Nicolás reappeared on Thursday, after two days of much needed silence. He spoke at the graduation ceremony for the Micromisión Simón Rodríguez, in Miraflores. Ineffective, deceitful and repetitive, he failed to inspire the awe he should have, the firmness he needed; he merely yelled recycled talking points and used the graduates as a chorus for slogans.

He announced that the consultation period for his Constituyente has been extended for a week, emphasizing the need to force dialogue on those who don’t want to negotiate, admitting his failure on Twitter and how disappointed he is he can’t get a hashtag to trend, and claiming that “neither traitors nor bureaucrats” will keep him from imposing his illegal Constituyente.

Nicolás, the corrupt

In a document revealed by Brazil’s Federal Supreme Tribunal, the wife of Brazilian publicist Joao Santana, Mónica Moura, confessed that she received $11 million at the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry headquarters, directly from Nicolás’ hands when he was the Foreign Minister. The Santana-Moura partnership was the brains behind el finado’s last re-election campaign back in 2012: “Chávez, corazón del pueblo.”

As part of her plea bargain with Brazilian justice, Moura confessed under oath that Nicolás handed her $11 million in cash and still owed her $15 million more. Nicolás demanded Moura receive all payments for the campaign without declaring them, with some of the payments fronted by Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez.

“Maduro was always distrustful, he would only hand out the cash to a single person, due to the high risk the negotiation involved, that’s why he handed all the money to Moura,” said the publicist, arrested in 2016 and sentenced, along with her husband, to eight years for corruption and money laundering. Santana and Moura were hired by Maximiliano Arbeláez, who was also Venezuela’s ambassador to Brazil, and had excellent relations with big Brazilian company directors as well as with the Worker’s Party top ranks.

Ousted, not removed

On May 6th, Alfredo Ramos, mayor of Iribarren municipality in Lara state, said that Nicolás and Diosdado Cabello had ordered a writ amparo be filed against him to try and remove and later imprison him. On Thursday, Ramos reported on Twitter that PSUV councilmembers approved his removal, calling it a coup d’état on his municipality, asserting that nothing will stop his fight for democracy.

But chavismo also strikes against its own people, and that’s why Health minister Antonieta Caporale was removed from her post, according to Official Gazette dated Wednesday, May 10th, and replaced by Pharmacist Luis Salerfi López Chejade (Hospitals vice-minister and Salud Aragua secretary.)

Nobody can yet confirm whether this is related to the first publication of the weekly epidemiological bulletin in two years.

Decline

We already know that Russia’s aiding Cuba with oil shipments in view of Venezuela’s decline; but, yesterday, OPEC released its Monthly Oil Market Report for May which shows that PDVSA’s output for April was 1,956 million barrels per day (bpd), which is 26,000 bpd less than March. Additionally, the National Assembly’s Consumer Price Index (IPCAN), calculates the inflation rate for April at 16.5% for a total of 92.8% cumulative inflation rate for the first four month of 2017.

Illegal weapons

Mike Pompeo, head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) cautioned yesterday about the increasing likelihood that armed militias in Venezuela slip out of the government’s grasp and warned about the tremendous risk involved in the increasing weapons transfer in the country. During a hearing on global threats before the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Pompeo spoke about Venezuela’s crisis, specifically about the paramilitary groups known as colectivos: “The risk of these armed groups acting outside Maduro’s control increases by the minute,” he said, since they were armed to defend chavista interests from opposition protests.

The US Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, said before the same committee that “The unpopular and autocratic government of Venezuela will opt for more repressive methods to contain political opponents and discontent in the streets.”

Descending

A political think tank created by Uruguayan Julio María Sanguinetti was invited by the Montevideo Circle. Although they were meant to talk about technology, Venezuela came up —a less theoretical and far more urgent matter. Thus, several politicians and businessmen concluded that every day Venezuela descends “one step further into hell” and its “destruction process” has no historical precedents. Argentinian president Mauricio Macri was invited as a special guest and said: “I still don’t see a way out for Venezuela (…) three years ago we wondered how bad it could get and now the situation’s catastrophic.” Former Spanish president Felipe González also spoke of our country’s current situation saying that “the people are on the streets demanding something as alien as freedom and food.” For Brazilian former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, our situation couldn’t be worse because the military side with Maduro “and that changes the terms of the conflict.”

González demanded Nicolás scrap the Constituyente and call for gubernatorial and later presidential elections, and to give back the Venezuelan people’s voice: “It’s not about voting for a Constituyente, but about complying with the Constitution, respecting the National Assembly’s authority and Branch autonomy. We must help Venezuela find a way out of this tragedy and there isn’t much time,” he cautioned. Although they all agreed that Venezuela needs foreign help, the consensus was that there’s little other countries can do from outside if the government and the opposition don’t open negotiations.

Heinz Dieterich, former advisor for el finado, attacked Nicolás, calling him a political illiterate, criticizing the inability of the PSUV and its leaders to connect with the Venezuelan people and the value of resorting to a tactical retreat before an adverse and unsustainable situation. Dieterich insists that it’s impossible to diversify the economy when Nicolás failed to accomplish it during the oil boom; considering the Constituyente a joke, after national dialogue was a complete failure, saying that Nicolás’ “brainless” government’s in check and wondering how much longer the Armed Forces will support the PSUV.

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