Noticias

Despierte el alma dormida

Prodavinci - Sáb, 12/09/2017 - 17:12
Jorge Luis Borges afirmó una vez que un libro no existe hasta que no da con su lector. Subrayemos el carácter individualísimo que allí se le está dando a esa relación. Es como si cada lector fuera único y responsable de la existencia de ese libro, no importa que miles de ediciones de ese mismo…
Categorías: Noticias

Decálogo por la libertad

Prodavinci - Sáb, 12/09/2017 - 16:51
Publicado originalmente en 1954, aquí lo reproducimos para el disfrute de nuestros lectores
Categorías: Noticias

Contra las palabras rebuscadas

Prodavinci - Sáb, 12/09/2017 - 15:23
Diatriba de Alberto Salcedo Ramos en contra del lenguaje simulador y presuntuoso
Categorías: Noticias

Bullfighting Is Rigged

Caracas Chronicles - Sáb, 12/09/2017 - 11:00

It’s pretty obvious, right? The event is designed in such a way that it’s meant to look as if there’s a risk of the bull winning. But those chances are significantly challenged by a system designed to enrage, distract, control, hurt and wear down the animal.

It’s obvious, yes, but these are the days of explaining the obvious, again and again. Even when you know it’s a controlled space, you still feel a certain anguish for the skinny guy in the funny suit who’s about to become roadkill. It’s a show for the crowd.

Take your regular bullfight. The bull is released to the arena, and an army of strangely clothed folks take different roles to control the outcome.

Apart from the matador, a typical bullfight has two picadores on horseback who spear the bull; three banderilleros stick flags on its back; and a mozo de espada, who’s pretty much the bullfighter’s squire. Some cuadrillas have more, like clowns to distract the beast.

And then there’s the arena itself, with its barriers and trap doors. There’s loud music and pasodobles. And the crowd participates chanting orders, singing and binging on sangría. There’s adrenaline. It’s exhilarating, exciting.

It’s carnage, and we love it.

Hemingway once wrote that for a country to love bullfighting “the people must have an interest in death.” That may explain a lot about Venezuela’s deep connections to “corridas”. We used to have one of the most important arenas for bullfighters: Valencia’s Plaza Monumental is the second biggest bullring in the world. Many generations of Cordobeses have delighted crowds in the Feria del Sol in Mérida, and their legendary parties have been recorded in the collective memory of that Venezuelan party town.

There are brief moments of glory, like that one time a National Guard almost got impaled by a horn.

César Girón is considered one of the great Venezuelan matadors of the 20th century, and he was a Maracay native. The bullring named after him is a beautiful structure designed by Carlos Raúl Villanueva, now in severe disrepair and invaded by squatters.

Corridas are part of the cultural heritage in Venezuela, but the spectacle cherished by so many is not what you’d see today, for instance, if you visit Maracay.

Bullfights in Maracay now take place in a rusty makeshift bullring set up next to the Military Club, in the middle of a breathtaking landscape with gaudy restaurants built for the olive green elite and its perezjimenista architecture. The tickets are not cheap, and the arena, although very small, isn’t usually full. An improvised, impoverished version of an old tradition that refuses to die.

Unless you get a chance to see someone like Erick Cortez, these days the local talent doesn’t offer much. Cortez is an experienced and well-known Venezuelan matador who lives abroad and last week travelled to Maracay for a special bullfight in his honor. He’s a charming guy who enjoys the attention. When he stepped on the arena, a meager crowd welcomed him enthusiastically. He acted as if he was in one of the arenas of yonder, surrounded by tens of thousands.

When the bull was released, it was skinnier and smaller than expected. It gave a good fight, though; it charged into the walls protecting the cuadrilla, and chased them energetically. Cortez, a very skillful matador, easily goaded and tired the bull with the help of his assistants, and finally gave it a swift blow for the perfect kill. The animal dropped in the middle of the arena.

The bull’s lifeless body was dragged away from the arena by mules on a carriage, but the mules were too weak and skinny and had to be forced to slowly drag the carcass.

The other bullfighters were not as dexterous as Cortez, and the whole thing became more chaotic and difficult to watch. People cheered asking for an indulto for the strongest bull – a rarely granted pardon of the bull by the corrida chairman or the matador. It’s a saludo a la bandera, the crowd knows the bull won’t be spared. Its death is a given sentence, they go to bullfights to see precisely that.

There was a sad, undignified ending to Cortez’s corrida. The bull’s lifeless body was dragged away from the arena by mules on a carriage, but the mules were too weak and dragged the carcass for an eternity.

Bulls don’t understand the corrida. They’re tired, confused, scared and overwhelmed by everything going on. And even if they understood, their only option is to participate and try as hard as they can to survive. They are trapped. There are brief moments of glory, like that one time a National Guard almost got impaled by a horn. And every once in a while, you’d be able to see a bullfighter being charged by the bull, the handful of cases when a bull wins the match. You may wonder, how does a bull fare when it kills the matador?

Imagine being the bull. Surprisingly easy, isn’t it?

Bullfighting is a controlled spectacle, just like our elections.

HT to Kristoffer Toft for the analogy.

The post Bullfighting Is Rigged appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

Tercer disco de Abraham Gustin

Prodavinci - Sáb, 12/09/2017 - 09:30
Con el nombre de "11:11 Pulso de Vida" el compositor venezolano Abraham Gustin lanzó al mercado su tercera producción discográfica, un trabajo que se ubica en el género de la world music con un marcado carácter sinfónico que utiliza el cuarteto de cuerdas como parte fundamental para sus arreglos orquestales
Categorías: Noticias

El caballo blanco de Puigdemont

Prodavinci - Sáb, 12/09/2017 - 09:00
Presenciar en vivo y directo una independencia, aunque dure seis segundos, logra poner a prueba toda noción de épica y justicia de la gesta americana de Simón Bolívar forjada en las aulas latinoamericanas.
Categorías: Noticias

Enter the PETRO

Caracas Chronicles - Vie, 12/08/2017 - 16:35

Cryptocurrencies are all the rage these days. People all over the world are getting excited about the surge of bitcoin, figuring out how to buy them — and telling their friends about it. This trend didn’t escape Maduro, and just a few days ago he announced his government would create PETRO, a cryptocurrency hecha en socialismo.

It can take long to wrap your head around cryptocurrencies, but if you learn only one thing about them, it should be that they’re parallel financial systems where transactions are unstoppable by any authority. A sweet way to avoid U.S. sanctions, right? The government sure is interested, and it isn’t wasting time. The country’s prime technical university, held hostage, is developing research and mining facilities, while two crypto-related companies are competing behind the scenes to get PETRO just right.

Launching a new cryptocurrency isn’t especially difficult; the hard part is convincing others to give you things that have value in exchange. Communists’ opinions aren’t that hot in markets, but Venezuelan oil is, so Maduro will issue pieces of paper where he promises to redeem PETRO for some of the 300 billion barrels of oil waiting to be exploited in our territory.

I know what you’re thinking: who in their right mind would trust Maduro to live up to his promise? Let me introduce you to Mr. InsaneCrypto Market:

Yes, a cryptocurrency called PetroDollar (unrelated to PETRO) went up in price more than 2,800% the day Maduro made the announcement. It crashed immediately afterwards, okay, but some people made money. The government could hold a closed sale after orchestrating a propaganda campaign, and if it’s massively successful, it only needs to work once.

Very little is known about PETRO at this point, and what I just described may not be the government’s strategy; the world’s largest cryptocurrency sale brought in $230 million – more than plenty for a business venture, but small money at state scale. The government may want Chinese and Russian citizens to buy up claims to Venezuelan oil. Perhaps if those two governments and their threats are involved, those certificates Maduro is so fond of won’t be completely worthless. He would be literally selling the country in the world’s first Initial Country Offering.

Seguiremos informando.

The post Enter the PETRO appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

The Stolen Referendum

Caracas Chronicles - Vie, 12/08/2017 - 16:09
Photo: Newsweek

2016 was marked by violence. Lootings, kidnappings, murders and robberies that were minimized by the government, even when we reached the (unofficial) rate of 90 deaths per every 100,000 citizens and Caracas became the most dangerous city in the world. We rolled back to the time zone that should’ve never been changed (UTC -4) and electrical grid issues, blamed on the natural phenomenon El Niño, activated a new power rationing plan that lasted over four months. For the first time in 17 years, gas prices were adjusted. Thousands were down with the Zika virus and an outbreak of diphtheria (eradicated 24 years ago) began. Nicolás decreed an economic emergency to legislate, bypassing the National Assembly. He also decreed the creation of Camimpeg, granting brass concessions within oil production and the extraction of gold and diamonds. Former presidents José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Martín Torrijos and Leonel Fernández proved to be disastrous mediators of an authoritarian government. The only achievement of the dialogue that never happened, was Zapatero’s visit to Leopoldo López in Ramo Verde.

Blocking the National Assembly

After cutting the sound wiring and overcoming all the power outages and the robbery of all the equipment of the National Assembly TV station (whose operation and administrative functions were transferred to the AN’s employees by the outgoing Parliament in 2015), 163 elected lawmakers were sworn into office on January 5. Three lawmakers from Amazonas, challenged by the TSJ, were sworn in the next day before the new board and chavismo demanded what the Electoral Chamber would grant them six days later: declaring Parliament in contempt of court and nullifying all of its decisions until they unseated the three Amazonas lawmakers; an unprecedented judicial aberration which suspended the legislative body, disregarding the will of the people. Although the AN complied with the demand, the TSJ didn’t lift the contempt. On the contrary, the Constitutional Chamber took over faculties way beyond its authority to guarantee full power for the Executive Branch, on top of blocking Parliament’s capacities. Nicolás even threatened to reduce the AN’s constitutional tender and later, to dissolve it entirely.

The seven-month-long robbery

The procedure to activate a recall referendum was packed with restrictions and delays imposed by the CNE, in complete coordination with the Administration and the TSJ. The request initiative had to be backed by the signatures of 1% of registered voters (less than 200,000 people). Once those were counted, validated and accepted, it should’ve formalized the request with the collection of the signatures of at least 20% of registered voters. The opposition vastly surpassed the 1% and the CNE delayed the process for so long that a march was called to its headquarters to demand answers and was brutally attacked by chavismo.

Over a million signatures were accepted and the verification period started, requiring people to go to voting stations to validate their signatures with their fingerprints. However, CNE rectoras re-interpreted the regulation and demanded that all the country’s states required 1% signatures, and also providing only 300 captahuellas spread across 124 validation stations, without any sort of proportionality. On August 1, the CNE acknowledged that the opposition had managed to collect the required 1%. The collection of 20% of signatures would take place between October 26 and 28 and just a few days before it started, the CNE decided to “postpone” the process in compliance with the rulings of seven criminal courts which voided the 1% for alleged “signs of fraud”; a judicial barbarity, since those courts have no authority to decide on the matter. The way chavismo celebrated this proved that it was an absolutely shameless political scheme. Gubernatorial and mayoral elections were also postponed for 2017.

Human rights

The Atenas mine, located in Tumeremo (Bolívar state) was the stage of a sinister episode: the murder of 28 miners; denied by governor Francisco Rangel Gómez but confirmed by lawmaker Américo De Grazia, revealing the anarchic war between armed gangs, natives and miners in an area outside the State’s control. Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz claimed that only 17 miners had been killed and they had been gunned own, not mutilated. Nicolás ordered the reactivation of the OLP which was already counting 73 murders and 931 arrests by October. The CICPC killed José Tovar Colina, alias “El Picure”, the most wanted criminal in Venezuela. Previously, someone had killed Teófilo Rodríguez, aka El Conejo, the pran of San Antonio prison. The shocking part of this case was that the prisoners took to the prison’s roof to drink, carrying their guns and shooting to the sky. There were a series of arbitrary arrests against Voluntad Popular leaders: Delson Guárate, Daniel Ceballos (who was under house arrest at the moment) and Yon Goicoechea.

A spontaneous protest against Nicolás broke out in Villa Rosa and Braulio Jatar was arrested for sharing the video, but there were also home raids and neighbors of the area were arrested, included a minor.

Así fue el cacerolazo que le dió el Pueblo a Maduro en Margarita,allí lo ven pasando! pic.twitter.com/6kMwTLzIz7

— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) September 3, 2016

Hundreds of public servants were also laid off for signing in favor of the recall referendum, with the support of regime mouthpieces like Elías Jaua, Jorge Rodríguez and Diosdado Cabello.

No food, no medicines

Shortages intensified. The gap between regulated and free prices was absurd. For instance, corn flour was set at Bs. 19 by the government, but it could only be found at Bs. 1,000. Delcy Rodríguez said at the OAS that Venezuela was importing enough food to feed three countries, mocking scarcity and the severe drop in both production and imports.

The creation of the Standard System of Public Purchases, of the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP) and of the great Sovereign Supply program didn’t help fix the crisis. In addition to the shortage of medicines, estimated at 70%, most people couldn’t afford to eat three times a day, with an unbalanced diet and sans proteins. According to the Venezuelan Health Observatory, 75% of Venezuelans mostly ate carbohydrates. And it was precisely the combination of shortages of food and medicines, the long lines and the exorbitant prices which motivated the massive demonstration of September 1, but the demands made that day were ignored.

Abroad

Venezuela demanded to be appointed for Mercosur’s temporary presidency and Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez was defeated when the institution suspended Venezuela after failing to fulfill its economic, immigration and human rights obligations. The Colombian-Venezuelan border was closed for over a year, under a state of emergency and with arbitrary and massive deportations of thousands of Colombian families who lived in Táchira, Zulia and Amazonas.

Nicolás went to Havana to take part in the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, while the OAS discussed the activation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter on Venezuela.

Indicators

There were four minimum wage hikes, for a total of 120% vs. a 720% inflation rate and the worst GDP drop in the last 13 years, with a 18.6% contraction. International reserves dropped to $10.9 billion, the lowest level in 21 years. New currency exchange systems were created: the Protected Exchange rate (Dipro) and the Complementary Exchange rate (Dicom), the former at Bs. 10 per dollar and the latter started at Bs. 206. The national budget for 2017 was Bs. 8.4 billion, a gap of 448% compared to the budget of 2016, five times the number. Nicolás announced the removal of the Bs. 100 banknote from circulation, extending its validity for 72 hours after its announcement, unleashing chaos and despair in the population. The riots in Bolívar state were terrible. He would later extend the bill’s validity several times, including the announcement on December 29, extending it to January 20, 2017. The black market dollar opened the year at Bs. 984 and closed at Bs. 3,164. We got a new set of banknotes, allegedly in accordance with inflation; but the bolívar’s depreciation shattered all expectations.

The post The Stolen Referendum appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

2016: Fleeing Venezuela

Caracas Chronicles - Vie, 12/08/2017 - 16:08
Original art by @modográfico

“Are you going to leave behind everything your family has built for several generations?”

I lost count of how many times I’ve heard this question. The answers present a complexity that dissolves when you feel like your life is nothing but an object, easily stripped away by any stranger with a hood and a gun.

Let me explain that: my grandfather Eladio, born in a small town in Spain, illegally boarded a ship and crossed the ocean with one dollar in his pocket. It was 1946, the end of WWII, the first period of the franquista dictatorship. It was a time of extreme poverty and fierce repression. Poverty was so extreme that my grandfather couldn’t afford his ticket. Venezuela was the port after the Canary Islands. He just had to remain hidden while the ship traversed between Valencia and Las Palmas in Gran Canarias, then he would be scot-free. If he was caught and wasn’t thrown overboard, he’d be forcefully disembarked in Venezuela. According to the story I remember, he went to the port with a friend one morning, an port officer saw them and made them get off. The plan was to climb the anchor and hide in a lifeboat. 

That’s how he came to the country of opportunities and paved the road for his brothers, a plan that sounds familiar to many Venezuelans today.

He eventually set up a business. A 13 hectares farm in the Altos Mirandinos, mainly growing roses. At peak production, he was growing 3 to 5 million stems a year. It was a reference for farmers and producers of cut flowers around the country, one of the first greenhouse farms in Venezuela, with cutting-edge technology and products that were an innovation in Venezuela.


I wasn’t that involved when he passed away in 2005, but the time would come for me to take charge.

The phone call in the middle of the night, the terror of not knowing if the gang was still lurking in the dark, waiting to break into my home…

I became a young 20-something man in charge of my family’s company that, with my best efforts, I’ve kept going, defying a model that finds inconvenient— or simply doesn’t want—the existence of private business. A typical day on the farm means lot’s of maintenance, coordinating watering, fertilization, plague and disease control, finding problems (water leaks, pumping failure) and the harvest (that depends on the day and variety of that moment).

Stability in this kind of business is hard to measure, since most of the capital is vegetal matter, and to pinpoint the exact “the beginning of the end” is complicated, since the company was doing well and the numbers were getting better. In Venezuela, one normalizes gradual collapse.

Despite the regular hurdles: scarcity of raw materials, currency depreciation, lack of safety, corruption, etc., in the last few years I managed to increase output, diversify our products, leaving the traditional flower business and taking chances on other agricultural varieties. To sum it up, I was doing OK.  

It all ended quickly.

We’re used to phrases like “I’m not doing that bad in Venezuela, considering everything,” and in a certain way, that’s true. The problem arises when you analyze your personal situation in a global framework and you find out that, in reality, you earn below the poverty line. When I saw the accounting books and made the conversion to moneda dura (the kind of exchange rate you get on the street), the result was a joke. An 18-year-old student that works part time as a waiter in any civilized country has better investment possibilities than me with my thriving business.

I kept working, kept believing in the country, already knowing something wasn’t right.
One morning by the end of November 2016, I woke up early and started scheduling my day in the farm. My cousin, Daniel, stayed behind getting some work done and I left with hopes of finding several things (electrodes, screws and other stuff from the nearby hardware store). Forty minutes later I get a call from Daniel, he’s nervous and he says he needs my help. At that moment, I was still out of the office and, while he spoke to me, seven men were pointing guns at his head.

Turns out these men came into the farm, tied my cousin and other employees down for a few of hours and strolled casually down the place I had called home my whole life.

Reality caught up with us. Even though the men left with little and no one was hurt, it shattered how safe I had felt in that farm my whole life. It was the first time I thought “I need to leave Venezuela.”

But I didn’t.

Four months later I’m woken by a noise in the middle of the night. It was my grandmother and one of my uncles banging on the door, the same gang that tied Daniel up a few months before, broke into my grandmother’s house and took everything they could lay their hands on. But the worst part wasn’t the robbery. They kept asking “Where does the kid live?” They kept looking for the boss. They kept looking for me.

The same gang that tied Daniel up a few months before, broke into my grandmother’s house. They kept asking “Where does the kid live?” They kept looking for me.

It’s safe to say that I didn’t get any sleep that night. We were burglarized again and a routine developed, the phone call in the middle of the night, the terror of not knowing if the gang was still lurking in the dark, waiting to break into my home, the anguish of not being able to talk to my loved ones and knowing if they were well or if they’d been kidnapped. Knowing that they were looking for me and getting the wrong face, knowing that their options were running out and mine was the only face left. 

The first question was then answered: Yes. Yes, I am willing to leave everything behind in exchange for my life and the lives of the people I love.

Life goes on and you still need to go to work the following day. I’m not an enchufado, I don’t have a 7-figure account abroad, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to move my grandmother, my mother, my uncle, my sister (and myself) to another country, but I´d find a way. We moved to an acquaintance’s house (we had to leave the farm) and I’d work on the land knowing that it was just a matter of time before the weeds ate it up. My energy went into wisely managing the little money we had.

The bags were ready a few days before. The flight left at 9:00 p.m., so I talked to my cousin, he’d be keeping my car, to take us to Maiquetía at noon. We found the usual line in the Air Europa counter and the classic military mamagüevo that makes you open every bag. The hours before boarding and watching how the lights shining on everything you’ve ever known grow dimmer. When you get off that plane, everything will be different.

I currently write this on a train from the small town my grandfather left many years ago to Barcelona, Spain, where I might find the opportunity to start over. Even though we have relatives in Elche, my grandmother has had it really tough since we moved. I can see how sad she is. She won’t set foot in Venezuela ever again and she knows it. My sister and my uncle have adjusted pretty well, my sister has her youth going for her and my uncle has an ease about him that works to his favor.

We are worried, nevertheless. The business my grandfather started three generations ago, that castle he built on a nation of dreams and possibility, is now eaten by moss and abandonment. The life we knew is no more. Every Venezuelan émigré you talk to will give you their personal tragedy, the narrative of how they left in body but remain in heart. This is mine, but I understand if it gets muddled along with the millions of stories with different words, but the same tune.

The truth is I have no idea what I’m doing, but for the first time in ages I feel like I’m not in danger, like my safety is certain, that I can walk freely again without looking over my shoulder to see who’s following me.

And that, to me, is worth more than anything.

The post 2016: Fleeing Venezuela appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

La sentencia contra Freddy Guevara: una grave violación a los derechos humanos

Prodavinci - Vie, 12/08/2017 - 13:34
Hace un mes, mediante sentencia número 69 del 3 de noviembre, el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia acordó iniciar un proceso penal en contra del diputado y Primer Vicepresidente de la Asamblea Nacional, Freddy Guevara, por supuestos delitos cometidos con ocasión a las protestas desarrolladas en Venezuela entre abril y julio de 2017. A los pocos días de dictada la sentencia, la ilegítima asamblea nacional constituyente “ANC” “autorizó” el enjuiciamiento del diputado Guevara por los tribunales penales.
Categorías: Noticias

Hyperinflation

Caracas Chronicles - Vie, 12/08/2017 - 12:55

The cumulative inflation rate until November was 1,369%, as reported by the National Assembly’s Finance Committee. We’ve reached the four-digit rate for the first time in our history, this announcement marks the official onset of hyperinflation, without the information that the Central Bank has refused to release. Lawmaker Ángel Alvarado said that the inflation rate for November was 56.7%, adding that his estimates are quite conservative, and predicting that the year could close with 2,000 to 2,100%, the highest figure in the country ever, and also the highest worldwide. The drop in oil output, price acceleration and the rise of the monetary base to finance public spending, explain how we got here and the most alarming consequences include over 75% scarcity, millions of Venezuelans eating only once a day, a general malnutrition rate of 70% and 300,000 children that could starve to death. The crisis will only intensify with this regime.

Approved budget

The ruinous National Constituent Assembly (ANC) didn’t have enough with approving the 2018 Budget in an hour, violating the National Constitution and the protocol of Parliament, which used to review the budget for weeks before approving it. Yesterday, through a decree published in Official Gazette dated December 5, the ANC approved the National Budget, the Special Law on Indebtedness and the Yearly Operational Plan 2018.

They forgot to mention the amounts, but they claim that their approval was necessary to guarantee: the country’s economic and social development, governability, wellbeing and the access to essential rights; such as life, health and food, which have been blatantly violated by this administration.

All of this makes Nicolás’ campaign from Hotel Humboldt all the more inspiring, as he tweeted videos and images of his contemplative feast, so divorced from reality, that he spoke of tourism as a way to restore the economy, even though the International SOS and Control Risks listed Venezuela as one of the most dangerous countries to visit.

Photo: International SOS An exercise of hate

While Rafael Ramírez, no longer Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, explained in an interview with BBC World that he lacks the resources to live in the U.S. (don’t worry, a crowdfunding campaign was launched for his sake), Oil minister and PDVSA chairman Manuel Quevedo incited harassment in PDVSA against opposition employees: “We can’t allow any more escuálidos in PDVSA!” he frantically said, associating honesty with chavismo even though every individual incriminated in corruption cases comes from their ranks; even though PDVSA was bankrupted by chavismo, among other things, for prioritizing loyalty over knowledge, as well as imposing a perverse power structure, far more focused on stealing than on producing.

Human rights

The death toll for yesterday includes: a 13-year-old boy who died of malnutrition weighing only 11 kilos (Portuguesa), four people who were riding on a truck because there’s no public transportation means (Bolívar) and five miners in El Callao, according to lawmaker Américo De Grazia.

Lawmaker Delsa Solórzano also presented the Interior Policy Committee’s yearly report, accounting for 4,000 cases of human rights violations, another sad record which includes 92 homicides per 100,000 citizens, the shutdown of 51% of surgery rooms in public hospitals and over 98% of medicine shortages.

Add this to the complaints about the situation of political prisoners and see how the map keeps getting darker. Yesterday, the preliminary hearing of general Raúl Baduel was postponed for the 9th time. He’s been held in El Helicoide’s “tomb” for four months. Lawmaker Edgar Zambrano cautioned that mayor Alfredo Ramos is in serious risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke (CVA) due to his severe hypertension, dyslipidemia, arthritis and gastroesophageal reflux. With this in mind, it makes sense for Venezuela to top the world pessimism index, as revealed by a Global Attitudes Survey study.

Photo: Hannah Dreier Abroad

The regional government of Roraima, a Brazilian state bordering with Venezuela, declared a state of “social emergency” in an attempt to address the crisis caused by considerable amount of Venezuelan immigrants who have arrived in recent months. They estimate that 30,000 Venezuelans have crossed the border in the last two years, with no means or conditions to provide for themselves, which creates “severe difficulties for the teams responsible for providing them with logistical support.”

In fact, the report on poverty and human rights released by the IACHR also emphasizes the concern for the Venezuelan migration to other Latin American nations and explains the gravity of the poverty levels of many immigrants, who have been forced in some cases to enter other countries illegally as a survival strategy to preserve their life and integrity in better conditions.

Also, representatives of the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress agreed on their deep concerns about “the seriously deteriorating situation regarding democracy, human rights and economic and social instability in Venezuela,” says the joint statement, in which both blocs consider the ANC illegitimate and denounce the illegal persecution and repression carried out by the government, which they called to respect the Constitution.

About elections

Even the head of Ceela – a CNE-bound organization that acts as an international observer –, Nicanor Moscoso, regretted that new gubernatorial elections will be held in Zulia on Sunday, December 10, because in his view, there “was already a winner,” Juan Pablo Guanipa, removed by the Zulia’s Legislative Council after refusing to take his oath of office before the ANC. All end-of-campaign speeches were shameful. After 19 years in power, speaking as if they were just starting reveals not only cynicism, but huge indifference.

The CNE hasn’t addressed the fraud in Bolívar state. Relevant detail: the CNE won’t take candidacy replacements. All the dropped candidacies and alliances that took place this week will have to be widely disseminated on social media, because the CNE won’t do it.

Yesterday, Australia became the 26th nation to legalize same-sex marriage. I found the speeches in the aftermath of the announcement of this decision frankly moving.

The post Hyperinflation appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

Unesco: cantos de trabajo del llano son Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial que requiere salvaguardia

Prodavinci - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 21:27
Los cantos de vaquería narran vicisitudes de la vida en el llano. Fotografía tomada de la cuenta del Instituto Nacional de Turismo @Inatur_vzla El miércoles 6 de diciembre, la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Educación, la Ciencia y la Cultura (Unesco) inscribió los cantos de trabajo de los llanos de Colombia y Venezuela…
Categorías: Noticias

Honduras: otra reelección impopular

Prodavinci - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 19:31
Lo que hemos visto en Honduras tiene algunos elementos en común. En 2009, el presidente Manuel Zelaya fue derrocado por un golpe de Estado, luego de intentar reformar la Constitución, para reelegirse, sin seguir los propios mecanismos constitucionales establecidos. Ahora el presidente Juan Orlando Hernández trata de conseguir la deseada reelección siguiendo la norma constitucional, pero luego de recomponer a su favor el poder judicial del país centroamericano.
Categorías: Noticias

2015: He didn’t get the support

Caracas Chronicles - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 17:10
Photo: El Salvador

By January 20, 2015, the Venezuelan oil barrel had plummeted to $39. Nicolás postponed his accountability speech before the National Assembly, seeking financing and trying to persuade “the world” to trade a more expensive barrel, as he had to accept that the $100 oil barrel wouldn’t return. That’s how the oil boom ended, leaving the country’s oil output below that of 1999, with diminished international reserves, a sizeable foreign debt and the highest inflation in the world, as well as the intense shortage of food and medicines. Long lines are the best summary for this year; and they didn’t disappear with the use of captahuellas or purchase discrimination according to the ID card number. In spite of this, the FAO acknowledged Venezuela’s progress concerning food. Desde allá, a film directed by Lorenzo Vigas, won the Golden Lion for best film in the Venice Film Festival. Likewise, the national basketball team won the FIBA Americas for the first time in our history and the U-20 female soccer team got second place in the South American Championship, qualifying for a World Cup for the first time ever. The famous artist and cartoonist Pedro León Zapata passed away.

Photo: sancheztaffurarquitecto.wordpress.com Murdered students

In just one week, two ULA students were murdered; José Frías and Julio García, who were found tortured and with gunshots to the head. Later, UNET student John Ramírez was found and the authorities said that someone shot him in the head to steal his cellphone. Yamir Tovar and Luis Arianyi, members of the student movement Resistencia, were found lying on the ground in Los Flores, Catia, with gunshots to their faces and bodies. After this horrifying sequence, there was a commotion in San Cristóbal when a PNB officer shot 14-year old student Kluiverth Roa in the back of the neck. Nicolás said in a cadena that Roa was a member of “a right-wing sect,” that the police officer had been taunted and that the gun “went off.” That same day, the army killed a young wayúu native who was returning home from school. Meanwhile, criminal gangs used fragmentary grenades in common crimes and journalistic investigations revealed that 8 of every 10 bullets used by criminals came from Cavim, the Armed Forces’ ammunition factory.

Human rights

After 15 years, Venezuela sent a delegation to Geneva for the assessment of the country’s performance on human rights carried out by the UN. The key message of Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz was that human rights were guaranteed because the Constitution said so. Resolution Nº 008610 was published in the Official Gazette, where the Defense Ministry authorized the Armed Forces’ intervention in protests with the use of “potentially lethal force.” With military actions in the Cota 905 to crack down on armed gangs, the government created the Operation for People’s Liberation (OLP): the accomplishments of those raids could be summed up in the number of deaths, arrests and deportations. President Barack Obama sanctioned government officials and declared that Venezuela had become an “unusual and extraordinary threat” for the U.S. Nicolás rewarded sanctioned officials and wasted enormous resources to collect signatures in condemnation of the measure.

Photo: Havana Times

In August, the Colombian-Venezuelan border was shut down and a state of emergency was declared in five municipalities of Táchira state. According to the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, there were an average of 16 protests per day in 2015, 82% of them demanding economic and social rights.

A trumped-up trial

The case of Leopoldo López was discussed around the world. Nicolás discredited every person who worked on his defense. He took to calling López “the monster of Ramo Verde,” the military prison were he was kept isolated while his trial was postponed over and over. In a trial rigged with irregularities, he was finally sentenced to 14 years in prison. Months later, prosecutor Franklin Nieves, one of the people in charge of the investigation against López, fled the country and confessed that the accusation had been fabricated, the evidence was forged (in coordination with Nelson Mejías) and that Luisa Ortega Díaz gave the orders to act against López, even though she was aware of the flimsy evidence. Franklin Nieves was the regretful executioner. In a truthful justice system, this would’ve been enough to open and investigation, nullify the sentence, the trial and release Leopoldo López; but not in Venezuela.

Drug trafficking at port

Nicolás announced that they had frustrated a coup d’état (there had been 16 such attempts in two years) and that the plan included the use of a Tucano aircraft loaded with missiles to bomb Miraflores. Two days after this, a SEBIN commission arrested Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma and took him to Ramo Verde. Captain Leamsy Salazar turned himself into the DEA to provide information on drug trafficking in Venezuela. Diosdado Cabello denounced three media outlets for publishing the story of the Cartel de los Soles, previously published by Spanish news agency ABC, and then picked up by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times as well. Nicolás, the TSJ and the Prosecutor’s Office supported Cabello. In October, the TSJ Plenary Chamber approved the early retirement of 13 justices, whose tenures were to end in December 2016. On November 11, Efraín Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, nephews of the presidential couple, were arrested in Port-au-Prince (Haiti) by the DEA, for trying to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.

Photo: The Wall Street Journal Parliamentary elections

The opposition agreed on candidacies by consensus in most of the electoral circuits and dealt with the remaining 33 circonscriptions through primaries. With public resources, violating the Anti-Corruption Law, the LOPRE and the electoral regulations, Nicolás campaigned for PSUV with the wrong pitch: he threatened everyone, urging his candidates to win, using the phrase “whatever it takes.”

The threats translated to several attacks on opposition campaigns, six with firearms and sadly, the murder of Luis Manuel Díaz, AD general secretary in Altagracia de Orituco.

On December 6, with a 74.1% turnout, MUD won the majority in Parliament with 112 lawmakers representing 65.27% of votes. In comparison, PSUV got 55 seats with 32.93% of votes. Nicolás said the famous phrase: “I asked for your support and you didn’t give it to me,” threatening to suspend social programs because of this defeat. After the various challenges and lawsuits filed by PSUV against Amazonas’ elections, the Electoral Chamber suspended the induction of the lawmakers elected in that state on December 30. The move was deemed “the judicial coup.”

And in the National Assembly

Violating the Constitution, the National Assembly appointed new authorities via simple majority, asking the TSJ to support their decision. They ratified Luisa Ortega Díaz, Manuel Galindo was appointed General Comptroller (although he was still Attorney General); former PSUV governor Tarek William Saab was named Ombudsman, and in the CNE, all of the rectoras were ratified, while Vicente Díaz was replaced by Luis Emilio Rondón. Lawmakers approved an Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law so that Nicolás could legislate by decree between March 15 to December 31. Although the period for sessions ended on December 15, the TSJ allowed the AN to hold extraordinary sessions (between December 15 and January 4), approving and modifying laws, additional credits and appointing new public officials, including 13 TSJ justices and Public Defender Susana Barreiros, the judge who sentenced Leopoldo López.

Embezzled

The government created the Marginal Currency System (Simadi), which would allegedly regulate free market demand. A demand that surpassed the State’s capacities, showing that the black market price wasn’t a mere fabrication. The system wasn’t recognized as a depreciation and the Cencoex rate (Bs. 6.30 per dollar) remained in place, for imports of food and medicines and corruption; restricting traveller allowances. Banca Privada D’Andorra, in the Principality of Andorra, was intervened for money laundering. The accusation included the laundering of $2 billion deposited by PDVSA. There was a leak from Swiss bank HSBC releasing a list of bank account owners and their respective balances. Venezuela ranked as the third country in the world with the most funds deposited (over $14 billion!), most of them made by the government between 2005 and 2009.

Indicators

Bs. 2, 5 and 10 banknotes couldn’t pay for a black and white photocopy. The minimum wage rose by 75%. The economy contracted by 5.7% and inflation rose to 180.9%, the worse performance in America and the highest inflation in the world. The international reserves dropped to $16,3 billion, less than 2003, the lowest point during Chávez’s government, due to the impact of the oil strike. The black market dollar opened the year at Bs. 182 and closed it at Bs. 910.

The post 2015: He didn’t get the support appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

2015: If only Elections Mattered After Voting is over…

Caracas Chronicles - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 17:10

The last time I celebrated in the middle of a Caracas street was in the early morning hours of December 7, 2015. Amidst friends and strangers, the night brought an end to a colossal effort we’d started early in the year. We were enjoying the results of what we thought impossible, our first win in eight years.

When 2015 began, we knew that parliamentary elections were coming, but when and how they would happen was still a mystery. Rumor had it that the government wouldn’t hold elections because they knew they’d lose, and the CNE remained silent.

The unprecedented victory was possible thanks to a team of over 125 thousand Venezuelans that committed to a full-time effort from August to December, with tasks and responsibilities distributed according to their individual skills and talents: volunteers, mobilizers, organizers, technicians, candidates, all of them training hard for months, and working towards the same goal and with a single, clear message. In practice, we had two campaign strategists: the unofficial (and most successful) one was Nicolás Maduro, whose administration caused general malaise among citizens. The official chief was MUD’s executive secretary, who handled his obligations with a low profile and wisdom, knowing what was coming but keeping his cards close to the chest. Nominal candidates focused on getting the votes through direct contact with voters, without a protagonist for the campaign. A machine operating at full efficiency, overcoming the myriad of obstacles the CNE threw our way.

Manipulating the electoral timetable is a tradition of the Revolution. In 2003, for the Recall Referendum, the signatures were collected during the last few weeks of the oil strike and the CNE postponed the process from June 2003, to July 2004. In 2008, regional and municipal elections were held early, on November 23. In 2010, parliamentary elections took place on September 28 for a legislative period that began on January 2011 and, in 2012, presidential elections were moved forward to October 7, obviously due to their candidate’s health. Regional elections in 2016 were postponed for almost a year, while municipal elections were rushed and convened in record time for December 2017.

Nominal candidates focused on getting the votes with direct contact with voters, without a protagonist for the campaign. A machine working at full efficiency.

In 2015, we already knew that we had a broad range of scenarios and the best strategy was an early move to set the beat with a new Legislative Branch. A photograph of a united opposition was taken in El Morro of Petare on January 23, an acknowledgement that despite differences, there should be a common strategy.

By late February, the candidacies of party heads were guaranteed: Henry Ramos Allup for opposition circuit 3 in the Capital District; Julio Borges leading the list in Miranda State; the leadership of Un Nuevo Tiempo heading the roster in Zulia and the most important circuits in that state. Primaries were held in disputed circuits. And early on, we had some surprises too, when the CNE released the composition of electoral circuits, gerrymandered in favor of PSUV.

Along the way, PSUV also included new rules of the game. In July, the government party imposed that at least 40% of candidates had to be women, and the Comptroller’s Office had disqualified incumbent María Corina Machado from running halfway through the year. The TSJ would end up intervening COPEI with an ad-hoc board, while the rest of the opposition closed the month united and ready, thanks to an internal agreement to preserve the potential victory. The goal was avoiding the 2010 scenario, when the opposition won the majority of votes, but still didn’t get a proportionate number of seats. A MUD team created the campaign Venezuela Unida and the rules for the future parliamentary majority were established.

I’ve been actively participating in every electoral processes since 2004. I’ve mobilized voters, I’ve defended votes, collected witnesses’ reports and even handed out flyers – the best one was from 2008, showing a bald Francisco de Miranda; it said “Miranda sin Cabello”. And it was during the 2015 campaign that I first witnessed first-hand the unified strategy and broad diversity of the Venezuelan opposition. Although it is true that some backroom decisions were made on the spot —the so-called “Huevo frito” pact took hold (agreements between AD and PJ) to broker power once legislators took office.

I even handed out flyers – the best one was from 2008, showing a bald Francisco de Miranda; it said “Miranda sin Cabello”.

The rest is history. 7,728,025 voters gave MUD’s ballot the most unprecedented support in the history of Venezuela. A video from Altamira Village with Lilian Tintori telling her “niñitas” that we’d won went viral. I danced in the middle of the normally dangerous Caracas streets, early that Monday. Two thirds of the Chamber that would start legislating in January gave the opposition a qualified majority.

Many elected officials started thinking of their own futures, and forgot about MUD.

The opposition’s relationship to voting has been a long and complex one. Today, the fragility of our faith in the electoral system is on full display. And certainly, the game has changed. But the 2015 win wasn’t a miracle, it was grounded on certain conclusions that I believe still hold true:

The CNE, the government and the PSUV have always been the same thing. They work and will continue to work together. They perfect their techniques from process to process, and in order to win an election, we have to know how to beat all three of them at once. The only two times that this unique entity was defeated through the ballot has involved true unity. December 2, 2007, the Constitutional Reform Referendum, and December 6, 2015 were championed by an active opposition, connected with its citizenry, synchronized around a common goal.

After 6D Parliamentary elections, I’ve only seen that kind of unity twice: during the signature collection process for the Recall Referendum—I’ve long thought that the government decided to suspend it precisely because of that atmosphere within the opposition—and in the popular consultation held on 16J 2017, which left a far broader photograph than the one taken in Petare in January of 2015. But that picture was only relevant for that single day. Upon the first sign of victory, it seems as if everyone thinks their individual time has come once more, and they forget about maintaining and strengthening the cohesion until final victory is achieved.

Back in 2007, we were hobbling from long list of electoral defeats behind us and the fight was won by joining forces. The exact same thing happened in 2015. The government didn’t expect any of those defeats, but in baseball, outs can only be made when the other team knows how to play. Whatever the field, though, without a team there can be no victory.

Venezuela Unida was an experience of true unity and, in my opinion, one of the main keys to the 6D victory. A few weeks ago father Luis Ugalde, former UCAB rector, said during an interview with César Miguel Rondón that one of the greatest challenges for the opposition is that true unity will be a requirement for a transition government, and there’s currently no evidence of that in any of the opposition’s public management experiences. Not even in the National Assembly, we won, installed on January 2016. 

The problem isn’t winning the fight, but keeping the egos in check. I can only speak to how that was accomplished in the electoral arena. As for what comes after… that’s a whole other ball game. 

The post 2015: If only Elections Mattered After Voting is over… appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

It’s Official: Venezuela Enters Hyperinflation

Caracas Chronicles - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 15:16
Original art by @modográfico

According to Venezuela’s National Assembly, consumer price inflation rose to 57% in November from 45% in October – having blown past the classic 50% threshold, the country is officially in hyperinflation.

In hyperinflation, prices rise at a high and accelerating rate, fueled by unbridled central bank money printing and the population’s unwillingness to hold the currency. Latin America hadn’t seen hyperinflation in 25 years and skeptics balked at the thought that it was even possible for an oil exporter, but alas, Venezuela defied expectations once again.

The government essentially doubled the monetary base in November, a jaw-dropping record increase. All the new money was used to finance public sector year-end bonuses, Sunday’s municipal “elections” and the ordinary fiscal deficit. As a result, 12-month inflation rose over 1,700%, another all-time-high. To put things in perspective, daily inflation surpassed annual inflation in much of Europe.

Runaway inflation and the economic crisis are fraying the fabric of Venezuelan society. Households, rich and poor, are cutting back on food because it’s too expensive, especially protein, resulting in involuntary weight loss for three quarters for the population. Roughly half of university students have dropped out to look for a job because their parents can no longer sustain them. Malaria and other eradicated diseases are back with a vengeance. Shockingly, Venezuelans crossing into Colombia by land now outnumber North African immigrants to Europe.

For more than a decade, Presidents Chávez and Maduro wiped out the domestic private sector and racked up $150bn plus in external debt.

Bleak as it is, life in Venezuela will only get worse. Like the national oil company’s production collapse and the external debt default and restructuring saga, hyperinflation is just taking off. Without a complete overhaul, misery in Venezuela will deepen as Zimbabwe-style price increases become the norm and inflation accelerates to ten or twenty thousand percent per annum. Hunger will grow as prices outpace salaries and Venezuela’s $5 monthly minimum wage falls closer and closer to zero. 2018 will be the fifth consecutive year of economic recession.

Hyperinflation will cripple Venezuela’s dysfunctional economy. As production nosedives and tax revenue falls, for instance, the fiscal deficit will rise, increasing the speed at which the central bank prints money to cover it. This is gasoline to hyperinflation, which will make the economy and tax revenue fall even more in a toxic feedback loop. The government may hike the minimum wage to any level they like in response to rising prices, but it wont work. Real wages can’t rise if fewer goods and services are being produced.

The bolívar is meant to do three things – store value, measure value, and be a useful exchange token – but it’s failing on all counts, making it more likely that citizens abandon the currency. Absurdly, ATMs only allow Bs. 10 thousand in withdrawals (10 U.S. cents) when groceries can be thirty times that, and even when shops take debit/credit cards, transactions can take minutes to go through the faulty interbank network, causing long lines. The bolivar’s purchasing power melts away in weeks thanks to galloping inflation, making nominal statistics like the government’s 36 trillion bolivar 2018 budget meaningless. As the currency’s problems worsen, the economy may eventually dollarize de facto or simply break down into barter.

Hunger will grow as prices outpace salaries and Venezuela’s $5 monthly minimum wage falls closer and closer to zero.

On this historic day, it’s important to remember that hyperinflation and Venezuela’s economic collapse were entirely self-inflicted. For more than a decade, Presidents Chávez and Maduro wiped out the domestic private sector with excessive controls and expropriations. They didn’t save a penny and racked up $150bn plus in external debt. What for? To finance consumption, not investment, even as oil prices were at an unprecedented $100 per barrel. They couldn’t stand congressional oversight or accountability so spending took off outside the budget. Behind the scenes, Chávez gutted the central bank’s independence, most seriously in a 2009 reform that allowed direct lending to state-owned enterprises.

Then, when oil prices suddenly crashed in 2014 and Venezuela’s export revenues dried up, the regime slashed imports by 80% over the four years to keep paying the debt and inadvertently threw the economy into a tailspin. GDP fell some 35% and the budget deficit bulged as if the country was at war, making the government completely reliant on the central bank printing press for deficit financing. Now domestic industry is in tatters and the country can’t make up for it with imports, so people are just dying for lack of food and medicine. Meanwhile, hyperinflation is taking off as the government floods the country in new bolívares to pay its bills.

With a likely Maduro “reelection” in 2018 and no talk of economic reforms, Venezuela’s outlook is dire. It’s deluded to think that the criminals that made Venezuela unlivable despite a trillion dollar oil bonanza might somehow stop hyperinflation, stabilize free-falling oil production or otherwise improve living standards. It’s deluded to think that they even want to. As long as Maduro is in charge, Venezuela will continue to walk the path of North Korea and Yemen until it’s global pariah and destitute wasteland.

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Categorías: Noticias

Morir lejos de casa: el exilio médico de los venezolanos

Prodavinci - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 13:11
BUENOS AIRES — Zaida Medina de Márquez no sabía que iba a morir tan pronto. Cuando llegó a Argentina por insistencia de su hijo, resignada a no tener atención médica en Venezuela, los doctores le dieron una esperanza de vida de un mes. El tumor que estaba alojado en su páncreas ya había hecho metástasis…
Categorías: Noticias

Cuarto mes de la Asamblea Nacional Constituyente: la usurpación de la función legislativa

Prodavinci - Jue, 12/07/2017 - 12:00
En el mes de noviembre la ANC dictó la mayor cantidad de “decisiones”. Lo que resalta, en todo caso, es que durante este mes la ANC usurpó de forma más significativa la función legislativa de la Asamblea Nacional: "dictó" una Ley contra el Odio, una Ley en materia de precios así como una la Ley de Presupuesto para el año 2018, entre otras.
Categorías: Noticias

Daring to Break the Silence

Caracas Chronicles - Mié, 12/06/2017 - 16:49

Venezuela’s GDP – Gross Domestic Product – has been an official mystery since December 2015. Requests for official data are ignored or blocked by the Supreme Tribunal, and though the IMF executive board showed Venezuela a Yellow Card on Transparency, we’re not quite sure when we’ll be seeing updated data on the BCV and INE websites.

Well, guess what? Waiting for the GDP data might be a thing of the past.

The Finance Committee of the National Assembly just surprised us with an unprecedented initiative: they’ll now calculate both the “Consumer Price Index of the National Assembly” and the “Monthly Economic Activity Indicator of the National Assembly”.

El IAEMAN es un índice coincidente del ciclo económico y nos sirve de indicador del PIB y su comportamiento. Ante la política de ocultamiento del BCV, acá un indicador del colapso económico socialista a partir de 2015! pic.twitter.com/VkkCOQoVuw

— Angel Alvarado (@AngelAlvaradoR) December 5, 2017

This is not a GDP indicator per se, but a “coincident indicator” of the economic cycle, providing hints on the behavior of GDP.

The idea is to create a proxy barometer from the publicly available data: the number of active oil rigs (published by Baker-Hughes), PDVSA’s oil production volume (published by OPEC), vehicle sales (published by CAVENEZ), deposits in public institutions (according to the BCV balance sheet), the total credit portfolio (published by SUDEBAN), deposits from the public (published by SUDEBAN), collection of value added tax (IVA, published by SENIAT), and many other charts.

There’s some precedent for this approach; the Central Bank measures a Monthly Economic Activity Indicator for 75% of the activities that compose the GDP. It’s just that – surprise, surprise! – it doesn’t publish it.

Here are the main results for 2017:

Índice de Actividad Económica de la AN (IAEMAN): Venezuela acumula 15 trimestres de recesión económica. Con una contracción de 24,5% entre 2012-2017 y una caída de la actividad económica de 12,0% en los 9 primeros meses de 2017. pic.twitter.com/CnM6I8rQC7

— Angel Alvarado (@AngelAlvaradoR) December 5, 2017

Venezuela has been in recession for 15 quarters straight. Economic activity shrank by 12% in the first nine months of 2017, and has contracted 24.5% between 2012 and september 2017. In per capita terms, it’s even worse, since we keep having babies.

Indicador de Actividad Económica de la Asamblea Nacional (IAEMAN) by Caracas Chronicles on Scribd


This data series has drawbacks, starting with the fact that it has to be estimated using available data that might already be adulterated. It’s not a proper replacement for what should be; the BCV and INE should do their damn jobs and publish the statistics they compile, like the Constitution orders them to. This is just a resuelve.

But in the face of official silence, work-arounds like this become the rule and not the exception. Get ready for more.

The post Daring to Break the Silence appeared first on Caracas Chronicles.

Categorías: Noticias

2014: When Justice became a Weapon

Caracas Chronicles - Mié, 12/06/2017 - 14:22

It’s 5:00 in the morning. Sitting on the bus next to me is Leopoldo López. Hours have passed since we heard the judge confirm that Leopoldo would remain imprisoned in Ramo Verde, the same military prison where our bus is parked and where the preliminary hearing was held. They are making us wait to sign the ruling, even though it was long ago drafted and we just witnessed its execution.

In Venezuela, justice is a lot like this bus. It’s falling apart, it’s rotten, and it’s driven by the incompetent. On this bus, as in the country, there’s no space for Human Rights.

The night started a week before, on February 12th, 2014, when Leopoldo, María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma, the main figures of the La Salida movement, joined a student demonstration asking for the liberation of the students unfairly detained in Táchira. A rally in Plaza Venezuela, a few speeches and the all too familiar route for marches (Plaza Venezuela/Avenida Libertador/Avenida México), to end in the Ministerio Publico, where our then-complicit Prosecutor General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, had her office.

Demonstrators arrived peacefully. Not much paraphernalia, a few handheld loudspeakers pointed at the classic closed doors and no one inside to answer them. Time went by, speeches were given and Luisa remained a no-show. From the roof of an SUV, Leopoldo López declared “We came in peace and we’ll leave in peace.” It would be the last time an opposition rally could walk freely in downtown Caracas.

As most people that had been in attendance, Leopoldo was riding the subway when the news of the shots came. Less than two hours after the demonstration ended, and without much investigation, Luisa Ortega went on TV blaming “political factors” for the violence, falsely saying that the Ministerio Publico caught fire and lamenting that their lives had been at risk. No words for Bassil Dacosta and Robert Redman, young Venezuelans murdered by government officers minutes earlier. Nicolás Maduro, in a compulsory national TV broadcast, also pointed fingers: a group of “infiltrados” caused the violence and someone had to be jailed.

Demonstrators arrived peacefully. Not much paraphernalia, a few handheld loudspeakers pointed at the classic closed doors.

This is how the Prosecutor General and SEBIN, the secret police, created the script. La Salida, Leopoldo López, María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma (among others) were guilty.

Leopoldo would be cast as public enemy number one, and dozens of students were arbitrarily detained, tortured and harmed by law enforcement officers. A few were held just to be tried, just so they could have scapegoats on whom to blame the crimes supposedly orchestrated by the alleged villain. The regularly sluggish Venezuelan justice issued arrest orders and search warrants: the witchhunt was on.

A couple of days later, a report from Ultimas Noticias would unveil how SEBIN and the Interior Ministry were responsible for the violence. It didn’t matter: the second in command of Voluntad Popular, Carlos Vecchio, was implicated (he would later flee the country) and Leopoldo himself was taken hostage by Nicolás Maduro’s government. Driven to Ramo Verde by one of his high-ranking kidnappers, we would end up on the bus, after a whole day in the Palacio de Justicia. Rules of procedure didn’t apply, we were told, and the hearing was held on a bus parked at the entrance of a military jail.

A year and a half later, after being isolated and tortured, Leopoldo López was sentenced to 13 years, 9 months, 7 days and 12 hours of jail, to be served in Ramo Verde; the sham trial, biased and full of vices, came to an end after only allowing one piece of evidence provided by the defense (against a fabricated 138 from the prosecution). A year later, the appeal was dismissed without further revision and, in February 2017, the Supreme Tribunal would deny the appeal. To this day, Leopoldo remains under house arrest with harsh restrictions, banned from making any kind of public statement.

The witch-hunt wasn’t over, though, and that unorthodox hearing was the first of many unfair procedures to eliminate and intimidate all political opposition.

San Cristóbal and San Diego mayors, Daniel Ceballos and Enzo Scarano, were removed from office and detained with “express trials” for allowing citizens to exercise their legitimate right to free speech and their right to public demonstrations within their municipalities. A few months later, Diosdado Cabello would arbitrarily dismiss María Corina Machado from the National Assembly, stripping her of her parliamentary immunity and publicly charging her with a conspiracy to assassinate the president. Without a grain of legality the most voted member of the parliament was removed. Harsh restrictions would be imposed on Machado. To this day, those restrictions prevent her from traveling outside the country.

A year and a half later, after being isolated and tortured, Leopoldo López was sentenced to 13 years, 9 months, 7 days and 12 hours of jail.

Antonio Ledezma was next, arrested in early 2015 on a bogus case of conspiracy theories. He would suffer the same fate of Leopoldo, with an unjust trial and house arrest.

It was not just political leaders. In 2014, 3,459 Venezuelans were subjected to criminal procedures for doing political activism or being linked to political parties. Speaking out began to be punished by jail and due process was an expendable warranty.

In 2014 judicial independence died: 15 years of provisory judges, illegal and unconstitutional Supreme Tribunal appointments, corruption and servility had taken a toll. The Afiuni effect was omnipresent and no judges would dare do something different than what was asked from them by their superiors. Law or Rights didn’t matter anymore. La Salida left a very different country: masks were off. Human Rights were disposable and Justice was turned into a weapon used by the government to get opponents out of the way. Now we knew, there were no boundaries to what chavismo would do to remain in power and dissidence had to be silenced.

Three years have passed, new demonstrations have come (and gone). The death toll lies in the hundreds, the list of political prisoners, many still awaiting trial, has grown to an anonymous, three-digit number. At least twenty opposition leaders, including Henrique Capriles Radonski, have been barred from running for public office on fabricated charges. Thirty-six of the seventy-seven opposition mayors in Venezuela are either jailed, exiled, or under criminal investigation. The opposition vice president of the National Assembly is seeking exile in the Chilean Embassy. Luisa Ortega Díaz, one of the key players in the persecution against the opposition, now opposes the government, championing the justice she helped bury.

I still wish that the bus with the blue seats had not housed a sham tribunal, that instead of being parked outside Ramo Verde to hold a fake trial it had been put to a better use, that instead of waiting all night for an unfair decision we had been waiting to go touring around the country to build a better tomorrow.

All we got was a one-way ticket on a tour of Human Rights violations, and justice became the first victim.

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Categorías: Noticias

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