists anyway. CC’s Ruben Rojas considers this optimist approach to be pura paja.
Discontent inside Chavismo: It was right in everyone’s face. Former Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres made it visible. This comes right as the Bolichicos are feeling the heat from both U.S. and Swiss legal authorities.
And there’s climate change. Did I say we’re doing very little? I was wrong. We’ve done nothing.
Lizette Gonzalez explored Caraqueños’ uneasy relationship with the Metro, then and now.
And to end the month, riots in Tachira leaves two police officers dead and PDVSA launches a spinner of a debt bond. Two completely different things that totally make sense in our nation. The icing in the cake: A boliburges living in Florida owning a racehorse named “Social Inclusion”.
Exhausted yet? We’re barely into the second quarter! It begins with NGOs Provea and Human Rights Watch collaborating to produce a powerful report about the government’s security plan: The People’s Liberation Operation (OLP).
But guess what? There’s more. The government is also allegedly involved with deep cyber-warfare against its opponents, as an investigation from new news outlet Vertice presents.
As the issue of how to get rid of Maduro is still in the air, the Electoral Branch (CNE) sends a note to the National Assembly, ordering them to not legislate anything elections-related at all. Really.
April 5th: PDVSA’s newest bond has one hell of a rollercoaster ride on its first day in the market.
A new arbitration ruling against Venezuela serves as an excuse to Quico to tell the tale of Las Cristinas, a mine in Bolivar State that has brought plenty of legal woes instead of precious gold.
It’s been four months since the 6-D landslide. What has MUD delivered? Not much. Emi tells all.
At this stage of the game, you may wonder: Why things are so complicated? The whole “Maduro is not Chavez” is not just about personal charisma, but controlling the factions inside Chavismo.
Current life for ordinary Venezuelans have their own share of surreal elements. From the way water shortages have set the stage for elaborate acquatic heists to how small talk has morphed during coffee breaks.
And now for something completely different…Piñatas! What’s up with that? Take it away, Audrey!
April 11th marks been fourteen years of the longest week in recent Venezuelan history. Quico jumps on the excuse to retell the full tale. Again.
In order to save electricity, Maduro orders all public employees to take Fridays off for the next two months. Will it work? Lisette Gonzalez goes to downtown Caracas and thinks it won’t.
April 13th: The Constitutional Chamber fully overturns the Constitution with only seven words. Cada 11 tiene su 13, indeed. The decision explicitly cites Carl Schmitt, the Nazis’ legal architect.
Venezuela is not immune to the Panama Papers. The hegemony’s reax: Blame the messenger.
Attention goes to Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff is suspended from office by Congress. Juan Nagel makes a series of excellent posts about it. Quico offers his own take and agrees. We even made a full live-blog about it. After all, there are also regional implications about this too.
Interestingly enough, Jesus Urdaneta, a former Chavez ally, saw all of this coming back in 2000.
Prominent sociologist Luis Pedro España says that we’ll only learn from this crisis the hard way.
We had this month our share of diverse posts: From our Guayana contributor Carlos Hernandez we had a post that could be titled: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ciudad Guayana.
Energy consultant Amanda Quintero went with a long piece about our past, present and future policy regarding what’s undeniably the cornerstone of our country in the last century: Oil.
Or Zulia University student Pablo Ortega sharing his first-hand experience at the Experimental School of Science (FEC), which has been closed down for eight months.
We’re up to April 22nd now and Polar, the largest beer-maker in the country sounds the alarm bells by telling the public that their inventories are in a critical state and unless they’re allowed to get the currency required, they would shut down production by the end of the month. Perhaps, it sound small to worry about beer, but this is a small part of the central government’s war on Empresas Polar.
But that warning would pale in comparison with what Electricity Minister Luis Motta Dominguez had in mind to deal with the electric crisis: Daily 4-hour programmed blackouts in almost all the country, with the notable exception of the capital Caracas. We became Panem, indeed…
One sector is already suffering the negative side-effects of power rationing: Local movie theaters. But even so, an article from “Wired” Magazine still got it all wrong about our electric problems.
Not that Venezuelans living abroad have it so much better. Even away from our shores, they still have to go through our bureaucratic inferno. For example, the odyssey to renovate passports.
The food crisis doesn’t stay behind, to the point that the country have paid a billion dollars of fines for not returning in due time the shipping containers used to bring the imports we received.
Some people think that our economic troubles could end with the magic bullet of dollarization. Economist Pedro Rosas Rivero offered to them the closest to a rational wake-up call.
At the end of the month, the process to activate the recall referendum begun with a brand new preliminary signature drive, which had no legal (or logical) precedent. Emi thought back then that it would take “Insane Hoops We’ll Have to Jump Through to Recall Maduro”. She had no idea…
Yet, people responded in droves. All expectation were surpassed in a single day. Hope is alive.
To add insult to injury, the government didn’t think keeping almost the whole nation without power wasn’t enough. So, what better idea than to cut down the workweek of the entire public sector to only two days? Naturally, the first hours of the rationing in Maracaibo, provoked a chain reaction of anger in the streets.
And yet, when the country finds itself at its lowest point (both economically and emotionally), our bonds soared in the market. Irony is dead and buried. In a related story, PDVSA has its own television channel, because reasons.
One thing we can count on every time is the TSJ trying to sabotage the National Assembly.
To end the month, the biggest shock of all is that Maduro still has some sort of popular support. At the end of a lumpia piche, Quico argued Nicolas Maduro Moros is a political genius. I don’t like the way that rolls out. #WileECoyoteing
The month begins with the successful first-stage signature drive to activate the signature drive to call a recall referendum against Maduro. But if I told you that the CNE made it up on a whim, then tried to hide the legal reasons behind it and then lied when they got caught. And then lied to us once again. The MUD hands in the signatures to the electoral authorities under cover of darknes sand the certification game begins.
Do you actually know your TSJ magistrates? They’re either a bunch political hacks (with law degrees in hand) or actual lawyers that can turn any jurisprudence into revolutionary fodder.
There are two sides to our economy: For most of us, having useless money and nothing to buy. For the connected few, the sweet benefits that heavily betting in our debt bonds can bring to them.
We did Deep Think pieces throughout the year. Several were on Energy. Did you know aboiut the Energy Trilemma? You do if you read CcsChron.
To distract us from our rollos, the government reopens a relic of times past: Merida’s teleférico.
The 4-hour blackouts all over the country are under way. But our thinking about it is muddled: We’re not in an electric crisis, we have electricity shortage. What’s the difference, you might ask? This.
As days passed without any answer, the MUD takes a demonstration to the CNE’s main offices, only to find themselves in front of a massive police wall that blocks all access to their destination.
There have been too many articles about Venezuela’s crisis, but Quico and Moises Naim find a way to make it clear and engaging. But that doesn’t stop the NYT to cover the living hell that is a public hospital. And the Gray lady gives the chance to Emi to write for them for the first time.
Bachaquero is no just a word, but a way of life for at least one quarter of Venezuelans. But one State governor pushed for a dangerous path to stop them. And one deputy blew the whistle.
We’re only in May, but 2016 is already a special year (and by special I mean, quite terrible) for us. Given that, we ask you to “Tell us in a few, words the story from the last few months you see yourself telling your grandchildren a generation from now. But wait… Solo hablas español?
The hegemony is also feeling the crunch, so Telesur politely asks for una ayudita.
Even with the legal offensive form the TSJ, Nicolas Maduro isn’t quite satisfied. So, he threatens to shut down the National Assembly for good. Actually, he vows its “dissapearance”.
He also accuses OAS’s Secretary-general Luis Almagro of working for the CIA. Almagro’s response is one for the ages.
As the country feels the pinch, we wonder what would happened if we just called the IMF tofor a bail out. The thing is, the government is kinda applying the kind of measures the IMF would recommend, anyway.
With the possibility of a recall signature drive around the corner, memories of the infamous Tascon List are still fresh in some of its victims. Some of them aren’t afraid.
Remember the Chavistas’ main foreign cheerleaders, the “pendejos sin fronteras”? An opinion piece in The Guardian holds them accountable, and we squeal with delight. This comes as even big Chavez fan in Spain, Pablo Iglesias, had second thoughts. Funny that Alfredo Serrano, Maduro’s favorite economic adviser is a PODEMOS man.
Life has changed so much in so little time for us, even the small talk in beauty shops.
This month is special for Caracas Chronicles, as we introduced a new feature: Our own Political Risk Report. This is not about the news, but what they mean to leaders. Subscribe today!
Also this month a dream of ours came true: El Chiguire Bipolar took over CC with a special: 12 Reasons why Caracas is the next Hipster heaven.
Who would have thought that a 2008 ad to promote the Bolivar Fuerte was actually a prophecy? As one reader quipped, a MedioMalo hay que pedirle los números del Kino.
The month ends with a tug-of-war in the government regarding economic policy. Alfredo Serrano vs. Miguel Perez Abad and a surprising twist involving the OAS’s democratic charter, Argentina and the upcoming race to select the next UN’s Secretary-General.
We begin the month with an underreported aspect of the crisis: Caracas’ teachers are becoming more absent in the classrooms, as they’re too busy in the streets looking out for food. Not that local schools in Miranda are doing better to feed pupils. Great work from Mabel Sarmiento.
Then we touch on one of those other under-reported tidbits that actually explains a lot when you get it: our National Assembly deputies are the worst paid legislators in the entire region.
In the international front, the Venezuelan case is finally discussed in the OAS and at the same time, efforts are made to start a dialogue between both sides, with the former Spain PM J.L. Rodriguez Zapatero as key figure. As this unfolds, Peru elects Pedro Pablo Kuczynski President in a tight run-off with Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former President Alberto Fujimori, who was an interesting figure in her own right.
The controversial creation of the CLAP (created by the government to distribute food directly to people) caused a public squirmish in Caracas’s Avenida Fuerzas Armadas on June 2nd. For those unlucky to get one CLAP’s groceries bag, there’s always Mangoes. On June 11th, another food-related riot takes place in La Vega. On previous days, similar events have took place in other parts of Caracas. But the incident in La Vega is just the warning shot of a larger and more dangerous social conflict.
The pre-signature drive for the recall referendum is still hanging in the balance: The CNE takes its time to review the signatures. Emi Duarte witnessed the process and tt doesn’t make sense. Later, the CNE throws away a lot of signatures for technicalities and creates another stage.
Remember the Copa America 2007? A lot of dough was spent to build new stadia. Daniel Cadena Jordan offers an update about the conditions they’re now: Some are OK, others not.
The disconnect between public officials and citizens couldn’t be more stark. Sometimes, it shows up in bizarre ways, like the time Vargas State Governor J.L. Garcia Carneiro appeared drunk next to a shipwrecked luxury yacht in the middle of a secluded beach town in his State.
Still, we have time for more reflective pieces. Like, is Socialism the real raison for all the problems in Venezuela? Quico tries to figure it out.
Zapatero’s dialogue process turned out to be an attempt to negotiate a settled solution, in which the recall referendum would be sacrificed in exchange for the release of political prisoners and reviewing the composition of the TSJ. But both Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez said no. Exposing the rejected deal was a big scoop for us!
How bad everyday life in Caracas is becoming? Jefferson Diaz offers a harrowing account.
With Maduro’s economic adviser Alfredo Serrano gaining momentum, Economic VP Miguel Perez Abad makes his move: Try to match one of the official currency rates with DolarToday, but it would come with no overall liberation of the controls. An extreme austerity plan without any payoff.
We have another look to the health crisis, this time from a diabetes patient. Getting insulin is hard. Worse, there are health con artists taking advantage of it: alternative doctors, healers, homeopaths. And on top of that, one of Caracas’s main public hospitals can’t even feed its own patients.
Cheering news from the Vinotinto: They make it to the quarterfinals of Copa America Centenario. Hurray!
Raul Stolk shares his brief time as a political activist, when Primero Justicia was a young NGO.
Quico makes a simulation exercise: The MUD gets and wins the recall referendum. Lara Governor Henri Falcon is in charge of the transition government. In hindsight, the recall was the easy part.
As many awful things are colliding at the same time, PDVSA’s production is dropping really fast. We blanche at this as we try to point out that the potential of Natural-Gas Condensate in the Orinoco Faja is unparalleled. By the way, what’s the deal with Venezuela allegedly having the world’s largest oil reserves? (Spoiler: most will never be produced.)
OAS’s Secretary-General Luis Almagro tried unsuccessfully to activate the Democratic Charter. But what if failing wasn’t a mistake, but instead was that his overall plan all along? However, if there’s someone to blame here, is the Argentinean Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra. Still, OAS tries again to get something done, but the B.R. of V’s CARICOM strategy gives the government the upper hand. Finally, the meeting takes place and Delcy Rodriguez offers a pathetic spectacle.
Daniel Cadena Jordan tackles our crisis in an unique Venezuelan way: Una copla llanera.
Back to the CLAPs, which walk the fine line between ideological madness and deliberate danger.
Stranger Things are happening in 2016: Anabella read a TSJ ruling and… completely agreed.
“Sembrar el Petroleo”, a phrase seen as a noble goal, but for Amanda Quintero has become a curse for our development. Quico is on board with his own take.
Ten months ago, Maduro closed the border with Colombia. Organized crime says to him: Thanks!
Then a new set of food riots occurred in Cumaná. But most Venezuelans didn’t heard about it, or only got what they could find on the social networks. Yet, international media set its sights on Venezuela and the hegemony is not pleased, despite their efforts to minimize the scope and gravity of the crisis. You can always find a PSF willing to aim lower and lower: Collapse? It isn’t that bad, tho!
Around this time, Caracas Chronicles introduced a new special series of accounts: “The Crisis and Me”. Some of our collaborators share their personal experiences with the routine struggles they face.
Two young men, Francisco Márquez and Gabriel San Miguel, are the newest political prisoners of Maduro. The case shows how low will the State go to repress dissidents and throw the rule of law in the process.
You probably never heard of Roberto Rincón, but you should know: He was the Steve Jobs of PDVSA contract-rigging. And U.S. authorities caught up with him.
A huge amount of our trouble stems from our debt, in the form of bonds issued by both the Republic and PDVSA. But who are those buying them, and how they’re meddling in our lives somehow with their investments. The Big Forks has the (closest we could come to an) answer.
To wrap the first half of this unbelievable year, Raul Stolk takes a more daring challenge: Imaging a full day in the life of Nicolas Maduro. Good luck with that!
It was psychodelic writing that. And we’re only halfway through the year! More to come soon.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.