Photo: Mundo Oriental
This Tuesday in the Central University’s Aula Magna, unions, NGOs, scholars and students mets to promote political change in the country. Besides contextualizing the complaints and issues in each represented sector, there were proposals and demands, vigorously backed by the audience that unanimously called for the defense of their rights and the recovery of democracy, while the National Guard prowled around the university. Professor Raquel Figueroa proposed the articulation of social forces to promote a political change and proposed citizen assemblies to create the democracy we want. Marco Ruiz, head of the National Union of Press Workers, said that journalists take up “the commitment to defend speech freedom (…) we take up the commitment to the truth, regardless of threats.” José Virtuoso, rector of the Andrés Bello Catholic University, said: “We demand a fair, equitative electoral process without disqualified candidates or parties, without vices or abuses. On behalf of people’s sovereignty, we demand the right to live in democracy.” The executive secretary of the Association of Health Workers (Fetrasalud) urged the creation of a citizen agreement and said that “the strength of unity is Venezuela’s strength.” The closing statement was read by journalist Alba Cecilia Mujica.
National Electoral Council rectora Socorro Hernández announced the end of the period to present presidential candidacies. The process produced five registered candidates: Nicolás, Henri Falcón (who published an article on the New York Times yesterday and received the support of former president Ernesto Samper), Reinaldo Quijada, Javier Bertucci and Luis Alejandro Ratti. Regarding the elections of Legislative and Municipal Councils, Hernández said that aspirants can present their candidacies on March 13 and 14 on the CNE’s webpage. Meanwhile, Smartmatic announced in a statement that they’re shutting down their offices and operations in Venezuela, emphasizing that the reasons for their departure are of public knowledge, the complaint they made in August 2017, after the ANC’s election, in which the CNE announced results that differed from those issued by the system. Pointing out that they didn’t participate in the last two elections, Smartmatic said that they “can’t guarantee the system’s integrity, nor ensure the precision of the results,” according to their statement.
Indebted but with petros
PDVSA is late in its payments to Indian oil company ONGC Videsh since May 2017, according to Bloomberg. PDVSA hasn’t made any more payments for the total debt of $537 million. But don’t worry, yesterday, Vice-President Tareck El Aissami declared in cadena “the official burial of Dolar Today” (while maintaining FX controls) and to prove the successful presale of the petro, a debt bond passing for a cryptocurrency, he said that Nicolás ordered the auction of petros through Dicom, authorizing banks to buy petros as well, because they will be recognized as part of the capital, offering them a special discount. According to him, the petro has close to “three billion dollars in purchase intent,” both direct and through exchange, with a handful of companies interested in making commercial exchanges with petros.
Jorge and Vladimir
Minister Jorge Rodríguez claimed that the opening of the consulate in Miami for presidential elections depends on president Donald Trump: “We’ll see if the savage supremacist will let us install voting machines in our consulates.” For some reason, Rodríguez ignores the purpose of governor Rafael Lacava’s visit to Washington; but he did claim that OAS chief Luis Almagro isn’t welcome in the country as a possible electoral observer, because “Almagro is garbage who attacks the republic’s peace,” he said. In his view, the “criminal” (black market) dollar has dropped by 28% thanks to Nicolás’ announcements on the petro, so he recommended his audience to buy them, but sadly, they can’t be bought with bolívars! He claimed that Nicolás will attend the Summit of the Americas because “the host country has no power to decide who gets invited and who doesn’t.” He lies. The host does have that power, and on Monday, Peruvian Foreign Minister Cayetana Aljovín explained it: “The Summit of the Americas is an invitation-only forum, and the decision falls exclusively on the host country.”
With ministers like these…
Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said that crime rates in the country dropped by 12.1% thanks to the security plans implemented across the nation; claiming that crime rates in Miranda state dropped by 40.3% (in the last nine weeks) and homicides dropped by 43.1%. In contrast, journalist Ronna Rísquez wrote: “Caracas continues to be the deadliest capital, with a rate of 111 homicides for 100,000 inhabitants. It’s the only capital in the world among the 15 most violent cities, according to the report issued by Seguridad, Justicia y Paz.” Meanwhile, Prisons Minister Iris Varela claimed that lawmaker Gilber Caro was planning to escape on March 2 along with five inmates from Tocuyito prison, saying that she has evidence to support her theory: “I found a phone on him. I traced the entirety of his calls and the connections he made; I have the results. That’s why I transferred him to the Fénix prison in Lara,” she said, adding her criticism for the request of information on the lawmaker’s whereabouts. She called him a “terrorist”, making her remark that he’s currently in a “cycle of transformation” even more perverse.
- According to The Associated Press, Nicolás met last month with U.S. Congress republican advisor Caleb McCarry, to discuss the possible release of Joshua Holt, the American who’s been in prison for almost two years, accused of terrorist plans and possession of firearms. It’s not clear whether there was any progress in the case after McCarry’s visit, who even saw Holt in prison. Thanks to an email sent by the office of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, this same press agency linked Rafael Lacava’s visit with Holt’s case, promoting some sort of exchange: Holt for lighter sanctions or the release of the narcosobrinos. Both options are absurd.
- Starting this Thursday, March 8 and until next Sunday, March 11, the border between Colombia and Venezuela will be closed due to legislative elections to be held in Colombia. Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera said that the mayors and governors will be able to decree curfews if necessary.
- Brazil’s Superior Tribunal of Justice rejected the habeas corpus requested for former president Lula da Silva, who could be imprisoned in coming weeks, after he was sentenced to 12 years and a month in jail in January, guilty of corruption and money laundering. Lula can still appeal the last instance, the Supreme Federal Tribunal.
- OAS Chief Luis Almagro met with former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the state of democracy in the region and the decline of Venezuela’s humanitarian, political and social crisis.
- The exiled TSJ admitted the request made by exiled Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz, accusing Nicolás of corruption crimes related with Odebrecht. This TSJ asked Interpol to issue an arrest warrant against Nicolás, but also, in the preliminary hearing on merits convened for this Tuesday, eight justices demanded that Nicolás be arrested (?).
Perán Erminy, critic, art historian and an extraordinary cultural promoter, died yesterday. The renditions inspired by his passing were beautiful; the gratitude of all those he influenced with his intelligence and sagacity, as well as with his kindness and simplicity. May he rest in peace.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.