Photo: Voluntad Popular

Lawmaker Juan Andrés Mejía said yesterday that if the negotiation in the Dominican Republic fails, “Voluntad Popular will take to the streets defending people’s rights, fighting for food, medicines and jobs for our citizens.” According to Mejía, there’s no consensus in Miraflores and they don’t recognize the dimension of the crisis we’re going through, which could block negotiations; besides, the government hasn’t stopped attacking the opposition and he said that the National Constituent Assembly’s demand to re-validate opposition parties is an “illegal” decision, as much as the refusal to open a humanitarian channel. Mejía explained that the leaders who are attending negotiations believe in that process because they know that the only solution is respect for the Constitution. He called the Armed Forces to understand that the solution “is not repressing or killing Venezuelan citizens” who protest.

No people there

Protests, riots and lootings continue to be reported in several states of the country. Trujillo had some significant riots due to the intense shortage of food along with the fact that the government hasn’t handed over the CLAP boxes they promised. Repression exercised by the National Guard (GN) and the local police left people wounded. A young man died and at least three were injured during a fight that broke out last night in Portuguesa, when a truck carrying wheat flour and chicken was looted. At the border between Sucre and Anzoátegui, the GN checkpoint is warning heavy load truck drivers about the looting attempts reported along the road.

Yesterday, there were protests in El Callao for the lack of malaria treatment and in Barquisimeto, protests took place before the SAIME office because they’ve not issued new appointments for passports and cédulas. Journalist Javier Ignacio Mayorca reported the lootings of stores or load trucks in Mérida, Portuguesa, Apure and Anzoátegui.

A curious detail: during the 2017 protests, the government presented an exhaustive balance of injured security officers. In this wave of riots in 2018, which isn’t being reported by official media, they’ve kept secret the wounded count and even the death toll within their own security forces. We must insist that the GN doesn’t have the training or the equipment to control civilian demonstrations, they don’t respect the principle of progressive use of force, which makes them human rights abusers.

Let’s talk economy

In its Global Economic Prospects for January 2018, the World Bank estimates that the Venezuelan economy will contract by 4.2% at the start of the year, while it predicts significant growth in the rest of Latin America.

Lawmaker José Guerra believes that inflation could reach 5,000% in the next few months. Meanwhile, crypto-assets supervisor Carlos Vargas said that the Petro won’t be mined, that it’ll be issued entirely by the State and allocated with a procedure similar to an auction. He was bold enough to claim that this guarantees “the transparency of receiving [the currency] right from the source,” saying that Petro sales will take approximately a month and a half. As a comparative advantage, Vargas spoke of the cheapest electricity in the world; sadly, he didn’t mention our internet’s instability and poor connection speed.

Aside from this, Dutch regulators extended the assessment time to repair the PDVSA storage plant in Bonaire.

Last night, Diosdado Cabello announced that Banesco will become a public bank and that they will purchase it on the “cheap” end, for $3.5 million.

And in the Andes

Starting yesterday, Oil minister Quevedo, along with Táchira’s Operational Zone of Integral Defense, is to inspect the hundreds of thousands of chips that were installed in vehicles to prevent gasoline smuggling. The inspection will take ten days to clean up the system. According to ZODI chief Carlos Yánez, they’ll do this due to the existence of a considerable amount of illegal chips, so he estimates that at least 150,000 fake chips will be removed from the system and others will be blocked for “various circumstances.” Journalist Lorena Arraiz reported that several military outposts in areas where vehicle inspections will take place weren’t informed of the measure. Arraiz also says that some gas stations were allowed to sell gasoline without a chip and without restrictions in the amount of fuel.

Yesterday, 31-year old ANC member Tomás Lucena was murdered in Trujillo. He was intercepted while he was driving and a motorizado shot him several times. Governor Henry Rangel Silva claimed that he won’t allow this crime to go unpunished.

Legitimate travel

The United States Embassy in Caracas announced that they’ll reopen applications for people requesting business and tourism vistas for the first time (B-1/B-2) starting on January 17, after they were suspended for over a year and a half. The payment of the consular fee and the appointment can be made at http://ustraveldocs.com/ve. Chargé d’Affaires Todd Robinson said that they hope to resume full application services: “This will allow us a better support for legitimate travel (…) as we also protect our citizens (…) When Venezuelans travel legally to the U.S., we strengthen the bonds between both nations,” he said.

Abroad

The guerrilla group ELN resumed its assaults against oil infrastructure and the Colombian Armed Forces, after the ceasefire with them expired and with it, the pause in their attacks. President Juan Manuel Santos said that the ELN refused to extend the ceasefire and reported that the negotiating team is returning from Quito to assess the process’ future.

U.S. State Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon will travel to Madrid today, for a two-day visit in which he’ll discuss with the Spanish government about Venezuela’s situation, among other issues.

Aruban prime minister Evelyn Wever Croes banned the sale or purchase of copper coming from Venezuela without certification, as a measure to counter smuggling and illegal extraction of Venezuelan minerals (yesterday, ten people were arrested in Caraballeda for trying to steal electrical wiring, three of them are GN officers). Later, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said that the Aruban and the Venezuelan government will meet in the Caribbean island on Friday, January 12.

Lawmaker Luis Stefanelli reported on the Falcón citizens who drowned while attempting to reach Curazao.

The opposition delegation is already in Dominican territory to hold the meeting set for today, Thursday, January 11, which will take place without mediators. Julio Borges will continue on as head of the delegation. Timoteo Zambrano was replaced by Enrique Márquez and Manuel Rosales. The opposition insists on four demands since 2016: the release of political prisoners, a date for elections with guarantees, the opening of a humanitarian channel and respect for the National Assembly’s authority. Lawmaker Luis Florido said that they’ll also demand recognition for opposition political parties. Last night, minister Jorge Rodríguez claimed that Tomás Lucena’s murder in Trujillo is “political violence” and asked the opposition: “Is this the climate you want for dialogue?”

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