Thousands of dollars worth of Honor

Briefing for Thursday, February 23, 2017. Translated by Javier Liendo

What better way to defend one’s dignity and rebuild one’s reputation than by publishing a letter addressed to the U.S. Treasury Department taking an entire page of The New York Times? That’s precisely what vice-president Tareck El Aissami did this Wednesday, an ironically appropriate way to respond to the drug trafficking accusations against him.

According to the newspaper’s press kit (2016), a full page, in color and on the main body costs in the neighborhood of $200,000. Whether you use DIPRO FX rate (Bs. 10) or Simadi FX rate (Bs. 699.40), it’s a ludicrous amount of money, impossible to pay with CADIVI or with a public servant’s wages. Nobody knows who paid for the letter, but it evidently has no judicial or diplomatic value: it’s simply propaganda!

My favorite line from El Aissami’s letter is: “Venezuela has been recognized by the United Nations as a drug free territory.” It might be worthwhile to quiz the translator, you know, to prove the argument.

What’s the letter about?

Addressing U.S. Treasury Department head Steven Mnuchin, El Aissami claims that the drug trafficking sanction is a scheme set up by political sectors bent on preventing Venezuela and the U.S. from restoring their diplomatic and political relations, which have been so peaceful that neither nation has had ambassadors since 2010. The vice-president repeats the argument used by Nicolás with Donald Trump, claiming that he’s been misinformed, and demanding a rectification because the measure allegedly violates international law, puts international relations in danger, lacks support and also constitutes “a serious violation against my human rights and severely offends my honor and dignity.” Regarding this point, it’s vital that you read the chapter on Venezuela in Amnesty International’s Annual Report; a painful but necessary summary. My favorite line from El Aissami’s letter is: “Venezuela has been recognized by the United Nations as a drug free territory.” It might be worthwhile to quiz the translator, you know, to prove the argument, and also to find a reason to justify the disastrous job he did.

Fifteen minimum wages

According to Cendas, the Basic Food Basket increased by Bs. 76,116 in January, 14% more than December, reaching a price of Bs. 621,106. Compared to January 2016, prices increased by 481.8%. Shortages still mark the best of what can be found and consumed, with the chasm between regulated and market prices, which peaked at 4,344% in January.

Meanwhile, CLAP chief Freddy Bernal said that they’ve established food checkpoints in the country’s cities, “to prevent people from having to roam around” looking for food. After acknowledging that people are losing weight due to hunger and pondering the possibility that part of the population lives in extreme poverty, he pointed out that the price of CLAP boxes will be Bs. 10,000, and that they will be sealed so that nobody will be able to tamper with the contents.


While Cuba’s president, Raúl Castro, met with a delegation of American senators and lawmaker Ángel Alvarado presented the National Assembly’s Consumer Price Index (IPCAN), which estimates a 679.63% [inflation] for 2017. José Khan, head of the Central Bank, reported that 600 boxes with Bs. 1,000 banknotes arrived in the country, the last Bs. 30,000 million of new bills. He had an overkill smile as he spoke of the eleven million newly minted Bs. 10, Bs. 50 and Bs. 100 coins. Miguel Pérez Abad, head of Banco Bicentenario, said that the government will implement measures in the financial area; he didn’t say what those will be but he did say that exports grew by 4.5%.

the few international airlines still operating in Venezuela do so in order to prevent the country from being completely isolated, and to fulfill their responsibility toward citizens

This statement coincides with the one issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), remarking that the few international airlines still operating in Venezuela do so in order to prevent the country from being completely isolated, and to fulfill their responsibility toward citizens, but cautioning that if current conditions stand, more companies will inevitably leave the market, because Venezuela owes airlines about $3,800 million. The airlines can’t charge dollars for their tickets, but they must pay the government in dollars for aviation services. Todo bello.

A protective measure

In order to sabotage the public contest to replace the National Assembly’s current internal inspector -appointed by Diosdado Cabello-, the General Comptroller denounced that his appointed inspector, Mayren Ríos Díaz, was barred from entering the AN’s administrative offices. He filed a protective measure before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice’s Constitutional Chamber, claiming that the National Assembly is “obstructing” the inspection, explaining that the former inspector, David Solórzano Higuera, was removed without due process and Mayren Ríos Díaz was appointed in his place. The Comptroller’s Office gives the TSJ 48 hours to rule on the matter. Alleging a “high moral standing”, Galindo added that elected lawmakers lack the necessary knowledge to demand that he show the document supporting the inspection “because it’s an administrative action” and he also threatened Henry Ramos Allup -whom he still thinks of as Speaker- with barring him from running for public office if he doesn’t answer his demands.

Parliament’s version

The National Assembly’s second vice-president, Dennis Fernández, said that the inspection ordered by the Comptroller’s Office is unconstitutional because it violates due process and they haven’t met with the AN’s new board: “We’re willing to meet with representative of the Comptroller’s Office, institution to institution, but seeing that they’re not approaching us in a democratic spirit, we must denounce this inspection as unconstitutional.” The AN’s new authorities weren’t notified of Ríos Díaz’s visit, so Fernández remarked that they won’t deny access to any inspector, but stated that the National Assembly’s preparing to call a public contest to appoint a new internal inspector, in their commitment “to do things right and in the fight against corruption, we’re the first to support internal transparency.”

While the world celebrated as NASA found a new solar system with seven planets some 40 light years from Earth, in Venezuela, two of our beloved stars went out: on radio, Iván Loscher, great locutor, an unforgettable voice, and on TV, Roberto Lamarca, the immortal Doctor Valerio from “Por estas calles.” May they rest in peace.

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.