Photo: Presidential Press

Nicolás’s variety show was about the petro and his efforts to impose it on Venezuelans. After he inaugurated the “petro booking office” at Banco de Venezuela (it’s highly likely that this agency doesn’t have bolivars), Nicolás said he’s at the “vanguard of the world” for imposing his cryptocurrency. He signed a decree that makes the petro a legal accounting unit and forces natural or legal persons to account for both currencies, bolivars and petros. He also said that every transaction of foreign services, including apostilles and passports, will be paid in petros and warned that he’ll sign another decree so we have to sell our real estate in petros. This cryptocurrency wasn’t approved by the National Assembly and is sanctioned by the U.S.; Néstor Reverol said that the petro will be the new unit for payments at Saren. 

Yes to Russia, No to Retired Employees 

Petróleos de Venezuela has lowered its debt with Rosneft to $800 million during the third quarter, according to the company’s September financial report. Pdvsa has progressively paid off its debt to the Russian oil company which, by the end of 2017, was $4,600 million. Meanwhile, Pdvsa’s retired employees protested today to demand payment of debts from their pension fund and restitution of their Sicoprosa health insurance. Retirees said that dozens of colleagues have died for lack of medical attention. Nicolás may pay Rosneft despite sanctions but can’t honor its debt with retired employees. In addition, changes to the cooperation agreement with Russia were published in the Official Gazette, including incentives that will allow Rosneft to develop two natural gas fields offshore. 

Let’s Talk Human Rights 

– Almost 1,000 Venezuelans have been prosecuted by military justice in the last five years. This atrocity occurs even though it’s forbidden by our Constitution, but chavismo keeps using military courts to prosecute dissidents, to heighten their practice of state terrorism. Union leader Rubén González’s case is an example. More about this in La Gran Aldea.

– Provea denounced that between January and September 2019, at least 554 people were victims of torture in Venezuela and 21 died because of this practice. This number represents an increase of 508% compared to 2018.

– NGOs, families, doctors and nurses of the JM de los Ríos Hospital demanded the State to abide by the IACHR precautionary measures to protect the children who are patients of this institution. 

The Non Country

– Jorge Rodríguez, communications minister, reiterated the accusations of Juan Guaidó’s alleged ties to Colombian criminal gang “Los Rastrojos”, presenting statements by Argenis Vaca, the person allegedly responsible for the paramilitary group’s finances, who was captured by Venezuelan security forces.

– The National Statistics Institute (INE)  published, after two years of silence, social indicators until 2018, which are as solid as Nicolás’s petro. For example, according to them the unemployment rate dropped to 6.7%, even if we’ve been in recession for six years and in hyperinflation for two. 

– According to the INE, unemployment in the construction sector is 6.8% despite the 93% contraction; active population grew and 41.6% of the labor force is informal workers. At least they admit that, in 2018, there were 46,058 less companies than in 2016.

– Deputy José Guerra denounced an alleged operation by Nicolás’s government to buy opposition lawmakers, with the intent of making this faction lose majority in the National Assembly: “A group of financial middlemen from the government with briefcases full of cash to try to buy off our deputies,” he tweeted. 

On the Verge of Collapse

Mark Lowcock, UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, ended his visit after a packed schedule that took him to meet representatives of Nicolás, the opposition and civil society. “I’ve seen how ordinary women, men, children face monumental challenges to survive every day (…) The situation continues deteriorating,” he said in his final official statement. In the document, he highlighted the state of the healthcare system and he assured that “it’s on the verge of collapse and many hospitals lack basic infrastructure for water and electricity.” He said that patients are at risk of losing their lives from infections they get in hospitals. Lowcock also explained that he found the will to solve the situation everywhere: “Only a political solution can stop suffering in Venezuela.” He said that he asked the authorities to allow the access of humanitarian organizations, including NGOs, reducing bureaucratic restrictions and transporting supplies across the country. 

Turmoil in the Continent 

Argentina: Alberto Fernández won the election with  a 48.24% of the votes, according to the final bulletin issued by Télam news agency. To celebrate, perhaps, he met with former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a corrupt man escaping his country’s justice, accused of crimes like illicit association and influence peddling.

Bolivia: cocaleros supporting President Evo Morales tried to break the opposition barricades on Wednesday, in the third week of protests. There were proteses in nine out of the ten largest cities. Santa Cruz, the country’s largest agroindustrial hub, has been basically paralyzed because of the strike called by the Comité Cívico. These are the most important protests that Evo has faced in almost 14 years he’s been in power. Because of the violence, beyond dozens of people injured, a young man died yesterday in Cochabamba. 

Chile: the government sent a draft law to Congress to increase the minimum wage. Protests have arrived to wealthier zones in Santiago, so far untouched by them. Accusations of human rights abuses have increased. The Prosecutor’s Office reported that 14 cops will be accused of torture against two people during the state of emergency. Piñera said: “We established full transparency regarding the figures, we have nothing to hide.” 

Colombia: “44% of the ELN has moved towards Venezuela permanently,” said General  Luis Fernando Navarro, Colombian Armed Forces commander. Roberto Menéndez, chief of the OAS Mission for Support to the Peace Process, said that the accelerated increase of violence against indigenous authorities in the Cauca Department is the main obstacle for peace. Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman of the UN Secretary General, expressed his concern for the violence and asked that the government investigated these cases. The massacre of eight minors in a military bombing against FARC dissidents in Caquetá, hidden by authorities for two months and revealed by a senator, brought the resignation of Defense Minister Guillermo Botero. 

– The U.S.: Donald Trump argued that the massacre of nine people in a Mormon community in the north of México proves that there’s a need to build the wall. Meanwhile, Congress announced that public hearings of the process against Trump will start next week. The White House announced that Turkish President Recep Erdogan will travel next week to the U.S. by Trump’s invitation. 

Mexico: attacks against Mexican journalists have increased in the last year, fed by the rhetoric of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government, said the Coalición internacional de la sociedad civil sobre seguridad de los periodistas. The alliance said that Mexico has become the most lethal country for journalists, because there’s been at least ten murders this year. AMLO complains that he’s suffered “a dirty war” orchestrated by national and international media.

… 

Doctor Julio Castro, infectologist, shared the most recent figures on tuberculosis in Venezuela, alongside the projections for the next two years: “We have numbers that could be considered epidemic,” he said.

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