Hunger Under Fire

For Wednesday, January 10, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

 Photo: El Correo del Orinoco

Bolívar State is still experiencing ongoing riots and looting despite stepped-up military presence.

There were also several protests in various regions of the country yesterday, which were caused by shortages of food, medicines, water and cooking gas.

But the day started with a couple of ominous news. The first took place in Vargas, where a National Guard shot a young woman in the head when she tried to flee with some stolen turkeys, committing the second food-motivated killing in less than ten days. The second story took place in the Fuerzas Armadas avenue in Caracas, where a couple of homeless guys were searching for food in a garbage container and found half of a dismembered body. The other half was found by garbage collectors in Las Mayas. The CICPC will handle the investigation on this atrocity.

Indefinitely

Vice President Tareck El Aissami reported on Twitter that Nicolás decided to extend the measure that suspended all communications and commercial exchange with Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, claiming that the measure will stand until he can meet with authorities of these islands to activate and action plan to fight smuggling. The Netherlands government expressed disappointment for the regime’s lack of formality in notifying the blockade’s extension and said that they’re holding constructive talks to revert the measures. However, the Venezuelan Armed Forces held a meeting to assess the actions they’ll take against smugglers, adding that they’ve already been deployed in critical areas.

As this takes place, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s declared the default for Venezuelan bonds expiring in 2020 and the Emerging Markets Traders Association reported that the debt notes issued by Venezuela are now technically in default, explaining that they’re considered “flat trading”: their price is merely their nominal value.

Another country

Spending time reading official media confirms the regime’s disconnection with citizens. Ignoring the temperature in the streets, the ANC approved this Tuesday the Law against Economic War and for Rationality, Uniformity and the Purchase of Goods, Services and Public Works, an instrument proposed by Nicolás in September, 2017, to overcome the fictional economic war caused by “neoliberal practices in Venezuela’s production, distribution and marketing cycles.”

Presented by Planning Vice President Ricardo Menéndez, the law has four ostensible goals: making mechanisms for public purchases more flexible, fighting against corruption, developing new productive actors and boosting the national production that they themselves destroyed.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Néstor Reverol will prevent crime by building “Justice houses” in the 79 municipalities in the country that account for 77% of crime indices. And concerning oil, without mentioning the plummeting output, minister Manuel Quevedo met with Jia Yong, head of the China National Petroleum Corporation for Latin America, to review joint projects; so the signing of cooperation agreements between Portugal and Venezuela was no more than another show in the regime’s agenda of denying reality.

And in the National Assembly

The Parliament unanimously approved the proposal of the Promotion of a National Alliance for Humanitarian Solidarity, in coordination with civil associations, to support citizens who lack the capacity to satisfy their own essential needs due to the crisis. Similarly, they approved the Agreement about the Suppression of the Metropolitan Districts of Caracas and Alto Apure, condemning the ANC’s attempts to derogate the Constitution by decree, declaring that their actions are void because they’ve usurped the AN’s functions.

The AN also approved the Agreement declaring that the issuance of the petro, the pseudocryptocurrency that’s actually a debt instrument, is illegal and null. The lawmakers took the chance to discuss other key matters such as the precariousness of their administrative conditions to fulfill their role, the persecution against lawmakers, the meagre amount of political prisoners released in December and the re-validation of political parties who didn’t participate in municipal elections, a demand made by the ANC.

AD, yes. VP, no. PJ, who knows

Acción Democrática Vice President Edgar Zambrano said that his party will take part in the re-validation process whenever it’s announced because “these are 75 years of history and they can’t be erased by the ANC, or by the government’s political project,” adding that the decision is motivated by the refusal to cede democratic spaces.

On the other hand, lawmaker Luis Florido (Voluntad Popular) said that his party won’t attend the process because: “there’s no legal or judicial justification to disqualify any party.” Florido said that during negotiations, they’ll demand that the Administration legitimize the parties because after December’s agreements, it’s absurd for the government to undermine talks by imposing measures like this. His party-mate Juan Guaidó compared the ANC with an “institutional blockade” because it seeks to dominate public life and break down the opposition’s unity with the invalidation of several parties. Primero Justicia hasn’t revealed their stance on the re-validation process.

Abroad

The Colombian government travelled to Quito to resume peace talks with the guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN), to extend the ceasefire that ended yesterday. North and South Korean delegates met for the first time in over two years, establishing that the North will send a delegation to continue talks in Seoul, which they hope will relieve military tensions.

Luisa Ortega Díaz keeps advancing her agenda and, yesterday, she met with the TSJ justices appointed by the National Assembly, to set up “strategies to recuse democratic institutionality and guarantees in Venezuela,” according to her. Later, she met with a group of young people in an event organized by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy and the National Unionist Youth Network. By the way, who’s paying for Luisa’s trips?

The Venezuelan Episcopal Conference (CEV) chose its new board of directors for the three-year period 2018-2021 and Mgr. José Luis Azuaje will be its top representative. Azuaje said that the church will always be open to dialogue with all of the country’s sectors and said that “in this country, we not only need a change of economic model but also a change of the political model, because our decline is astonishing.” A detail that proves Azuaje right: since last December, the cost of a black market dollar has increased by almost 50%.

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