Photo: Efecto Cocuyo
A CNN investigation traced the route of cocaine from Colombia’s fields, going through suspicious flights to and from Venezuela, where various American and regional officials say drug trafficking has grown with the support of the Armed Forces and the political elite. They estimate that 240 metric tons of cocaine were taken from Colombia to Venezuela in 2018 alone, and from there transported by plane. For some officials involved in the fight against drug trafficking, that estimate is conservative. An official confirmed that the flights have about 50 clandestine airstrips in Zulia State alone; similarly, the testimonies of some military officers who deserted the Venezuelan Armed Forces and entered Colombian territory, confirm the information of anti-drug agencies about the number and ranks of soldiers charged with handling internal traffic, and the work methodology. Perhaps this story could explain why regime foreign minister Jorge Arreaza wrote this Wednesday that the governments of the U.S. and Colombia are trying to divert public opinion on Venezuela, due to their failure against drug-trafficking.
Alan García’s suicide
Former Peruvian president Alan García died after he shot himself in the head yesterday morning, when the National Police entered his house to carry out a preliminary 10-day arrest warrant, as he was accused for receiving bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. The arrest ordered by the Prosecutor’s Office sought to collect new elements in the investigation, as there was an eventual risk that García would flee, after his attempt to gain asylum at the Uruguayan embassy in November last year, where he remained for 16 days until Uruguay rejected his request. In his last tweet, he claimed that since no document had his name on it and there was no evidence to incriminate him, they were speculating against him. Due to Odebrecht’s scandal in Peru, the investigations include former presidents Alejandro Toledo, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, under preliminary arrest, as well as opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who’s under custody.
Donald Trump’s government imposed new sanctions and other punitive measures on the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela, seeking to increase pressure for Havana to stop supporting Nicolás. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said that they were aiming at Cuban military and intelligence services, including a military-owned airline, to apply additional sanctions. Bolton’s speech took place after the State Department announced that it’d eliminate the nearly 20-year old ban preventing U.S. citizens to file lawsuits against companies that use properties confiscated by the Cuban government since the revolution of 1959. This decision will be effective on May 2nd.
The U.S. also announced sanctions against the Central Bank of Venezuela, restricting American transactions and prohibiting the access to dollars.
Also announcing new sanctions against the Central Bank of Venezuela to restrict U.S. transactions with this bank and prohibit its access to U.S. dollars. This bank has been crucial to keeping Maduro in power, including through its control of the transfer of gold for currency. https://t.co/OKQV9kARlJ
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) April 17, 2019
Nicolás said the measures are “unilateral, totally illegal and immoral,” saying that the world’s central banks are sacred (?). Bolton warned “all foreign actors, including Russia” against the deployment of military agents to support Nicolás. Additionally, Spanish oil company Repsol temporarily suspended its exchanges of refined products for Venezuelan crude with PDVSA. The measure isn’t official yet and no final decision has been made on whether Repsol will definitely cancel the exchange agreement with Venezuela.
Even the Russians investigate
Rusia, the ally Nicolás flatters so much, is investigating robberies detected by Rostec during the construction of the factory of Kalashnikov assault rifles in Venezuela, said Prosecutor General Dmitri Demeshin. “The State corporation Rostec detected these robberies (…) We carried out an inspection, detected that indeed the robberies took place and criminal causes were opened,” he said, adding that these factories to produce ammunition and rifles were built through foreign commerce agreements. The criminal cause is under an active investigation. A former Russian senator Sergey Popelnyukhov, whose company was responsible for the project, was indicted for the robbery of $16 million. There’s no certainty that the work will be ready this year, precisely because of the corruption scandals, but still the contract portfolio of technical-military cooperation between Russia and Venezuela is more than $11 billion.
This Wednesday, the Red Cross dispatched supplies and medicines to the Carlos J. Bello hospital, headquarters their Venezuelan chapter, to assist about 10,000 people and announced the creation of committees to monitor the delivery of aid and verify that it’s reaching those who need it. The kit delivered to the hospital contains medicines and disposable material. Another shipment coming from Italy is expected to arrive in the country next week, and on May 8th, another shipment will come from Asia. These shipments will contain treatments for patients with chronic diseases. Meanwhile, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry announced that they’ve sent their first humanitarian aid shipment for Venezuela, 29 tons of basic food and hygiene products. The donation left the Buenos Aires harbor and reached the border of Cartagena de Indias to be stored until it can be delivered to Venezuela.
Briefs and serious
- Nicolás signed a degree to protect producers of seeds and ecological supplies for the productive process of the land and animal husbandry, supposedly to give them legal and financial protection. He also ordered that the distribution of CLAP boxes must be carried out only with the carnet de la patria.
- Venezuela is the only country in Latin America in alert due to food insecurity, according FAO’s Early Action on Food Security report.
- Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno requested before the OAS the application of the Roldós Doctrine of 1980 on Venezuela and Nicaragua. The doctrine establishes that the defense of human rights must be a commitment and an obligation for all countries.
- Lawmaker Américo De Grazia denounced that former PSUV lawmaker Nanci Asencio was “appointed as municipal caretaker” of Gran Sabana, right when an arrest warrant was issued against legitimately elected mayor Emilio González.
Caretaker President Juan Guaidó, chosen as one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine, called last night to the open assembly on April 19th: “our country was born in an assembly, on April 19th, 1810 and our fight to recover democratic order in Venezuela also began with an assembly, always in compliance with our Constitution. This April 19th, we’ll reaffirm our fight in a great open assembly and we’ll announce the next phase of Operation Freedom for the definitive end of usurpation.”