Photo: @jguaido

On Friday, April 12th, caretaker President Juan Guaidó started a tour across Zulia State, the state hit the hardest by power rationing, long before the March blackouts that collapsed the country.

The amount of people who attended his rally at the 5 de Julio Ave. in Maracaibo was amazing. One of the most repeated slogans was: “Guaidó, Guaidó, Zulia is with you.” Guaidó said that he was there to engage with that “ravaged and beaten land of grace,” to tell them that they’re not alone and ask for trust, recognizing that Zulia “has taken the worst part.” This Sunday, he was in Cabimas, Lagunillas and Ciudad Ojeda, after leaving behind several National Guard checkpoints.

At the Eastern coast of Lake Maracaibo, Guaidó promised to recover PDVSA and pay the region back for what it’s given to the country, restating that “the road is staying in the streets until we conquer our freedom.” Last night, after the citizens had to use their phones’ flashlights, Guaidó arrived in Punto Fijo despite the checkpoints and said: “We Venezuelans pick ourselves up time and again until we regain our freedom. We own our destiny and we have the power to exercise the strength of a brave people.”

Move aside, Thomas Alva Edison

Last Saturday was the 17th anniversary of the events of 2002. Chavismo set up another show with public employees in uniforms, with the enormous advantage of State-owned buses to transport them. The official slogan for this date (Every 11th has a 13th) which has served them for years to “celebrate” Chávez’s return to power, was turned into something major: the day of national dignity. But there were also signs that said “With Maduro, power’s here,” as if the electric crisis had been overcome. Nicolás announced, for the third year in a row, that Holy Week’s holidays would start on Monday 15th. As if it were relevant for an improductive country, he revealed that he wants the national militia to reach three million members in December and asked the ANC to review the Law of the Armed Forces, to give constitutional rank to a militia made up mostly of senior citizens. Remarkable priority, eh?

Censorship

Conatel eliminated the Deutsche Welle (DW) in Spanish from cable TV operators. The channel’s general director, Peter Limbourg, urged the Venezuelan administration to restore the signal, emphasizing the journalistic coverage DW has done on Venezuela, especially with their daily program about our current state, a space that started off with an interview with Juan Guaidó. DW’s coverage of our crisis tends to include reactions in Germany and the rest of Europe about what we’re going through. DWA is the sixth international outlet that Conatel pulls from the air, after NTN24, CNN in Spanish, RCN and Caracol in Colombia, and 24 Horas in Chile. The information blockade is also emphasized by the severe operational restrictions on radio stations and the remaining open-signal channels in the country.

Pompeo’s tour

U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo continued the tour that started in Chile, visiting Paraguay, where he met with President Mario Abdo Benítez; from there he went to Peru to meet with President Martín Vizcarra and Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio. This Sunday, he arrived in Colombia, where he met with President Iván Duque. The Venezuelan situation has been his central topic, but he’s also talked about the importance of strengthening institutions, the fight against corruption, transnational crime and terrorism. Pompeo congratulated Peru for its generosity in receiving some 700,000 Venezuelans; and Minister Popolizio spoke about the Lima Group’s efforts to increase pressure and isolate Nicolás, and to help humanitarian aid reach the country. On Sunday afternoon in Cucuta, Pompeo visited two points at the border with Venezuela and, along with President Duque, he talked to some Venezuelan migrants; they also went to the Simón Bolívar bridge where Venezuelans begged for help.

Meanwhile, Freddy Bernal and Aristóbulo Istúriz (disguised as militia men) made a video telling Pompeo “do whatever you want with Colombia because it’s one of your American colonies, but this is the country of Bolívar and Chávez.”

Present and future funds

President Duque once again explained yesterday that the huge flow of Venezuelan migrants has created a tremendous social and economic impact, restating Colombia’s willingness “to assist those who have fled from Maduro’s dictatorship.” This Saturday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained that the U.S., several Latin American and European countries and Japan are creating a commercial financing fund for $10 billion to put at the disposal of an eventual new government in Venezuela. This initiative emerged in a meeting he held with Finance ministers from 19 countries to discuss Venezuela’s situation. This Sunday, the Colombian government presented an “impact plan” for about $229 million to support departments that border with Colombia and manage the effects of our crisis. The measures were announced by President Duque. The package is divided into three large areas: encouraging investment, competitiveness and new jobs; humanitarian assistance and health, and institutional strengthening, with “50 measures that have specific reach in each of the border departments and transversal measures for all of them.”

Briefs

  • A Spanish judge ruled on Saturday the provision prison for former military counterintelligence chief Hugo Carvajal, who denied his ties with drug trafficking and the FARC, and also rejected his extradition.

  • The BCV employees arbitrarily detained on Friday for attending an event at the National Assembly were released.
  • Peter Maurer, chairman of the International Committee of the Red Cross, announced that they’ll increase their budget between 9 and 24 million Swiss francs this year, and that the humanitarian organization will soon open two new offices in Tachira and Bolivar states to tackle what he calls an “explosive mix” of several kinds of violence, migration, controversial politics and economic hardships.
  • This Sunday, instant messaging app WhatsApp and social networks Instagram and Facebook suffered a global downtime of about three hours.
  • The Lima Group’s Foreign ministers will meet again on Monday in Santiago de Chile to monitor the topics discussed in the last meeting.
  • Sudeban announced all bank agencies and offices across the country will work in a special schedule between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th.
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