A Tour With An Invoice

Photo: @jguaido

Caretaker President Juan Guaidó was received with honors in Paraguay, where he met President Mario Abdo Benítez, who referred to Nicolás as a “tyrant” and told Guaidó that he’ll “be part of the pages of glory” of Venezuela: “I said here that Paraguay was breaking its diplomatic relations with the tyrant, never with the Venezuelan people,” he said, focusing the rest of his speech on hope.

He’d make the most important announcement later: expired Venezuelan passports will be valid in the Paraguayan territory.

In the afternoon, on Friday, March 1st, Guaidó arrived in Buenos Aires: “We came to speak of a new future in the relations with Argentina. The suitcases are history. Today, it’s Maduro who’s making an inevitable transition more costly. We continue the tour, but also the return home. We go back to the streets of Venezuela in the next few days. We return to insist and to resist. Tomorrow, we’ll make the great call to the streets. What used to be a tradition, the Carnival, we’ll turn into a great protest,” he said in his speech, adding a capital phrase: “If there’s interference in Venezuela, it’s from Cuba.”

Euphoria

Guaidó said that he’s yet to determine a date for his return but also confirmed that he has dialogue channels with China and Russia so that they support the democratic transition and although “the exercise of politics is criminalized (…) the people who currently usurp the symbols of my country won’t be able to contain the process of democratic and economic reconstruction.” President Mauricio Macri mentioned Venezuela during his speech before Congress for the start of the legislative year: “Today, we recover a positive role in the region and in the global scene. That includes the world of the Lima Group to condemn human rights violations in Venezuela and the recognition of caretaker President Juan Guaidó.” Hundreds of Venezuelans have mobilized to see Guaidó in the countries he’s visited. Each of them with a story, an illusion. Together, they’re euphoria, a night at the Poliedro de Caracas or a Gaitazo. Nicolás can’t do such a tour. No, please, don’t think I’m talking about resources to waste (read “La caja chica de Maikel Moreno” at Vendata)  but about the impossibility of finding official and popular reception.

The cost of prison

Guaidó will visit Ecuador this Saturday and Peru on Sunday, to meet with their respective presidents. By visiting them, he significantly increases the regime’s costs of arresting him upon his return: Colombia already announced that they’ll promote pertinent judicial and diplomatic mechanisms for the effective protection of his rights and liberties; Costa Rica demanded the regime to offer full guarantees for his freedom and personal integrity, as well as those of his colleagues and relatives; the Lima Group announced that they’ll immediately condemn Guaidó’s eventual arrest, according to Peruvian Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio; Canada ratified this position last night. Meanwhile, Honduras sent humanitarian aid and Spain granted 400 Venezuelan the first residence permits for humanitarian reasons. The Inter-Ministerial Commission of Asylum proposed those who were denied asylum since January 1st, 2014, to access this formula, so more grants are expected.

Abuse and censorship

Primero Justicia denounced yesterday afternoon that a commission of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) raided the residence and the office of councilman Fernando Albán, who died in 2018 under state custody. For the party, the regime “seeks to plant false evidence against Fernando.” Meudys de Albán, the councilman’s widow, condemned the raid: “It wasn’t enough for that government to have killed Fernando, my husband. They also violated the sanctity of my home,” she said. Mario Peláez, journalist and editor in chief of newspaper El Caribazo, who had been missing since Wednesday, February 27th, appeared detained at El Helicoide, one of SEBIN’s headquarters.

In Maracay, Aragua State, journalists Alfredo Morales and Jean Baptiste Mouttet were detained and handcuffed by PNB officers for taking pictures in a public road. Also since February 27th, ABA Cantv users report problems to access the websites of Bloque de Armas (2001 and Meridiano).

Corruption as a topic

The same day that the Banking Superintendence (SUDEBAN) lifted the special intervention against Banesco (in place since May 8th, 2018) to prevent “suspicious activities” OAS chief Luis Almagro said that rampant and unprecedented corruption in Venezuela has violated the fundamental rights of citizens, explaining the challenges to fight that scourge which undermines trust and is most evident through embezzlement. Venezuela is one of the “most corrupt [countries] on the planet” and currently, all natural resources are exploited by civilian and military authorities, with the regime’s consent.

In this forum, “State Corruption and the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela,” attendants prove with several cases how the chavista corruption system was perfected and how their colossal greet found a reflection in this complex humanitarian emergency we’re living. Marshal Billingsea, from the U.S. Treasury Department, explained that his office’s memory is long to do justice, adding that “we had never seen a kleptocracy of this level” in the hemisphere. Ambassador Michael Kossack said that PDVSA nowadays is the regime’s personal cashier, while people starve to death: “Never in my years of career have I seen this level of corruption (…) We want to help the victims of the regime’s robbery.”

Sanctions

The U.S. Treasury Department issued new sanctions against six leaders of the security forces that controlled the groups that prevented the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country, in addition to the “reprehensible violence, tragic deaths, and unconscionable torching of food and medicine destined for sick and starving Venezuelans,” according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The sanctioned authorities are:

– Alberto Bermúdez, ZODI Bolivar,

– José Miguel Domínguez, FAES en Tachira.

– Richard López, National Guard.

– Jesús Mantilla, REDI Guayana.

– Cristian Morales Zambrano, PNB Tachira.

– José Leonardo Noroño, ZODI Tachira.

Later, Elliott Abrams, U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, revealed that they’ve imposed new sanctions and visa restrictions on dozens of Nicolás’s allies and their families, asking the rest of the nations that support Guaidó to increase their sanctions and the pressure on the regime, adding that dictatorships always end.

Last night, Patricia Janiot interviewed Abrams and when she asked him if Nicolás could leave power without a military intervention, he answered “yes”.

Focus on the costs to imprison Guaidó upon his return and when you have the nerve, on the stories that Guaidó sparked in those groups of Venezuelans he approached. It’s quite noble that, amidst so much pain, the illusion of change, of doing things right, still prevails. Nicolás can’t even go out to the balcony of Miraflores, if he’s still even there.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.