Venezuelans were still coming to terms with the fact that inflation between January and June hit 176% —it reached 21.4% in June alone— and with governor Mata Figueroa’s announcement regarding the electoral drill for the Constituyente, set for Sunday, July 16th, the day also set for the plebiscite proposed by the opposition, a process which will be guaranteed by university rectors.

We’re still astonished by Katherine Harrington’s sudden rise in the ranks —from usurper to stowaway— and the removal of prosecutor Narda Sanabria for helping her illegally access the Prosecutor’s Office’s headquarters, right when an audio recording circulated by Runrunes reveals the agreement between paramilitary groups and National Guard officers for the assault on the National Assembly, stating that: “If we let these guys do whatever they want (…) they’ll oust this government in less that fifteen days.” Additionally, VTV and the Prensa Presidencial Twitter account were exhibiting discrepancies between the “live” broadcast and the events already reported on tweets, saying that this Friday was venezolanísimo. We went to bed and then…

Daybreak

The crown jewel of Venezuelan political prisoners, Leopoldo López, was granted house arrest by the TSJ’s Criminal Chamber. According to its brief notice, presented by chief justice Maikel Moreno, there were two key reasons: irregularities in the case file and health issues. As a result, the TSJ decided it was appropriate to grant the political leader a humanitarian measure, transferring him from Ramo Verde military prisoner early this Saturday.

Following protests before the Prosecutor’s Office back in 2014, López had been sentenced to 14 years in prison for the crimes of public instigation, damage to property, arson and criminal association. Back then, the country also woke up to news of his arrest while Nicolás was flying to Cuba.

Early versions

During the welcome message for the Buque Escuela Simón Bolívar, Defense minister Vladimir Padrino López said that the measure was the result of Nicolás’ dialogue efforts and that the TSJ ratifies branch autonomy by granting López this benefit “despite being responsible for the death of 43 people” – he was never indicted for this crime- and that the measure must “be accepted by all Venezuelans.” Padrino López said that the measure shows Nicolás’ clemency.

But for former minister Iris Varela, the scenario isn’t so sweet and she demanded the Constituyente to bring justice “to end the impunity of the fascist right-wing’s actions,” angrily admitting (in truth, her only known emotion) that she doesn’t agree with the decision but she accepts it, that they’ve taken a lot of flak “from every corner of the revolutionary people’s country” but saying that it’s “the best decision that could’ve been made.” Sadly, VTV cut her broadcast short.

Later versions

Tarek William Saab, more tangled up than a ton of yarn, tried to reinforce three lines: the government’s good even with bad guys, while the Prosecutor’s Office is a disgrace; institutions are operational in Venezuela and he’s a human rights genius. He made the worst mistake while answering a simple question: what was the cause for López’s alleged health issues.

He ended up saying that the reason for the judicial benefit was the government’s generosity and not health issues. Same as with Varela, VTV cut Saab short to read tweets from Communications minister Ernesto Villegas, whose contribution was: with the full powers of the Constituyente’s Truth Committee, there will be more new dissident arrests.

Clumsy, exceedingly clumsy. He must be the one who wrote the tweets for the the Guarimba Victims Committee, seriously diverging from his most frequent messages and offering a reconciliation that so far denies its own purpose.

Few agreements

All chavistas agreed on three points: taking it as a fact that Leopoldo López is now unprotected, obsessively repeating that his integrity depends on his family from now on; that we must comply with the TSJ’s decision and this is evidence of Nicolás’ democratic vigor.

Obviously, chavistas in the military reacted poorly. The sole fact that the TSJ decided to call López a “political leader” in its press release, rather than “the Monster of Ramo Verde,” is a severe symbolic blow. Check out some of their blogs, with popcorn, preferably.

Short memories

Nicolás lied when he said he has moral standing to discuss Leopoldo López’s case because he had nothing to do with his trial, making the Prosecutor General responsible for everything, even though the case’s prosecutor was the recently removed Narda Sanabria, and the judge was Susana Barreiros, who was rewarded for it.

Nicolás demanded for Leopoldo to be taken back to prison for being a “fascist” and the Attorney General’s Office (which operates under orders by the Executive Branch) adhered to the accusation against him, with the consent of Giuson Flores, Nicolás’ brother-in-law.

Back in 2015, he proposed a swap of the two Lópezes (Leopoldo for Óscar, the Puerto Rican nationalist,) saying that it was the only possibility for Leopoldo to leave Ramo Verde. If he wanted to dull the impact among chavista ranks, he failed, but following Ernesto’s lead, he announced that the Constituyente’s Truth Committee will be headed by Delcy Rodríguez.

Yordano’s resurrection

Some jerk decided to hack the beloved singer’s Twitter account and report his death yesterday morning. Yordano posted a video on Instagram, denying the news: “Hey, friends, I’m waking up to news that someone killed me but I didn’t die (…) I’m fine and I thank you for your solidarity,” adding on the video’s caption: “I’m alive, we’re alive. Don’t let them distract us, we still have so many songs to sing and I know we’ll do it together, in our country and in freedom.” Impossible not to love him.

It’s humiliating that chavismo talks about the Rule of Law, about separation of powers and institutionality, while they keep finding ways to make their threats. But changing Leopoldo López’s situation is a sign that there’s a chance for something that was impossible up until now: a space for negotiation.

We’re the street, only we can cool it down or keep it hot. The magnitude of the crisis demands that we play on both boards simultaneously. There’s still much we don’t know about this government move which has already inspired all kinds of conspiracy theories. See you today at 11:00 a.m. at the Francisco de Miranda avenue near Chacaíto.

It’s been 100 days of protest against Nicolás now. The reasons have only multiplied. We go on.

35 COMMENTS

  1. That’s right, street protests have proven effective. No shame now in using them strategically, so that the negociations bring about democracy in a gradual, credible way.

  2. I about choked on my cachapa yesterday when Maduro said he was moral and ethical and would never interfere in the decisions of other branches of government. Based on the crowd’s reaction, they were only slightly more convinced than I.

    And LFT, FUCK gradual. I’ve had all the gradual I can stand.

  3. Venezuelans were still coming to terms with the fact that inflation between January and June hit 176% —it reached 21.4% in June alone.

    Annual inflation rate w 176% Jan-June: 662% (7.62 times greater than year before).
    Annual inflation rate @ 21.4% monthly inflation: 925%. (10.25 times greater than year before).
    Bad, and getting worse.

    • And, more salary increases to come: August-ANC celebration; September-back-to-school; October-Halloween (only semi-facetiously); November-whatever obscure “Revolutionary” leftist/guerrilla/minority slave being elevated to the Panteon Nacional; December-Xmas–and, the beat goes on….

  4. It always pissed me off that Lopez stepped aside for Capriles,

    Lopez was the first one out there in the streets (was it 2000, 2001?) when Hugo stripped the Caracas police authority away from local municipalities and put them under federal tutelage. Chavez knew, way back then, his plan to erase democracy and control the country as a military dictatorship.

    Leopoldo is a hero…THE hero of today’s Venezuelan tragedy…but he wasn’t recognized as such by so many. Why? Because he comes from a successful family, went to Harvard, and speaks fluent English?

    I just don’t understand it, that MUD thought Capriles a better candidate than Lopez.

    • A very informative review from Naky Soto! The coven of Nicolas Maduro more and more mimics the actions of a circular firing squad, with its members pointing fingers of blame at one another. The street is forcing change.

      As for Ira’s comment on L. Lopez, I haven’t checked the exact dates, but Chavez long ago prevented him from being a candidate for the Presidency, by an Iranian-style “disqualification” from running. The InterAmerican Court of Human Rights held that it was illegal, but when did Chavez ever give a damn about that?

      • Lopez was still campaigning in the “primaries” (excuse my American bastardization of what it’s actually called in VZ), and I don’t recall any administration talk that he wasn’t eligible to run.

        MUD certainly wasn’t behaving as so.

        • Got to remember that the Venezuelan people of 2012 were basically afraid of voting for López since he was “disqualified”. López got an interview after that and said “A lot of people said to me: Leopoldo, I want to vote for your but I’m afraid”.

          2012 Venezuela was a vastly different country than 2017 Venezuela. Was the tail end of the “good times” with oil money and nobody wanted to rock the boat since the poor had their social assistance programs and the middle class had cheap travel dollars aka Mission Middle Class.

          I remember that clearly that because it was the first election in which I was elegible to vote. *I* voted for Diego Arria, since his plan was coherent (unlike Maria Corina and her “popular capitalism” pitch), Pablo Pérez was the UNT/AD alliance candidate, the other guy was a mere syndicate leader and Capriles was an empty suit that was still afraid of critizicing Chávez since he wanted the vote of the hoi polloi.

          With 2012 and even 2014 Venezuela, the classic MUD strategy makes sense: Better let Chavismo have the Executive so the people don’t throw a coup against us the second we go to the IMF. But that was a different country than 2017 Venezuela. No money anyways and a big cost on blood, sweat and tears in over 100 days of fighting shape a country. The spoiled teenager that would throw a fit when Daddy Goverment’s oil credit card was cut is not there, he had to grow up.

          And I suspect that a lot of countries are now supporting the Venezuelan opposition since the pride, the arrogance of the oil abundance days was properly punished.

          • I appreciate your lesson on this. I forget the details and nuances surrounding that election cycle chaos.

  5. Come on guys. Who do you think is better-equipped to jump-start this economy, a Harvard-educated economist fluent in English or a Colomian-born bus driver? Think before answering.

  6. Listen to Boludo: “Venezuelans were still coming to terms with the fact that inflation between January and June hit 176% —it reached 21.4% in June alone. And getting worse.”

    We can speculate all we want about political intrigues but the death spiral of the Ven. economy cannot be negotiated away. This is something Maduro and company have no capacity whatsoever to even address, let alone fix.

    The simple facts are:

    – Venezuela depends on oil for over 90 percent of its hard-currency revenues.

    – Venezuela Oil Basket recently fell below $50 (Venezuela’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum reported that the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending July 17 slipped for a sixth straight week).

    – The oil fields are in such poor repair that output keeps plunging.

    – The U.S. market remains amply supplied in oil.

    – It was reported back (CNN) in May that “Venezuela has only $10.5 billion in foreign reserves left for the rest of the year, it owes about $7.2 billion in outstanding debt payments. Those figures suggest that nation could soon run out of cash.”

    – $3.5 billion in bond payments come due in October and November.

    – As of today, Dollar Today pegs the dollar to Bolo rate at: 7672,81

    – Now hyperinflation seems imminent. That is, the Bolo is soon to become virtually worthless.

    As mentioned elsewhere, attempts to off load more hunger bonds have so far been unsuccessful. The Chinese and Russians are getting progressively aggressive about what Maduro promised them and now cannot possibly deliver. With rapidly dwindling funds to buy imports, with people recklessly skimming the the dollars coming in and going out to buy CLAP bags etc., there will soon be nothing to sustain Maduro but political slogans and a starving military.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the euphoria of seeing LL’s release and socialismo start to dissolve in midair, but a car cannot run without gas, so to speak, no matter how many diplomats are weighing in.

    Maduro’s economic “plan” has put him in a corner that he cannot talk or bluster his way out of. the Chavista experiment has always survived because Chavez, and now Maduro, had absolute control over the money, and could orchestrate it’s disbursement in order to stay in power. Patron politics.

    So if the political situation doesn’t soon kill socialismo, it looks like the economic freefall will force Maduro down – and out.

    • Hey,right on the money here. In addition to all the LL conspiracy theories I received a whatsapp voice message about the situation of food imports on Margarita. Basically NO HAY DIVISAS, and without state subsidized dollars that you legally have to purchase in there will be little imports of pasta, rice, oil and whatever food products at regulated price.

      So anyway, this government will collapse. But people still need to eat. And since the entire domestic agricultural sector is in shambles–gracias a Chavez!!–we are still completely reliant upon food imports with state subsidized dollars.

      It is a complete mess now, and can get worse. So lets celebrate the fall of the regime, but there will be a lot of hard work in the transition to a fully functioning market economy.

      Shock therapy will not work here because the domestic agriculture is in collapse. Until Venezuela is semi productive, subsidized imports will unfortunately have to continue or else there will be more social unrest.

      Negotiating the transition to a functioning economy will be the next discussion. But got to take out the trash first.

      • The more you restrict initiative and production, the less initiative and production you get.

        In my probably unwelcome foreigner academic opinion:
        – immediately lift all restrictions on imports by the private sector
        – guarantee safety of investment capital, and return expropriated property to original owners wherever possible
        – engineer a transition from subsidized wages and retail prices (ridiculously low by world market standards, but this has been moving in that direction already) to sustainable market prices.

        There’s a ton of work to be done, and there are socialists who will kick and scream, but that’s the outline to move to a viable economy. Some kind of subsidized food and medical supplies, probably charities, is something to rally the socialists behind.

        Venezuela imports 70% of its food. If it were the middle of Saudi Arabia, with maybe an inch of rainfall a year on what amounts to a sea of 130 F temperature powder, I could understand that. (Not much corn and very few fish out there, I hear.) But a geography like Venezuela’s??

      • I received a whatsapp voice message about the situation of food imports on Margarita. Basically NO HAY DIVISAS,
        For a flash from the past, consider what Counterpunch, a leftie propaganda rag, claimed in 2013: The Achievements of Hugo Chavez. :
        While 90% of the food was imported in 1980, today this is less than 30%.

        FAO Food Balance more or less confirm the <30% figure for 2006-2010, years for which this 2013 claim would have drawn its data. I used 2009, arbitrarily, Unfortunately for the propagandists at Counterpunch, FAO data- using gross tonnage as an estimate- the 1980 figure is about the same
        Year Code Element Sum (thousand metric tons)
        1980 Domestic supply quantity 18254
        1980 Import Quantity 4594
        2009 Domestic supply quantity 30480
        2009 Import Quantity 8424

        For both 1980 and 2009, imports were roughly 25% of domestic supply.
        IOW Counterpunch was a lying propagandist. Disclaimer: a high school peer of mine contributes articles to Counterpunch. Fortunately, not about Venezuela.

        Currently my understanding is that Venezuela imports 70% of its food. WaPo recently quoted a private producers association, and a commenter cited USDA for the 70% figure. But FAO will not have such recent data.

        • Recently read a time-germane interview article with a Venezuelan poultry producer who said his production is down [to about 20-25% of capacity] because he cannot get currency to import feed and chicks legally. If he pays black market prices for same, he loses money on “precio justo” retail. Showed a photo of a tidy but totally empty 100 meter long poultry barn.

          Socialism: None Dare Call It Mass Murder.

          Saudi Arabia imports 80% of its food. They live on a desert with sand dunes bigger than a thirty story building, moving all the time … whadda ya’ want!? Great place to get a tan, though! As long as you avoid the sand whirlpools sometimes found in the troughs of dunes.

          Venezuela could export food to the Saudis in exchange for blending light crude (snark, snark). Better for cash. That’s part of the future I’d like to see for Venezuela: a “bread basket” exporter to the world. Look at the article on arepas. Heck, there are several places on the web here where I can order up all the hallacas I could possibly consume: it’s free market. Make Venezuela a “gourmet tourist spot”.

          • The story’s the same everywhere here Gringo. Talked to a buyer the other day whose major supplier is in Monagas. This guy has 22 galpones each with a capacity of 250,000 birds. He’s currently operating with 2, or at less than 10% of capacity. No chicks, no feed, no medicines.

            And speaking of infation, I recall a few years ago the day I sold my first processed chicken (~2.2 kilos) for 100 bs. The cost of a breath mint today? 200 bs.

          • As far as a gourmet tourist hotspot, that is what we are hoping for. I work in gastronomy and we know once this government tumbles investment will return to Margarita Island. First Venezuelans abroad looking for rock bottom prices on vacation apartments, second domestic tourism will return.

            I have faith that we will have the first Merry Christmas in almost two decades. Through this crisis we have learned to create with what little we have to make “si hay con no hay”. In a lot of ways, we have returned to our roots.

            Personally, I have started to grow a huge herb garden to produce what you cannot find on the island. I have also reached out to local farmers (pigs, rabbits, tomates margaritenos etc.) and I always pay good. If farmers are allowed to make a profit, farmers can be farmers (and not paupers in red waiting for their CLAP). That simple.

            The spirit is already here to make something better in Venezuela. We just need this robolucion to fall first and have a business environment that does not punish entrepreneurs and farmers. Give us that, we will have a chance to be successful and prosperous.

            Here is a link to Margarita Gastronomy Society:
            http://margaritagastronomica.net/

        • Food imports dropping to 30% during those years are hard for me to believe unless the majority of that consisted of products that were simply eliminated from the diets of average Venezuelans.

          There was a time when one could walk into a store like SEGO and there was a decent selection of canned goods, 5 or 6 types of cooking oil, rice, etc. Today you buy what you can find and you usually go home empty-handed.

          Agricultural capacity during those years was absolutely under attack, at least in my area, so that doesn’t add up either. Of course, chavismo would never cook the books, so I guess it’ll all remain a mystery.

          • Food imports dropping to 30% during those years are hard for me to believe.
            Please note that I was quoting loony leftie lying Counterpunch about food imports dropping. I also observed that the proportion of food supply covered by imports was about the same in 1980 compared to 2009 – which was counter, shall we say, to what Counterpunch claimed.

            If for the years before the 2014 oil price crash, you consider the food import percentage of under 30% to be too low, my reply is that I am using gross tonnage, where a kilo of corn is treated the same as a kilo of meat. I am also assuming that the FAO doesn’t duplicate and keeps its categories clean. I believe it does. Example: Beans, Peas, Pulses Other and Products, and Soyabeans are all distinct categories.
            The FAO figures show that food imports exploded during Chavismo.

            Year Element Thousand Metric Tons
            1998 Import Quantity 4946
            2013 Import Quantity 9604

            Year Element Thousand Metric Tons
            1998 Production 21781
            2013 Production 23868

            Imports nearly doubled, while domestic production didn’t keep up with the increase in population. I suspect that the production figure for 2016 or 2017 will have crashed. But FAO doesn’t have that data, and Chavismo will not send such embarrassing data.(1998 would have been a low year for imports, with $11 oil that year)

            http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FBS ( I I did the summing myself.)

    • I find it very hard to believe that the regime is still holding $10 billion in foreign reserves when they are trying to peddle a bond with a $5 billion face value for $1 billion.
      Discounting a bond by 80% when you theoretically have money in the bank just doesn’t add up.
      Selling a portion of the oil assets may be required to generate emergency cash. The infrastructure needs billions of Dollars in new investment and at the same time the US oil service companies have billions in Dollars of unpaid bills for work they have already performed.
      The Trans Canada pipeline is going to be delivering a heavy crude that is similar to Venezuelan oil to the Gulf refineries. The best way to sell Venezuelan oil is to discount it further. Making it more attractive to the oil refineries.
      There is a tremendous amount of aid designated for Venezuela in US warehouses. Many other countries are also ready to help.
      The people need to understand that the process of recovering from this political, criminal, economic and humanitarian crisis is going to be long and hard. many of the professionals that the country will desperately need are the people that fled years ago. Coaxing them back will not be easy.

  7. Watching Adan Chavez trying to whip up the crowd, in Barinas no less, for the “inicio de campañia electoral” for the PSUV constituyente and it’s deader than Jose Rangel’s crank. The camera hardly left the stage because the crowd was so sparse and quiet.

    I’m telling you folks, this has got to be making Maduro et al crap bricks.

    Oh, and finally a Jorge Rodriguiz sighting!

  8. Would love to see these guys shit their pants. And hey, no hay panales! so get to see it running all down their legs.

  9. I watched the entire program as they skipped arond the country and I’m here to tell everyone that the crowds were absolutely pathetic. The largest, in Caracs for Celia Flores, Delcy Rodriguez, and Iris “I’m mad at the world” Valera, was mas o menos, but for the kickoff of what’s supposed to be the most important event of the century, was still surprisingly small.
    I’m not on the ground near any large concentrations of chavistas, but if today’s events are any indicator, the ANC will be supported by only the most die-hard chavistas

  10. This sad, pitiful drama is starting to run like a really bad play that doesn’t know how to end, and while the curtain fails to mercifully fall, as the actors bumble and preen and lie on stage, the little remaining audience simply walks away, looking for scraps of food.

    Negotiate that, Zapatero.

  11. Wasn’t questioning you Boludo Tejano, just the figures from the source you mentioned.

    Here we are nearly at mid July, almost 2 months of rainfall under our belts and still no one reporting receiving credit, no certified seed to be found, no herbicide, and no insecticide or urea anywhere within 40 miles of here. I’ve never seen it this bad.

    I’ve managed to sell about a thousand kilos of seed corn but that’s only because I stumbled on a source in the mountains where I buy coffee. The guy harvests and shells the corn by hand with most of his customers buying his product to eat. If it weren’t for that source, there’d be virtually no corn planted near here so far this year.

    • MRubio, whoever you are, you have really very admirable courage. Anyone who remains in Venezuela to fight it out does.

      The countries where these supplies are to be purchased might be informed of estimates in advance, and if they wish to provide aid, can accumulate some realistic stockpile to be sold at rock-bottom prices with extended credit.

      Maybe some countries already made their own estimates, but my bet is that most aid set aside now is in the form of consumables – which are useless for the long-term. Chicks won’t eat CLAP-look-alike bags, and human antibiotics and diapers won’t work on cattle. (Now watch … someone somewhere will read this, listen, and somehow, someone, somewhere, will screw up … and 100 tons of fertilizer will get delivered to La Candelaria and Petare in refrigerated trucks,)

    • The question is, what data is reliable, and how to interpret it? I am no more than an interested- but hopefully objective- amateur when it comes to agricultural statistics. I would like to hear the input of Carlos Machado Allison , who for years has been considered THE expert on Venezuelan agricultural statistics,

      Regarding FAO- definitely a mixed bag. On the one hand, FAO stats apparently disprove the PSF/Chavista claim of food imports accounting for 90% of Venezuela’s food supply in 1980. Also, FAO stats show the sharp increase in food imports under Chavismo. Those two examples point to FAO stats being accurate. At the same time, FAO stats come from the government of Venezuela, and from what I have read, there is a sharp discrepancy between what the government claims is being produced and what private producers claim is being produced. Against FAO, Gustavo Coronel has had a number of rather pointed posts about FAO cheerleading for Chavismo, where the FAO has not shown any reduction in food supply since the 2014 crash in the price of oil. Can’t find it right now, but I believe that at least UNESCO has admitted that Venezuela currently has problems.

      I also appreciate your reporting from the “belly of the beast.”

  12. Chipichipi, your post reminded me of a client of mine on Margarita who produces goat cheese that is absolutely delicious. If I recall correctly, he’s working with something like a thousand animals, so his supply is both copious and reliable.

    Additionally, male goats are culled early so he’s also got a good supply of cabrito. Don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, if you haven’t, you should. His initials are RA, I’d imagine if you asked at a feedstore or two, you could locate him. If you do, tell him the gringo who sells him bales of bermuda sent ya.

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