Contradicting Freddy Bernal’s overnight message, the General Prosecutor reported that 12 people died between Thursday and Friday, which now make 20 casualties during protests in the past three weeks which, added to the 1289 arrests and the hundreds of people wounded in demonstrations, is evidence that nothing’s normal and that this is a dictatorship.
Reinforcing the pattern, El Valle, the most conflicted area of Caracas, suffered massive arbitrary raids throughout Friday afternoon, carried out by the Anti-Kidnapping Police (CONAS, part of the National Guard) and the Special Actions Brigade (BAE, part of CICPC,) with the excuse of looking for looted items but with hooded officers and without search warrants. Meanwhile the highest ranking chavistas celebrated the opening of the International Theatre Festival, because that’s all they are: a show.
Only terrorism is worse than repression
Throughout this Friday, Foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez kept repeating the lie that El Valle Children’s Hospital was attacked by terrorists “hired by the opposition,” without mentioning the tear gas bombs thrown by the GNB. Her statements seriously contradict the testimony of other neighbors. In the afternoon, during an absurd event, she handed over UNASUR’s temporary presidency, even though Venezuela has been de facto suspended from the institution for months. So suspended, in fact, that Delcy was accompanied by the Culture and Finance ministers, and even by National Electoral Council head Tibisay Lucena, who have remained idle amidst recent events. By the way, CNE rectora Tania D’Amelio announced on Twitter that the party re-registration drive will resume this weekend (?).
Condemning violence with threats
While Jorge Rodríguez and Diosdado Cabello spoke from El Valle —surrounded by more guards than citizens— minister Rodolfo Marco Torres handed out CLAP bags, to take pictures and record videos he uploaded on social media, even though by doing that, he ratified that those bags are a mechanism of social control. The propaganda push was pretty loud, but it didn’t drown out the regime’s latest threats: Mayor Rodríguez blamed Henrique Capriles, José Guerra, Ismael León and Tomás Guanipa for riots, calling them “bloodthirsty beasts, terrorists and fascists,” promising to “find them wherever they hide.” Cabello’s speech is summed up in two phrases: “We don’t need violence because we’ve been governing for years” and “This fight is won on the streets (…) if we must fight, we’re ready,” but they claim to want peace.
Or maybe dividing
Vice-president Tareck El Aissami blamed the opposition of sowing terrorism in the country, claiming that violence in El Valle is part of a coup d’État in “a new scenario of non-conventional warfare.” He repeated several times the story about opposition hatred —the only emotion that drives protesters, according to him— and justified repression as the only means of defense of the people and peace. Once again he labelled the regime’s abuses as “false positives” and the protests as “terrorist acts,” but he also said that they paid $237 million this Friday in maturities. $2,8 billion have been paid so far this year for an unjustifiable public foreign debt.
The opposition’s response
“We want to denounce that El Valle has been completely taken over by paramilitary groups,” said lawmaker Tomás Guanipa, denouncing reports of massive apartments rais and searches, and rejecting mayor Rodríguez’s statements, reminding him that only the Armed Forces, and not paramilitary groups, should have weapons of war, and insisting that the opposition wants elections, not confrontation. Lawmaker José Guerra pointed out that his only sin was beating chavismo in El Valle. He stated that the government was responsible for the riots and demanded to be allowed to defend himself from the slanders against him.
Governor Henrique Capriles said that pro-government paramilitary armed groups were responsible for the riots. He condemned violence and repression, and denounced that minister Néstor Reverol and general Favio Zavarce gave the order to use tear gas in El Valle Children’s Hospital. He also said Nicolás was personally responsible for violence in the country and for the opacity with which such a tense night was handled.
The IMF’s concerns
This Friday, the International Monetary Fund expressed its concern for Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis, caused by the country’s deep economic recession and repeating the figures of the World Economic Outlook report, which forecasts a -7.4% recession for 2017 and -4.1% for 2018, estimating that despite our economy’s freefall in the past several years, significant effects on the region are unlikely: “Venezuela keeps experiencing a profound economic crisis with hyperinflation, due to a great fiscal gap which has been monetized, with excessive economic imbalances and severe restrictions on imported goods,” said Alejandro Werner, head of the department for the American continent. Keep in mind that the IMF predicts rampant inflation, with 720% for this year and 2,000% for 2018.
Yesterday, the UN once again expressed its concerns for violence in Venezuela and cautioned about the impact that the country’s crisis may have on the region. The United States demanded the government to open “full, fair and transparent” investigations of violence in the protests and remarked once more that those responsible for Human Rights violations in the country must be held accountable. Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, spokesman for the Spanish government, expressed his concerns for recent violence and made call to reactivate negotiations. Panama signed the communiqué that vigorously condemns violence and regrets the loss of more lives. Ernesto Samper Pizano, who has been mostly irrelevant so far, spoke about the need for an electoral timetable, the agreement of amnesty to release political prisoners and the opening of humanitarian channels for food and medicine. China technically said nothing and in Uruguay, president Tabaré Vázquez said that Venezuela was a drama; Foreign minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa also issued statements and senator Verónica Alonso proposed negotiating Maduro’s exit including an offer of safe passage.
Venezuelan oil is down this week, at $44.81, while the black market dollar’s price has increased significantly, and it won’t stop as long as the government doesn’t process dollars through DICOM.
Ernesto Villegas should stop making videos of Nicolás driving. Using an iPhone 7, driving a state-of-the-art vehicle with tinted windows, and the fact that roads are kept clear for him only make the lies about the country’s alleged normalcy even more pathetic.