- On Thursday, there were protests in several cities all across the nation: Upata, Punta de Mata, Barinas, Guanare and Río Caribe, Upata, in Bolivar state (southern Venezuela) being the city with the saddest outcome. A couple of stores were looted and the action was blocked by state security forces and with parapolice groups who, funny enough, had gas in their bikes and bullets in their weapons. Charlis Núñez Palma, 29 years old, was murdered, shot in the head. In Upata, there are other people with bullet injuries and multiple wounds and around a dozen were detained. There’s no gas, but teargas isn’t scarce. Nicolás obtained, with this early quarantine measure against COVID-19, an important relief for the many crises but the volunteer quarantine, as he calls it, can’t last forever in homes with no power, water or cooking gas, with the continent’s worst connectivity and without food. If on top of that, the bolivar doesn’t stop devaluing against the dollar (black market and official), losing its purchasing power and destroying wages, people will take to the streets, complain, protest and find a way.
- Nicolás reported on Tuesday that 13 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, the total number is now 331. All 13 cases are in the states of Nueva Esparta (now the state with the most infected people in the country), 93 in total, then comes Miranda (88), Distrito Capital (31) and Aragua (29). Nicolás needs someone to blame, so he accused Nueva Esparta governor Alfredo Díaz of sabotage. He talked about the design of the third phase where “one part of the country starts going into a flexible phase, a new normalcy, a relative normalcy.” He also mentioned a new survey about the isolation conditions “needed so we can keep comparing all the information and come up with the decisions we have to take.”
- The plant that produces high octane gas in the El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, Carabobo, is paralyzed: it couldn’t handle the strain it was put under to increase production and it collapsed, a reasonable event considering the lack of maintenance. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Iran is sending some help to Venezuela, chemicals to refine gas, technical personnel and parts for repairing Amuay, which would explain the recent Iranian flights that landed in Falcón. The piece says that Nicolás’s regime is thinking about buying gas from Iran, even though they don’t dare to say how they’ll pay. After this was all confirmed by Reuters, vice minister for Petrochemistry and Refinery Erling Rojas reported they received a catalyst to re-start operations in Cardón, to produce gas. No spokesperson from the government has admitted to the gas shortage, yet. It’s still a secret, with enormous social and political cost, but no “official” record.
- The Associated Press reported that with 17% of the $80 million dollars in recovered assets, that will be used for “defense and strengthening the Legislative Branch”, a sort of salary plan has been created, contemplating $5,000 per month, per deputy. The vice president of the National Assembly Juan Pablo Guanipa explained in an interview that deputies haven’t been paid their salaries since 2016: “As I understand, the plan is to give each deputy an amount,” but he said that this figure hasn’t been defined and that this budget hasn’t been assigned yet. If they haven’t used it, as Guanipa said, its management must be debated and approved. Transparency is a democratic value. Legitimacy is fed by transparency.
- The number of cases of large groups of Venezuelans stranded in Latin American cities is growing. There are stories on social media about 190 Venezuelan citizens in critical condition in Chile and 140 Venezuelans in northern Bogotá. They all ask for help to go back to their country.
- NGOs VE sin filtro and Espacio Público denounced that the website created for health workers to register for the Guaidó approved bonus (http://apoyosaludve.com), has been blocked on the country’s main internet providers.
- Believe it or not, containers blocking parts of the Caracas-La Guaira highway have been placed, to control transit. Only people with a safe passage letter will be allowed.
- The caretaker government’s Security and Intelligence commissioner Iván Simonovis denounced last night: “With complicity and consent by Delcy Rodríguez, today’s second gold shipment is being moved to Maiquetía.” He specifically told Nicolás: “We’re monitoring everything.”
- Because of the disaster with oil prices, Venezuela is a country with no income. We can’t import anything, right now or in the future. We already had huge financial and fiscal problems because of the drop in oil production, that got worse in 2013 (the drop is by 78%), but the pandemic unleashed new demons on a nation whose main income is mostly from oil. The regime “produces” money to comply with its commitments in the country (public workers’ salaries, mostly) but this action doesn’t generate dollars and produces more macro-economic distortion, inflation and recession. The purchasing power drops, inflation increases and so does poverty, and unemployment will also increase (consider it’s already high because of the destruction of our productive apparatus) and the economic contraction will continue, amid a hyperinflation spiral that’s been going on for almost three years. The black market dollar surpassed 200,000 bolivars yesterday, while the official dollar, which was 83,376 on April 1st, reached 171,575,50. 105% in 22 days!
- The UN warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “quickly turning into a human rights crisis” and exhorted governments to guarantee basic protections for all citizens and not abusing emergency measures. The FAO warned that cooperation between countries and reinforcing productive systems are key to face the effect of food systems that the pandemic may cause.
- There are over 2.7 million infected people in the world, and over 190,788 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Colombia surpassed 4,350 cases and 215 deaths. Brazil had 407 deaths in 24 hours, (over 3,310 deaths in total) and is approaching 50,000 cases.
- Juan Guaidó participated in a Latin American leader forum about coronavirus, organized by Atlantic Council and he said that Venezuela’s tragedy is that the country can’t decide which to survive, if hunger or the pandemic, so he warned that the barrier of the Maduro regime is a challenge to get the humanitarian aid in, not only because of the pandemic.
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