Photo: France 24

Pandemonium

Sales of imported gas turned out to be a stressful mess that the regime celebrated as a success. There’s a record-breaking new number of coronavirus cases

  • Nicolás gave control of gas stations to military officers as a strategy to prevent any violent protest against the shortage his terrible oil policy caused. Officers made personal domains out of the stations and everything in the vicinity; no common orders, no certainty about what you’d pay for something so scarce. Every officer shut down as many streets as he wanted, even reversing the established direction to hold more cars, priorities based on a financial incentive: if you paid more dollars, you’d get there faster. That’s why on Monday, the promises of Nicolás’s Oil minister Tareck El Aissami went unfulfilled: not all of those 1,568 gas stations, nor the 200 private gas stations, opened. Not all of them had the bio-pay devices (and some used it as an excuse to not make sales); no sales with subsidies in some of them, despite sales at international prices, they rationed how many litres citizens could buy. There were some where gas was free, as always. 
  • President of PDVSA  Asdrúbal Chávez thinks that the chaos on Monday, marked by how early stations ran out of fuel, proves that theirs is a “successful model” and not that the market desperately needed supply. According to him, there’s enough gas to meet demand, but this doesn’t seem true. Outside the country we see on the state media, there was confusion, disorderly conduct and indignation, because in every gas station there were different rules. It’s a poor policy in design and execution. Tareck El Aissami said on Monday that “no civilian or military authority can limit how many litres the user wants. The only monthly limit is 120 l.” He also said that, starting Tuesday, June 2nd, every gas station (private and subsidized) will work from 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., not until midnight as he previously stated. Despite the fact that there were even robberies at gas stations, the state media said it was a day to celebrate. 
  • If Nicolás plans to recover cash flow by selling fuel in dollars but buying it in bolivars, he’s going to have to come up with extraordinary incentives for the people who got used to selling it at great profits in the black market. After he let them do everything they wanted for two months, he promised last night that there will be punishment “no matter who you are,” if you’re smuggling gas. That’s unlikely. He didn’t dare say that the military is responsible for this. He also celebrated that they ran out of gas at 3:00 p.m. and said that 125,000 barrels out of 1.5 million imported from Iran were distributed yesterday. He announced that he’ll travel to Tehran soon and didn’t miss the opportunity to tie the U.S. protests with his own cause: “The U.S. wants to asphyxiate us like they did to this African American man George Floyd,” he said before assuring that selling gas at international prices is an affront to sanctions. He warned that after this first phase, people not on the Patria system won’t get subsidized gas. 
  • Venezuela broke its record of confirmed COVID-19 cases last night: 152 cases in one day, even though Nicolás tried to dismiss how important this is and insisted on separating cases as local (6) and imported (146), blaming Colombia for most of the active cases in Venezuela. This allows for discriminating returning migrants, putting them in danger. COVID-19 is a pandemic, it doesn’t matter if the cases come from Greenland, if the cases are here, they’re part of our epidemic and must get attention. Nicolás reported three new deaths, for a total of 17 out of 1,662 cases they’ve admitted to. 
  • A country with a complex humanitarian emergency and the risk of famine lost normalcy long ago. Nicolás insists on talking about “a new, relative normalcy” (but he forgot to say “under surveillance” as he mentioned the first couple of times), but this is a disrespectful concept, as is the 5+10 days formula that started yesterday, with more people in the street as cases increase. The first day was focused in banks, for obvious reasons: people need cash, even though hyperinflation destroys its value. Senior citizens were in line and everyone was social distancing. Other than that, there wasn’t a difference on the streets: clients went to the businesses near them. Testimonies flooded social media regarding the use of the Metro: the average ride was over an hour, for routes that used to take 30 mins or less, even in chaotic days. 
  • José Ignacio Hernández, attorney general appointed by Juan Guaidó, denounced that a SEBIN commission raided his old home in Venezuela: “This new event of political persecution is clearly in retaliation for my work as Attorney General defending Venezuelan assets abroad, specially those tied to Venezuelan gold in London,” he wrote. 
  • The Associated Press reported professor Bruce Bagley, money laundering expert, blamed Luis Hernández’s (alias “Boliche”) for ending Bagley’s own money laundering plan: 3 million dollars in revenue for a corruption plan as czar of the CLAP Alex Saab’s advisor. 
  • Josnars Adolfo Baduel Oyoque, son of General Raúl Isaías Baduel, has been taken to Fuerte Tiuna’s Dr. Vicente Salías Sanoja Military Hospital four times, said journalist Beatriz Adrián on Twitter. Baduel Oyoque has suffered asphyxiation caused by alleged torture. His sister said on Sunday that they haven’t been able to talk to him. 
  • Activist Víctor Martínez from Barquisimeto has died. He was the father of human rights activist Mijail Martínez, who was murdered by hitmen in 2009. Because of his son’s death, Víctor helped founding the Comité de Víctimas (“Victim’s Committee”) in Lara. You’ll read many kind words for this man, and he deserves them. 
  • The U.S. State Department offered a five million reward for information that could lead to the arrest of Joselit Ramírez, superintendent Venezuelan Crypto Assets. He’s being accused of participating in international organized crime and laundering illegally obtained money, according to the statement by the Department of State. Ramírez worked with El Aissami at the governor’s office in Aragua state. 
  • The Iranian Foreign Minister said on Monday that they’ll send more gas to Venezuela if Nicolás’s regime needs it, despite pressure by the U.S. to stop this trade. Of course, if they’re paying with gold upfront, who’d say no to that?
  • Something to consider: if Nicolás’s words are true and on Monday they distributed 125,000 barrels out of 1.5 million they brought from Iran, the load on all five tankers would last 12 days if they don’t come up with new rationing measures. 
  • The library at Oriente University, in Cumaná, burned down yesterday. A new attack against an institution that has already suffered so much. The photos are devastating, and so are the consequences of this crime.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.