With all public services collapsed, the severe shortage of essentials, the social protests and more evidence on government corruption, the Operation Paper Hands has become the core of official accomplishments, even if it’s only to show that they now use more Power Point tools for Néstor Reverol’s presentations. This Monday, he summed up a plot that mixes smuggling of currency paper and gasoline, money laundering, illegal enrichment, tax evasion and terrorism financing; including the rendition of Freddy Bernal’s Operation Drone as part of Paper Hands, with the same data about car dealerships that are allegedly smuggling fuel to Colombia.
This case already brings together the talents of the Autonomous Service of Registries and Notaries, the National Institution of Land Transport; regional, national and higher prosecutors, as well as intelligence agents and members of the PNB’s Special Actions Force. The fact that the distribution of posters showing the faces of those involved is presented as an achievement, is a disgrace; the same applies to blocked and soon-to-be-blocked bank accounts or to the amount of detainees. Of course, this entire sequence of raids, confiscations, blocked accounts and arrests is missing a someone to back the government’s tales, in other words, there hasn’t been anyone from raided companies or a relative of one of the 32 detainees that tells the other side of the story. Strange, isn’t it?
The grieving (ex)rookie
Ignoring the breakdown of basic companies, the ecocide of the Orinoco Mining Arc, the mining mafias, the serious malaria epidemic, the smuggling of fuel and the daily unpunished murders, Nicolás —who was in Havana for the start of the campaign—ravelled yesterday to Bolívar State, proposing to turn it into a “great area for the petro.” At the “press conference” with pre-filtered journalists and questions, he came up with the same old stories: the plan de la patria 2025, a pledge to the defeat the “economic war” if he’s re-elected and more bonuses while he works on that.
#EnVivo 📹 | Rueda de Prensa desde el estado Bolívar | Comenzamos el recorrido de la Patria para dar nuestro mensaje de Lealtad, Unión y Esperanza. ¡Juntos todo es posible! #VamosVenezuelahttps://t.co/zIHAva4NyE
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) April 23, 2018
He created a plan for 10 years with the new Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel: the economic revolution —yes, an exceedingly original name— now that he’s an experienced man and not “a grieving rookie” as in the previous campaign. He had the gall to claim that he hasn’t let anyone down (because he’s loyal to Chávez) and that he’s stronger than ever, although the country’s in ruins. Regarding the conflict in Nicaragua, he merely expressed his support for Daniel Ortega and predicted his triumph, calling the popular protests a “violent ambush.” Meanwhile, the justices of the TSJ in exile received a letter from the National Assembly authorizing them to move on with the trial against Nicolás.
Others that won’t come
The same day that Spanish ambassador Jesús Silva returned to Venezuela, members of the European Parliament said that they won’t send any international observation mission for the coming May 20 elections. The statement says: “Since the necessary conditions are not set for credible, transparent and inclusive elections (…) the Parliament won’t send electoral observation. Consequently, none of its members or institutions have been authorized to observe or comment on this electoral process on behalf of the Chamber. Therefore, if any Eurodeputy decides to attend the elections as an observer, they will do so of their own initiative and under no circumstances will they be allowed to tie, either through statements or actions, their presence to the European Parliament.” Clear as day. Also yesterday, the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference urged the postponement of presidential elections because the process lacks transparency, emphasizing the difficulty of living in Venezuela without public services and with a rampant hyperinflation, while the government refuses to implement corrections.
This Sunday, Daniel Ortega announced the suspension of the controversial reform to the social security system, which sparked the most violent protests his government has ever faced. We Venezuelans are familiar with the trick of calling for dialogue to clear the streets, but it’s been six days with 27 murders and dozens of people wounded, arrested or missing. Business owners pointed out that the dialogue needs at least a couple conditions: putting an end to repression and restoring freedom of expression. Ortega replied that he refused any conditions. Many governments and international organizations have urged for respect of human rights. Many opinions also agree that suspending the reform isn’t enough, that protests transcended their original spark and Nicaraguans now demand more. The videos of yesterday’s march to honor the victims of repression were moving: “They were students, they weren’t criminals” and “Daniel and Somoza are the same,” are two of the most widely used slogans.
- Paraguayan government candidate Mario Abdo Benítez, son of the private secretary of dictator Alfredo Stroessner, won presidential elections with a much tighter gap than predicted. He’ll take office on August 15 for a period of five years.
- UNHCR labeled the deportation of 82 Venezuelans from Trinidad and Tobago as a “forced return.” Forced repatriation is a violation of international laws, so UNHCR demanded evidence for the legal process behind the deportations.
- Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned after the mass street protests he faced in the last few days, which started two weeks ago when Sargsyan refused to give up power as he’d promised —after 10 years as president— but instead forced his election as prime minister, a post that incidentally gave him more power.
- Chilean Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero said that UNASUR is going nowhere: “it doesn’t help integration, it’s unable to solve any issues and it works through vetoes.” On top of its $60-million headquarters, UNASUR is defined by fierce internal disputes and Chile in particular has to pay $800,000 annually to be its member. Venezuela pays much more.
- Iran’s Central Bank forbade the use of cryptocurrencies for their capacity to be used in money laundering and terrorism financing, also because “they can become in the means to transfer criminal funds.” ¡Ay, mijo!
When you can, check out the speech of Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez after receiving the Premio Cervantes. It’s a true gem.