Even With Repression

Photo: Sumarium retrieved

This Monday, April 15, doctors and nurses of the JM de los Ríos Children’s Hospital protested, demanding better salaries and denouncing the hospital’s situation. In Altos Mirandinos, there were several protests for water supply issues. In Lara, neighbors of the Macías Mujica residential complex, blocked the Circunvalacion Norte avenue because they’ve had no water for 40 days. These are only three incidents that will join the statistics kept by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS), that reported 6,211 protests in the first quarter of 2019, 69 protests per day, 51% of which were demanding economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. This represents a 157% increase compared with the same period last year and 395% compared to 2017. For the OVCS “the complex humanitarian emergency quickly intensifies,” and among the characteristics of recent protests, they mention the consolidation of the repression system; the role of neighbors who act as intelligence agents, informing security forces and colectivos (civilian armed groups) about the location and identity of protesters; and the reactivation of the People’s System of Protection for Peace (SP3) to prevent, criminalize and repress protests.

Nicolás’ track record

The U.S. State Department issued a report summarizing Nicolás’ serious crimes, saying that he “has consistently violated the human rights and dignity of its citizens, plundered the country’s natural resources, and driven a once prosperous nation into economic ruin with his authoritarian rule and socialist economic policies. Maduro’s thugs have engaged in extra-judicial killings and torture, taken political prisoners, and severely restricted freedom of speech, all in a brutal effort to retain power.” The State Department reports that Nicolás has engaged in unconstitutional practices, such as making early appointments of Supreme Tribunal justices; the declaration of “contempt” against the National Assembly for incorporating the three lawmakers elected for Amazonas State, and the usurpation of legislative functions through the national constituent assembly (ANC). Regarding Nicolás’ corruption, the State Department says that the most serious crime is the embezzlement of PDVSA’s funds, followed by the terrible case of the Orinoco Mining Arc. There’s much information worth reviewing here because it explains our debacle and how Venezuelans became the second nationality after Syrians in requesting asylum in European Union countries, according to figures of the European Asylum Support Office. The rate of admittance of protected status requests by Venezuelans was 48% in the last six months.

New sanctions

This Monday, Canada expanded its sanctions against 43 Venezuelan citizens tied to Nicolás, including frozen assets and bans on transactions. According to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, these measures are taken “in response to the Maduro regime’s anti-democratic actions, particularly relating to the repression and persecution of the members of the interim government, censorship, and excessive use of force against civil society.” The 43 new sanctions include: Jorge Arreaza; former deputy prosecutor Katherine Harrington, attorney Reinaldo Muñoz; former treasurer Nelson Lepaje Salazar; treasurer Carlos Malpica Flores; Nicolás’ chief of staff Jorge Elieser Márquez; ombudsman Alfredo Ruiz; Human Rights Council secretary Larry Devoe; finance minister Simón Zerpa; mining minister Víctor Cano; PDVSA chairman Manuel Quevedo; labor minister Eduardo Pilate, as well as the governors of Bolivar, Zulia, Apure, Vargas and Carabobo; three ANC members, five TSJ justices and a sizable group of military and police offices. Canada had already sanctioned 70 Nicolás cronies.

New calls, same results?

This Monday, the Lima Group urged the international community to support the “process of transition” to democracy in Venezuela and criticized China, Cuba, Russia and Turkey for the negative impact that their support for Nicolás’ illegitimate regime causes to the region. The 12 signatory countries asked international organizations to recognize the representatives appointed for these institutions by caretaker President Juan Guaidó, celebrating the decisions of the Inter American Development Bank and the OAS Permanent Council. Also, the bloc demanded the United Nations to take action to prevent the crisis’ progressive intensification and guarantee humanitarian assistance. The group demands the immediate end of usurpation, an indispensable condition to restore democracy and constitutional order through the holding of free, fair and transparent elections, with international observation and monitoring; they hold Nicolás responsible for the life, freedom and integrity of Guaidó, the National Assembly’s members and their families; they demand the immediate release of political prisoners and the end of arbitrary detentions, torture and the violence of paramilitary groups, and also urge the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to proceed with the investigations on crimes against humanity committed by Nicolás’ regime.

Other movements

According to the spokesman for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the accusations made by U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo about China’s role in Venezuela (propping up Nicolás’ regime) are unfounded and only seek to tarnish them. Since we’re talking about Nicolás’ financial feats, know that Venezuela still hasn’t paid the three billion dollars owed to Russia, which should’ve happened in March, according to Finance vice-minister Sergei Storchak. Delcy Rodríguez accused the United States, Brazil and Colombia of preparing a plan to “launch a military attack” against Venezuela, alerting the international community and multilateral bodies about the alleged conspiracy. Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez said on his Twitter account that the presidents of Mercosur will eliminate the institution’s parliamentarians in 2023 and “the spare funds will be used for social investment.” Bolivia’s government announced that Brazil would chair Unasur even though that country withdrew from the bloc just like Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador. Nicolás’ diplomatic staff left Venezuela’s embassy in Costa Rica after the 60-day period granted by the government to vacate the building.

According to Costa Rica’s Foreign Ministry, two authorities left on Saturday and reentered the country that same day with ordinary passports. By the way, Spain denied the asylum request made by Richard Peñalver, one of the infamous gunmen of Llaguno bridge.

On World Art Day, the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris suffered a colossal fire. The collective shock at the fall of the temple’s central spire devoured by fire is a lesson: there are iconic monuments that belong to humanity, not just one city. The good news is that the champion firefighters managed to save the structure and the works of art, in the words of President Macron: “the cathedral’s treasure is intact”; eight centuries of history were spared. Last time I checked, only one fireman was gravely injured while putting down the blaze, there are no more victims. Starting this Tuesday, the French government will launch an international fund-raising campaign to rebuild the cathedral, one the greatest examples of French gothic architecture.

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