Brought down

7

The 50 months of el finado’s sowing were ignored by chavismo but not by the people of Villa del Rosario (Zulia state), where a group of citizens brought down and burned the commander’s statue. Nicolás had his own time for recognition and that’s why a banner was hung in the National Assembly’s administrative building with the words: “Maduro Dictador.” The banner was cut down by court employees, but the protest achieved its purpose.

This Friday, the government chose to upload other things on social networks: a video of Nicolás talking to some cows -what a way to show that he sees his militancy as livestock-, a picture of Paul Gillman costumed as a nazi, and another video showing a group of soldiers training and singing:

“Quisiera tener un arco y una flecha,
para atravesar la maldita ultraderecha.
Quisiera tener un puñal de acero
para degollar un maldito guarimbero.”

I would like to have a bow and arrow,
to pierce de damned ultra-right.
I would like a steel dagger, 
to slit the throat of a damn guarimbero.”

All of Nicolás’ videos have failed disastrously. They needed something with an extra-kick of sarcasm, it’s publicity anyway. It’s also urgent for the government escalate the conflict on social media, to radicalize even the moderates, to make sure anger trumps civility and there lies the “mistake” of detouring training soldiers to be recorded from several angles. Don’t play their game. We have lots of legitimate reasons to hate this government; let them sing their barbarity, their misery; we have other songs.

The moderates

According to Education minister Elías Jaua, the government is facing an armed rebellion -sadly, he didn’t mention their enemies use stones in combat- and they’re doing it with water and tear gas, bypassing rubber bullets and denying their disproportionate use of force. Strangely, pictures of the Constituent Assembly’s meeting with the diplomatic body never showed the entire scene, the same happened with the meeting with university authorities. Foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez took the opportunity to condemn international media’s treatment of the protests, which haven’t been peaceful in her view and only seek to disturb the country’s great peace.

Agriculture Minister Wilmar Castro Soteldo issued a shameful statement saying that Juan Pablo Pernalete’s murder was meant to cause Tarek William Saab’s son to react because they studied in the same university, just as Armando Cañizales’ death was meant to push Gustavo Dudamel over the border because he was a musician.

Hecder and Miguel

Perhaps in the next few days, Castro Soteldo will link the deaths that plunged Venezuelans into mourning yesterday with other conspiracy theories. Yesterday morning, Hecder Lugo Pérez (20) died from wounds he suffered while protesting in the Tulipán sector in Carabobo. The video of how the National Guard shot him in the head was widely shared yesterday. And Miguel Medina (also 20) was shot in Maracaibo last Wednesday when he was looking for his brother who was protesting in Circunvalaciòn 1. These two deaths, coupled with the musical homage for Armando Cañizales that his orchestra peers set up at Cementerio del Este, were ample reasons to weep. End the violence!

Cynical brass

Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López sympathized with Armed Forces officers for the opposition’s attacks against them, claiming that one of his obligations is to protect his helpless officers. According to him, “It’s time for an end to so much violence, so much death, so much blood,” but he didn’t mention the money spent on tear gas, rubber bullets or marbles. Obviously, the attacks, the lootings and the illegal detentions must help drain so much military oppression. Padrino López said that the “serious and decent citizens want to leave their homes and get to their jobs to produce” -with or without metro in Caracas, for instance- and that “those who try to boycott or hide the products are not welcome in these spaces.” Perhaps he should read the communiqué issued by the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference regarding the priorities of Venezuelans and how Nicolás’ constituyente won’t help solve them.

Serious

Governor Henrique Capriles denounced that Interior minister Néstor Reverol and Prisons minister Iris Varela are using prisoners to repress and intimidate opposition protests: “They made a test-run in Maracaibo using prisoners to repress all demonstrations and protests,” adding that the decision was made because security forces are fatigued by ongoing protests. “Iris Varela and Néstor Reverol, under orders by Nicolás Maduro, are in command of paramilitary groups and National Police officers repressing across the country,” said Capriles, who had denounced earlier that 85 officers of the FAN were arrested for expressing their dissatisfaction with the actions of the GNB and the PNB.

Don’t wait for it, Jaua

The Association of Mayors for Venezuela won’t be a part of the Constituent process. Gerardo Blyde, mayor of Baruta municipality, said: “We can’t be involved in a constitutional fraud,” remarking that gubernatorial and local elections must be held this year. The mayors set a stance about their role in the protests, citing their duty to support those who protest for the defense of our fundamental rights and so, they offered municipal services to those who need them during demonstrations. They emphasized of protesting peacefully and without vandalism: “peaceful protest is effective, because it’s a fight to resist those who broke the constitutional order,” said Blyde.

Abroad

The OAS Permanent Council held its first meeting without Venezuela, but National Assembly Speaker Julio Borges did meet with the ambassadors of other member states. The UN also said that any constitutional reform in Venezuela must be transparent and can only be successful by respecting the essential principles of democracy and the protection of Human Rights. Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos will meet with Donald Trump on May 18th and they’ll discuss mechanisms to face Venezuela’s democratic meltdown, information backed by the statements of deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said yesterday: “Some of the acts there have been deplorable and certainly something that we’re monitoring very closely.”

In keeping with their promise to ruin any dissident activity, chavismo announced that women would march today to the Ombudsman’s Office to support the Constituyente. Ah! But CNE rectora Tania D’Amelio tweeted that the political party re-registration drive resumes this weekend. Hundreds will go, surely. Read the following articles when you can: “The armed forces will decide the fate of Venezuela’s regime” in The Economist and “Venezuela is starving” by The Wall Street Journal. They’re as tough as they are thorough.

7 COMMENTS

  1. From the Wall Street Journal, May 5
    Venezuela Is Starving

    By Juan Forero

    YARE, Venezuela — Jean Pierre Planchart, a year old, has the drawn face of an old man and a cry that is little more than a whimper. His ribs show through his skin. He weighs just 11 pounds.
    His mother, Maria Planchart, tried to feed him what she could find combing through the trash — scraps of chicken or potato. She finally took him to a hospital in Caracas, where she prays a rice-milk concoction keeps her son alive.
    “I watched him sleep and sleep, getting weaker, all the time losing weight,” said Ms. Planchart, 34 years old. “I never thought I’d see Venezuela like this.”
    Her country was once Latin America’s richest, producing food for export. Venezuela now can’t grow enough to feed its own people in an economy hobbled by the nationalization of private farms, and price and currency controls.
    Venezuela has the world’s highest inflation — estimated by the International Monetary Fund to reach 720% this year — making it nearly impossible for families to make ends meet. Since 2013, the economy has shrunk 27%, according to local investment bank Torino Capital; imports of food have plunged 70%.
    Hordes of people, many with children in tow, rummage through garbage, an uncommon sight a year ago. People in the countryside pick farms clean at night, stealing everything from fruits hanging on trees to pumpkins on the ground, adding to the misery of farmers hurt by shortages of seed and fertilizer. Looters target food stores. Families padlock their refrigerators.
    Three in four Venezuelans said they had lost an average of 19 pounds last year, according to the National Poll of Living Conditions, an annual study by social scientists. People here, in a mix of rage and humor, call it the Maduro diet after President Nicolás Maduro.
    For more than a month, Venezuelans have protested against the increasingly authoritarian government of Mr. Maduro; by Thursday, 35 people had been reported killed in the unrest. The country’s Food Ministry, the president’s office, the Communications Ministry and the Foreign Ministry didn’t return calls or emails requesting comment for this article.
    “Here, for the government, there are no malnourished children,” said Livia Machado, a physician and child malnutrition expert. “The reality is this is an epidemic, and everyone should be paying attention to this.”
    Dr. Machado and her team of doctors are seeing a dramatic increase in emaciated infants brought to the Domingo Luciani Hospital in Caracas, where they work.
    The problem is no better in towns like Yare, south of Caracas, where the government’s leftist movement was long popular. “To eat,” said Sergio Jesus Sorjas, 11 years old, “I sometimes go to the butcher and I say, ‘Sir, do you have any bones you can give me?’ ”
    The boy receives nutritional formula or a traditional Venezuelan corncake from the parish priest. Sergio said he hasn’t tasted meat in months: “Sometimes, I don’t eat at all.”
    The Catholic charity Caritas and a team led by Susana Raffalli — a specialist in food emergencies who has worked in Guatemala, Africa and other regions tormented by hunger — are monitoring conditions here.
    The most recent Caritas study of 800 children under the age of 5 in Yare and three other communities showed that in February nearly 11% suffered from severe acute malnutrition, which is potentially fatal, compared with 8.7% in October. Caritas said nearly a fifth of children under age 5 in those four communities suffered from chronic malnutrition, which stunts growth and could mark a generation.
    “What’s serious is not that we’re in at the crisis threshold, but rather the velocity at how we got there,” Ms. Raffalli said.
    By World Health Organization standards, Caritas’s findings constitute a crisis that calls for the government to marshal extraordinary aid. But authorities have resisted offers of food and aid from abroad.
    The country’s growing malnutrition is made worse by a breakdown in health care, the spread of mosquito-borne illness and what the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela has called a severe shortage of medicines.
    Plenty to want
    Belkis Diaz watched her newborn, Dany Nava, wither away last summer from lack of food. There was no baby formula, and Ms. Diaz couldn’t nurse, said Albertina Hernandez, the baby’s grandmother.
    “We couldn’t find food, we couldn’t find the milk, and he began to get thinner and thinner,” Ms. Hernandez said.
    By the time Dany arrived at the hospital, he had a serious cough and soon died. “He was so, so tiny,” his grandmother said.
    In past years, the farms south of here produced at capacity, everything from chickens to soybeans.
    Alberto Troiani, 48 years old, still works the hog farm that his father, an Italian immigrant, founded in the 1970s. His business has now been battered by price controls, a shortage of supplies and criminal gangs.
    The farm has gone from 200 female pigs, each producing a dozen piglets, to 50. Mr. Troiani can’t afford the high-protein feed and medicines he once used. Full-grown pigs now weigh 175 pounds instead of 240 pounds.
    What is worse, he said, walking past half-empty pens, is seeing his pigs sometimes bite off the tails and ears of others.
    “We used to send 120 to 150 pigs a month to slaughter,” Mr. Troiani said. “Now it’s 50, 60 animals, a joke.” He makes 93 cents per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of meat, he said, but needs $1.17 to make a profit. Since 2012, 82% of Venezuela’s pig producers have closed, and production has fallen 71%, according to industry representatives.
    Mr. Troiani talked about leaving Venezuela with his mother, Yolanda Facciolini, 69 years old, who arrived from Italy in the 1960s. He said he would have no buyers: All around him, people are abandoning their farms. Thieves take what is left behind, he said — copper wire, tractors, weed killer.
    The agricultural companies the government has taken over, including milk factories and distributors of fertilizer and feed, are closed or barely operating, according to economists and farm groups.
    “The system is created so you can’t win,” said Alberto Cudemus, who heads the national association of pig farmers. “The government thinks its survival is in communism, not in us, not with production. And that’s where they’re wrong.”
    Survival skills
    Diogenes Alzolay, 65 years old, once had two small construction companies and later drove a cab. He is now trying to sell the freezers of the small store he once ran along with his books, lamps, photocopier and taxi.
    He and his wife, Nidea Cadiz, need money to feed their children, who include a 2-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. He also has three teenagers, ages 13, 16 and 19.
    On a recent day, Mr. Alzolay was frying sardines. To stretch the food they have, a couple of family members skip eating one day to leave enough for the others. Meals are sometimes the local corncakes known as arepas, vegetables, mangoes and the occasional canned fish.
    “I’ve thought about running away, but I can’t do it because of our very little kids,” Mr. Alzolay said. “Getting to this extreme makes me want to cry.”
    Nine in 10 homes said they don’t make enough money to buy all their food, according to the poll of living conditions. Nearly a third of Venezuelans, 9.6 million people, eat two or fewer meals a day, up from 12.1% in 2015, the poll found; four of out five in the nation are now poor.
    Cesar Augusto Palma, 75 years old, lays out the grim arithmetic of high inflation on a fixed income. His pension is now worth about $10 a month, he said, enough to buy four boxes of milk.
    His grown daughter and three grandchildren are financial dependents. Mr. Palma and his grandson Germain, 11 years old, eat less food to leave more for the two younger children. Germain’s once-thick hair is turning yellow.
    “They need it more than me,” said Germain, who weighs 50 pounds instead of 70 pounds, about the average for a boy his age. Nearby, his brothers, Cesar Augusto, 10 years old, and Angel Jose, age 4, try to fly a handmade kite.
    “I am hungry,” Germain said. “I feel like a pain in my belly.” Asked his favorite meal, he said, “Arroz con pollo,” rice and chicken, which he last ate in 2015.
    At the Domingo Luciani Hospital in Caracas, Ms. Planchart cried when she recalled the ways she tried to feed baby Jean Pierre and her four other children. She went through trash bags, searching for bits of corn or bread free of maggots.
    “I’d stand there and say, ‘I can’t do it,’ ” she said, worried of being seen by neighbors. “I said to myself, ‘If I don’t do it, this, what will I take to my children?’ ”
    Ms. Planchart had a string of jobs: cashier, hair salon worker, cook. Then the work disappeared; inflation and food shortages made everything worse. At one point, she said, a neighbor cooked a dog.
    As she watched Jean Pierre grow thinner and then stop moving, she decided to seek help from Dr. Machado and other malnutrition experts at the hospital. The doctors don’t have vitamins, antibiotics or serum for sick babies.
    “We’re not feeding him well in this hospital,” Dr. Machado said. “No boy like this is going to get better with bananas and cheese.”
    Ms. Planchart, meantime, rocked Jean Pierre in her arms, a balm for both.
    “He hasn’t fully recovered,” she said of her baby, who now has chickenpox. “The idea is for him to get his weight up and that we get his metabolism to where it should be. But he’s delicate.”

    Maolis Castro
    in Caracas contributed to this article

    • Tragic, far beyond words and tears. Criminal. The criminals MUST PAY at the day of earthly reckoning–no more typical irresponsible Venezuelan slaps on the wrist or allowing the criminals to get off scot-free for these reprehensible/inhumane/un-Godly acts/negligence!

  2. Boludo Tejano – Why, I thank you very much for your very kind and considerate reprint of the WSJ article! You, Sir, are a gentleman and a scholar – and a good patriot, too, besides! Much appreciated!

    “Since 2012, 82% of Venezuela’s pig producers have closed, and production has fallen 71%, according to industry representatives.” This isn’t mismanagement, ineptness, nor feeble mindedness.

    Another great round up by Naky, a great mind, and a great soul. Pretty decent writer, too.

    • Until recently, one could access WSJ subscriber-only articles from Google News. That bypass of the WSJ subscription wall is no longer available.

      • I read that article last night. When linked via Drudge or Real Clear Politics, there is normally no pay-wall.

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