December protests

This Tuesday, I read a tweet saying that in Venezuela, public services don’t fail or break down, they just work from time to time. Painfully on point, it helps explain the multiple protests reported in several cities of the country caused by shortages of food, gasoline, cooking gas, the absence of CLAP bags (along with perniles and toys,) and unpaid christmas bonuses and wages. Many of these protests, such as the ones in Amazonas where there hasn’t been any gasoline for several days, were dispersed with tear gas and pellets, courtesy of the National Guard  -always so respectful of human rights-. There were food protests in Anzoátegui and Bolívar. According to journalist Javier Ignacio Mayorca, 28 people were arrested and 8 shops suffered damages in Bolívar during riots on December 25. People set tires on fire in Portuguesa in protest for the shortage of cooking gas and there were demonstrations in Mérida caused by unpaid liabilities and the shortages of cooking gas and gasoline. In Nueva Esparta, people protested to demand the CLAP bag and 20 people were arrested in Saucedo (Sucre) for doing the same; meanwhile, protesters in La Llanada and Maracaibo were demanding toys. In Caracas, the employees of the recently scrapped Metropolitan Mayor’s Office protested to demand payment for what the Administration owes them, and last night, Catia neighbors protested for the CLAP bag.

Power rationing

Maracaibo has been experiencing power outages for three days in a row and many areas of Caracas started the week in the dark. Corpoelec excused the first problems in Zulia claiming that some wiring had been stolen from the Punta de Palma substation, while the reports from Caracas were merely deemed a “malfunction”. But this Christmas, PDVSA also revealed new regulations meant to limit the sale of gasoline in the Llanos and Lara state: 30 liters for personal vehicles and moderate load trucks, and just five liters for motorcycles. This is supposed to “recover market balance,” but it’s just more imposing the same restrictions that states such as Táchira and Trujillo have been enduring for years, instead of making the necessary adjustment: stop subsidizing the real price of gasoline.

Venezuela’s power output has been insufficient to cover the needs for at least a decade, so we constantly suffer outages, we’ve been through electrical emergencies (that we’ve never overcome), the government wasted money on second-hand plants paid at a premium (thanks, bolichicos!) and Corpoelec became a financial train wreck, while the power crisis was used as an excuse to embezzle oil money.

Electrical Power minister Luis Motta Dominguez announced that the service will be rationed in Zulia starting this Tuesday, with programmed cuts of two to three hours daily, and he was bold enough to ask marabinos to be patient, while he explained the system’s inevitable collapse as “an extremely unconscionable and miserable act of sabotage,” the effective excuse for every system failure. Motta said that $55 million had been approved to install electrical wiring beneath Maracaibo Lake and governor Omar Prieto claimed that he’ll ramp up security in power substations through the “Plan against theft, robbery, vandalism and electrical sabotage”; genius.

 

Police business

Chacao mayor Gustavo Duque announced the end of the State’s takeover of the municipal police, which started in May, 2016. The Interior Ministry reported that Polichacao adjusted its performance to current regulations and closed the procedure, but the police department may be subject to further inspections and the measure may also be applied again whenever the impartial ministry deems necessary. By the way, 17 highly dangerous inmates escaped early on Sunday morning from the dungeons of CICPC offices in Ocumare del Tuy.

 

Two sides of the coin

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov called on the international community to abstain from meddling in the dialogue process between the government and the Venezuelan opposition so that both parties can reach an agreement, claiming that Russia is well aware of the alleged attempts of certain western partners to tamper with elections and celebrating the “very positive changes” achieved in gubernatorial and mayoral elections. Funny that he mentions the subject right when Russia’s Central Electoral Committee decided to ban opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running in presidential elections in March 2018. Meanwhile, former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga urged the international community to demand the full freedom of all political prisoners in Venezuela without legitimizing the ANC: “the international community must demand full freedom, we must demand the re-democratization of Venezuela and never in exchange for legitimizing the Narco Cuban Assembly, the mechanism with which they seek to establish a new Cuba in the 21st Century.” He emphasized the need to demand elections involving all political parties without political disqualifications.

An insult

Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) three days after a fujimorista faction in Congress saved him from impeachment. Fujimori requested pardon on December 11, and a medical committee examined him and determined that he’s suffering from a “progressive, degenerative and untreatable disease” and that the conditions of his imprisonment represented a severe risk to his life. Kuczynski’s decision sparked condemnation from several sectors, including his own supporters, and two congressmen resigned their posts in protest, with the possibility of more resignations for what is now called the “infamous agreement:” pardoning Fujimori in exchange for his supporter’s help in blocking Kuczynski’s impeachment. The relatives of several of the victims of the massacres for which Fujimori was imprisoned have already called the president out, considering the pardon as an act of impunity.

“I’m aware of the results during my government, part of them were well-received, but I acknowledge, on the other hand, that I have let down other countrymen. I sincerely ask for their forgiveness,” said former president Alberto Fujimori in a video recorded from the clinic where he’s currently staying, claiming that the news of the pardon took him by surprise and shocked him, thanking “the complex step” taken by Kuczynski in approving it.

Meanwhile, the criticism for the measure continues, as it’s being deemed a precedent in favor of impunity, and the lawyer of the leader of the Peruvian guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzmán, demanded his release even though Guzmán was sentenced to life for terrorism. Aside from this, Brazil announced that they’ll retaliate for Venezuela’s most recent move and will declare chargé d’affaires Gerardo Antonio Delgado a persona non grata, giving him 72 hours to leave Brazilian territory. According to newspaper Folha do Sao Paulo, Delgado said that he hasn’t been informed for the decision and therefore, he won’t leave the country until he has an official response.

What now, Maikel?

It’s not been three days since chief justice Moreno claimed that the country’s courts were ready to apply the recommendations of the ANC and the Truth Commission regarding political prisoners. But yesterday, many of the prisoners who were released before Christmas found out that courts were closed, so they were unable to comply with the instruction: reporting to the courts in charge of their respective cases on the next working day following their release, so they remain uncertain about their situation. The lawyers waited for a court to be made available for them to set the record straight about their clients’ complying with the instruction, and many of the released prisoners offered statements to the media.

According to unofficial reports, other political prisoners would be released on December 30 and January 6.

Fourteen million

Cendas-FVM reported that the Basic Food Basket’s price for November was Bs. 13,883,365, an increase of almost eight millions compared to October (46.7 minimum wages, or 148.2%.) Venezuelans needed Bs. 462,779 per day to cover the food basket in November, more than two minimum wages daily! The annual variation for the November 2016 – November 2017 period (sit down, breathe and read) is 2,123.0%, or a bit less than seventy five minimum wages. Basic public services alone rose from Bs. 49,136 to Bs. 1,072,016, which makes former ambassador Rafael Ramírez’s “insights” all the more intolerable, as he talked about the economic situation that he helped consolidate and that he now blithely blames on a cocktail of “tremendous improvisation, ignorance, irresponsibility and inefficacy in handling complex matters such as inflation, monetary depreciation, shortages and dropping oil output.”

Reports say that José Luis Rodríguez “El Puma” is now able to walk and speak fluently after his double lung transplant.

 

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