Venezuela - Links
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Alfredo Keller y Asociados
(Investigación de mercado y opinión pública, análisis y planificación)
See the links for Venezuelan astronomy sites at Observatorio ARVAL - Astro Links
Armada de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela
ABC de la Semana
(Semanario Venezolano - Noticias, Política, Geopolítica, Latinoamérica)
On February 4, 1992. Hugo Chávez led a failed military coup and murder attempt
against president Carlos Andrés Pérez and his family, causing the deaths of many Venezuelans.
On March 26, 1994. After 2 years in prison,
president Rafaél Caldera decided the dismissal of the cause against Hugo Chávez,
and released him with his immediate accomplices. On December 14, Hugo Chávez visited Fidel Castro in La Habana.
On December 6, 1998. Hugo Chávez was elected president with 60% of the votes
(40% Enrique Salas Römer, 46% abstention) and was inaugurated in February 2, 1999.
Chávez took the legal oath of office "on a dying constitution" that he "would not respect".
On July 30, 2000. General elections were held.
Chávez's coalition got 66% of the seats in the National Assembly, while Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes
(38% Francisco Arias Cárdenas, 44% abstention).
The Carter Center monitored the election; their report stated that, due to lack of transparency,
perceived partiality of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE; "National Electoral Council"),
and political pressure from the Chávez government that resulted in early elections,
they were unable to validate the official CNE results.
However, they concluded that the presidential election legitimately expressed the will of the people.
On April 11, 2002.
A gigantic protest march in defense of the independence of Petróleos de Venezuela
resulted in 19 death and 150 injured by bullets. The military high command disobeyed orders from Hugo Chávez to attack the protestors,
and asked for his resignation, "which he accepted", according to General Lucas Rincón (now Ambassador to Portugal).
On April 11, 2002, Hugo Chávez was returned to the presidency by a military faction led by General Raúl Isaías Baduel.
45.5% of the Venezuelan population; 10.8 million people, now live in poverty.
On February/March 2003. Hugo Chávez, fired 18,756 managers, engineers, technicians and qualified workers from Petróleos de Venezuela which had opposed the politization of that company supporting the general strike of December 2002 and January 2003 (including 69% of the managers). Petróleos de Venezuela then forbade their employment by the contractors.
55.1% of the Venezuelan population; 14.9 million people, by the end of 2003 lived in poverty.
On May 14, 2004. the National Assembly, with just a simple majority,
illegally increased from 20 to 32,
the number of judges in the Supreme Justice Tribunal to give Hugo Chávez control over the judiciary.
On August 15, 2004. a referendum was held to try and revoque the rule of Hugo Chávez. After a massive fraud,
he declared himself the winner with 60% of the votes and the approval of the Carter Center
and the Organization of American States (OAS).
Venezuela Presidential Referendum - Statistical Analysis, May 2006:
A statistical approach to assess referendum results: The Venezuelan recall referendum 2004
Maria M. Febres Cordero and Bernardo Márquez
This article presents a statistical approach to assess the coherence of official results of referendum processes.
The statistical analysis described is divided in four phases, according to the methodology used and the corresponding results:
Venezuela Presidential Referendum - Statistical Analysis, May 2006
[See also Referendum Revocatorio: Análisis Estadístico (María Mercedes Febres Cordero, Bernardo Marquez y Alejandro Troya, in urru.org)]
Between 1998 and 2005, homicides have grown 128%,
kidnappings in 426%,
executions and gang murders in 253%, on a national level.
Since 1998 the industrial sector has decreased almost 40%
(of 11,117 industries then, only 6,756 remain in 2007).
Unemployment among the young is 18.4%, twice the national average.
Lack of confidence in the electoral system, resulting in more than 75% of
abstention on December 2005, giving Hugo Chávez 100% of the National Assembly.
And, on January 31, 2007, Hugo Chávez was granted dictatorial powers to legislate for 18 months by the Asamblea Nacional de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela.
Accordding to the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV), inflation in Venezuela between May 2006 and May 2007 was the largest in Latinamerica: 19.5%.
At 01:15 on December 3, the CNE announced that the new constitution was rejected 51% vs 49%, with 44% abstention
(with just 9,002,439 votes counted).
See Venezuelans Deny Chávez Additional Authority
(Washington Post, Juan Forero, December 3, 2007)
On April 2, 2008. More than 122 days after the referendum, 1.8 milion votes remain uncounted.
By December 1, 2008, these 1.8 milion votes remain uncounted.
The new article 337 allows the president to declare a "state of exception"
and temporarily suspend the right to due judicial process,
violating articles 10 and 11 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations).
On October 24 '07 the Asamblea Nacional added a "right to a defense" in the new article 337.
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías President of the Republic
On exercise of the attributions conferred on him by numeral 8 of article 236 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and in conformity with numeral 9 of article 1 of the Law authorizing the President of the Republic to dictate Decrees with Rank, Value and Force of Law on the matters that are delegated, ....
DICTATES the following,
DECREE WITH RANK, VALUE AND FORCE OF LAW
CHAPTER I - GENERAL DISPOSITIONS
Range of application
CHAPTER III - OF THE SUBSYSTEMS
Organs of Support
Article 16.- Organs of Support to the activities of intelligence and counterintelligence are, the natural and juridic persons, from public and private law, nationals or foreigners, just as the organs and entities of the national public administration, states, municipalities, the social networks, organizations of popular participation and organized communities, when their cooperation is solicited for the obtention of information or technical support, by the organs with special jurisdiction.
The persons that do not comply with the obligations established in this article are responsible in comformity with the Organic Law of Security of the Nation, and other acts of legal and sublegal rank applicable on the matter, because such conduct threatens the security, defense and integral development of the Nation.
Complete text of the Law of the National System of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, at Control Ciudadano. In English, translated from the Gaceta Oficial number 38,940, dated May 28, 2008.
On June 7, 2008. Hugo Chávez admitted that this law "overreaches" and will be reformed.
Please sign the petition:
From a total of some 9,022,686 votes (34.55% of abstention),
5,073,774 (56.23%) supported the government and 3,948,912 (43.77%) the opposition.
The government won 80% of the Mayors,
but the opposition elected 3 new State Governors (Zulia, Miranda and Carabobo), for a total of 5 (with Táchira and Nueva Esparta),
and the Principal Mayor of Caracas.
Primer boletín del CNE,
Divulgación Elecciones Regionales - 23 de Noviembre de 2008
The project for constitutional reform defeated in the referendum of December 2, 2007,
contained the change to "indefinite reelection".
At 9:35 PM, according to the CNE: Of a total of 12,068,967 votes,
the Yes got 54.36% and the No 45.63% of the votes, with an abstention of 32.95%. [with 94.2% of the votes counted]
A court ordered Álvarez's arrest for conspiracy, spreading false information and inciting hate, judicial officials said.
"The Venezuelan regime has relations with structures that serve narco-trafficking, like [Colombian rebel group] FARC and others which exist in the continent and the world", he said.
The accusations against Álvarez could carry a jail sentence of between two and 16 years, local media said. "I assume the responsibility for the things that I have said and that I do", he told reporters before his arrest.
[See Arrest in Venezuela raises free speech concerns (Washington Post, Andrew Cawthorne, March 24 '10)]
Oswaldo Álvarez Paz was released on bail on May '10.
The break-in resulted from the statements given by an alleged terrorist from El Salvador detained in Venezuela, Francisco Chávez Abarca, in which he implicated Peña Esclusa in an alleged plot against the State. Due process was violated; first, because Chávez Abarca did not declare in front of a tribunal, as corresponds according to law, but in the headquarters of SEBIN; and second, because the Salvadoran was immediately extradited to Cuba, without being judged in Venezuela, even though - according to the government - he was involved in a plot to destabilize the State. It is presumed he was extradited so his testimony could not be falsified in a trial or, so he could not be thoroughly investigated.
In a drawer in the desk of the youngest of Peña Esclusa's daughters, 8 years old, the agents "found" type C-4 explosives with the corresponding detonators. The agents seized the opportunity to steal cash, jewels, electronic equipment and other valuables.
The true reason why the ex-presidential candidate Peña Esclusa is in jail, is his long and persistent trajectory of denouncing mister Hugo Chávez. Peña Esclusa not only has denounced verbally and in writing the civil and human rights violations committed by the Venezuelan government; but has penaly charged mister Chávez before the Public Ministry (for Treason, due to his ties with FARC), he has charged him before the Interamerican Comission on Human Rights (Washington) for improperly intervening and promoting violence in other Latin American countries; and was about to file charges for crimes against humanity before the International Penal Court (CPI), based in Le Hague - based on the information contained in the computers of FARC's second-in-command, aka. Raúl Reyes, killed on March 1, 2008 - due to the complicity of mister Chávez with the Colombian narco-terrorists.
Peña Esclusa has been persecuted systematically by Chávez's government. Was illegally detained in 2002 - also in the headquarters of SEBIN - by direct order from mister Chávez. The States' media and functionaries have advanced a campaign of slanders against him. Chávez himself has attacked him publically in all national radio and television stations. He has been forbidden to leave the country for two years. Has been subjected to police tracking, threats against his physical integrity and constant harassment. The case on the governmental persecution against Peña Esclusa was presented by his lawyer before the International Penal Court (Le Hague).
Alejandro Peña Esclusa, 56 years of age, has no criminal record, nor weaponry knowledge. Has been an outstanding sportsman, getting international titles for his country. Has a stable, well founded, family. Is a mechanical engineer, with advanced studies in financial administration, and defense and security. Was an assessor to the National Council on Security and Defense of Venezuela (CONASEDE). Is a writer and columnist; author of six books, some of which have been translated to other languages. Was a candidate for the Presidency of Venezuela. Is a correspondent in Venezuela and Colombia for Argentine daily La Nueva Provincia. Member of the Philosophical Academy of Brazil. President of the civil asociation Fuerza Solidaria. President of the Union of Democratic Organizations of America (UnoAmérica). Has been decorated in Honduras with the Order José Cecilio del Valle. Received a special recognition from the Alabama Congress, for his extensive efforts defending democracy and freedoms in Latin America. Has been invited as speaker in almost all the capitals in America.
[From El caso Peña Esclusa en breve, Fuerza Solidaria]
A release warrant on behalf of Engineer Alejandro Peña Esclusa is already in the hands of his defense attorneys, his wife Indira de Peña told daily newspaper El Universal.
"Right now, I am having a meeting with defense attorney Alfredo Weil for him to explain me the extent of Peña Esclusa's release warrant", his wife said.
[From Peña Esclusa is released from jail, El Universal, July 20, 2011]
[See Venezuela: HRF celebra el cese de la detención arbitraria de Alejandro Peña Esclusa, Human Rights Foundation, 20 de Julio de 2011]
[See Peña Esclusa en libertad: "Vale la pena sacrificarse por Venezuela", Fuerza Solidaria, 21 Julio 2011]
[See "La reconciliación del país comienza con la liberación de los presos políticos", Fuerza Solidaria, 30 Julio 2011]
[See Prohiben a Peña Esclusa hablar a medios de comunicación, Fuerza Solidaria, 2 Agosto 2011]
Article 186 (Violated by the Consejo Nacional Electoral):
PSUV 95, MUD 62, PPT 2, por definir 6,
Noticiero Digital, Septiembre 27, 2010]
[See The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of 'Raúl Reyes' - Summary, The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), May 10, 2011] (Available in English, Spanish and Portuguese)]
Rumors over Chavez absence reach frenzy in Venezuela
(Andrew Cawthorne, REUTERS, June 28 '11)
Despite the sentence, the former Governor of Zulia will not remain behind bars, because the Court agreed to his staying on bail with prohibition from leaving the country.
Out of the trial, Álvarez Paz said that his trial is "a political case".
[See Hallan culpable a Álvarez Paz de difundir información falsa (El Universal, Alejandra M. Hernández F., 14 de Julio de 2011)]
[See Venezuela: HRF Condemns Two-Year Sentence against Oswaldo Álvarez Paz (Human Rights Foundation, July 15, 2011)]
[See Corte IDH. Caso López Mendoza Vs. Venezuela. Fondo Reparaciones y Costas. Sentencia de 1 de septiembre de 2011 Serie C No. 233 (Juez García Sayán, Juez Vio Grossi)]
"The ruling of the IACHR Court runs counter to the human rights of all Venezuelans, the laws of the Republic, justice and national sovereignty; it promotes impunity and impedes and undermines the fight against corruption", reads the statement issued by the Comptroller General, Carlos Escarrá, Office.
[See Comptroller: IACHR ruling in favor of Leopoldo López is unfair El Universal, Friday September 16, 2011]
[See HRF Welcomes IACourtHR Ruling on Case of López Mendoza, Asks Venezuela to Comply Human Rights Foundation, September 19, 2011]
Opposition presidential pre-candidate Diego Arria said that the lawsuit seeks to protect Venezuelans from crimes which are "predictable" due to Venezuela's situation. He expects a prompt ruling.
"It is a complaint to defend the rights of thousands and thousands of victims of Hugo Chávez. This complaint is neither against the Venezuelan president's office as an institution nor against Chávez as Head of State. It is intended to determine the criminal and personal liability of Hugo Chávez and some of his top aides for crimes against humanity", he said.
Arria stressed that the complaint requires a prompt ruling, in order to prevent new crimes that are foreseeable in the light of Venezuelan circumstances. "I intend to prevent situations similar to those occurred in countries such as Ivory Coast when his President (Laurent Gbagbo) refused to step down."
[See Diego Arria files complaint against President Chávez at The Hague El Universal, Monday November 21, 2011]
"During the presentation of his Report and Accounts, President Hugo Chávez ordered the closure of the consulate in Miami while his government assesses the facts in which Consul General Livia Acosta was allegedly involved."
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Friday announced the closure of Venezuela's Consulate in Miami, after the US government expelled Venezuelan Consul General Livia Acosta last week."
"'Foreign Minister (Nicolás Maduro) advised me to close the consulate. We have shut it down. There is no consulate in Miami', said the head of State during the presentation of his Report and Accounts at the National Assembly."
[See Chávez orders closure of Venezuelan consulate in Miami El Universal, Friday January 13, 2012]
[See US: Closure of Miami consulate is Venezuela's sovereign decision El Universal, Friday January 13, 2012]
[See Henrique Capriles wins opposition primaries in Venezuela El Universal, Monday February 13, 2012]
[See Chávez leaves for Cuba on Friday afternoon El Universal, Thursday February 23, 2012]
[See President Chávez arrives in Venezuela El Universal, Friday March 16, 2012]
[See Chávez to depart for Cuba to start radiotherapy El Universal, Saturday March 24, 2012]
[See Chávez regresa y promete segundo plan socialista al país El Universal, Jueves 29 de Marzo, 2012]
[See Chávez está en Cuba para tercer ciclo de radioterapia El Universal, Lunes 9 de Abril, 2012]
[See Chávez encadena a medios para hacer tertulia sobre 11A El Universal, Jueves 12 de Abril, 2012]
[See Chávez not to attend Summit on health reasons El Universal, Saturday April 14, 2012]
[See Former justice links Venezuelan officials to drug trafficking El Universal, Wednesday April 18, 2012]
[See Venezuelan general Wilmer Moreno killed El Universal, Friday April 20, 2012]
[See Back in Venezuela, Chávez says he completed radiation therapy El Universal, Saturday May 12, 2012]
[See World leftwing closes ranks with Venezuelan leader El Universal, Wednesday July 04, 2012]
"The acusation was thrown by the former magistrate of the Room of Criminal Cassation of the Supreme Court of Justice, Eladio Aponte Aponte, who asserted that the president ordered him to achieve the Commissioners Ivan Simonovis, Henry Vivas, Lazaro Forero and eight agents of the defunct Metropolitan Police (PM) processed by the events of April 11, 2002 were sentenced, as indeed happened."
"The undersigned, Dr. Ramón Eladio Aponte Aponte, former magistrate of the Criminal Court, Supreme Tribunal of Justice, holder of Venezuelan Identity Card number three five one one zero four, attest:"
"It is my peremptory duty to avow you, and everyone,
that I have committed the sin of having issued to the judges who prosecuted you
the order to sentence you to 30-year imprisonment at whatever cost.
I was just following direct orders from President Hugo Chávez Frías, who instructed me to do it".
[See Confession letter forwarded by Venezuelan ex-Magistrate Aponte Aponte El Universal, Friday July 14, 2012]
[See Aponte Aponte: Chávez ordenó condenar a comisarios del 11A El Universal, Viernes 14 de Julio, 2012]
From 6 am on Sunday polling centers started operations in Venezuela,
but voters were waiting in line at the doors of the voting places from early morning hours.
[See Polling places start operations across Venezuela El Universal, Sunday October 07, 2012, 07:05 AM]
The Venezuelan leader, elected in 1999, is seeking reelection to remain in office for a total of 20 years.
[See President Chávez: Hope the process to end peacefully El Universal, Sunday October 07, 2012, 01:40 PM]
"Prepare to accept the results, whatever they are."
[See Chávez calls upon all political actors to remain calm El Universal, Sunday October 07, 2012, 08:38 PM]
The results were disclosed after 90% of the ballots were counted.
President Hugo Chávez was reelected with 7,444,082 votes (54.42%),
while opposition hopeful Henrique Capriles won 6,151,544 votes (44.97%),
announced National Electoral Council (CNE) president Tibisay Lucena late on Sunday.
[See Chávez reelected as president until 2019 El Universal, Sunday October 07, 2012, 10:27 PM]
"We have started to pave the way and more than six million people are looking for future. You can count on me. I am at your service and I want to tell the other Venezuelans (government supporters) that they can count on me as well", said opposition leader Henrique Capriles after electoral authorities announced Hugo Chávez's reelection as president.
[See Capriles: I hope Chávez interprets people's expression with greatness El Universal, Sunday October 07, 2012, 11:33 PM]
Expresidential candidate Enrique Capriles Radonski undertook to continue working for a country full of harmony and with plenty of opportunities for everybody.
"There are more than six million, almost half the country helped me pave the way. I will continue working and you are not alone; there are millions of us."
[See Capriles cheers voters up El Universal, Monday October 08, 2012, 11:04 AM]
Venezuelan reelected President Hugo Chávez surpassed the eight million vote threshold.
Upon review and counting of ballots in 38,066 polling stations (96.7%),
the reelected president gained 8,044,106 valid votes totaling 55.11% of the electorate.
[See Chávez supera los 8 millones de votos El Universal, Martes 9 de octubre de 2012, 12:00 AM]
Referring to Chávez's reelection as president and both the unequal grounds of the election campaign and the voters that the Government was able to bribe, Capriles commented that "the winner was the Government. Venezuela never won."
[See Capriles: "The winner was the Government, Venezuela never won" El Universal, Wednesday October 10, 2012, 11:28 AM]
Hugo Chávez: 8,147,697 votes, 55.15%
Número de Electores escrutados: 18,679,336 (Registered voters)
For updated official results, see Divulgación Elección Presidencial 2012 (Consejo Nacional Electoral - CNE)
15,059,298 / 38,798 = 388.1463 = 388 votes per polling station (in average)
But Miguel Octavio (moctavio) on October 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm (at The Devil's Excrement - Postmorten Of The Venezuelan Election) said: "In my table, we were voting faster than one person per minute, probably two per minute."
The video "Última votação na Venezuela" at O Globo (Brazil) shows how to get a 50 seconds vote.
See ¿Hubo fraude electoral? Cuestionan limpieza de elecciones en Venezuela (Antonio María Delgado, Miami Herald, Octubre 13, 2012)
See El miedo explica la victoria de Chávez en Venezuela, dice líder opositor Aveledo (Antonio María Delgado, Miami Herald, Octubre 18, 2012)
See Evaluación de los resultados electorales presentados por el CNE (.pdf, María Mercedes Febres Cordero, Bernardo Márquez, EsData, Noviembre, 2012)
On December 16, 2012. the oficialism won in 20 states and the opposition could only keep 3 (Miranda, Lara and Amazonas), and they lost 4 states (Mérida, Zulia, Nueva Esparta and Monagas). The abstention was around 47%.
See Balance de la jornada electoral del 16 de diciembre (El Universal, 17 de Diciembre 18, 2012)
See Top court decides that President Chávez does not need to take oath again (El Universal, January 9, 2013)
See Chávez requires specific actions for respiratory failure (El Universal, January 13, 2013)
Venezolanos exiliados redactan 'Manifiesto de Miami'
(DiarioEnLaMira.Com, 13 de Enero, 2013)
See Maduro: Gov't ponders scenarios, but Chávez remains the President (El Universal, January 17, 2013)
See Venezuela devalues currency by 46.5%; VEB at 6.30 per US dollar (El Universal, February 8, 2013)
See Fidel Castro welcomes President Hugo Chávez's return to Venezuela (El Universal, February 18, 2013)
"The President would have been disconnected from the machines that kept him alive four days ago"
Guillermo Cochez was dismissed on January 17 from his post as ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States OAS after controversial statements about the situation experienced by Venezuela.
See 'El presidente Chávez tiene muerte cerebral desde el 30 de diciembre' (NTN24.com, Febrero 27, 2013)
"Many thought that the return of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez to his country of origin would mean his public reappearance. Neverthless, 10 days after, the most famous patient in Caracas' Military Hospital remains as invisible as in Cuba, with the visits restricted to a small number of close relatives and ministers."
See President Chávez has been off the air for 80 days (El Universal, February 28, 2013)
"The Venezuelan president may have been transferred from the Military Hospital after the poor findings in the latest CAT, Spanish daily newspaper reported on Friday."
See Spanish daily: Venezuela's Chávez off to La Orchila upon recurrence (El Universal, March 1, 2013)
"Hugo Chávez Frías, the president of Venezuela, died after waging a long battle against cancer, treated in Havana since the middle of 2011."
See Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez passes away (El Universal, March 5, 2013)
"Former US president Jimmy Carters praised Chávez's efforts to "create new forms of integration" in Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that during his 14-year tenure Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half and a more effective participation in political and economic life was facilitated to millions."
See Carter hails Chávez's commitment to improving the lives of Venezuelans (El Universal, March 6, 2013)
See Jimmy Carter Statement on Death of Hugo Chavez (The Carter Center, March 5, 2013)
See CNE convenes election for Venezuelan president next April 14 (El Universal, March 9, 2013)
"The dissenting coalition unanimously agreed to use a single ballot in the upcoming poll."
See Venezuela's dissent enrolls Capriles as presidential candidate (El Universal, March 11, 2013)
"According to Spanish daily newspaper ABC, the Cuban agents would be responsible for election monitoring, along with some 46,000 Cuban cooperators who officially reside in Venezuela, with the ultimate purpose of nailing down the Chavista revolution."
See Cuba is said to have sent 2,000 agents to lever Maduro (El Universal, March 13, 2013)
"Nicolás Maduro was elected as the new Venezuelan president with 7,505,338 votes (50.66% of the ballots cast) versus 7,270,403 votes of opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, who gained 49.07% of ballots, said president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena."
"Lucena disclosed the election results after 99.12 percent of the ballots were counted. Turnout was estimated at 78.71 percent."
See Maduro is the new Venezuelan president with 50,66% of votes (El Universal, April 14, 2013)
"Opposition coalition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles on Monday firmly stated that he makes no pact with "a person I deem illegitimate" and called on the National Electoral Council (CNE) to audit all the ballot boxes "so that every vote is counted again.""
See Capriles rejects results as long as all votes are not counted (El Universal, April 15, 2013)
"International guests said that in the absence of a vote recount, Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy is at stake."
See International viewers unable to attest to clean vote in Venezuela (El Universal, April 16, 2013)
"The diplomat warned that there would be "serious questions" if irregularities in the election are found."
See Washington puts recognition of Maduro as elected president on hold (El Universal, April 17, 2013)
"The Spanish Government said it hoped that "within the framework of the Constitution, all political players act responsibly and show respect for institutions"."
See Spain recognizes Maduro as president-elect of Venezuela (El Universal, April 17, 2013)
""We will select a sample (of the ballot boxes)," said Tibisay Lucena".
See Venezuela to audit 46% of the ballot boxes that were not audited (El Universal, April 18, 2013)
"At 2:05 pm Nicolás Maduro was sworn in by Speaker of National Assembly (AN) Diosdado Cabello as the President of Venezuela."
See Nicolás Maduro sworn in as Venezuelan president (El Universal, April 19, 2013)
""Audits do not lead to results; it is important to keep this in mind",
said Sandra Oblitas, director of the Nacional Electoral Council (CNE)."
See Electoral body: The presidential vote is over; the results are irreversible (El Universal, April 20, 2013)
"More than four million votes did not match when recounting ballot by ballot. The Election Day that took place last Sunday April 14 will be remembered because of excesses with assisted vote and several election audits in the absence of witnesses."
See The reasonable doubts about April 14 presidential election (El Universal, Joseph Poliszuk, April 21, 2013)
"Presidential candidate for opposition Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) Henrique Capriles told Spanish newspaper El Mundo in an interview that he is convinced that the outcome of an election audit in Venezuela would lead to a new election, at least partially."
See Henrique Capriles does not rule out election re-run (El Universal, April 22, 2013)
"Minister of Penitentiary Affairs Iris Varela said the Venezuelan government is to report to domestic and foreign bodies what she described as "fascist actions" by the opposition. She said videos and testimonies would be presented as evidence. Further, she threatened to put opposition leader Henrique Capriles in jail."
See Minister Varela threatens to put Henrique Capriles behind bars (El Universal, April 23, 2013)
"The former presidential candidate for the opposition coalition MUD conditioned his participation in the audit of 46% of the ballot boxes on the delivery of the voter's rolls by the National Electoral Council. "If we are denied access to the voter's rolls, we will not participate in a tinpot audit (...) because it is a mockery of Venezuelans"."
See Capriles to contest the results of the presidential election of April 14 (El Universal, April 25, 2013)
""I have no doubt that this matter will be brought to international bodies. Any time soon, our country will hold another election. Be confident and have faith (...) lies are fragile," Henrique Capriles remarked."
See Henrique Capriles to contest election results by May 6 (El Universal, April 29, 2013)
"Gerardo Fernández said that the complaint is contained in a paper of more than 180 sheets."
See Venezuelan opposition contests election of April 14 at the high court (El Universal, May 2, 2013)
"General Antonio Rivero, recently detained, has reported on the alleged meddling of Cuban military officers in security and defense in Venezuela."
See Cubans in Venezuela (El Universal, May 11, 2013)
"Differences noted between voters and votes in Venezuela's election."
"The results released by the board of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) in several bulletins about the presidential election of April 14 exhibit "logic and numerical inconsistencies"."
See Mathematicians claim that election numbers in Venezuela do not match (El Universal, May 9, 2013)
"The Inter American Commission on Human Rights asked the Venezuelan State to commence an investigation into all the reports of death and violence."
See IACHR urges Venezuelan gov't to ensure human rights (El Universal, May 10, 2013)
"The Human Rights Commission, Common Market of the South (Mercosur), admitted on Monday an application to review democratic conditions in Venezuela, substantiated with the violent events occurred after the presidential election of April 14 and the detention of Retired General Antonio Rivero."
See Mercosur commission plans to review democratic status in Venezuela (El Universal, May 13, 2013)
"Experts from the opposition Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) plan to submit this week to the National Electoral Council (CNE) data of 180,125 dead people that remain enabled to vote."
See Opposition introduces register of voters including 180,125 dead (El Universal, June 6, 2013)
"Venezuelan Chargé d'Affaires to the US Calixto Ortega announced a meeting next week with the US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson."
See Venezuelan diplomat: There is a new diplomatic relation with the US (El Universal, June 12, 2013)
"Violence and budget cutbacks are used in attempts to put an end to quality university studies", said the rector of the Central University of Venezuela.
See "There is a deliberate effort to do away with universities" (El Universal, June 29, 2013)
"Output in June amounted to 2.77 million barrels per day of oil."
See OPEC reports 1.35% slide in Venezuelan oil production (El Universal, July 11, 2013)
"The Venezuelan government criticized Washington's endorsement of the remarks made by United Nations Ambassador Nominee Samantha Power, who voiced concern about the issue of human rights in Venezuela. "Venezuela ends the process initiated in Guatemala talks", Caracas said late Friday in a communiqué."
See Venezuela ends rapprochement with the United States (El Universal, July 20, 2013)
Iván Simonovis, the ex chief of the Judicial Technical Police sentenced to 30-year imprisonment in connection with the events of April 11, 2002, was taken on Thursday to Caracas Military Hospital because of health problems.
See Simonovis taken to the Military Hospital for health problems (El Universal, July 25, 2013)
"The Constitution backs all Venezuelans up in disregarding those powers that would not exist, because they would be grounded on an utter violation. The Constitution itself forces us to enforce it", opposition leader Henrique Capriles stated on Tuesday on his live web show Venezuela Somos Todos ("Venezuela is all of us")
See Capriles: 'If passed, Venezuelans would disregard the Enabling Law' (El Universal, August 20, 2013)
See Access to information threatened by decree creating new intelligence agency (Reporters Without Borders, 11 October 2013)
Maduro criticized Luis Vicente León, director of research firm Datanálisis, for blaming price and exchange controls for the current domestic economic situation.
See Venezuelan gov't rules out lift of price and exchange controls (El Universal, October 24, 2013)
This decision paves the way to replace the dissenting congresswoman with her alternate, who, according to her, is ready to endorse the enabling law requested by President Nicolás Maduro.
See Venezuelan high court admits indictment against opposition deputy (El Universal, November 6, 2013)
Until Tuesday, the Government relied on 98 votes only to approve the law whereas opposition legislators totaled 67. However, the inconvenience was overcome two days ago after the revocation of opposition Deputy María Aranguren's parliamentary immunity.
See Enabling Law approved with 99 votes in its first reading (El Universal, November 14, 2013)
The municipal election campaign is "the most outrageous campaign Venezuela ever had in many years; I'd dare say in Venezuelan history",
said Vicente Díaz, a member of the board of the National Electoral Council (CNE).
See CNE director: 'This is the most outrageous campaign in Venezuelan history' (El Universal, December 5, 2013)
The President of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, announced on Sunday the preliminary results of the municipal vote, with 97.52% of results transmission. She reported that voters turnout nationwide hit 58.92%.
"Out of 355 municipalities, there is an irreversible trend in 257," Lucena noted. She outlined that ruling party United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) got 196 out of 335 mayor's offices, while opposition alliance Unified Democratic Panel (MUD) got 53.
Nationwide, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) got 4,584,477 votes (44.16%); MUD, 4,252,082 votes (40.96), the Communist Party of Venezuela, 167,049 votes (1.6%) and other political parties got 1,376,056 votes (13.26%).
In Caracas, Venezuela's capital, the opposition alliance MUD candidates won the mayor's office of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas, and Baruta, Chacao, El Hatillo, and Sucre. Meanwhile, the Libertador mayor's office will continue under the leadership of ruling party PSUV.
See Voters turnout in Venezuelan local election hits 58.92% (El Universal, December 8, 2013)
See VenEconomy: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty? (Latin American Herald Tribune - VenEconomy, December 11, 2013)
Based on this category prepared by Kenneth Roth, the CEO of Human Rights Watch, Venezuela appears in a chapter entitled Rights Struggles of 2013, along with Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Burma, Thailand, Kenya, Russia, Ukraine and China.
See HRW lists Venezuela as 'feigned democracy' (El Universal, January 22, 2014)
The capture of the founder of opposition political Voluntad Popular (People's Will, VP) party, Leopoldo López, on the grounds of his alleged liability for the violent events occurred in Caracas on Wednesday has been ordered.
On Wednesday evening, Caracas 16th Control Judge Ralenys Tovar Guillén admitted the petition made by the Attorney General Office to detain the ex Chacao mayor and ordered the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) to apprehend him and enter his residence for the purposes of conducting a search, police sources reported.
Under warrant of arrest N 007-14, the judge ordered to capture López to sue him for a wide array of offenses, ranging from conspiracy, solicitation to commit a crime, public intimidation, fire of public premises, damages of public property, murder and terrorism.
See Bench warrant against Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López (El Universal, February 13, 2014)
The opposition leader urged the Venezuelan government "to set a deadline to disarm paramilitary groups. No more empty words".
See Capriles advises Venezuelans to stay focus and avoid violence (El Universal, February 17, 2014)
Henrique Capriles said via social networks that he was joining the march from the headquarters of the Simón Bolívar Command in Bello Monte, southeast Caracas.
See Capriles joins march organized by Leopoldo López (El Universal, February 18, 2014)
The leader of opposition party Voluntad Popular Leopoldo López turned himself in to officers of the National Guard at noon on Tuesday, a few minutes after he finished his speech before hundreds of dissenters gathered in Chacaíto, northeast Caracas.
See Leopoldo López turns himself over to National Guard officers (El Universal, February 18, 2014)
Citizens Equity and Rights Foundation (Fundeci) works on a report on cases of cruelty and torture against Venezuelan detainees.
Thirty-seven young people were arrested on February 12 in Caracas during demonstrations. Most detainees were beaten and vexed by security officers.
See Venezuelan gov't to face complaints for crimes against humanity (El Universal, February 24, 2014)
See Cierre de vías 24F (Google Maps. Febrero 24, 2014)
Moscow deems it "unacceptable any foreign meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign State".
"The key is respect for the Constitution and democratically elected authorities of Venezuela headed by President Nicolás Maduro", the Russian Foreign Office said in a notice, Efe reported.
See Russia makes an appeal not to meddle in Venezuela's affairs (El Universal, February 24, 2014)
The Organization of American States (OAS) is to discuss on Thursday Panama's proposal to convene a meeting with the ambassadors of each Member State to find a solution to the crisis in Venezuela, where anti-Government demonstrations have resulted in 14 people dead in three weeks.
See OAS to hold special meeting on the Venezuelan crisis (El Universal, February 26, 2014)
Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organization of American States Roy Chaderton sent a letter to the OAS secretary General to suspend the meeting on grounds that it is up to Venezuela to convene such a meeting in the absence of the chair of the Permanent Council.
See OAS puts off meeting of the Permanent Council about Venezuela (El Universal, February 26, 2014)
Caracas' takeover will be held on Sunday.
"No carnival for anybody here; we will continue in the streets. On Sunday, we will walk up to Brión square (eastern Caracas)", exclaimed Juan Requesens, the president of the Federation of Student Councils, Central University of Venezuela (UCV). Earlier, he had said once again that students will keep up demonstrating as long as all students are released and justice is administered.
See Students will remain in the streets despite military repression (El Universal, February 28, 2014)
"We have requested the United Nations to allow us to brief on what is actually going on instead of government tales".
See Capriles: We ask the UN to let us tell the truth on Venezuela (El Universal, March 3, 2014)
"There is no formal proposal of mediation from any country".
See FM Jaua: Venezuela does not need international mediation (El Universal, March 4, 2014)
The Venezuelan president rejected any attempts at sending a special envoy from the Organization of American States (OAS).
See Nicolás Maduro severs relations with Panamá (El Universal, March 5, 2014)
The executive secretary of the opposition alliance Unified Democratic Panel (MUD), Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, claimed the Venezuelan president has called on collectives to attack dissenters.
See Dissenters warn Venezuelan gov't actions "sow the seeds of civil war" (El Universal, March 7, 2014)
Two people were killed on Wednesday in Valencia, northern Venezuela, during a shooting that lasted nearly seven hours, according to information released by locals.
See Relatives of two killed in north Venezuela finger the "collectives" (El Universal, March 14, 2014)
The current reality seems to indicate that mass media is allowed to freely transmit information, as long as that information is favorable to the government. In other words, Venezuelans are able to express themselves and share their opinions as long as they are willing to pay the price that an opinion against the government can entail. Nicolás Maduro's statements about "freedom" of speech are clearly misleading.
From Busting the myth of freedom of speech in Venezuela (Caracas Chronicles, March 17, 2014)
Human Rights Watch made an appeal for the end of abuses against students demonstrating in Venezuela.
See Venezuelan demonstrations back to the UN agenda (El Universal, March 19, 2014)
"Over the past seven weeks, students on the streets, supported by citizens, have taken off the democratic mask of Maduro's regime, which has unleashed repression as never seen before under the dictatorships of Juan Vicente Gómez or Marcos Pérez Jiménez".
See "This movement is unstoppable and irreversible" (El Universal, March 24, 2014)
The government of Nicolás Maduro does not let go of its repressive hammer as it keeps banging hard here and there as it pleases.
It sieges and devastates large areas where peaceful demonstrations remain undefeated, mainly in the cities of San Cristóbal, Mérida, Barquisimeto, Valencia, Maracay and the east side of Caracas, the capital. The number of people killed by the repressive forces of the Government now reaches 40, while allegations of torture rose to 59, not to mention the countless wounded and detentions.
See VenEconomy: Hammer of Repression Is Still Banging Hard in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 4, 2014)
"On every occasion the National Guard (BNB) and the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) arrive, charging at us with tear gas, pellets and hunting cartridges, more than 200 people who stay the night in the camp take refuge in a corner, with gas masks; we put our hands up, as a peace sign, and chant the national anthem."
Such is the account of Raimond Julién, one of the leaders of the student camp in front of the United Nations local chapter headquartered in Caracas. The move is set to make authorities know about their "peaceful resistance."
See "We have resisted because they attack and kill us like dogs" (El Universal, April 7, 2014)
Soberanía, an NGO, released a report on its web site (www.soberania.org) on April 3, signed by 17 of Venezuela's most renowned economists, detailing how the official economic and social data of the country has been deteriorated. This silence not only violates the right of citizens to accurate and timely information on important matters, but also disrespects the obligation that rulers and other public officials have to regularly being accountable to the nation.
See VenEconomy: Concealment as State Policy (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 11, 2014)
"Why should renewed testing for the commissioner be accepted?"
See Decision on renewed testing of ex-chief police Simonovis labelled as "gibe" (El Universal, April 16, 2014)
The court ordered prosecuting protesters breaking the new rule.
See Venezuelan top court bans spontaneous peaceful protests (El Universal, April 25, 2014)
A dead calm is felt in Venezuela at the moment; an apparent stillness that, as sailors themselves say, causes despair and portends eventual storms.
And even sadder is the dead calm caused by the helplessness felt by the population in the face of an oppressive State, which has fiercely made use of all its repressive and judicial powers against young - and not so young - people who took the streets legitimately to express themselves against all the factors that have worsened grave issues such as personal insecurity, scarcity and the high cost of living courtesy of the Cuban Castro-communist regime.
See VenEconomy: From Dead Calm to Perfect Storm? (Latin American Herald Tribune, May 7, 2014)
Growing migration of Venezuelans to the United States (215,023 legal residents) has influenced applications for asylum on grounds of political persecution. From 1998 through 2013, a total of 10,706 Venezuelans have sought asylum in the United States.
Over the past 15 years, 2,043 petitions have been granted, versus 3,686 denied. Other 4,977 applications were withdrawn, abandoned or took another course, based on the numbers supplied by the US Department of Justice.
In the past five years (2009-2013) such applications have escalated. Asylum in the United States has been sought by 1,724 Venezuelans; 640 of which were granted, 780 denied and 1,420 took another course.
See As many as 10,706 Venezuelans have sought asylum in the US (El Universal, May 12, 2014)
Upon the consent of the 18-member panel, including 10 Democrats, the initiative will be forwarded to the plenary session of the US Senate.
See US Senate okays sanctions on Venezuelan government officials (El Universal, May 20, 2014)
Iván Simonovis, a former police chief of the Caracas Metropolitan Police who was sentenced to 30 years in prison over the April 2012 coup, on Tuesday went on a hunger strike to reject the court's delay in deciding whether he will be granted humanitarian release due to his poor health condition, a petition filed by his defense lawyers nearly two years ago.
Reading a letter from Simonovis, defense lawyer José Luis Tamayo made the announcement.
Tamayo pointed out that the former police chief was not found guilty of crimes against humanity, as many government officials have claimed.
See Imprisoned former police chief on hunger strike (El Universal, May 27, 2014)
Caracas Mayor Jorge Rodríguez produced as evidence a number of e-mails presumably from deposed opposition deputy María Corina Machado.
Rodríguez showed a number of e-mails, presumably from María Corina Machado. In such e-mails forwarded to constitutionalist Gustavo Tarre, the former deputy regrets the unresponsiveness of some politicians with regard to her dismissal from the National Assembly (AN).
He contended that plotters schemed to kill Diosdado Cabello, Aragua state governor Tareck el Aissami and Minister of the Interior Miguel Rodríguez Torres.
See Venezuelan gov't involves María Machado in new plot (El Universal, May 28, 2014)
"I reaffirm it, Mr. Maduro, neither assassination nor coup. Step down," declared on Wednesday the leader of the opposition movement Vente Venezuela, María Corina Machado, who rejected as a "clumsy scam" the allegations by top Venezuelan government officers that she is involved in an alleged coup and assassination scheme.
The deposed congresswoman said that the top government officials' accusations against her have clearly shown that "the security bodies of Venezuela are a disgrace." She stressed that "the highest political leaders of the revolution," along with the state security and intelligence agencies, intend to persecute and intimidate citizens.
See Machado to Maduro: Neither assassination nor coup. Step down (El Universal, May 28, 2014)
Deposed opposition Deputy María Corina Machado set out a three-step plan for political change.
"It is time to reap the achievements of this heroic deed", stated last Sunday opposition leader María Corina Machado from a platform in Chacaíto (east Caracas) before a modest rally. She announced, along with opposition party Voluntad Popular leaders, "the route for the national liberation".
Machado set out a three-step plan for the "reaping". The first step is to create "a wide bottom-up unity, where every social expression is heard. A unity that allows MUD's (Democratic Unified Panel) parties and leaders such as Henrique Capriles, Antonio Ledezma, and Leopoldo López to be brought together. We must incorporate the students' movement, professional associations, citizens' assemblies, trade unions, grassroots groups, communal councils, and cultural groups", among others.
The idea is them to be "united in a great national movement to reach consensus on the Venezuela we want", said Machado.
In her view, the second step is to "demand the resignation of (president) Nicolás Maduro amid a great national outcry".
The last step of the road map is to "renew a social pact, where all Venezuelans can get together and renew public powers". Machado pointed out that the mechanisms are on the Constitution: an amendment or a National Constituent Assembly.
See Venezuelan dissenters to seek early elections (El Universal, June 9, 2014)
Without a doubt, Venezuela is going through the most serious economic crisis in its entire history: Unbearable shortages that extend to food products, medicines and all kinds of basic consumer goods and key inputs to the industry and agricultural sector of the country. The country is also falling short of foreign currency, making it harder to pay for imports and the debts every time. An inflation rate that may exceed 80% or more by the end of this year. The country no longer has access to credit; not even the one that China used to provide. The options that the country has so far are misery, hunger and pests; or maybe signing up for an IMF-style adjustment program.
Meanwhile, the Government and its submissive public institutions maintain a culpable silence with regard to the accountability and key information that both the Constitution and laws oblige them to inform the population about the nation's today economic reality. A serious, unwise and negligent omission that should lead to legal responsibilities for the officials involved. But, in today's Venezuela, this culpable silence also extends to the Office of the Comptroller, the Parliament and the judiciary system, institutions called on to be the guarantors of transparency in the management of the State and the compliance with laws and accountability, for they are all clung to the "revolutionary" process.
See VenEconomy: Culpable Silence (Latin American Herald Tribune, June 11, 2014)
Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed on Monday at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) its deep concerns over the serious human rights situation in Venezuela, describing it as "the most alarming" the country has gone through in years.
"They (law enforcement agents) deliberately attacked journalists and other people who took photographs or recorded videos of repression against protesters, yet they allowed pro-government armed groups to attack demonstrators. Sometimes they (officers) even collaborated with them" the organization commented.
See HRW denounces at the UN human rights abuses by Venezuela (El Universal, June 23, 2014)
One hundred and five years after its foundation, El Universal gets ready to begin a new era following a change in its shareholding structure. From now on, the Spanish investment firm Epalisticia joins the daily newspaper, presided over by Engineer Jesús Abreu Anselmi.
Founded in 1909, El Universal came out to the streets in a four-page edition under a principle set by its first editor, poet Andrés Mata. Such principle has remained "as is" for over a century: freedom of expression.
See A new era has begun for El Universal (El Universal, July 5, 2014)
Insistent rumours had been making the rounds for some time about the alleged sale of El Universal, Venezuela's oldest and last standing independent newspaper. The sale, for an alleged €90 million, was confirmed this week. The new director is meant to be Jesús Abreu Anselmi. Abreu did very little to establish his credibility and calm fears about ultimate controlling party, when he pointed at Spain's Epalisticia S.L. as the group behind the purchase. Epalisticia S.L. is a €3,500 company, which started operations less than a year ago.
See [UPDATED] Spain's €3,500 Epalisticia buys El Universal for €90 million (Infodio, Alek Boyd. July 13, 2014)
A series of shocking and still incomprehensible events has taken place in Aruba since last Thursday with the arrest of the former director of Venezuela's Military Intelligence (DIM), retired Army General Hugo Carvajal.
See VenEconomy: The Absurdities of the Carvajal Case (Latin American Herald Tribune, July 28, 2014)
On Thursday, President Nicolás Maduro put at the top of the national agenda the start of a discussion regarding an increase in gas prices in Venezuela.
Indeed, this is a necessary discussion to be held in a country with the lowest gas prices in the world (Bs.0.097 per liter, or $0.0015 per liter at official exchange rate and $0.0019 per liter at SICAD II exchange rate, which is equivalent to seven cents per gallon at a time when most countries sell it at more than $1 per liter or $3.50 per gallon).
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's Controversial Gas Price Hike (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 1, 2014)
This is the right time for the MUD to take up a proposal made several years ago by renowned analysts and media outlets such as José Toro Hardy, a former member of the Board of Directors of state-run oil company PDVSA; Alfonso Molina, a member of civil association Liderazgo y Visión; Leonardo Palacios, a Venezuelan lawyer and university professor; Aurelio Concheso, head of business association Fedecámaras, and local newspaper TalCual: that of setting up a "Shadow Cabinet".
It should be noted that a Shadow Cabinet is a mechanism used in democracies around the world, especially in the UK, Canada, France, Romania and Australia. It is about an institution where prominent members of the opposition are assigned the task of following the steps of the Government's main ministers, each one within their own field of work, with the purpose of establishing positions with regard to the actions performed by them.
See VenEconomy: The Venezuela's Opposition 'Shadow Cabinet' (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 11, 2014)
Venezuela has increased the pace of the decline that began during the last years of the late Hugo Chávez in the hands of his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has been unable and has not wanted to amend the diverse and profound distortions that have become entrenched in the country during 15 years of "revolution."
Counting on the complicity of the central bank, the National Executive is vainly trying to conceal the nation's figures of inflation and scarcity. It hasn't released consumer price index data for two months and has remained mum on scarcity indicators for five months.
See VenEconomía: ... And Everything Will Remain the Same in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 19, 2014)
It turns out that Venezuela has reached such a situation in the lack of foreign currency to import products and goods required by citizens to survive, despite the fact of having the world's largest oil and gas reserves with revenues of $90-$100 per barrel due to exports of crude oil.
Unfortunately, the importing process has become vital for a country with nearly no domestic production from the private sector thanks to the misappropriation of lands, private industries and properties on the part of the Government; and that at the same time, it has destroyed all the productive apparatus of the State through politicization, inefficiency, unproductiveness and corruption.
See VenEconomy: The Venezuelan Government's Got a Nerve! (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 22, 2014)
Maduro sneaked out of Venezuela to meet with the man calling the shots in Cuba for over 50 years - and not once but twice in less than a month; and everybody found out about these sudden trips when Fidel Castro himself made mention of them in his column "Reflexiones" (Reflections) published by Cuban daily Granma.
See VenEconomy: Maduro Sneaks Out of Venezuela, Meets with Fidel (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 26, 2014)
Today the presence of the Chinese in Venezuela is an inescapable and increasingly tangible reality. Both countries have signed agreements of all kinds in some 15 strategic areas: housing, industry, agriculture, technology, transportation, telecommunications and, naturally, oil, are among the most sensitive areas, especially since the end of July of this year when the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visited the country and signed about 38 agreements, out of which 21 are "private", meaning that these were not even disclosed to the population, although the public opinion has not been well informed about the rest of them either.
See VenEconomy: The Chinese Have Arrived in Venezuela! (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 27, 2014)
It turns out that the country's goose that lays the golden eggs, or the "very sovereign" PDVSA, would be "studying" the possibility to import light Saharan Blend crude oil from Algeria, according to a report by Mariana Párraga of the Reuters news agency, after having access to a document of the state-run oil company.
See VenEconomy: Is This the Oil Sovereignty Venezuela Brags About? (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 28, 2014)
It is an affront to the dictatorial minds of those who control the Central Government and have taken hold of the rest of Venezuela's public authorities that leaders from the Democratic Unity (MUD) have been elected to be at the forefront of three governorates, and more than 70 mayoralties.
So much so that, refused to recognize the legitimacy of Henrique Capriles as governor of Miranda state, President Nicolás Maduro decided to give rise to the so-called "Miranda Corporation", a body that serves as a parallel authority to the governorate in which he appointed Elías Jaua, the PSUV ruling party candidate who lost to Capriles during the regional elections held in December of 2012.
See VenEconomy: A Continued Coup against Venezuela's Regional Powers (Latin American Herald Tribune, August 29, 2014)
It is a true fact that the Venezuelan government has been tightening the nuts of the freedom of information, expression and opinion for several years now. Three universal human rights guaranteed in the national Constitution are being undermined by this so-called "beautiful revolution".
See VenEconomy: Tightening the Nuts of Venezuelans' Freedoms (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 1, 2014)
Things seem to be taking an ugly turn for Venezuelan citizens.
Something that should not be surprising for anybody because, first of all, it had been previously warned by independent analysts and, second of all, because it is quite predictable that a situation gets out of control when is irresponsibly handled with malicious intentions.
It gives us the impression that President Nicolás Maduro has not made up his mind yet about making the right decisions that would help revive the country.
See VenEconomy: The Ravings of Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 2, 2014)
In order to hide the state of destruction of the economy and the debasement of society into which it has plunged Venezuela over the past 15 years, the Venezuelan government has always opted for the path of evading the issue or that of blaming others for its own misdeeds.
This tactic, used in different areas of national concern and to solve various problems, is made particularly evident by the absence of reliable information regarding the huge number of homicides throughout the national territory and showing much lower figures than those reported by independent agencies instead. Or when, underestimating the intelligence of Venezuelan citizens, government officials deliver opinions with no justifiable basis.
See VenEconomy: The Venezuelan Government's Tactic of Evading the Issue (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 16, 2014)
Last Friday, a judge granted a humanitarian measure of "house arrest due to health reasons" in favor of police commissioner Iván Simonovis (a political prisoner of Hugo Chávez), after serving 9 years and 299 days of unjust imprisonment out of a 30-year sentence for the deaths of the April 11 of 2002 tragic events in Caracas.
See VenEconomy: The Masquerade of the Venezuelan Government (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 22, 2014)
Just five years away from reaching 20, the damage caused to Venezuela -- a country that with its natural resources could have become the most developed in the continent -- by the past 15 years of Bolivarian revolution is unimaginable. It is simply impossible to imagine how far this involution of the country is going to get if a communist state is imposed in Venezuela.
See VenEconomy: The Thin Ice of the Venezuelan Revolution (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 23, 2014)
President Nicolás Maduro left Venezuela, a country that has become a living hell for his fellow citizens plagued by rampant crime, soaring inflation, general shortages and a marked deterioration in the public healthcare system, for a little while to land in the U.S. Empire he attacks - and fears - so much.
He spoke of the climate change, describing it as "the main threat to human survival of this century", which, according to his own words, essentially resulted from "the crisis of a capitalist model of civilization". (But did not say a word about a big "mountain" of coke, a byproduct of heavy oil upgraders at the Jose refinery in Anzoátegui state.)
After his presentation in the U.S. Empire, Maduro and his court are seeking the admission of Venezuela as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, whose nomination on Wednesday was being decided by the General Assembly through secret ballot. Venezuela needs two-thirds of the votes of the 193 member nations to make it in. If successful, it would mark the fifth time that Venezuela occupies this post after the following periods: 1962-1963 / 1977-1978 / 1986-1987 and 1992-1993.
But we should ask ourselves if Maduro will come out of the U.S. Empire unharmed, because President Barack Obama pointed out that his country stands by the political prisoners of Maduro such as Leopoldo López, among many others. Obama was blunt when he said that "these citizens remind us why civil society is so essential", as he reminded the importance of civil society and the people's struggle for their rights.
See VenEconomy: Will Venezuela's Maduro Come Out of the Empire Unharmed? (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 24, 2014)
When Nicolás Maduro finally revealed what the much-trumpeted "shakeup" was all about on September 5, he performed a major cabinet reshuffle that was clouded by the departure of the "king of oil and sheik of the Venezuelan economy", Rafael Ramírez, from three of his multiple public offices (Ministry of Oil and Mining, head of PDVSA, and Vice President of Economic Affairs).
This important and strategic piece moved by Maduro was the transfer of Elías Jaua, the former chancellor, to two newly created public offices: the Vice Presidency of Socialism Development and Eco-socialism and the Ministry of Communes and Social Movements.
What many did not realize is that with these appointments Maduro was taking a new step toward the consolidation of the so-called "Communal State" as outlined in the Plan of the Homeland by the late Hugo Chávez to build the Socialism of the 21st century, in other words, the "Cubanization of Venezuela".
See VenEconomy: A Communal State Moves Forward in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 25, 2014)
After so much stumbling around for months, the opposition Democratic Unity coalition (MUD) appointed Venezuelan journalist and community activist Jesús "Chuo" Torrealba as its executive secretary, a managerial position held by Ramón Guillermo Aveledo until July 30.
This appointment is being welcomed very positively by the public opinion. He has raised endless expectations, and while some critics remain somewhat skeptic due to his communist past, he has brought a breath of fresh air to Venezuela's broad democratic sector that until now had been feeling stomped on and without hope by the momentum of events.
See VenEconomy: Jesús Torrealba - The Missing Link of Venezuela's Democratic Machinery (Latin American Herald Tribune, September 29, 2014)
Venezuela today is paying for the irresponsible and insatiable wave of expropriations which, on the one hand, has taken national production to critical levels and led the country to rely on imports for its livelihood; and on the other, has discouraged investment capital while making the State go to arbitration courts so it can respond to complaints from international companies whose rights have been violated.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Pays for Expropriation Mistakes (Latin American Herald Tribune, October 20, 2014)
The exit to the harsh economic and social crisis that lies heavy on Venezuela consists, without a doubt, of resolving the political and governance crisis in a climate of peace, where consensus, the transparency of the processes, the credibility of public institutions and authorities, and the respect for the will of the people prevail. Unfortunately, these four variables are currently in the tightrope because of a political elite that sees itself lasting in power forever, never going unpunished, and always above the Constitution and laws.
For starters, the ruling elite has marred the climate of peace in the country through the force of a virulent and stigmatizing speech, meant for those Venezuelans who disagree with its policies and governance methods; through an excessive repression and firepower (from the State and its paramilitary groups); through the abuse of the Judiciary to prosecute, subdue and violate the rights and freedoms of those opposing it.
See VenEconomy: The Venezuelan Government Has the Floor! (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 6, 2014)
Last week, the NGO Cedice Libertad, in alliance with the Liberal Network for Latin America (Relial) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, commemorated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with the "International Forum: The Totalitarian Temptation", which had Mauricio Rojas, a former member of Chile's Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR) that got away from Marxism forever, PhD in Economics, Assistant Professor at the University of Lund (Sweden) and former member of the Parliament of Sweden, as special guest. He was joined by Antonio Sánchez García as a commentator, a writer, essayist, professor of contemporary philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), and a convinced Chilean-Venezuelan democrat who opposes any advance of a totalitarian regime in Venezuela and Latin America.
The lectures, among other topics, had to do with the presence of "caudillismo" in Latin America with all its pledges and temptations for magical solutions to the problems of the population, and the reason why many countries fall into these temptations as they end up with terrible dictatorships all the time. Dictatorships that, on the one hand, drag many idealists into them, who in most cases become terrible oppressors of their peoples. And on the other, plunge countries into rancor and division, where the sense of community and civic friendship is lost, while resources are squandered instead of being invested in the development of the country, as has been the case of Cuba and now Venezuela.
See VenEconomy: The Totalitarian Temptation (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 7, 2014)
Now it seems that the method of torture has begun to take root in Venezuela again with the governments of Chávez and his successor Nicolás Maduro. Such have been the outrages with the implementation of torture, especially since the beginning of January of this year, that several international bodies are calling on the Government to return to good judgment, reason and reconciliation between the sectors at odds at political level.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Goes Through the Tunnel of Torture (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 11, 2014)
On Tuesday, during the Perspectivas (Outlook) 2015 forum hosted by the Venezuelan Confederation of Industrialists (Conindustria), a diagnosis of the serious situation taking place in the industrial sector deemed vital for the development of the productive economy and the impact it will have on the rest of the society was made.
The forum kicked off presenting the key developments of this year characterized, among other things, by the severe difficulties in the access to foreign currency for imports (a reduction of 20%), a situation that has hampered the access to raw materials and hence caused a significant decline in production volumes.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Remains Firmly on the Wrong Path (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 12, 2014)
The government of Nicolás Maduro finds itself desperate because of a continuous drop in oil prices that has lasted over a month, surely after realizing that the long oil boom period has come to an end, and that it wasted one of the best opportunities that the country has ever had for catapulting into development over the past 15 years.
See VenEconomy: Maduro's Government is Alone, Weak and Without Resources (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 13, 2014)
A year ago, Venezuela's then-Vice President for the Economic Area, Rafael Ramírez, stated that the Government would "crush" the dollar sold in the parallel market that fetched Bs.60 per dollar. According to Ramirez, the exchange rate went out of control after a "relentless attack" against the national economy since the health of the leader of the Venezuelan revolution, Hugo Chávez, deteriorated in November of 2012. He emphatically claimed that "we are going to crush it (when referring to the parallel dollar), because we are going to recoup all those dollars they are stealing from the nation through over-invoicing or diversion of the dollars allocated by the Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange (Cadivi)."
Another unfulfilled promise! The rate continued to climb, reaching Bs.100 per dollar. For several weeks, it seemed it was stabilizing at that level. Yet, prices of the parallel dollar started to rise again from October 23, hovering around Bs.120 per dollar on November 14; and worst still, no one knows what the ceiling is going to be.
See VenEconomy: No Ceiling for the Exchange Rate in Venezuela? (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 14, 2014)
The deadline for the payment of more than $4.6 billion in Venezuelan external debt service in October sparked a controversy at the end of September of this year. Some analysts questioned whether the Government could - or should - honor these commitments due to the low levels of international reserves, and many thought that it should first pay the private providers that must keep the supply of goods into the country, which are paralyzed for this very same reason.
Now, with a recent slump in oil prices already hovering around $70 per barrel, the question whether Venezuela will or will not be able to comply with the payment of its external debt -- or if it will be able to refinance it in the near future -- is raised once more.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's Controversial External Debt (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 17, 2014)
The enabling laws are special powers that have been granted not only in Venezuela since last century to legislate in times of natural disasters and war situations, but also in cases of financial and economic emergencies. But, since the late Hugo Chávez came to power, these "enabling laws" have served for the President to enact all sorts of laws without the "need" to consult them with the Parliament or the public opinion.
The case is that the four enabling laws granted to Chávez, and that single one to Maduro, have been used to build a wide "legal" network that underpins and deepens the so-called "Socialism of the 21st century".
See VenEconomy: The Sham of the Bolivarian Enabling Laws (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 18, 2014)
Once more a ruler of the "revolution" of the 21st century is cooking up a legislative fraud to keep the country against the wall of failure and economic and social degradation.
On November 13 of 2001, Hugo Chávez passed 49 decree-laws all at once as the expiration of his second enabling law granted by the Parliament neared. Their contents were contrary to an open and dynamic economy, which triggered a general strike led by the Confederation of Workers of Venezuela (CTV), Fedecámaras (a business association) and several opposition political parties on December 10 of that year.
In spite of the fact that Nicolás Maduro never broke the record set by Chávez, only hours before the expiration of an enabling law granted by the Parliament last year, he passed 28 new decree-laws related to the economic area on Tuesday that joined 13 other decree-laws passed in November of 2013 for the deepening of the so-called Plan for the Homeland (a governance program inherited from Chávez that was also signed into law thanks to Maduro and an enabling decree in December of 2013).
See VenEconomy: The Legislative Fraud in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 19, 2014)
Some say that what starts wrong, ends bad.
A delegation of powers that, for a fifth time, fully erased the political plurality guaranteed by a democratic Parliament; that eliminates a compulsory popular consultation provided for by the National Constitution for the enactment of laws; and that obscures the legal framework that regulates the life of the nation. A year ago, just as happened on four occasions during the government of the late Hugo Chávez, the ruling coalition gave a blow to the Parliament.
On Wednesday, closing the 12-month period that enabled him to legislate at his discretion, Maduro put the icing on the revolutionary cake by passing 28 decree-laws that will undermine the system of economic freedoms in Venezuela and hence push the population into greater poverty and despair.
See VenEconomy: An Irrelevant, Pernicious Economic Package for Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 20, 2014)
November of 2014 will definitely be remembered in the history of Venezuela for the grotesque advance of its dictatorial regime.
On the one hand, 28 decree-laws (only 16 have been revealed so far) were passed all at once as the special legislative powers granted by the Parliament to President Nicolás Maduro for 12 months last year reached their expiration date this week. All of these decree-laws clearly violate constitutional provisions and ignore economic and citizens' rights.
And on the other, the Government is giving clear signs that it won't have any respect either for the Constitution, or the political plurality of a democracy or the ideological diversity of participatory citizens to form a Supreme Court of Justice and a National Electoral Council, both autonomous and independent from the Executive Branch. Quite grotesque are all the dirty little tricks and manipulations of the processes for the selection of candidates that will take part of these two institutions that are key to the survival of democracy and the system of freedoms in Venezuela.
See VenEconomy: A Thorn in the Side of the Venezuelan Dictatorship (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 21, 2014)
And now the Venezuelan dictatorial regime is focusing on a new target: the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC).
The IVIC is an autonomous entity created on February 9 of 1959, which brings together the most diverse areas of science (biology, medicine, physics, mathematics and chemistry) in order to find solutions to different problems of the population in the areas of genetics and human reproduction, immunology, tropical diseases, ecology and environmental pollution, among others.
An entity that gave rise to other institutions also of high scientific importance to the country such as: IDEA, or Center for Advanced Studies for the formation in fourth educational level of Venezuelan scientists and other countries in the region; Intevep, the technological arm of the Venezuelan oil industry and developer of Orimulsion; Quimbiotec, a non-profit state company devoted to produce and commercialize blood derivatives; and the Institute of Engineering.
See VenEconomy: Destroying Venezuela's IVIC is No Rocket Science (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 24, 2014)
Among the decree-laws promulgated by President Nicolás Maduro nearly a week after the expiration of an Enabling Law that granted him special powers is the Antitrust Law, published in the Official Gazette No. 6,151 on November 25.
This promulgation puts an end to a pending task of the Parliament since May of 2006. And even though it should be pointed out that at first glance the Antitrust Law of Maduro seems to be better written than the one resting in the Parliament already, the same still leaves much to be desired and doesn't measure up to a law that protects and promotes free competition (Pro-Competition Law) in force since January of 1992. That law, enacted during the second presidential term of Carlos Andrés Pérez (1989-1993), is considered as a model law that effectively combats monopolistic and oligopolistic behaviors and practices and other means that may prevent, restrict, distort or limit the enjoyment of economic freedoms, while protects and promotes free competition. These are real objectives that a good antitrust law must pursue.
See VenEconomy: New Antitrust Law fosters Unfair Competition in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 25, 2014)
Venezuela's penitentiary system has been ravaged by the revolutionary "marabunta" for many years now.
The situation of local prisons is getting worse every day. These are run nowadays by a Ministry of Penitentiary Affairs and managed with partisan criteria under the guidelines of the so-called "Plan for the Homeland" by a Minister who has proved to have a poor knowledge on the matter.
The chaotic situation in prisons, far from being corrected, gets worse by the day. Now, as if the blood bath imposed to other prisoners by the 'pranes' [the de facto rulers of Venezuelan prisons] was not enough, it is added to this the practice of repression, especially against a new type of prisoners: students and demonstrators who have disagreed with the Government, who are being sent to highly dangerous prisons not only to serve their sentences, but for preventive detention while they stand cooked and supervised trials by the National Executive.
A week ago it was learned that Raúl Emilio Baduel (the son of Gen. Raúl Baduel, former Defense Minister and one of the prisoners of the late President Hugo Chávez) and Alexander Tirado, who are standing trial for the protests that started in February of 2014, have been cruelly tortured by troops and custodians of the Uribana prison, leaving after-effects of fractures and burns all over their bodies. The Uribana inmates declared a strike on Monday due to the precarious conditions in the prison and to denounce alleged violations to their human rights and cruel and degrading treatment.
See VenEconomy: Situation in Venezuelan Prisons Worsens (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 26, 2014)
The economic, political and social situation in Venezuela keeps getting worse. And the worst thing is that actions of the government of Nicolás Maduro and its policies don't help in any way to outline a clear path towards exiting the crisis.
On the economic front, a set of 28 decree-laws promulgated by Maduro over the last two weeks will not curb the impact of the slump in oil prices or boost the international reserves, or stop the debacle of the productive sector, or alleviate the drought of foreign currency or the mounting shortages of goods.
What these decree-laws will achieve for sure is to continue bleeding businesses through taxes, to deepen the devastation of the private productive sector, to encourage more waste of resources and corruption, and to aggravate shortages, inflation and unemployment. And in the meantime, the State gets additional tax revenue to try to make it up for the revenue loss caused by a drop in oil prices.
While building this totalitarian wall, the political persecution and repression against the "enemies" of the "Revolution" continues unabated, with a cruelty only seen before in dictatorships from the 20th century such as those of Juan Vicente Gómez and Marcos Pérez Jiménez. The numerous cases of torture and cruel treatment against detainees haven't stopped fattening up the dismal human rights record of Venezuela at several international bodies. The government of Maduro continues to accumulate political prisoners: Leopoldo López, Enzo Scarano, Daniel Ceballos, Raúl Baduel (father and son), Alexander Tirado, Inés González (a blogger with the Twitter account @inesitalaterrible), and now are likely to enter the already long list: Gustavo Tarré (a constitutional lawyer), Henrique Salas Romer (the former governor of Carabobo state), Diego Arria, María Corina Machado, among other renowned personalities from the Venezuelan opposition, over the umpteen thousand alleged coup d'état and presidential assassination plots made up over the last 15 years.
See VenEconomy: The 'Shield' of Venezuela for 2015 (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 27, 2014)
On Thursday, as hinted by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other member countries for several weeks, the OPEC decided not to cut crude oil production as urged by the government of Venezuela on different occasions in a bid to contain a sustained drop in prices over the last five months.
Everybody is aware that Venezuela's special envoy Rafael Ramírez, the current Foreign Minister and former Minister of Energy and Petroleum and head of state-run oil company PDVSA, went on a world tour that included Russia and the majority of OPEC countries trying to convince them of the importance to cut production in order to reverse the continued decline in oil prices. It was also made public all the frustrated efforts to advance the meeting held on Thursday in Vienna, among many other output cut attempts.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Has to Settle with Same Old OPEC Quota (Latin American Herald Tribune, November 28, 2014)
In the middle of the second week of November, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro hastily enacted a set of laws before the expiration of a period of 12 months of special powers granted by the Parliament in November of 2013.
Altogether, Maduro had enacted 51 decree-laws by November 18, 45 of which were passed during his last two days of empowerment, according to the official gazettes No. 40,543 (24 laws) and 40,544 (21 laws), and whose texts indicated these would be subsequently published in eight additional gazettes dated November 18 or November 19 of 2014.
To date, 25 decrees laws have been published, four of which were reprinted for flaws in the originals, including an Antitrust Law and one for the simplification of administrative procedures, due to the fact that the text did not include the repeal of the laws in force for November 18.
See VenEconomy: The Enabling Laws of Venezuela's Maduro in Small Doses (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 1, 2014)
One of the many rights taken away from Venezuelans by their rulers is that of life as the country becomes the new "sea of happiness" of Latin America.
And if the situation of insecurity is serious enough for those who live in "freedom", it becomes particularly virulent for those who have been deprived of it.
Thus the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) expressed its alarm at the situation of violence in local prisons in a recent report, calling the penitentiary system of Venezuela a "tragedy". And this is not an exaggeration, taking into account that prison riots have intensified over the last decade to accumulate casualties of 5,000 people who were under custody of the State.
See VenEconomy: How Many More Will Have to Die in Venezuelan Prisons? (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 2, 2014)
After a streak of low oil prices, and before the inescapable reality of a flat broke Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro has begun his search of money here and there so he can keep the nation's communist revolution alive.
Many of the 51 decree-laws recently enacted by him go down in that direction, with tax increases and other measures aimed at the banking and insurance sectors.
That's also the intention of the assets sale of the Republic, as was the Hovensa refinery deal with Virgin Islands-based Atlantic Basin Refining; as well as the impending threat of selling CITGO, the U.S. refining unit of PDVSA.
It was thought that the urge of the Government in making additional cash would lead it to bond issues backed by receivables from Petrocaribe and Energy Agreement countries (which owe about $20 billion to an annual interest of 1%-2%), since Venezuela may obtain around $5-6 billion through this method.
It was learned this week that the sale of bonds for $4.09 billion owed by the Dominican Republic to the Republic of Venezuela is being negotiated with U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, with the State getting 41% of the total face value of the debt, or an accounting loss of about $2.4 billion.
It was also learned that the Venezuelan government would be in talks with Goldman Sachs to strike a similar agreement with the oil debt of Jamaica with PDVSA.
This means that Venezuela's original sin was to provide 25-year financing for 50% of the value of the oil sold with a two-year grace period and interest rates between 1% and 2% - well below current market rates. If Venezuela had been able to resist until the year 2038, only a few would have understood or realized about the huge gift made to these countries.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's Original Sin (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 3, 2014)
The government of Nicolás Maduro is using one of its hands to push Venezuela down the ravine of crisis, while the other crushes all dissent through its judges of horror.
This year 2014 has been a busy one for the Public Prosecutor's Office, which has opened trials over any allegation made up by the nation's governing elite. The goals of that persecution are varied, and may involve political opposition leaders, trade unionists, businesspeople or academics, as well as journalists, students, bloggers, members of NGOs or human rights organizations, or common citizens complaining or having any criticism against the Government.
On Wednesday, the guillotine from the judiciary was placed onto the neck of former opposition lawmaker and political leader, María Corina Machado, who was summoned to the Public Prosecutor's Office to be "formally" charged for her alleged involvement in one of the thousands assassination plots denounced by Maduro in his short presidential term. This investigation was opened in March of this year and also involves Diego Arria, Henrique Salas Römer, Gustavo Tarre Briceño, Ricardo Emilio Koesling Nava, Pedro Mario Burelli Briceño and Robert Alonso Bustillo, who have been issued arrest warrants for their alleged participation in the assassination plan.
See VenEconomy: Government's Mission - Neutralize the Venezuelan Opposition (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 4, 2014)
A year ago, President Nicolás Maduro requested the Parliament with a matter of urgency special legislative powers so he could fight corruption and his bogus "economic war", which he blames for the harsh economic crisis eating away Venezuela.
Once the 12-month period was over, Maduro had failed in both of these purposes. The economic crisis continues to wreak havoc while corruption takes root across the entire government system of the Revolution.
See VenEconomy: Party On for Corruption in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 5, 2014)
Today Venezuela is going through one of its darkest hours in economic, political and social matters. The dictatorial government of Nicolás Maduro is giving desperate samples of its willingness to continue its unrestrained spending spree in order keep a sinking Revolution afloat.
The facts also bring to light that the constitutional mandate will continue to be violated so that "legality" can be subordinated to a corrupt and amoral political regime and public authorities remain "kidnapped" by the State. This in addition to an increase in repression, violation of human rights and persecution against all political dissenters.
It is no exaggeration to say that Venezuela is going through a dark period in its history that makes it imperative for the opposition coalition to show itself being cohesive, proactive, creative, and ubiquitous to deal with the situation in all corners.
There are no excuses or arguments that could justify an opposition leadership that is weak, fragmented, contradictory or absent from any of the issues vital to the nation. And there are no apologies for a leadership pursuing partisan or individual goals, when the interests of the Republic and the rights of the population are being violated as never before in the country.
See VenEconomy: The 'Four Legs' of Venezuela's MUD (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 8, 2014)
Corruption is neither a new scourge nor is it confined only to Venezuela. This practice has spread worldwide. It excludes neither rich countries nor poor ones, nor governments of capitalist, socialist or communist class.
Its harmful effects not only include the deepening of poverty and misery of the population, but also maximizes the instability of countries, "undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and opens the possibility for other threats to human security".
See VenEconomy: A Blow against Corruption in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 9, 2014)
The harsh economic and social crisis in Venezuela is dragging the communist regime down with it, to the point that its agony can be felt everywhere, in each queue to buy food, medicines, or any other basic product or service, in hospitals, morgues, prisons or government offices.
An agony reflected in opinion polls showing the collapse of the popularity of President Nicolás Maduro and his administration, with a rejection rate of 85.7% and one of acceptance that barely reaches 13%, according to a report released by local journalist Nelson Bocaranda in his RunRunes website on Wednesday. The lowest levels recorded in the history of the so-called Socialism of the 21st century.
See VenEconomy: A Totalitarian Regime on the Brink of Extinction in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 10, 2014)
It seems that the time has come for President Nicolás Maduro and his entire revolutionary court to be held accountable for their actions before justice.
It is not only in economic matters where things have become way too complicated for the revolutionaries. Now it seems that the time has come for those who thought were untouchable and above the law to be held accountable for disobeying the rules of civility, violating human rights, and subjecting their fellow Venezuelans to ill-treatment and torture. All this covered by the complicit and shameful silence of most countries and international bodies such as the OAS.
See VenEconomy: Time for Justice, Accountability in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 11, 2014)
Because of the harsh economic and social crisis eating away at Venezuela as a result of the failed policies of the "Socialism of the 21st century", as well as the brutal persecution and repression against citizens reluctant to embrace the Revolution's "Plan for the Homeland", among other factors, a pest that has grown stronger for the past 15 years in the country has been practically overlooked: drug trafficking.
Venezuela has stopped being a transit country for illegal narcotics to become a territory that guarantees freedom of action and immunity to large groups of drug traffickers.
See VenEconomy: Drug Trafficking - The Other Pest of the Venezuelan Revolution (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 12, 2014)
It's been 15 years (December 15 1999) since the "Mudslide of Vargas" tragedy took place in this Venezuelan state of the same name that comprises the country's Greater Caracas region. Back in that time, 10 other states were also affected by heavy downpours for several days, particularly those located in coastal zones such as Falcón, Miranda and (naturally) Vargas.
This mudslide has been the most severe natural disaster in the history of Venezuela since an earthquake in 1812. The fatal victims of that day - and of at least four days in a row - were counted by thousands (more than 16,000 dead or gone missing according to official records, and close to 30,000 according to some unofficial sources); as well as thousands of wounded and people affected and millions of dollars in material losses of both the State and individuals. A tragic loss that led this disastrous event to its inclusion in the Guinness World Records as the mudslide with most fatalities in history.
But that was not the only indelible tragedy left by the end of the 20th century on the minds of Venezuelans.
That day, thus ignoring the scale of this tragedy and the drama lived by thousands and thousands of Venezuelans, as well as the alerts issued by various State agencies and the state of alarm declared by Vargas' fire department a day earlier, the late President Hugo Chávez decided to press ahead with unchangeable steadiness the completion of a referendum that would lead to the approval of a new Constitution of the Republic. A Constitution that represented the first brick laid down for the establishment of the so-called "Socialism of the 21st century".
With this Constitution, approved with the 71.37% (2,982,395 voters) of the votes in a referendum that registered an abstention rate of 54.74%, Chávez began to blur the Republic of Venezuela (to that date a democratic and representative State) to shape the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which was supposed to be a State with a legal system and room for "social and participatory democracy", and that ended up becoming an amorphous scheme doomed to failure known as "Plan for the Homeland".
The new Magna Carta has been the legal text with more violations, distortions, manipulations and misinterpretations by all public authorities in Venezuela over the past fifteen years.
However, it was the promulgation of that Bolivarian Constitution in December of 1999 what marked the milestone of the worst mudslide in the history of Venezuela that has dragged with its "revolutionary mud" all the values, principles, ethics, public morals, respect for the economic, political and civil rights, and the entrepreneurial and individual freedoms of Venezuelans. A disaster that has ruined the domestic oil industry, destroyed the whole productive system of the country, dried the fields and lands of the nation, persecuted and taken innocent Venezuelans to prison, given rise to an unprecedented diaspora in Venezuela, not punished the responsible ones for thousands of murders and deepened the hunger and misery conditions of its population.
A "revolutionary mud" that has swept away an independent justice system, as much as subordinated the autonomy of public authorities (guarantors of democracy and the respect for citizens) to a political project that began in a communist country such as Cuba.
Today, as never before, the national sovereignty of Venezuela has been violated and tied to the Castro dictatorship, while its population, just like it has in Cuba for more than half a century, plunges into despair and economic and social hardships.
Just like there was an urgent need in Vargas back in 1999 to join efforts in order to rescue lives and properties buried in the mud, there is an urgent need in Venezuela 15 years later that its citizens dig out of the values of democracy, freedom and the right to be respected over their differences.
See VenEconomy: Fifteen Years of 'Mudslides' in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 15, 2014)
Being this the last editorial for 2014, the only message from VenEconomy to its readers should be wishing them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Unfortunately, the critical situation of Venezuela doesn't make this message credible at all.
For starters, how can this be a Merry Christmas for the millions of Venezuelans in their daily suffering for obtaining food, medicines or any other basic product for their own subsistence and that of their families? Or for the thousands who have seen their businesses disappear, or their jobs going down the drain of the policies of a predator government? Or for the thousands still waiting for the State to keep its promise of providing them with decent housing?
Neither can be receptive to a Christmas greeting those who see their families fractured or divided today, because of the loss of one or several of their members to the hands of criminals who go unpunished most of the time; or because one of these members is behind bars, or is being persecuted or harassed by a system of administration of justice at the service of political interests; or because several of them have fled to a forced exile due to the harsh economic, political and social situation in Venezuela.
This holiday season finds Venezuela entangled in the meshes of persecutory control policies imposed by the late Hugo Chávez, his successor Nicolás Maduro and his court of "pharaohs".
Every company, entrepreneur, worker, trade unionist, student, journalist, or ordinary citizen that doesn't bend to the Executive' will may be subject to some of the "laws" that put aside the right of "presumption of innocence" until proven otherwise and hence be found "guilty" by orders of Maduro, any other Bolivarian hierarch or from Cuba.
The country is being affected by all kinds of economic plagues: An inflation rate over 70% by year-end, the highest in the region and one of the highest in the world. Shortages that exceed 30% ranging from food to medicines, and even any other basic product or supplies under the aegis of the nefarious "Law of Fair Prices", or that is dependent on one of the foreign exchange rate systems restricting the allocation of currency, or any other of the dozens of mandatory permits, formalities or commissions to operate in the national territory.
Extremely low levels of international reserves because the huge oil revenues reaped over the last fifteen years resulted in an unrestrained spending spree from the ruling elite inside and outside the country. An enormous fiscal deficit between 17%-19% of the GDP by the end of 2014. With the bonds of the Republic falling to 36 cents. And, as the icing on the cake, oil prices below $60 per barrel.
And what is coming for 2015 does not look any better, but quite the opposite. It's so hard to wish a Happy New Year when constrictive regulations will remain in force, domestic production will continue to plummet, the inflation rate will reach three digits, shortages will intensify, oil prices will remain at all-time lows, foreign currencies will vanish, public debt will be impossible to pay, the budget will barely cover the first quarter, and recession will come swiftly.
Worse still, with the announcement of Maduro that he will leave the political and social issues in the hands of his underlings because he will be fully dedicated to fight an "economic war" against the country, greater political repression, more social conflicts and worsening healthcare, housing, education and security problems are expected, as is usual when control is handed over to dictator apprentices.
See VenEconomy: How to Wish our Readers a Merry Christmas, Happy 2015? (Latin American Herald Tribune, December 16, 2014)
As expected, Venezuelans had a terribly depressing Christmas holiday last year.
The days of December went by with a constant struggle to get all the basic supplies for the Christmas Eve and New Year dinners; to make ends meet after the huge daily expenses; to save a little money from the Christmas bonuses in a bid to save the holiday tradition for the sake of the children and our closest relatives; and to overcome insecurity and rampant crime, which already had taken the lives of more than 25,000 Venezuelans in all 2014.
But, if December was a difficult month for most Venezuelans, January is turning out worse. Widespread shortages of all kinds of food products, medicines, and supplies returned with double the impact during this first month of the year.
See VenEconomy: A January of Uncertainty, Concern in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 12, 2015)
On May 1 1957, it was read a pastoral letter written by the then-archbishop of Caracas, Rafael Arias Blanco, in all the churches of Venezuela. In it, he described and analyzed the precarious situation the country's workforce was going through.
Such was the power of this liturgical piece that he managed to awaken the already restless conscience of many Venezuelans, especially students, thus sparking a series of protests that forced the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez to board a plane nicknamed "the sacred cow" to never return to the country.
A public statement of Venezuela's Catholic Church signed by the bishops of the country released this week once more focused the attention of the population on the rapid political, social and economic deterioration that is plunging Venezuelans into despair and depression.
See VenEconomy: And the Venezuelan Church has spoken! (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 13, 2015)
A statement by the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference with assertive stance on the political, economic and social situation of Venezuela released this week also revealed a more serious situation as is a "moral crisis, of values, attitudes, motivations and behaviors that need to be corrected."
The bishops warned that "attitudes must be overcome as much as the lust for easy riches and corruption, the political pride, the arrogance and hunger for power, selfishness, laziness, hatred and violence." And that "principles of legality, legitimacy and morality that underpin the fabric of social coexistence must be rescued."
Unfortunately, this message arrives at a time when the greatest totalitarian onslaught against public institutions in all the republican life of Venezuela has taken place, thus violating those indispensable principles of legality, legitimacy and morality vindicated by the Episcopate.
See VenEconomy: The Institutional Collapse in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 14, 2015)
One of the key issues over the past 16 years of revolutionary governments in Venezuela has been the indifference and incompetence to tackle the problem of crime and violence, which seem to be on purpose and aimed at intimidating and keeping the population prisoner of fear.
It's not just that in the past two years nearly 50,000 citizens have lost their lives in the hands of criminals, not to mention all the victims of State violence against peaceful demonstrators, but that more than 90% of the cases have never been resolved by the system of administration of justice as culprits get off scot-free taking the lives of new innocent people in the streets of the country.
This indolent policy on citizen security has ranked Venezuela in one of the top spots of countries with the highest homicide rates, including nations amid ongoing armed conflicts.
See VenEconomy: Life is Worth Nothing in Venezuela in Times of Revolution (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 16, 2015)
It seems that something good is happening on the opposition's front, at least in terms of making efforts to build Venezuela's democratic unity right from the logical disagreements of those who understand what a democracy and the respect for differences and freedoms mean.
In this respect, Henrique Capriles, the Governor of Miranda state who at first was distant from the position adopted by opposition leaders Leopoldo López, María Corina Machado and Antonio Ledezma, is looking forward to holding encounters in a bid to find powerful answers that would help counter the bad management of the severe economic and social crisis from the national government. Encounters that have been welcomed by this political trio who have put forward the so-called La Salida (the way out) initiative as a means of democratic political transition since January of last year, and whose mutual agreements will be announced in the next few hours, Capriles was quoted as saying in a radio talk show on Monday.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's MUD Lays its Cards on the Table (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 19, 2015)
The endless queues of eager Venezuelans in their search of diapers for their babies, a single roll of toilet paper, a carton of milk, corn flour, coffee, vegetable oil, among other basic products; the daily protests of citizens in angst are some of the symptoms of an ailing economy suffering an old disease that has killed other nations throughout history: communism, today hiding in Venezuela under the name of "socialism of the 21st century."
Other of the symptoms are the stockouts of companies that have been hit hard for over 15 years by the State's predatory policies of private property, which have imposed tight controls over the national production, imports and distribution of goods and commodities across the national territory. Policies deepened by Nicolás Maduro since December of 2013, when the official looting of the inventories of retailers began as he gave a nod to the so-called "Dakazo."
See VenEconomy: Wrong Diagnosis, Remedies to Tackle the Venezuelan Crisis (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 20, 2015)
Venezuela today lives a reality that just looks like the one shown in the absurdist play written in the late 40s by Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot.
For example, while an entire country has impatiently awaited months for the announcements promised by the government of Nicolás Maduro, which supposedly will guide Venezuela's economy out of the quagmire, Beckett characters Pozzo and his slave Lucky appear on the scene not only telling those awaiting the announcements that these will not be made "today, but tomorrow," but also giving absurd explanations on the general shortages and excessively long queues outside food and drug retailers throughout the national territory, as they announce irrational measures not aimed at resolving the heart of the supply crisis in the country.
See VenEconomy: While We Wait for Godot... (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 21, 2015)
On Wednesday, on his return from a fantasist and failed tour around the world and several days behind his constitutional duties, Nicolás Maduro addressed the Parliament to fulfill the legal requirement of the annual report and accounts.
The first thing that needs to be clarified here is that, in his nearly three-hour tirade, Maduro was unaccountable to the nation because, according to what he said with total impudence, a deputy minister did the job for him the previous week while he was traveling to Russia, China and other OPEC countries.
What he did acknowledge is that oil at $100 per barrel is not coming back and that's the reason why the country is going through an economic crisis, as he tried once more to shrug off the responsibility of a failed model of a country imposed over the past 16 years that gave rise to the so-called Socialism of the 21st century in Venezuela.
This crisis, which Maduro just doesn't seem to understand, led him to announce for the second time in less than a year that an increase in gas prices is required (highlighting that it is the cheapest in the world) and, therefore, he said a debate on the subject must be opened and that his Vice President, Jorge Arreaza, should take care of carrying it out.
From there, many realized from the speech of Maduro that the worst is yet to come for Venezuela.
See VenEconomy: God Helps those Who Help Themselves! (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 22, 2015)
The economic emergency that Venezuela is going through is so grave and its causes and solutions so obvious that brought together some 60 Venezuelan economists in agreement, including one or two supporters of the so-called "Socialism of the 21st century."
These 60 professionals have developed a 15-page document addressed to the National Executive and to all sectors of the country, explaining the reasons of the crisis as they draw up proposals to deal with the emergency. This document was published in the web site of NGO Pensar en Venezuela (www.pensarenvenezuela.org.ve) on Thursday. [22 de enero 2015]
These proposals are based on a reality that is well exposed in the document: "Venezuela requires the establishment of a market economy with strong social and economic institutions, forming part of a democracy where all national sectors will have their doors open to participate without fear in the national development." That is to say, a trilogy of democracy, legal certainty and inclusion.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Remains on the Road to Hell (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 23, 2015)
VenEconomy readers may be wondering whether the streets of Caracas and some other state capitals of Venezuela were filled by citizens during the so-called "March of the Empty Pots" called by the Democratic Unity (or MUD) party on Saturday.
Some say they were half empty. They had hoped that many more people would have attended because of: 1) The serious food and medicine shortages (a situation that forces people to humiliating queues, where consumers are branded like animals to have access to what they cannot find at regular stores and their right to purchase basic products is restricted to two days a week, depending on the last number of their ID cards.) 2) The number of murders in the hands of criminals due to a policy of impunity (25,000 victims in 2014 alone, which represents thousands more than any country at war in the Middle East.)
Others like ABC.es believe pots were full. This Spain-based newspaper stated that this civic demonstration called by the MUD was a litmus test that the opposition party successfully overcame. And it has reasons to spare to call this march a litmus test.
See VenEconomy: Half Full or Half Empty during Saturday's Demonstration (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 26, 2015)
There is nothing more powerful than the voices that are raised to demand freedom and justice for the oppressed peoples, particularly when those voices come from proven democrats of international recognition.
Three former Latin American presidents arrived in Venezuela this week to attend "The Citizen Power and Democracy Today" forum held in Caracas, organized by the leadership of the country's Democratic Unity (or MUD) opposition party.
These three gentlemen are Andrés Pastrana (Colombia), Sebastián Piñera (Chile), and Felipe Calderón (Mexico), three democrats who, undeterred by all the previous insults coming straight from the mouth of President Nicolás Maduro, came to this country to see and suffer in the flesh the rigors of the so-called "Socialism of the 21st century."
They experienced, for instance, how visitation rights of political prisoners are violated at the Ramo Verde military prison in Miranda state, when both Pastrana and Piñera ran into a military wall that, following the orders of the Office of the Vice-President and without any valid reason, denied them to visit opposition leader Leopoldo López, the mayor of the San Cristóbal municipality in Táchira state (Daniel Ceballos) and other Venezuelans in situation of imprisonment. They witnessed the long and obvious queues of desperate citizens at the doors of supermarkets trying to make it in in order to buy some food. They were struck by all the empty shelves found in grocery stores and retailers everywhere in a country that boasts the "biggest oil reserves in the world." And they attended two "very hard and heartbreaking" meetings where they heard about the experiences of journalists and victims of human rights violations.
See VenEconomy: The Power of Three Democratic Voices (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 27, 2015)
Hunger and death are spreading across Venezuela because of a political project that was supposed to represent a panacea for the poor, and rather ended up being a factory of poverty, misery and marginality.
One way to measure the situation is paying attention to the voices of agrifood specialists calling for an emergency to be decreed in the sector; or listening to government spokesmen such as Food Security Regulator Carlos Osorio, who has recognized that food reserves will only last two and a half months, an extremely serious claim when it is clear that there is no guarantee of enough production to replenish shelves everywhere in the country with food products, or the necessary foreign currency to import them.
See VenEconomy: The High Price Paid for the Errors in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 28, 2015)
"Venezuela is a toxic mishmash of corruption and misrule, and a drop in oil prices has resulted in general shortages, soaring inflation and an increase in repression. The nation that once was a role model for populist governments across Latin America, a system installed by Hugo Chávez, is today a typical case of political and economic dysfunction."
This pathetic, but honest, description of the country's reality
was given by Freedom House's annual report on the state of global freedom published on Wednesday.
A trend that, far from going down, seems to increase if we take into consideration the latest statement by Vladimir Padrino, the Defense Minister, with the resolution No. 008610 published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday establishing a new model of military control of public order that includes the "use of potentially deadly force that might as well be firearms or another life-threatening weapon," as a last resort to "avoid disturbances, support the legitimately constituted authority and reject any aggression by repelling it immediately with the necessary resources." That is to say, everyday actions by State security forces that have left over 50 people killed during the protests that started in February of last year are being legitimized and legalized.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's Political, Economic Dysfunction (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 29, 2015)
Venezuela seems not only resting upon an erupting volcano, but violently hit by a hurricane at the same time, even though the country doesn't have any volcanoes or is a tornado area. The alarming and inexplicable events here happen so fast that is hard for anyone to get the chance to digest and analyze their implications.
On Wednesday, for example, the national and international public opinion was surprised with a report by Spain-based newspaper ABC talking about the defection of Leamsy Salazar Villafaña, a lieutenant commander and former head of security of the late Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, who had allegedly requested asylum in the U.S. and would be testifying as a protected witness of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
See VenEconomy: Is Resolution No. 008610 a Cover for Venezuela's Drug Cartels? (Latin American Herald Tribune, January 30, 2015)
It seems that Venezuela's rulers are obsessed with not learning from the experiences (their own and those of others) and stubbornly keep repeating error after error, something that has brought so many hardships to the people of this country.
The warning bells rang on January 21 announcing that the critical situation of the country may worsen further after Nicolás Maduro presented his annual Report and Accounts before the Parliament.
That day, not only Maduro did not report anything at all and repeated the same old broken promises of distribution of wealth for political proselytism purposes, but he also announced that he will step up "inspections" to distribution companies and confirmed that he would carry on with the control policies that have caused so much damage to the national productive system.
As expected, given the grim record of such inspections, the "new ones" seem to continue ending up in new expropriations, more trials and imprisonment against Venezuelans in addition to further deterioration in the sources of employment.
See VenEconomy: Fueling Shortages in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 2, 2015)
Where are they taking you, Venezuela? That's the question coming out of the mouths of millions of citizens, nationals and foreigners, after each unusual announcement or news by the local government on the economy, social and political aspects or investigations of international bodies that involve State officials committing a wide range of wrongful acts. What is serious about all this is that each new event is intertwined with another, indicating that the "revolution" is in full radicalization toward communism.
On the other hand, the economic situation is deteriorating further resulting in an increase of poverty. According to ECLAC data, the Poverty Index in 2013 was 6.7 percentage points higher than the previous year (from 25.4% to 32.1%). General shortages, recession and inflation are deeply felt in the quality of life of the population, not to mention the growing fear of rampant crime.
In response, the Government does not rectify any of its disastrous policies (among other things, remove price and foreign exchange controls; repeal tough laws such as the Labor Law or fully restore the Rule of Law and respect for private property.) On the contrary, it insists on using foreign exchange bands that are sources of more corruption; tighten the noose of controls; apply new criminal laws as that of Customs; return to the path of expropriations and step up the repression against the private sector by setting up civic-military groups that would "fight shortages." Among the latest victims of this so-called "Operation Sucre" are Distribuidora Herrera (a distributor of products of mass consumption), dairy producer Zuli Milk's production facilities, Farmatodo (a pharmacy retail chain) and Día a Día (a food distributor). All of them suffering from the onslaught of a biased judiciary that includes arrests, fines, humiliations and prosecution to owners, managers and workers.
See VenEconomy: Quo Vadis, Venezuela? (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 3, 2015)
One of the leitmotifs of the governments of Venezuela over the past 16 years has been that of attacking the U.S. "empire", accusing it of meddling in the internal affairs of the peoples of the Americas and, in the particular case of Venezuela, of being behind countless coups d'état against the "revolution of the 21st century".
The reality is that the U.S. has shown a certain level of indifference and apathy for the region in the last few decades. Another reality is that the regime of the Castro brothers took advantage of this indifference, through the Venezuelan petrodollars provided by Hugo Chávez, so it could penetrate several governments in this hemisphere and infect them with the plague of the socialism of the 21st century to undermine the democratic systems of countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
See VenEconomy: Bipolarity in Times of the Venezuelan Revolution (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 4, 2015)
Nicolás Maduro took over the public airwaves on Wednesday on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the bloody events that resulted in a coup d'état that launched Hugo Chávez in the public arena.
It's not surprising that in times like these, so opposed to the democratic logic, such a violent event that sought to overthrow a constitutionally elected government and plunged entire Venezuelan families into mourning is being praised.
But it does call our attention that Maduro, evidencing a lack of sense of relevance and ubiquity, had the broadcast in parallel with a Caribbean Series game of Venezuela against Dominican Republic. In fact, many dictators in history have kept the population happy with bread and games, and it happens that baseball has a tranquilizing effect on Venezuelans, something that Chávez always bore in mind.
This "banality" is just a symbolism of the disconnection of the Maduro government from the reality of the country. A disconnection that becomes tragically clear in a new onslaught against the private sector, blaming it for the economic meltdown that has made several food items, medicines and other essential stuff disappear from the shelves of the nation's domestic distribution network (both public and private).
See VenEconomy: Maduro's Government is disconnected from Reality (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 5, 2015)
Venezuela has come to a standstill. Venezuela is dying of inertia and uncertainty. It is perishing for the frenzy, anarchy, violence and repression of all kinds.
Producers, importers, distributors and service companies find themselves drifting and waiting for the Government to define the foreign exchange measures announced by President Nicolás Maduro nearly a month ago.
See VenEconomy: The Disease killing Venezuela Today (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 6, 2015)
The loss of democratic institutions as well as the confiscation of the autonomy of public authorities in Venezuela are the causes of injustice and political exclusion doing great harm to the Venezuelan people.
And so are the automatic solidarities and the discretionary application of laws tilting the balance in favor of a "Plan for the Homeland" that has let a Cuban-style communist regime into the country. The law of the funnel has been institutionalized in Venezuela today, with the interests of the Government located in the wide conical mouth and those of the rest of the Venezuelan society in the narrow stem.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's 'Law of the Funnel' (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 9, 2015)
There are many things that remain inalterable with the passage of time in the Venezuela of the Socialism of the 21st century. One of them is the harassment, siege and exclusion of any opposition leader elected to hold public office by popular vote, no matter whether in the Parliament, a state government, mayorship or municipal council. Such harassment (little or nothing) matters as long as it ends violating the Constitution, laws or does harm to the population.
What is relevant to the elite that has been in power for the last 16 years is to get their political opponents out of the game, to discredit them, to prevent them from doing their job and to show the efficiency and effectiveness that a model of governance opposed to the so-called "Plan for the Homeland" can have.
See VenEconomy: This Game has not changed at All for the Venezuelan Opposition (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 10, 2015)
On Tuesday, Rodolfo Marco Torres (Minister of Finance) and Nelson Merentes (president of the central bank) finally revealed what the "new" foreign exchange types are going to be "for now", after irresponsibly having kept the entire country and the battered Venezuelan productive sector on tenterhooks for quite a while.
As announced by Venezuela's economic duo, at least until the rules of the foreign exchange game are changed once more, three types shall govern:
1. A preferential rate of Bs.6.30 per dollar for priority and essential imports of food and medicines.
See VenEconomy: Another Missed Opportunity for Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 11, 2015)
If something has been evident during 16 years of "socialism of the 21st century" is that education has stopped being a priority, unless the State finds it useful to get its ideology into the heads of citizens.
Evidence of this contempt for education is there for everyone to see: schools and educational centers have collapsed; professors and teachers are poorly paid and poorly prepared; curricular changes eliminated basic subjects, distorted reality and introduced indoctrinating concepts and materials; evaluations and automatic promotions were eliminated, among others.
Perhaps this contempt for education showed by all dictatorial governments is because they know that education is the necessary weapon to stand up to any tyranny.
See VenEconomy: Contempt for Education in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 12, 2015)
This Thursday marked the first anniversary of the student demonstrations that demanded the State more security for universities and a better quality of life for Venezuelans. Yet, things are a whole lot worse today than a year ago. Not only insecurity has mounted, but the economic crisis and general shortages are wreaking havoc in the productive sector and the population, while the rule of law, legal security, the freedoms and democracy have been hit hard as never before.
What's more alarming is that the nation's ruling elite is sticking to its guns, unwilling to rectify the country model in spite of the fact that tensions are felt in every corner, while it keeps insisting that it faces an "economic war".
See VenEconomy: Searching for a Free Economy in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 13, 2015)
A report that representatives of Spain-based companies in Venezuela (Telefónica, Repsol, BBVA, Mapfre, Iberia, Air Europa and Meliá) were summoned for a meeting at the Miraflores presidential palace so they could apply pressure on their government and the Spanish media to put an end to an alleged smear campaign against the Venezuelan government, as well as the harsh criticisms against its sponsored Spanish party Podemos (we can) and the information on an investigation against Parliament head Diosdado Cabello for his alleged links with drug trafficking, has caused such a stir in the public opinion of that European nation.
According to Spanish daily ABC, the representatives of these companies also confirmed they had been warned that, if they don't do this, the Venezuelan government may retaliate against them with expropriations.
See VenEconomy: Does the Venezuela Case Ring any Bells, Spain? (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 18, 2015)
On Wednesday, a year after democratic leader Leopoldo López turned himself in to the system of administration of justice of Venezuela's communist revolution, CNN en Español, CNN's Spanish-language channel, broadcast a telephone interview conducted by journalist Fernando del Rincón on February 8 from the Ramo Verde military prison located in Los Teques, a city near Caracas.
It should be noted that by the time CNN broadcast this interview, López, just like Daniel Ceballos, the former mayor of the San Cristóbal municipality in San Cristóbal state, had been in solitary confinement in a 7-by-7-foot punishment cell for a week, without access to sunlight or natural air and with visits suspended for not letting a group of law enforcement officers wearing ski masks thrash his usual prison cell.
It should also be remembered that López was brought to a spurious trial a year ago without evidence supporting the allegations of him being the mastermind behind a subliminal message that allegedly resulted in acts of violence in the area surrounding the Prosecutor's Office on February 12 of last year. Events that led to protests in several states throughout the country with a death toll of 49 young people in the hands of the State's security forces and vigilantes, and hundreds of detainees (60 of them haven't been released yet and 1,900 are still subject to a reporting regime before a court).
Of all the truths told by López, besides the tough personal and family situations he has faced this year, three stand out:
The first is that, besides him, the opposition mayors, the students and the rest of the political prisoners, all Venezuelans are being held prisoners in their own country over the situation of insecurity, healthcare crisis, and shortages. And that prison known as Venezuela has been also built with controls on the economy, investments and the coercion of free enterprise, as well as with violations to the freedom of speech and opinion that keeps almost 80% of the population uninformed of the harsh reality of the country.
The second is that the prison depriving López and the rest of Venezuelans of liberty today is only temporary. As López told del Rincón during the interview, "...there is no political or social ground supporting this government and that's why (...) it increasingly seeks to restrain communications, it increasingly seeks to restrain dissident voices (...). The Government is looking to sow fear (...). Faced with that situation of widespread persecution, we need to have the courage to confront the State, understanding that there will be consequences, because there will be some for sure".
López is also right when he said that those ruling Venezuela today must understand "that their proposal failed, that they have caused the collapse of Venezuela, that the opportunity they've got from Venezuelans all these years, in particular since the arrival of Maduro in power, has proven to be a failure in all areas."
And he is convinced that the country will "move forward" while pinning his hopes on a "Venezuela soon to be built on the conviction that all rights must be for all the people".
Those are the hopes, the convictions of struggle, of freedom to think and determination to build a Venezuela where everyone will be welcome with the same rights and duties that exist in millions of citizens that the revolution of the Castro brothers, the Chávezs and the Maduros has not been able to bring down.
See VenEconomy: Not Gone with the Venezuelan Revolution (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 19, 2015)
With a growing loss of popular support, and without having being able to tackle the drought of foreign currency, a situation that has Venezuela in ruins and its population hungry; and with growing discredit at international level, the government of Nicolás Maduro and the military elite supporting it appear to have decided to move forward at whatever cost, completely removing the democratic mask without caring about the ways to get the democratic leaders openly opposing them out of the way once and for all.
This way, while Venezuela is being devastated at political, economic and social level by the country's communist Bolivarian regime sponsored by the Castro brothers of Cuba, Hugo Chávez and Maduro; while the country has started showing cracks and the population is being decimated by violent criminals, the government of Maduro has returned playing its favorite dictatorial games and gave a demonstration of its brute force with a commando-style operation in Caracas on Thursday.
Antonio Ledezma, the Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas and an authority of the regional Executive Branch who was elected with the highest number of votes, was taken forcibly by members of Venezuela's political police SEBIN, who broke into his office without an arrest or search warrant, allegedly following the instructions of the Attorney General's Office, as explained by Maduro on a national TV and radio broadcast. Ledezma is being accused of alleged crimes against homeland security, supposedly evidenced in a statement that called Venezuelans for a peaceful political transition in the framework of the Constitution, jointly signed by other opposition leaders such as Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado (the latter was illegally removed from her parliamentary seat last year).
At the same time, and just like every despot acting behind the backs of the people, Maduro took over the public airwaves to make a series of confusing announcements: 1) The Prosecutor's Office had issued an arrest warrant against Ledezma, who would be applied the full force of the law for conspiring against his legitimate Government. 2) Feasible early parliamentary elections with the intention to catch the opposition unaware. 3) An unexpected and unannounced trip he made to Cuba on Tuesday to meet with the Castro brothers. 4) A series of threats he launched against Lorenzo Mendoza, the CEO of Venezuela's largest foodmaker Polar, and Henrique Capriles, governor of Miranda state.
This new witch-hunt conducted by the Venezuelan revolution demonstrates the weakness of a government showing cracks everywhere except for one side: the brutal repression against the democratic sector of the population, which casts doubts about who really is in command in Venezuela (perhaps the military sector)?
Julio Borges, Machado, Capriles and other leaders of the democratic opposition also face prison and prosecution threats by the State, government officials familiar with the situation have suggested. This should be added to the latest wave of arrests of military officers who were allegedly planning a coup d'état, the umpteenth attempt denounced over the past year and the brutal repression against the youth daring to protest in the streets, which claimed the lives of two people and dozens of new detainees this week. Plus the unfounded accusations against the government of the United States for interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
The smell of fear and despair of a government that finds itself lost due to the evident failure of its "anti-management" is what remains in the air after all this.
We just need to wait and see if the opposition sector emerges from its lethargy and responds with intelligence, proactivity, and true unity in the face of this dictatorial unmasking.
See VenEconomy: Will 'Emperor' Maduro get New Clothes after All? (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 20, 2015)
In Venezuela the events worsening the economic, political and social crisis are mixed together like they were inside a tornado of large proportions wiping out everything in its path.
Many objective analysts have agreed on this as they have expressed their concern over the critical and devastating situation Venezuela is going through. Two of them, Oscar García Mendoza, a local banker, and Luis Ugalde, a Jesuit, agree that the situation of the country is unsustainable.
García Mendoza sums it up in his article entitled Resignation when saying that "education, infrastructure, healthcare, the industry, the rule of law, justice, everything, absolutely everything in Venezuela is going down into a precipice getting destroyed".
And Ugalde said in an interview for digital magazine Prodavinci: Objectively, the way things are, "the country looks hopeless. There is no way out with this government. And neither is with the opposition, such as it is. With the economic and social data we have, the situation becomes unbearable as social unrest aggravates".
There is no more time to redress the situation because, as says Ugalde, "if you have a patience in the emergency room, you have to take care of him/her. Then you can deal with the meal plan or tell him/her if he/she can walk already. The emergency is not in 2019: it was in 2014 and now in 2015".
It is as García Mendoza pointed out, "the more time passes, the worse will be the condition of the country, the worse the education of its inhabitants, the worse their health, the worse their competitive skills, the worse its infrastructure ...".
The solution lies in what VenEconomy has been saying on the restoration of the Rule of Law and Justice; on the rectification of economic policies, the respect for private property, the removal of controls; on respecting again the civil and political liberties. In sum, the return to democracy.
See VenEconomy: Venezuelans must not Yield to Resignation (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 24, 2015)
Venezuela today cries from the heart the murder of Kluiverth Ferney Roa, an eighth grader who was shot in the head after leaving school and unexpectedly running into a demonstration in full development near the National Experimental University of Táchira (UNET) in Táchira state on Tuesday.
The 14-year-old teen was born amidst the so-called "peaceful but armed" revolution of the 21st century, an era when the late Hugo Chávez began to show the true face of his revolution.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Breaks Down in Tears (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 25, 2015)
The violent tone, a threatening attitude and repressive actions and persecution by the government of Nicolás Maduro in the last few days are not in tune with a country that requires consensus, inclusion and joint actions urgently in order to get it out of a serious economic, political and social crisis. Maduro starts making ridiculous accusations that range from an ongoing "economic war" to coup plots, all without presenting a single evidence.
One might have thought that when faced with an economy on the brink of collapse, inflation levels close to 100% and the depletion of the central bank's international reserves, the Maduro administration would come closer to the private sector that is still producing and making real efforts to bring relief to all the misery caused by the misguided policies of the governments of the late Hugo Chávez and Maduro. Dead wrong! Maduro has replied with tighter control and more aggressive intimidation against private companies, especially those cooperating in the effort to alleviate shortages of basic consumer goods. Distribuidora Herrera, Farmatodo, Día a Día and dozens of smaller companies, including two chicken processing plants, fell into the hands of the Bolivarian government during the first two months of 2015. Added to this are the intensified threats against Venezuela's largest foodmaker and brewer Polar.
And instead of seeking the participation of the democratic opposition to get the country back on track, the Government is becoming increasingly more arbitrary and repressive. Accusations of a conspiracy against his government involving three opposition leaders are heading in that direction: Antonio Ledezma, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado whose sin is to irritate the delicate skin of the Government with their criticism and public appeals.
Ledezma was arrested and sent to the Ramo Verde military prison on the outskirts of Caracas this week, without any evidence of conspiracy after having signed a manifesto known as "National Agreement for the Transition", in principle together with Machado and López, and now with the addition of more than 100,000 signatures of Venezuelans, including democratic parties such as Copei and López's Voluntad Popular (popular will).
This agreement calls to (a) restore democratic institutions and the Rule of Law, (b) develop programs to address the "social emergency" and (c) implement sensible economic programs. That is to say, no aspiration that seems, sounds or looks subversive or conspiratorial.
It is feared that Machado may also be arrested and indicted on charges of conspiracy. Even though his Primero Justicia (justice first) party has not signed the agreement yet, it has been reported that the PSUV ruling party has started an investigation against opposition lawmaker Julio Borges to charge him with conspiracy and that way remove him from parliamentary office.
That is to say, based on an extensive list of people involved in the alleged conspiracy, Maduro would be preventing the entire democratic leadership from running for public office. Some democracy you want for Venezuela, Maduro!
See VenEconomy: What kind of Democracy does Maduro want for Venezuela? (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 26, 2015)
Friday marked the 26th anniversary of the "Caracazo", the name given to a series of protests and riots that took place throughout Venezuela between February 27 and March 8 of 1989. These events left some 300 people dead and about 2,000 missing, apart from an incalculable economic loss for hundreds of retailers that were looted and burned down.
Back then, every media outlet (television, radio or printed) had reported and documented the looting, riots, the destruction of establishments and presented graphic information of the casualties in different areas of Caracas, Guarenas, Guatire and other cities where the violent protests spread through.
A media coverage that was possible in a time when the State owned a single TV and radio station and no printed ones, except for the Official Gazette. Those were the times of a free press, where the responsibility for information was entirely of each media outlet and the ethics of their managers, always in accordance with the national Constitution. Those were times when the media was not harassed at administrative level, closed down, acquired or forced to impose silence on itself, at least not systematically or as State policy.
Today, 26 years later, the question is the following: how many Venezuelans could find out about the incidents taking place in the country in 2015 with the same immediacy as 1989?
Readers can have an answer by only checking who the new owners of Venezuela's media are today, or by just listening to or reading the headlines on the radio or the written press of national coverage, or by only turning on their radios or TV sets and find a government broadcast covering up events of interest happening in the national territory, and that the only possible way to learn about what is going on in the country is through the social networks or their families living abroad.
For a long time, the State has been stealing TV signals (such as the case of RCTV a few years ago), closing down dozens of radio stations, and media outlets are being acquired by figureheads or friends of Venezuela's socialist process, as have been the cases of news channel Globovisión, the Cadena Capriles media group, and El Universal and Notitarde newspapers, in pursuit of a communicational hegemony.
Just like all those owned by the State, these media outlets have stopped covering news such as the recent murder of Kluiverth Ferney Roa, a 14-year-old boy in Táchira state; or the allegations against Parliament head Diosdado Cabello by Lieutenant Commander Leamsy Salazar to U.S. authorities; or the millions of dollars deposited in Swiss-based bank HSBC by state-owned bank Banco del Tesoro and the National Treasury; or those regarding the "Tomb", an underground prison in Caracas where Venezuelans are subjected to torture; or the endless queues of people trying to buy diapers, milk or medicines. Neither do they report on the huge debt owed to airlines, or the foreign companies leaving the country, or the growing rejection of the international community towards a political regime that is already being seen as non-democratic.
On Friday, after 26 years of Caracazo, another media outlet was heavily affected by the harassment of the Government (seven lawsuits in 15 years), an increased pressure on its advertisers and "several unjustified audits" by tax, social security and Ministry of Labor officials. We're talking about TalCual, a critical newspaper to the policies of the Government founded by Teodoro Petkoff, an economist, former guerrilla, founder of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) socialist party, and Planning Minister during the second term of President Rafael Caldera (1994-1999).
Unfortunately, TalCual printed its last daily edition on Friday and will come out as a weekly edition and on the web on the blog www.talcualdigital.com.
Another objective place for information that will not be available for citizens. Which one is next on the Government's list?
See VenEconomy: Media Blackout Worsens in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, February 27, 2015)
On February 10 of this year, different actors in the national productive sector felt a sigh of relief, including nearly all economic analysts and a good part of the Venezuelan population.
On that day, Venezuela's economic duo Nelson Merentes (president of the central bank) and Rodolfo Marco Torres (the Finance minister) announced a new Exchange Agreement (No. 33), which would involve two separate foreign exchange markets: one of them 100% controlled by the central bank and the other subject to the "controls" of a free market, or at least, one that is almost free.
The novelty here, naturally, was the "free" market known as the Foreign Exchange Marginal System (Simadi).
However, Simadi hasn't started after having been announced more than three weeks ago, which evidences it is no free currency system at all because the Government is the one that unilaterally fixes the ceilings, thus making the same mistakes as with Sitme.
Sitme hasn't started for two basic reasons: Neither the public sector or state-run oil company PDVSA have provided the necessary foreign currency to jump start the market by not allowing sales above Bs.180 per dollar, while private bidders haven't sold foreign currency in the system yet.
Meanwhile, the dollar of the parallel market - a truly free market - skyrocketed trading at Bs.226 per dollar on Monday.
And the criteria for the allocation of foreign currency and the three types of exchange rates remain as fuel for corruption.
The bottom line: once more the Government threw away another golden opportunity to make things right and with this, both the supply crisis and inflationary spiral are likely to get worse.
See VenEconomy: Another Missed Opportunity for Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 2, 2015)
Refused to understand that the debacle of his government and the chaos and ruin of Venezuela is owed to his obsolete political model that has failed in the entire history of mankind, Nicolás Maduro continues to insist on the nonsense that everybody is involved in a plot to unseat him.
Now he is blaming several members of the international community who, alarmed by the growing political persecution against the Venezuelan democratic leadership, the repression against the student sector and the flagrant violation of human rights in the country, have been progressively opening their eyes and urging the government of Maduro to come to senses and get back on the democratic route.
The international media already speaks of tyranny in Venezuela.
Organizations such as the prestigious Club de Madrid, comprised of some 90 former heads of state and government, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), have argued that a "necessary condition" for any democratic system is the possibility for making opposition "whether it is from politics, the media or civil society" as they demanded the release of all political prisoners in Venezuela.
The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies also rebuked the Venezuelan government after the arrest of Antonio Ledezma, the Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas, by adopting a "motion of repudiation" against it for "breaking democratic principles with offenses to individual freedoms and the due legal process". Meanwhile, Uruguayan and Argentine lawmakers keep questioning the human rights violations and also would be raising the possibility of Venezuela leaving the Mercosur bloc.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the MEPs also expressed their repudiation for the arrest of Ledezma and the overall situation in Venezuela.
As was to be expected from an autocratic mind, the overblown and meaningless response from Maduro was not long in coming:
On February 20, Maduro accused "the right wing of Madrid, the far right of Bogota and Miami, of having made a Madrid-Bogota-Miami hub to conspire against our homeland".
A week ago, he lambasted the MEPs when he said that "members of the European Parliament who don't know Venezuela, people without any information of the country, who hate Latin America, come to stick their noses in the internal affairs of Venezuela". And he pointed out that "nobody must stick their noses in Venezuelan affairs!"
But the biggest attacks were launched on the U.S., Maduro's bitterest orange, accusing it of planning a coup d'état, in which several members of the Venezuelan opposition would be involved.
And as "punishment" for this alleged interference, Maduro is taking a series of steps against the "U.S. empire" that include: a requirement for American diplomats to report their activities in the country and request permission from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry so these can be fulfilled; the reduction of diplomatic staff (from 100 to 17 officials) at the U.S. embassy in Venezuela in 15 days' time; the issuance of visas for American citizens, and a report containing staff and former staff members, who will be banned from entering the country "because they are terrorists".
But the worst thing is that in his temperamental outburst he opens a Pandora's Box after calling his supporters to "step out into the streets" along with the Bolivarian Armed Forces and apprehend those who attempt to take power "through violence", while threatening to make opposition political parties illegal and hinting that he will not allow "the opposition to go to parliamentary elections if it is involved in promoting violence" with the cry of "make no mistakes, people!" It won't go to an election pretending it didn't do anything", he said.
Is he looking to repeat the tragic scenes of pain and violence from the past so he can remain in power through a state of exception?
See VenEconomy: Has the Government of Maduro Blocked Venezuela's Democratic Road? (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 3, 2015)
The two rulers of the so-called Socialism of the 21st century are well known for blaming others for their own actions, tactics or strategies all these years of "revolution" in Venezuela. This strategy is particularly being applied to the political movement that opposes its totalitarian model to rule the country.
These days, Nicolás Maduro and his ruling elite have stated that the opposition is planning a coup d'état and an assassination attempt against the president, in which an imaginary group organized in Madrid, Colombia and the U.S. would be allegedly involved.
According to the announcement of Maduro the attempted coup, which included a heavily armed "Tucán" training aircraft that would have come from abroad to kill him and other leaders of the PSUV during one of the Youth Day events on February 12, was foiled by his intelligence corps. The aftermath of this umpteenth assassination plot against the Venezuelan president without any kind of evidence in these past sixteen years, apart from a series of measures against the U.S. and its Diplomatic Corps, has been: the arrest of Antonio Ledezma, the Metropolitan Mayor of Caracas, today being held in the Ramo Verde military prison; arrest threats against opposition leaders Julio Borges and María Corina Machado; violent repressive actions against students with more dead, wounded and arrested people; and the threats of Maduro to disable political parties, including the Democratic Unity, so he can prevent a "double game" allegedly played by the majority of political leaders in this country, which means to conspire against him and stand for election at the same time.
With this threat, as repeated in several of his speeches and various scenarios, Maduro is projecting and transferring his own intentions to the opposition, also making evident that the opposition will never take power "by hook or by crook".
Everything seems to indicate that the Government would be tempted to pull the plug on the parliamentary elections to be held this year, should polls continue to show that the population rejects the Maduro administration and the possibility of losing the Parliament, even with the machinations of the biased electoral authority that has helped Venezuela's communist regime gain important ground in the last fifteen years.
See VenEconomy: Will the Venezuelan Government Pull the Plug on the Parliamentary Elections this year? (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 4, 2015)
On Thursday, at 4:25 in the morning, it was heard a bugle call in all the barracks of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces. This bugle call sounded like one of the tributes that the government of Venezuela paid to Hugo Chávez, the "eternal commander" who created the so-called "socialism of the 21st century", on the second anniversary of the announcement of his death.
It would have been fairer if that tribute was paid to the nearly 300,000 people murdered in the hands of violent criminals in the past 16 years. Or to Franklin Brito, a local farmer who Chávez let die of starvation for defending his principles and rights. Or to the 195 political prisoners of Chávez (including Gen. Francisco Usón, the police commissioners Lázaro Forero, Iván Simonovis and Henry Vivas, the eight Metropolitan Police officers, the former Supreme Court justice María de Lourdes Afuini and Gen. Raúl Isaías Baduel, among many others.)
Or to the more than 20,000 workers that Chávez had fired from state-run oil company PDVSA and other thousands of Venezuelans who he carried out his apartheid policy and denied them the right to work. Or to all those children living in the streets today who he vowed to get off the public roads and take out of a situation of starvation and misery. Or to the thousands of citizens still waiting for the decent houses that he promised years ago.
Obviously, it's a pipe dream to expect that the government of Nicolás Maduro would sound the bugle for these and other thousands of Venezuelans who Chávez himself stripped from their most basic civil, economic and political rights for the sake of implementing his so-called "Plan for the Homeland". We must not forget that Maduro is his "rightful heir" who is enhancing his rule through repression and violence because of his lack of charisma, grassroots support and resources.
Now then, Chávez would have deserved a "tribute" as long as he had fulfilled at least some of the fine promises he made to fight corruption, promote social justice, the inclusion of the most disadvantaged ones and, of course, his commitment to the democratic values that led him to power through popular vote in December of 1998.
But he never did, in spite of the fact that these were promises he could have easily fulfilled. Chávez not only boasted an undeniable charisma and had the power of a snake charmer with which he would have been able to sell the necessary measures to correct the existing economic and social distortions in Venezuela. He also counted on the support of most part of the population, and with almost all the media hoping for a shift toward progress. Apart from the fact that he counted on the vast resources from oil revenues and that he contributed, in principle, good ideas for promoting social justice.
Unfortunately, Chávez chose the wrong path and rather than leading Venezuela to progress, he condemned it to misery, a historic retrogression and plunged it into a pit of rampant corruption.
His grim legacy is palpable today in the misfortunes besetting every single Venezuelan. His legacy is in the huge social debt reflected in the poverty figures that are comparable today with the worst years of the 20th century; in the deterioration of the healthcare system, in the huge housing deficit and in the already incalculable homicide figures. It is also palpable in an unjustifiable drop in oil production, in the devastation of the national production system, as well as in an inflation rate hovering around 60% and in general shortages never seen before in the history of the country. And verifiable in the unstoppable spiral of political prisoners that includes opposition leaders and mayors, and in a biased judiciary system that sentenced Raúl Baduel (the son of Gen. Baduel) and popular leader Alexander "Gato" Tirado to eight years in prison on Wednesday just for protesting against the government of Maduro.
His history will be darkened by the destruction of democratic values, ethical principles that have made the citizen coexistence feasible; by the systematic violation of human rights, economic freedom and private property.
History shall not pay tribute to Chávez with a bugle call.
See VenEconomy: The Legacy of the 'Eternal Commander' Hugo Chávez (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 5, 2015)
The foreign exchange issue is going from bad to worse in Venezuela as the country's economy keeps hanging by a thin thread. Should it break, Venezuelans would have to deal with the worst economic and social crisis in its entire history.
As expected, none of the economic officials of Nicolás Maduro heading the new Marginal Currency System (Simadi) has been able to jump start this new foreign exchange mechanism.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's Economy is hanging by a Thin Thread (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 6, 2015)
Knowing that the sun is on its back, the government of Nicolás Maduro has not been able to find a way to show the world that the misfortunes of Venezuela come from the American "empire" other than by "taking drastic measures" against that country, and shrug off its responsibility for the current debacle of the nation.
First of all, it is demanding the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela to reduce its diplomatic staff members from more than 100 to 17 in a period of 15 days. This is a case of reciprocity with the number of diplomats Venezuela has in the U.S. that was understated because, including consulates, there are 74 Venezuelan diplomats in the U.S., according to spokespersons of the Department of State.
Then through a resolution published in the Official Gazette on February 28, it prohibited consulates to issue entry visas to seven conservative current and former staff members of the U.S.: former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, and congressmen Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros Lehtinen.
Even more bizarre, for the intemperance of the measures, are the visa requirements for American tourists to enter Venezuela. It should be noted that the requirements for U.S. tourists are a mirror of those required for Venezuelan tourists, and from other parts of the world, traveling to that country.
See VenEconomy: The Intemperance of Venezuela's 'Anti-Imperialist' Measures (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 9, 2015)
Monday wrote another chapter in the confrontation between Venezuela and the U.S. since the late President Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. A confrontation that has gotten worse during the last year in office of Nicolás Maduro after a series of violations committed by his government against the human rights of protesting students and political leaders from the opposition.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order on Monday punishing seven Venezuelan government officials by freezing their assets in the U.S., also banning them from entering the country. Six of them are military officers that currently hold, or once did, key positions in State security agencies during the student protests that took place throughout the country since February of last year, and that left a death toll of 43, hundreds of injured and more than 3,000 detainees, 60 of whom are still in prison. The seventh official sanctioned by the Obama administration is Katherine Nayarith Harringhton Padrón, a National Prosecutor of the Public Ministry, who, among other people, accused student leader Gómez Saleh of committing offenses referred to in the laws against Corruption, Aliens and Immigration, and the Special Computer Crime Law, as well as student leader Gaby Arellano, the Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma and former opposition lawmaker María Corina Machado of conspiracy and planning a presidential assassination with evidence that has been allegedly falsified.
This executive order is the second issued by the Obama administration since the "Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014", signed into law on December 18 of that same year, which according to a statement released by the Obama administration reflects its commitment to "advancing respect for human rights, safeguarding democratic institutions, and protecting the U.S. financial system from the illicit financial flows from public corruption in Venezuela".
One of the differences with the previous executive order is that the first did not identify the officials by name and surname, or was specific about the number of officials being sanctioned. The other is that the Obama administration is taking a more decisive step on this occasion by declaring a national emergency because of an "unusual and extraordinary" threat to homeland security and the foreign policy caused by the situation in Venezuela.
As expected, the Maduro government responded on Monday night, first by calling the Chargé d'Affaires of Venezuela in the U.S. for consultation, and then by expressing its rejection of the measure on a national TV and radio broadcast full of contradictions and reinforced threats against the North American nation.
The most important aspect on the broadcast was an announcement of Maduro on Tuesday requesting the Parliament a new Enabling Law that would grant him "anti-imperialist enabling powers". A law that is expected to become a new Pandora's Box to continue the communist onslaught against democracy, to keep undermining the rights of Venezuelans and that will make Maduro remain in power for good. A fact that is leading many analysts to consider a strategic error of the Obama administration in its relations with Venezuela for giving it excuses to keep blaming it for the hardships of the country.
However, these punitive measures from the U.S. government are specific against officials who have violated human rights of Venezuelan citizens, and will not affect the population, the State or the trade relations of both countries in any way.
See VenEconomy: Caught in a Crossfire between Venezuela, U.S (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 10, 2015)
The Venezuela of the revolutionary era looks like "dried out leather", because when someone grabs it on one of the sides, the remaining ones pop out.
A series of major scandals have set off this week alone, astonishing the public opinion as it has become customary all these years.
The first of them is in progress: at the request of Guyana, and with the permission of Cuba, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the U.S., oil company ExxonMobil started exploration drilling at the Stabroek block that shares sea areas of Guyana, the Essequibo and Venezuela. The drilling had the implicit approval of Venezuela, because the country has never made any objection in the years since Guyana announced plans for the development of Stabroek.
This territorial move of Guyana, under the complicit silence of the administrations of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro, will end up stripping Venezuela of its Essequibo rights, possibly including the maritime rights derived from the Orinoco Delta. A territorial dispossession that has been allowed for the sake of the political support of Guyana and the Caribbean countries to the dictatorial project of Venezuela through multilateral agencies across the region.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Looks like 'Dried Out Leather' (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 11, 2015)
The decisions and actions announced this week by the government of Barack Obama must be carefully analyzed with a magnifying glass.
On Tuesday, acting within the framework of the "Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014" unanimously passed by the U.S. Congress Obama froze the assets and bank deposits in the U.S. of six military officers and a prosecutor involved in the violation of human rights of students and political leaders in 2014. They were banned from entering the country as well.
That same day, Obama issued an executive order decreeing a "state of national emergency" in the face of an "unusual and extraordinary threat to national security and foreign policy of the U.S." because of the acts of corruption from the Venezuelan government.
The spokespersons for the Obama administration made it clear from the beginning that the measures taken were not aimed at sanctioning the country, but at those who violate human rights as well as corrupt Venezuelan officials using financial resources of the U.S. to mobilize capital of doubtful origin from Venezuela's public purse.
The strength of these facts is corroborated with other two announcements this week: 1) That the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment determined on Wednesday that the government of Venezuela has violated international law after "not taking steps to prevent acts of ill-treatment", as well as acts of "torture" to demonstrators and detainees, such as opposition leader Leopoldo López. 2) That the European Parliament issued a resolution against the violations of human rights in Venezuela on Thursday, with 384 votes in favor, 75 against and 48 abstentions.
It is advisable to those with access to microphones and the Internet to make it clear to everyone that the U.S. sanctions are not against Venezuela or its population, but only against those who have violated the Constitution and the laws of the nation.
See VenEconomy: U.S. Sanctions are not aimed at Venezuela, its Population (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 12, 2015)
There is one less political prisoner at the headquarters of Nicolás Maduro's political police, or SEBIN: Rodolfo González, a 64-year-old man who Maduro nicknamed "the aviator" when announcing the arrest of the "mastermind behind the 'guarimbas'" on national TV and radio broadcast on April 29 of last year, while appearing before a court of justice.
This 90 plus population decline in political prisoners does not have to do either with the result or the release of González, or with an interim measure in his favor by the office of justice of Maduro.
González was released by his own death on Friday. González was set free from the oppressive policy of the government of Maduro. He had been in prison for 10 months without having started a trial against him. He was the victim of a government that confined him in a SEBIN prison cell on charges of "criminal conspiracy, possession of explosives and trafficking in firearms". It is disturbing that "there is no forensic evidence" in the case file, as confirmed by his daughter Lissette González, a sociologist, in her story "A Grandfather made a Political Prisoner", written and published in October of 2014.
That poignant story could have been written by any daughter, mother, wife, sister or granddaughter of the dozens of political prisoners in communist Venezuela. It recounts the events that have transformed the lives of her family the same way as with those of hundreds of other families in the same moment they become instruments of political vendetta against people seeking freedom and democracy for their future. (Un abuelo que es preso político, at Conjeturas para llevar, Lissette González, jueves, 9 de octubre de 2014).
Three more Venezuelans are also affected by the cause of González: Douglas Morillo, Renzo Prieto and Yeimi Varela, who must go to trial deprived of their liberty.
See VenEconomy: The Aviator - One Less Political Prisoner for Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 13, 2015)
On Sunday, the parliamentary majority of Venezuela's ruling party PSUV once again granted special powers to President Nicolás Maduro so he could legislate at will by passing the so-called "Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law for Peace", published in the Extraordinary Official Gazette No. 6,178 on Monday.
This law authorizes Maduro to do as he pleases for more than nine months, from March 16 to December of this year, when the legislative period of the current Parliament (aka National Assembly or AN) comes to an end.
The topics covered are broad and ambiguous as is the text of the law indicating that "the matters delegated to provide an enhanced warranty for the sovereignty rights and protection of the Venezuelan people and the constitutional order of the Republic" are condensed into four articles.
With this new law, the "red" lawmakers have satisfied an urgent request from the Venezuelan ruler, arguing "a need to have constitutional powers that allow me to move freely in a complex scenario that has been opened for Venezuela", referring to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama to declare Venezuela as a threat to the U.S.
This is the second enabling law granted to Maduro in one year and eleven months at the helm of power, apart from 20 months of unilateral and discretionary legislation, behind the backs of citizen participation and the assistance of political forces. This is no major surprise since this has been the norm of the Bolivarian government to install its so-called socialism of the 21st century in Venezuela through thick and thin in these past 16 years.
The dangerous precedent of enabling laws in times of the Bolivarian revolution are tangible and valid. These can be felt in each of the four enabling laws granted to the late Hugo Chávez, which allowed him to pass 215 decree-laws at his discretion during 36 months of his 13-year tenure. Or in the 57 decree-laws granted to Maduro in 2013 supposedly to tackle "corruption" and fight an imaginary "economic war" against his government.
Until now the 272 decree-laws passed by revolution officials have only served for the progress of a communist regime that has led a country with one of the world's largest reserves of oil and gas to ruin. A country model that takes pleasure in plunging the population into misery; a population that is getting used to being humiliated and subjected to restrictions to access food, medicines and other scarce basic goods, while violent criminals and the ongoing political repression decimates it.
There is nothing to guarantee that the enabling law history will not be repeated again, and that this "Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law for Peace" will serve a different purpose than "protecting the people" from an inexistent U.S. invasion threat.
This enabling law will only serve to further sharpen the existing conflicts against the private sector of the economy, increase the repression against anyone opposing the "Plan for the Homeland" and avoid the return to democracy, while they lower the curtain to hide the serious economic, social and political crisis going on in Venezuela, as well as the rampant corruption and government officials linked to money laundering activities at international level.
What is certain is that this enabling law will end up being the true "Frankenstein's monster" rather than the executive order signed by Obama, as Maduro has called it from the beginning.
See VenEconomy: Maduro's New Enabling Law is the True 'Frankenstein's Monster' (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 16, 2015)
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has carefully followed the lessons of the late Hugo Chávez in meeting his external obligations, as he paid off 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in maturities of the Eurobond 2015 on Monday. This way he made one of the many payments of external debt that Venezuela must meet during 2015.
There is no objection to such lesson from us. It is a fact of life that those who owe are obligated to pay.
Our objection is actually based on that motto that goes "what's good for the goose is good for the gander". The Government should apply that lesson of good obligor to its internal obligations as well; that is to say, for example, to the entire private sector to whom it owes some $10 billion in imports for the last two or three years, with the approval and endorsement of the nation's foreign exchange authorities.
However, this is not the case. Maduro holds a policy of vendetta with the private sector by delaying and denying the payment of its debts because, in his view, the Venezuelan business community has declared a hypothetical economic war on him to destabilize his government.
See VenEconomy: More Darkness for Venezuelans (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 17, 2015)
Teachers across Venezuela stood up for their violated rights on Wednesday as they claimed wage improvements for their private insurance policies and those of the Social Security Institute of the Magisterium, or Ipasme.
These education professionals called on a strike in all schools nationwide. They will attend their usual classrooms and comply with their regular working hours, but will not teach, and in that national strike they will be joined by the educational community, which is also comprised of students and parents and legal guardians.
Their reasons are more than valid: demand their wage rights and social security.
See VenEconomy: Teachers of Venezuela go on National Strike (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 18, 2015)
Today the Venezuelan population lives a serious ordeal when it comes to obtaining basic foodstuffs and medicines. Apart from the daily struggle to overcome the rampant shortages, mitigate the effects of the high consumer prices and adapt to mile-long queues around supply centers, now the purchases of basic products at regulated prices were limited to two days a week (depending on the last number of the consumers' ID cards) through the use of biometric fingerprint readers.
Local business associations, in a clear demonstration of their democratic spirit always in strict accordance with the laws, are insisting on building bridges of conciliation and rectification of an economic policy that has proved to be a failed one many times over.
See VenEconomy: Who's going to Bell the Venezuelan Government (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 19, 2015)
Rooting out corruption in Venezuela is one of the many (unfulfilled) promises of the late Hugo Chávez. Chávez boosted it rather than fighting it over the past 16 years, apart from hiding behind an impunity derived from the automatic solidarity from all those who call themselves loyal to the "socialist homeland".
According to figures of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, Venezuela was ranked 161 in 2014, out of 175 countries analyzed, from 77 in 1998. It was close to be considered the "most corrupt" country on a global scale.
See VenEconomy: A New App for Fighting Corruption in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 20, 2015)
These lines are a wake-up call for President Nicolás Maduro, the Public Prosecutor's Office and other branches of government; for the opposition political party Democratic Unity (MUD) and its leaders; and for nearly all the local media. It's a call for you to cut the anti-imperialist crap once and for all and focus on what really matters: the uncovering at international level of several cases of corruption in which are involved a growing list of Venezuelan government officials that have looted the public purse to swell their own bank accounts.
Maduro, the Public Prosecutor's Office, the hegemonic network of the state-run media, and even the leadership of the MUD persist on dubbing the executive order of U.S. President Barack Obama as "interventionist", while ignoring all the corruption schemes that have been uncovered after this order and a subsequent inquiry from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) against Banca Privat d'Andorra (BPA) for money laundering, in which Venezuelan officials have had leading roles.
See VenEconomy: A Wake-Up Call for Venezuela's Politicians, Media (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 23, 2015)
While the government of Nicolás Maduro continues to sideline the Venezuelan population in the alley of hopelessness, frustration and humiliation, sectors of national and international public opinion are crying out for the return of coexistence and civility in the country.
Now the cry comes from the Central University of Venezuela's Red de Apoyo Psicológico (network of emotional support) and the Venezuelan Psychologists Federation, whose members have "expressed their deep concern over the psychosocial risks associated with the current economic, political and social situation of the country, which is the result of various circumstances that impact the daily lives of citizens".
See VenEconomy: Crying Out for Wisdom in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 24, 2015)
The strategy of the government of Nicolás Maduro of appealing to nationalism and its attempt to connect Venezuelans with its cause of preventing a U.S.-led invasion in Venezuela is moving forward.
Currently the Government's huge propaganda machinery has been put at the service of a crusade to convince the population that an executive order signed recently by U.S. President Barack Obama is aimed at attacking Venezuela, at violating its sovereignty and at becoming a "latent weapon" to be activated for any reason and at any time against the country.
Maduro and his entourage are blatantly distorting the true purpose of this executive order, which is putting an end to the rampant corruption drying up Venezuela's huge public resources and standing up for the human rights of its citizens.
See VenEconomy: Does the Government of Maduro have any Boundaries? (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 25, 2015)
It can be said that the two governments of the "Socialist Homeland" resemble a carpet under which is being swept all the failure of these past 16 years of "beautiful revolution" that has plunged Venezuela into a "sea of happiness".
These two governments have swept the real figures of unemployment and uncontrollable inflation under this carpet as well after changing all the traditional measurement methodologies. They have been concealing the performance of the national economy, the figures related to the production and exports of crude oil or making invisible the several cases of corruption already exposed at international level. This carpet currently hides underneath serious problems such as severe shortages of basic foodstuffs along with various rationing mechanisms. Right underneath can also be found the real crime figures, or the reality of the human rights violations or the criminal cases of a fair amount of political prisoners, with the State taking false arguments about alleged assassination plots and coup attempts to the international community as an excuse for the number of trials and incarcerations of political leaders from the opposition and civilians.
These masking tactics, and the nearly extinction of Venezuela's independent media, have served to sweeten up thousands of Venezuelans who still don't seem to understand the gravity of the crisis in all aspects of national life. What's more, that complicit carpet plus generous handouts, is still making the international left wing sell the alleged benefits of a political regime that touts itself as being partisan and defender of the poor.
But what is already impossible to sweep under that Bolivarian carpet is the general and criminal collapse of the healthcare sector.
The dramatic failure of 16 years of anti-policies in this area is being evidenced in every healthcare center, either private or public, and its impact reaches millions of Venezuelans, patients and their families.
See VenEconomy: The Stuff Being Swept under the Carpet of Socialist Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 26, 2015)
The speech of the Venezuelan government insisting that the U.S. "empire" is attacking the country may be earning Nicolás Maduro a few points of popularity, out of the many lost due to the harsh social-economic crisis he has plunged the country into.
This in spite of the fact that Maduro, in fear of the high political costs, is refusing to apply efficient measures to remedy the spectacular crisis caused by himself. On the contrary, some of his announcements in February regarding economic matters, which appeared to go in the right direction, have been either a fiasco or unrealized, as he persists on staying on the path of populism.
So even if the Government insists on its nonsense of alleged economic wars, U.S.-led invasions and attempted coups, the only wars and invasions affecting Venezuelans will always be misery, scarcity, inflation, hunger, insecurity and repression.
See VenEconomy: What Lies Behind the U.S. Invasion Speech by the Venezuelan Government (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 27, 2015)
In a logical and normal world, an economic recession, recurrent shortages and soaring inflation would be more than enough reasons to turn things around for the Venezuelan government in the face of an upcoming electoral process.
And if this economic trio is spiced up with rampant insecurity, the collapse of the healthcare system, the ruin of the national infrastructure and a huge housing deficit, all elections should be a piece of cake for the democratic opposition.
Moreover, if the several cases of political corruption exposed plus the lack of charisma of Nicolás Maduro are added to the country's economic and social ills, the ruling coalition would have had no chance to continue building its communist-led "Plan for the Homeland".
But... things in Venezuela are neither logical nor normal in the Chávez-Maduro era.
This way, for example, it may be deduced from opinion polls that things are are not as simple as they seem. One of them, a study from polling company Alfredo Keller y Asociados, showed that despite 82% of respondents saw the country amid a serious crisis and 65% thought that Maduro was not going to be able to handle it, only 36% said that they would vote for an opposition candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections this year.
Evidently, Venezuela's democratic opposition coalition (also known as the Democratic Unity or MUD), is doing some - or many - things wrong not to capitalize on the widespread discontent of the population.
See VenEconomy: The Word Unity Must Be More than Just a Slogan for Venezuela's Opposition (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 30, 2015)
Sixteen years, sixteen long years ... and nothing good to show. ...
Venezuela has passed through the "Way of the Cross" since 1999, when Hugo Chávez was sworn in as Constitutional President of Venezuela, because rather than consolidating the positive things of the past and replace the negative ones with new progressive proposals, he changed everything for the worse.
Looking back, Chávez received a strong and growing economy. The financial crisis of the mid-1990s was already history and his predecessor, Rafael Caldera, had consolidated the constructive changes previously introduced by Carlos Andrés Pérez during his second presidential term.
Chávez also found a state-run oil company (PDVSA) that boasted being compared with the world's top oil companies and that was amidst an ambitious expansion program that would boost its production quotas of 3.5 million barrels per day to 5.6 million barrels per day in only a few years. While there was still room for improvement at PDVSA, other state companies were doing just fine. Likewise, most privately-run companies had adjusted - or were adjusting - to the idea that they were competing in a global market.
Furthermore, in 1999, the non-oil GDP per capita finally showed some growth after barely budging for more than 20 years. Back then, Venezuela was a country with public authorities that were virtually independent, just like the central bank (BCV). The country was being guided by the rules of the Constitution promulgated in 1961, while laws and contractual commitments were respected.
But Chávez changed everything in order to impose his inexplicable "socialism of the 21st century".
For starters, he changed the Constitution in 1999 so he could adapt it to his political project. But this has largely remained a dead letter when it doesn't serve the purposes of the Government. The socialist legal fabric was designed through enabling laws granted to the President.
Today there is no public authority where autonomy is respected. Not only the BCV finances the Government's deficits, but it massages the economic figures at its convenience, unsuccessfully disguising the failure of its economic and political model. PDVSA is prey of the populism of the so-called "Plan for the Homeland" as it has become a corrupt and inefficient company, whose production has dropped by more than 1 million barrels per day since 1998. And there is no state-run company today that is free from corruption and inefficiency, including the dozens of "expropriated" privately-run companies that became property of a monopolist State.
At the same time, the Government dedicated itself to imposing a policy of controls that has wreaked havoc in the productive system for the enormous distortions it has caused in the economy and for being an effective source of corruption. As a result, thousands of national private firms have disappeared, and with them more than 200,000 jobs.
The communist "marabunta" has also ravaged the education and healthcare systems. Meanwhile, the communicational hegemony injects into the majority of the population the utopian achievements of the revolution every day.
This is the "Way of the Cross" Venezuela has to pass through, and unfortunately Nicolás Maduro is not willing to change course for two main reasons: One because of the political costs that this would represent, and two because of the conviction that the Plan for the Homeland is the only model to follow.
Hence the importance and urgency to push for a change of course led by the democratic opposition, who apart from focusing on an upcoming parliamentary election has to pursue two main goals: 1) Outline and demand an adjustment program that gets the country out of the idleness, corruption, poverty and inflationary spiral it has been plunged into. 2) The urgent strengthening of leaders who have the courage and ability to explain to all Venezuelans that the change will intrinsically come from a different culture, values and democratic and coexistence principles.
In a nutshell, the road to a renewed prosperity, growth and democracy may be long and difficult, but not impossible.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela's 'Way of the Cross' (Latin American Herald Tribune, March 31, 2015)
On Monday, Venezuela's entire public and private network of supermarkets began selling the products that go into the basic food basket based on the last digit of the consumers' ID cards.
This way, the country's top private food retailers including Unicasa, Makro, Central Madeirense, Plan Suárez, Excelsior Gama, Automercados Plaza's, Automercados Luz, and El Patio joined the State's food distribution network comprised by Red de Abastos Bicentenario, Mercal and PDVAL.
All the establishments will apply the same distribution routine: consumers with ID cards ending in 0 and 1 will be able to buy basic products only on Mondays; in 2 and 3 on Tuesdays; in 4 and 5 on Wednesdays; in 6 and 7 on on Thursdays; and in 8 and 9 on Fridays. Furthermore, products will be sold to citizens with ID cards from 0-4 on Saturdays and from 5-9 on Sundays.
It should be noted that despite they will theoretically be able to buy products such as flour, rice, milk, sugar, toilet paper, coffee, margarine, oil, chicken, meat, shampoo, soap and detergent, among others, in these establishments two days a week, in practice they will be able to buy these products only once a week. That is to say, if their ID cards end in 0, and they already bought toilet paper on Monday, when it's their turn again on Saturday, they will not be allowed to purchase this product again until Monday.
This rationing methodology is being "voluntarily" put it into practice by these privately-run establishments upon a "cordial" request of the National Executive, as it waits for the fingerprint scanners that will formalize an automated rationing system for purchasing food, personal hygiene/household cleaning products and medicines in the country.
When fingerprint scanners are finally installed across establishments, these will serve to centralize the control of consumption of all Venezuelans, thus restricting their frequency of purchases and limiting the quantities for each regulated product.
The food rationing and control measure was devised by the National Executive in the framework of its socialist-inspired "Plan of Guaranteed Supplies", using the fallacious argument it would allow it to combat the illegal resale of basic products at higher prices by street vendors (known locally as "bachaqueo"), a new and lucrative informal economic activity resulting from the widespread shortages situation that has firmly taken root in socialist Venezuela. In addition that this will supposedly help shorten the mile-long queues by citizens to purchase scarce basic products available in the domestic market. Queues that have heavily affected the international image of a government that sells itself as the ultimate solution against poverty and promoter of welfare state.
As has become usual in times of the establishment of the so-called "Plan for the Homeland", this measure is in line with a model of deception and control once described by American writer Saul Alinsky that establishes, within the key principles for achieving a "Social State", the control of food sales as a form of domination of the population.
That's why Nicolás Maduro - as did the late Hugo Chávez in previous years - refuses to listen to and analyze the suggestions from the private sector. If he ever does, then he would understand that the right thing to do is: 1) Increase the productive capacity of the industrial base of both the State and the private sector. 2) Use the available foreign currency to encourage domestic production, and not to favor imports and foster corruption. 3) Let go of price controls and promote a free-floating currency. 4) Decriminalize private sector activities and promote productive work instead of handouts.
If these corrective measures are not applied, the only thing the Government will be doing is remove the population from its right to food, while it condemns it to poverty, oppression and humiliation.
See VenEconomy: Tighter Controls on Sales of Basic Products in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 6, 2015)
Venezuela now faces the possibility that Guyana not only deprives it of its rights in the Essequibo area, but those of thousands of kilometers belonging to an offshore platform in the Orinoco Delta. All this because of the indifference and negligent silence of the governments of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro when defending the rights of the neighboring nation.
The situation for the territorial integrity in the Essequibo area became riskier than ever for Venezuela in the last 16 years, due to the fact that the government of Chávez deliberately played down the importance of the agreed obligations under the Geneva Agreement of 1966. It should be recalled that in 1962, and on the basis of a new information related to an arbitration process in 1899, Venezuela rejected an arbitration award that had granted 61,583 square miles of national territory to the then-British Guiana during that year. A claim that became legalized at international level with the signing of the Geneva Agreement, which leaves in the hands of Guyana and Venezuela the search for solutions through built-in mechanisms in order to satisfy both countries.
But, the government of Chávez, and now that of Maduro, following the advice of the meddlesome government of the Castro brothers, which has its own economic interests in the area, neglected that agreement diminishing the country's sovereignty. A voluntary "mistake" to make Caribbean countries give their automatic solidarity to Chávez's political project known as "Socialism of the 21st century", and overlook the continued violations of freedoms and the democratic norm intrinsic to this project.
Because of these murky political dealings opposed to the interests of the Venezuelan State,
the Chávez government allowed various illegal actions from Guyana that violated the territorial sovereignty of the country.
One of them was the drawing by Guyana of a new borderline throughout the coast that violated Venezuela's exclusive maritime zone in the Delta, a case that has not yet been reported to the UN. Another action without a resounding rejection from the government of Venezuela was the granting of concessions for the Stabroek, Pomeron and Roraima blocks that share maritime areas of Guyana, Essequibo and Venezuela. The Bolivarian government also had a lax attitude toward the fact that oil company ExxonMobil began drilling the Stabroek area.
This laxity in claiming the rights of the State has put Venezuela in an imminent risk of also losing its maritime rights derived from the Orinoco Delta. According to applicable international standards, the lack of formal protest is considered an acquiescence. The fact of not defending the country's sovereign rights is to let the adversary win, meaning that "silence is consent".
The only thing that Venezuela has done in the defense of its rights is the publication of a series of articles in several newspapers of the region, complaining about Guyana's oil activity in the area and declaring the arbitration award of 1899 as "void", which led 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to issue a statement in support of the "territorial integrity of Guyana", as a response to the approaches of the Venezuelan Ministry regarding the oil exploration activities taking place in the Essequibo area; this despite the fact that these countries are reaping benefits from Venezuelan crude oil on very advantageous conditions.
For having remained tight-lipped on such a sensitive topic, the governments of Chávez and Maduro have committed an act of treason against the homeland, which would translate into a serious negative impact on the economic future of Venezuela.
See VenEconomy: The Silence of Venezuela's Government as an Act of Treason (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 7, 2015)
On Friday, Panama will host the Seventh Summit of the Americas where the Heads of State and Governments will address the theme "Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas". A total of 35 countries of the continent, including Cuba that returns after an absence of 53 years, will be attending this summit.
The hopes of Juan Carlos Varela, president of Panama and host of this summit, is that discussions will focus on the search for solutions to major problems affecting all countries, among which stand out: "insecurity, inequality, the progress made by the organized crime, the lack of public infrastructure and the need for education in the developed world".
However, the U.S., Cuba and Venezuela will be bringing their own agendas for this summit in order to reach dissimilar and conflicting objectives.
The U.S., for example, has been looking forward to reinforcing its democratic leadership in a region that had neglected for years, and that now has its attention back allegedly due to the marked influence that its historical adversaries, such as Russia and China, as well as the dangerous penetration of Iran and its extremist tentacles, are having on this side of the world.
President Barack Obama would be playing multiple cards during the summit. One of them is an offer to CARICOM countries to facilitate energy investments in the Caribbean region, in conjunction with the World Bank. With this move, he also aims to remove the influence of Venezuela on these countries, which have been key to curb the actions of multilateral bodies such as the OAS and the UN against the undemocratic progress of the Venezuelan government. Another card that is even more important than the previous one is the flexibility of relations with the government of Cuba. According to some analysts, Obama could take advantage of the summit to decide upon the removal of the government of the Castro brothers from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. A long-awaited dream from Cuba, indeed.
For its part, Cuba, a country that will attend a hemispheric conference for the first time since 1962, after the OAS dismissed it from the organization at the request of Venezuela as a result of the failed attempts of Cuba to invade this country, is also bringing its own agenda to the summit. After more than five decades of having been pushed out of the concert of nations, one of the objectives of Raúl Castro will be that of emerging as the protagonist of this summit, where he will get the support from several pro-Castro government presidents. Perhaps the most memorable moment will be when Castro shakes hands with Obama, as a gesture of symbolic confirmation of the restoration of relations between Cuba and the U.S.
The third separate agenda is that of the government of Venezuela with its struggle against the U.S. imperialism. Nicolás Maduro intends to twist Obama's arm by forcing him to repeal an executive order that punishes seven Venezuelan officials accused of having violated the human rights of their fellow citizens and of acts of corruption. To that end, Maduro carries a letter supported by 8 million signatures from minors, public employees, missionaries, State contractors and foreigners (Cuban, Ecuadorians, Nicaraguans and other citizens from ALBA member countries).
A fourth agenda will be developed by several Human Rights NGOs at the Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Social Actors, organized in the framework of the Summit to be attended by the heads of State. There, the Venezuelan NGOs will remind the attending leaders about the importance of the OAS and the Unasur bloc "for the institutional stability in Venezuela; they will request the removal of a complaint filed by the Venezuelan State with the American Convention on HumanRights; they will encourage a dialogue process in the country that would also involve the OAS", as well as the release of all the political prisoners, respect for human rights, electoral guarantees and international observation during the upcoming elections. Furthermore, 21 former presidents of the region will disseminate a statement in defense of democracy and human rights in Venezuela.
Hopefully this measurement of strength of the U.S. vs. Venezuela during the summit will serve to reinforce the rights and freedoms of citizens.
See VenEconomy: One Summit, Several Agendas (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 8, 2015)
2015 is an election year in Venezuela. According to the National Constitution, the five-year period that lawmakers get to perform their functions expires in December of this year. The new lawmakers elected no later than December 2015 must be sworn in by January 2016, a month when the Parliament starts its regular activities.
The political composition of the Parliament (aka National Assembly or AN) is critical in these times of political hegemony. These elections are crucial so that public authorities, today kidnapped by Venezuela's ruling elite, start regaining their autonomy; so that the functions of the legislature, today seized by the National Executive, can be restored; so that the national government can be demanded some accountability; and so that the rule of law and the civil, political and economic liberties can be put back in motion in Venezuela.
These elections will be a measurement of strength, and their political actors will be seeing either good or bad results depending on the direction the winds blow.
To democrats, the political winds are blowing in their favor. From there, the Democratic Unity (MUD), and all the opposition political parties that make it up, are taking the lead in demanding the National Electoral Council (CNE) to convene and set the date of the parliamentary elections.
The economic and social crisis affecting Venezuelans, induced by the erroneous vision of a country from a Cuban communist model, should give the opposition a smashing victory over the candidates of the Government despite all the known advantages they've got plus the machinations of the CNE. The population is sick and tired of the inflationary spiral; of the shortages of food, medicines and other basic products; of burying relatives and friends who have been victims of violent criminals acting with impunity throughout the national territory; of the rampant corruption and broken promises of the Government; and, more recently, of the limitations for buying food and other basic stuff once a week based on the last digit of their ID cards.
But, according to opinion polls, the opposition has not been able to capitalize on this discontent. The winds of personalism of its leadership and petty partisan interests are not appealing to the population. The opposition political leadership seems bland and disunited. Besides, a single message on the proposals for changing course are not clearly perceived.
Nor is it seen strongly demanding electoral guarantees to generate credibility in voters by the time of the election results are generated, nor is it perceived that the democratic parties are fine-tuning the organizational machinery that is vital to counteract the pressure tricks of the Government made present during every electoral process over the past 14 years.
It is curious, for example, that during the Summit of the Americas to be held in Panama, the civil society and human rights NGOs will be the ones to raise their voices to demand that the countries of the Hemisphere request the government of Nicolás Maduro for electoral guarantees and that a plural and objective international election observation is allowed without the supervision of the ruling party PSUV that the opposition has meekly accepted so far.
For its part, the Government, even knowing that it has the winds of popular support blowing in the opposite direction, is already in the electoral race. The campaign of the ruling coalition has already kicked off with the approval of additional funds for the "missions" and other populist social programs; with advertisements in the media; with the threats from Maduro of making opposition political parties illegal and warnings that the opposition has a hidden agenda to ignore the election results. And despite the troubled waters moving under the surface, the PSUV pretends to be united under the command of the Maduro-Cabello duo. There is no reason to doubt that the ruling elite will be using every dirty little trick available so it can move on with the establishment of its so-called "Socialism of the 21st century" and the implementation of the "Plan for the Homeland" inherited from the late Hugo Chávez.
However, the country still has high hopes that the democratic political actors will succeed through constitutional means in restoring the rule of law and respect for civil, political and economic liberties in Venezuela.
See VenEconomy: The Electoral Winds Blowing in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 9, 2015)
Thursday April 9 will go down in the history of the entire American Continent with the so-called Declaration of Panama, lubricated by 25 former presidents of 12 nations of the region and Spain. (http://www.el-nacional.com/politica/Declaracion_NACFIL20150409_0001.pdf)
A statement that comes, as indicated by the document, from the concern "about the path that the severe institutional, political, economic and social disruption affecting our Venezuelan brothers without distinctions is taking".
And that it is justified because "democracy and its effective exercise, foundation of solidarity between the States, consists in the respect and guarantee of human rights, the exercise of power under the rule of law, the separation and independence of public authorities, a political pluralism, free and fair elections, freedom of speech and press, the probity and government transparency, among other standards". This is reflected in the Declaration of Santiago adopted by the OAS in 1959, and developed by the Inter-American Democratic Charter of 2001.
This Declaration has gained unprecedented importance in the history of the region because it pauses on the Defense of Human Rights and then reaches to the overall situation of the deterioration of democracy and the critical economic, political, and social situation in which Venezuela has been plunged into.
Among other things, the Declaration of Panama highlights the fact that the Government of Venezuela condemned the American Convention on Human Rights, and that sustains "a policy of non-recognition or compliance with the decisions and statements issued by international and inter-American human rights bodies", which affects the international protection of rights for the benefit of the people.
By demanding the immediate release of all political prisoners, including Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma and Daniel Ceballos, a reality among many others suffered by millions of Venezuelans every day is highlighted: the absence of independence of the Judiciary, the judicial persecution of dissidents, the persistent presence of acts of torture by State officials, the existence of armed paramilitary groups and an atmosphere of total impunity.
It complains about the existence of a communicational hegemony imposed by the State, and highlights the existence of control laws for information content; the increase of sanctions for crimes of contempt for authority that promote censorship and self-censorship; the criminalization and violence against journalists, columnists and Twitter users; and the closure of independent media outlets.
It lays stress on the lack of a system of separation and independence of public authorities, an essential component of democracy according to the own Inter-American Democratic Charter.
With regard to the critical economic situation, it focuses on the climate of corruption and the Government's wastefulness of the national wealth as generators of a series of issues and imbalances in Venezuela's economy that go far beyond a decline in international crude oil prices, and that can be found "in tax, monetary, financial, foreign exchange, oil and real areas, giving rise to a very deep recession and soaring inflation in the country that are undermining the purchasing power and household incomes, increasing poverty, generating unemployment and deteriorating the quality of life of the population, particularly the one with scarce resources".
The former presidents conclude the Declaration stating that "the only possibility for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela and an effective guarantee for the political, economic and social rights of Venezuelans goes through the rescue of the principle and system of separation of powers, through the appointment of their incumbents while respecting the democratic, representative and participatory guarantees established in the Constitution, in order to ensure its independence and autonomy, starting with the Electoral Power so that free and fair elections can be held with impartiality".
Was this clear enough or is there any further explanation needed so that the governments of the region echo the voices of their former presidents?
See VenEconomy: The Declaration of Panama in Solidarity with Democracy in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 10, 2015)
"There is a real storm developing due to the lack of dollars. The situation is desperate and may get a lot worse", said Russ Dallen,
head of local investment bank Caracas Capital Markets, who has spent several years keeping a close eye on the Venezuelan situation.
"In the next two or three months we are about to see a terrible shortages situation, much worse than we have seen so far --
not only because inventory levels are quite low already,
but because at this point imports of the products needed within 8-12 weeks are not being allowed into the country".
CARACAS -- Venezuelans - who have been waiting in long queues to get into supermarkets and purchase basic products - have not yet seen the worst part of the shortages issue caused by a collapse in the chavismo-sponsored populist model, but they may do so shortly in the face of the warnings of the alarming levels food stocks have fallen to in the country, according to local industry groups and experts.
"Inventories, including those of the pharmaceutical and food industries, are hitting critical levels", said Eduardo Garmendia, head of the Venezuelan Confederation of Industries (Conindustria), a business association, in a recent interview with local radio station Unión Radio.
"The entire industrial system has been affected by the difficulties in acquiring raw materials, but it is worse in essential products because these are receiving a greater direct impact; we are talking about medicines and food", said Garmendia.
In the case of food, stocks of the country's main industries will last less than a month, according to data released by the Venezuelan Food Industry Chamber (Cavidea).
"There are food companies that haven't been allocated a single dollar so far this year", Pablo Baraybar, president of Cavidea, told the local press. "In some production lines, we only have stocks for 10 or 20 days".
This will surely make things exponentially harder for those Venezuelans trying to put food on their tables every day.
"There is a real storm developing due to the lack of dollars. The situation is desperate and may get a lot worse", said Russ Dallen, head of local investment bank Caracas Capital Markets, who has spent several years keeping a close eye on the behavior of the Venezuelan reality.
"In the next two or three months we are about to see a situation of terrible shortages, much worse than we have seen so far. Not only because inventory levels are quite low already, but because at this point imports of the products to be needed within 8-12 weeks are not being allowed into the country".
Most industries in the country have been operating at much lower levels than their capacity for quite some time due to extreme difficulties in finding raw materials, among other reasons.
But what might occur in just a few weeks from now is the total standstill of the country after running out of supplies, because companies are not getting the necessary dollars from the Government to pay for imports, Dallen said.
Some businesspeople believe that this is due to the doubts raised by the economic authorities of the regime of Nicolás Maduro over which of the various exchange rates should be applied to perform operations, given the vast differences between each one of them: with one official rate that is currently at Bs.6.3 per dollar, another one close to Bs.12, a third one that stands at Bs.190 and fourth, the black market rate, hovering around Bs.250.
But experts now believe that the regime simply does not have the necessary dollars to pay for the imports of products.
A sharp drop in crude oil prices - the export that brings in more than 95% of the country's dollars - coupled with huge debts incurred by the Bolivarian regime over the past 15 years, have left the Government with a need for external financing of more than $23 billion so that it can maintain the supply levels seen until last year.
That's why the Government has been making extensive publicity of the possibility that China is ready to provide up to $10 billion in loans for development projects in Venezuela, said Dallen.
"They are saying 'here come the Chinese, here come the Chinese; the Chinese are the ones who are going to get us out of this mess'", he added.
But by the time the Chinese money comes in -- should it materialize this year -- it may only be used for importing goods from the Asian country or used in specific projects previously approved, which will not necessarily provide relief for the millions of Venezuelans who in a few weeks from now might not find milk or corn flour on shelves after spending the whole day queuing up to make it into a supermarket.
To economist Alexander Guerrero, a worsening of the shortages would affect the food and product supplies of large supermarket chains and grocery stores, which are already being controlled by the regime with the implementation of limits on the sales of products based on the last digit of the ID cards of consumers.
In the end, many of the products that will be available in Venezuela will end up selling on the so-called black market, a place that despite having become the target of frequent accusations of the regime itself for being one of the main causes of the general shortages in the country, is in fact being fed by corrupt elements of the own Government.
That market has turned out very lucrative because it offers the subsidized products at prices up to 10 times higher than what consumers pay for them in stores after spending hours waiting in line.
Local popular markets will continue to offer the "six or seven products" that the Government imports for the nation's neediest sectors at subsidized prices, Guerrero said.
As a result, the working middle class is the one that is going to suffer more because, on the one hand, it will not be able to pay the high prices of products on the black market and, on the other, it doesn't have access to popular markets or doesn't want to go there since the available products are of very poor quality, Dallen explained.
See Venezuela Alarmingly Low on Food (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 12, 2015)
On Saturday wrapped up the seventh Summit of the Americas held in Panama with the attendance of 34 presidents and heads of state of 35 countries of the hemisphere. (The only one missing there was Chile's Michelle Bachelet).
The theme addressed was "Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas", whose ultimate goal was to establish a common agenda to help improve the lives of the poorest across the Americas.
Unfortunately, it was not possible that the Summit produced a final statement due to the lack of consensus that would have included in the document a request for the repeal of an executive order signed by Barack Obama against seven Venezuelan officials who violated human rights and committed acts of corruption, as demanded by the government of Venezuela and several of his allies in the region.
This way, the host of the summit and President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, will issue a final report with the arrangements agreed between the rulers. Rapporteurs of the different working roundtables at the summit will follow a similar procedure, since the opposing visions of participants prevented the unanimity in the decisions made. The selfish interests of certain politicians at the helm of some countries prevailed once more during this summit.
Based on these two facts of lack of understanding between the rulers and radical sectors, it could be concluded that the summit did not produce the results expected by organizers, since a joint and consensual agenda so the poorest in the region could have an option to a better quality of life was not ultimately set.
However, this summit will go down in the history of the continent for a political fact still in full development: the return of Cuba to a hemispheric summit after 53 years of having been expelled from the OAS at the request of Venezuela, due to the unsuccessful attempts of Fidel Castro to invade the country. Cuba was in the spotlight as Raúl Castro had planned it from the start. Without apologizing a bit for its interference in the countries of the region, or reducing the dictatorship imposed to the Cuban people, this country emerged at the summit as an equal to democratically elected leaders. With a speech that lasted more than 45 minutes, his words of praise for his new best friend Obama, and his ambivalent position against the anti-imperialist discourse of Nicolás Maduro, Castro consolidates his leadership in the governments of Nicaragua, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina, as he fights with Obama over the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.
It will also go down in history for several important facts that will become a sounding board for the defense of democracy in the Americas.
One of them is the several achievements scored by Obama. With an integrationist, equalitarian, and not meddlesome message, Obama opened spaces in the region that had been neglected by previous U.S. governments. He consolidated the decision of putting an end to the cold war with Cuba. With that move, and without an opposition to his executive order against the Venezuelan officials, Obama rises as a champion of democracy and human rights defender who will not tolerate violations of human rights in the countries of the region.
Another vitally important fact materialized outside the summit: The Declaration of Panama. An unprecedented statement in the history of democracy in the region signed by 25 former Latin American presidents, all of them with various political trends but with a true democratic conviction. This statement reveals with remarkable clarity the antidemocratic face of the Government of Nicolás Maduro. And despite its aftermath hasn't been felt yet, it marked a milestone in the defense of democracy and human rights in Venezuela and the continent.
And, perhaps, less important is the fact that Maduro was unable to deliver his million signatures collected condemning the executive order to Obama or anyone else.
Just as important is that the rulers attending the summit as well as the international community were able to hear what the human rights NGOs, the Venezuelan civil society, and those affected by the political persecution in Venezuela had to say without restrictions of any kind. And were also able to corroborate the violent and exclusionary attitude of the oppressors of Cuba and Venezuela, represented by small groups of people sponsored by these two governments.
See VenEconomy: A Sounding Board at the Summit of the Americas (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 13, 2015)
The government of Nicolás Maduro is overwhelmed by the economic crisis caused by its controls policy. Yet, it continues to tighten foreign exchange and price controls further even though the most reasonable thing to do would be to rectify the course and remove all these controls for good.
Two of the latest measures taken by the National Executive regarding controls are: cutting dollar quotas for travels abroad and the centralization of supplies for drugs to treat chronic diseases. Both measures evidence that the ruling elite controlling the economy cannot - or doesn't want to - understand that this path keeps pushing the country into an abyss of scarcity and corruption.
It can be said, as did local economist Enrique González Porras in his article "A Transitional Control for Pricing Management?", to be released in the April edition of VenEconomy, that "the remedy cannot be a dose of its own disease, or has any normative logic to legislate and act on effects, leaving the causes intact".
González Porras explains in his analysis that he finds the proposal of a "transitional control" that would maintain price controls - among others, those on foreign exchange rates - excessive, because "it is believed that freeing controls before increasing production" would end up being counterproductive.
To the economist, this would suggest a "complete denial or presumption of ineffectiveness of the price system and consumer sovereignty, replaced by bureaucratic-regulatory actions". And that "unless it can be proved with arguments and hard evidence, proposing a continuity in price controls turns out an ad hoc position".
He warns that "such position would derive, first of all, from the prejudice that all companies subject to price controls have a dominant position and incentives in order to exploit it; and, second of all, that price controls do not constitute one of the main sources of economic distortions at present".
González Porras argues that "for constituting restrictions to freedom and economic rights, price controls represent a sanction, which under the law - existence of the Rule of Law and Due Process - requires either an administrative procedure (should the regulatory structure follow the tradition of the continental European administrative law) or a trial (should it follow the tradition of the Common Law)".
He explained the existence of "inflationary causes such as the inorganic financing of the deficit or an excess of liquidity for the economic activity level and the supply of goods and services; price controls will do little or nothing about this - except stimulating the black, parallel, arbitration and smuggling markets".
In short, as González Porras points out, "price controls are not perfect instruments for protecting equity and much less for the control of inflation. There are fiscal policies as much as for transfers and subsidies for the first case and, for the second one, policies of macroeconomic stability. In fact, inflation constitutes a public evil and not the product of the exercise of a widespread market power, a thesis that lacks micro-foundations."
González Porras recalls that "social inclusion and employability and the safeguarding of the currency's purchasing power, of wages and salaries, cannot be achieved by means of price controls, but by means of dynamic incentives in favor of creating economic activity and jobs as well as improving productivity as a key social benefit to generate wealth and well-being".
And in conclusion, he makes it clear that "when there is a serious shortages issue, the price controls as bureaucratic rules of distribution of the value of assets, are absolutely and completely innocuous for social welfare, because they do not represent a loss in allocative efficiency or an increase in the satisfied demand". That is to say, they do not promote production increases making the shortages issue worse.
See VenEconomy: The Remedy for Venezuela's Economy Cannot be a 'Dose of its Own Disease' (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 14, 2015)
The Administrative Ruling No. 011 issued by the National Center for Foreign Trade (Cencoex) imposing new requirements, amounts and restrictions to Venezuelan travelers hides several aspects that go far beyond the arguments given by the Government for a more rational use of foreign currency or putting a stop to the citizens traveling abroad just to take advantage of the dollars allocated to them at preferential rates. It even goes beyond the discussion of whether it is a right or a benefit that the Government grants to citizens traveling abroad, or if it segregates the private banking system in the management of foreign currency for travelers, or the apartheid that thousands of citizens who do not have access to the public banking system are subjected to.
In addition to all these truths, this administrative ruling clearly shows that a government that has handled the biggest flows of foreign currency in the entire history of the country has left Venezuela with a severe dollar drought, largely caused by generous financial handouts to other countries and the rampant corruption from the ruling elite. And the serious thing is that this administrative ruling won't help patch the hole of Venezuela's huge deficit. Calculations suggest that while this new foreign exchange regime may save the country between $2.8 billion and $3.2 billion this year, that's peanuts since to cover the domestic requirements of foreign currency it would take between $16 billion and $23 billion.
This administrative ruling also evidences the complete failure of the foreign exchange controls imposed by Venezuela's ruling regime since 2003. Just like the collapse of price controls and the control over all economic activity that both Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro gave a lot of support. A collapse concealed beneath high crude oil prices that, once they began to steadily decline, heavily affected the lives of Venezuelans with unparalleled inflation and scarcity. As Luis Vicente León, the head of polling company Datanálisis, put it in his article "10 notes regarding the changes in the dollar quotas for travelers by Cencoex", published by local digital magazine Prodavinci on April 11: "The real core of the issue here is that no one can make use of their money with freedom".
The Administrative Ruling No. 011 also makes clear that this is a government that resorts to lies and manipulation to cover up its failures and keep blaming others for them. Instead of dealing with the necessary easing of foreign exchange controls, it resorts to a de facto devaluation in a covert way. First of all, with a mistaken perception that the measure will only affect a few thousands of Venezuelans who don't belong to the Government's electoral target. A mistaken perception all the way, indeed. The foreign exchange distortions are to blame for thousands of Venezuelans (including the Government's own supporters) taking advantage of their dollar quotas when traveling abroad. In some cases, many of them obtained some easy juicy profits from this activity thanks to the complicity of friends working for the State's foreign exchange bodies. Second of all, because the State persists in obviating the massive corruption from the so-called "Bolivarian bourgeoisie" that emerged from the foreign exchange control system, which has bled Venezuela to death through illegalities such as: 1) The "hiring" of shell companies by the State via direct foreign exchange allocation and without any accountability, an operation in which about $20 billion in funds were embezzled, according to Venezuela’s former planning minister Jorge Giordani. 2) And the illegal issuing of "diplomatic passports" to white-collar criminals, who laundered large sums of money through Banca Privat d’Andorra and the Swiss branch of London-based bank HSBC.
The administrative ruling also confirms that the foreign exchange controls have served, and still do, as a mechanism of political and economic control over large sectors of the population. It ruined the national productive sector, which is seeing the worst case of harassment on the part of the State in all its history. It has dramatically reduced the population's purchasing power and worsened the shortages of food, medicines and basic goods as never before.
And lastly, it confirms that the Maduro administration will not rectify the course towards the precipice.
See VenEconomy: Much More than a Simple Dollar Quota Restriction to Venezuelan Travelers (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 15, 2015)
The ruling-party bloc in the Venezuelan Parliament (or National Assembly) passed a motion of "urgency" requested by its president, Diosdado Cabello, on Tuesday to ask the National Electoral Council (CNE) not to convene elections for the 12 members comprising the Latin American Parliament (aka Parlatino). It should be noted that the Parlatino is a regional entity, whose main premise is the defense of the representative democracy, and is made up by parliamentarians of the democratically constituted States Parties.
In a unjustified and unilateral decision, Cabello said that these lawmakers will now be hand-picked "within the Parliament, according to parliamentary membership" and not by means of universal, direct and secret suffrage as contemplated in the Electoral Statute of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) of 2000, which is the way it has been done up until now.
The motivation for this arbitrary change in the mechanism of the election of Parlatino lawmakers seems to come, on the one hand, from the resounding political failure and image shown by the government of Nicolás Maduro during the Seventh Summit of the Americas last week. And on the other, from the inability of the ruling elite in accepting and respecting dissenting opinions and autonomous actions from representatives of any public authority in Venezuela. If there is any doubt about this, just pay close attention to the words of Cabello when he says that Parlatino lawmakers "can't go around doing as they please", when referring to a Venezuelan commission of Parlatino meeting with the new secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis de Almagro, in Panama to deliver him a written report on the status of the Venezuelan political prisoners "without saying a word to him or asking for his permission."
The truth is that Parlatino members would not have any autonomy in their functions if they are hand-picked; they would follow the guidelines of the Presidency of the Republic and would be vulnerable to be removed from parliamentary office if they decided to go against the policy guidelines of the Government. And even more serious is that this would undermine the proportional representation of different sectors of the population in the Parlatino, and thus the voices denouncing abuses and violations of rights across the continent will be silenced forever.
See VenEconomy: Assault on Venezuela's Latin American Parliament! (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 16, 2015)
VenEconomy held its traditional update on the Economic, Political and Social Outlook for Venezuela on Thursday, April 16.
In this update, VenEconomy covered the 2014-2019 period with two possible scenarios: The first is 1984 (a version of the novel written by George Orwell) projecting that Nicolás Maduro will cling to power, imposing his misguided "socialist" and dictatorial policies on the population, and making Venezuela stay on the road toward collapse, misery and poverty, factors characteristic of a communist society of the 21st century. The other scenario is "Chinazuela", in which the Government, after opting for an adjustment program with the support of the IMF, will recover the economy and lead the country towards the "Chinese model", combining a dynamic market economy with a totalitarian dictatorship.
As deducted by several guest analysts who attended the VenEconomy event, the 1984 scenario would be unfolding at present as evidenced by, on the one hand, the reluctance of the Maduro government in rectifying the policies contained in the so-called "Plan for the Homeland", and, on the other, in the recent public statements of the Venezuelan ruler announcing he would radicalize his "revolution" even further, followed by actions that have already ratified this unalterable decision.
All analysts in their presentations agreed that Venezuela is going through a deep economic, political and social crisis, affecting all the productive sectors without distinction, including that of oil, pillar of the national economy.
Perhaps an analysis by Rodrigo Agudo, an expert consultant in the agrifood area, had the greatest impact among the attendees for being about a sensitive area that affects the daily lives of Venezuelan citizens.
Agudo made a retrospective of the policies that have been implemented in the sector since 1999, when the late Hugo Chávez came to power, among which stood out the expropriations of productive lands, the seizure of industries and retail chains, the application of socialist criminal laws, and arbitrary inspections of retailers. A policy that has imposed the absolute power of the State on the private sector of the economy, reducing it to the very minimum, which has caused suspicion among investors, taken away the domestic and foreign capitals, and condemned the population to the scourge of inflation and scarcity.
Agudo said that the nation's productive system has been hit hard over the past 14 years, boosting imports despite the huge oil revenues derived from record prices of this non-renewable resource. Revenues that are no longer huge following a collapse in oil prices.
To Agudo "Venezuela has entered a process of loss of its productive sovereignty amid an environment of increasing scarcity". A scarcity that is already a structural problem derived from the destruction of the entire supply chain on the part of the Government (loss of foreign borrowing, loss of supply, attacks on wholesalers, attacks on retailers, etc.)
A dramatic example is in the meat industry, where price controls and the lack of investment have reduced the supply of meat in the country. A situation that repeats itself with cereals, oil, milk, sugar, and a long list of products that make up the basic food basket. This is an issue that affects both private and state-owned companies, which according to figures released by the ministries of Food and Industries in their reports and account, state-run companies such as Lácteos Los Andes, Industrias Diana, Vtelca, Orinoquia and Venezolana de Industrias Tecnológicas were unable to meet their modest goals set for 2014, not only for the difficulties in the acquisition of domestic and imported raw materials due to the lack of foreign currency, but for the inefficiency and corruption of the State.
Agudo said that the shortages problem, which today affects some 3.5 million families, is impossible to solve in the short term. According to his own calculations, it would take up to three years for some products, from four to six years for others, and up to 10 years for some products like meat. That is to say, it would take a decade to restore the supply chain, inventories and consumption there was back in 1999.
That's some superb sovereignty of hunger that Venezuela is enjoying thanks to its socialist government!
See VenEconomy: The Sovereignty of Hunger in Venezuela! (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 17, 2015)
In the last few decades, Venezuela went from being a country of immigrants to a country of emigrants.
There is no doubt that the mass exodus of Venezuelan citizens seen today is much more than a political issue. This is about a socio-economic issue with profound implications for the future of all Venezuelans.
According to Iván De La Vega, a professor of the Simón Bolívar University in Caracas and an expert in the migration field, some 1.5 million Venezuelans would have fled the country over the past 10 years because, among other reasons: 1) The insecurity levels and fears over the shocking homicide figures. 2) The political crisis and state of conflict that cause uneasiness among Venezuelans. 3) The economic factor that dashes the aspirations and hopes of young professionals and businesspeople.
According to figures by the Venezuelan Medical Federation, some 13,000 local doctors have taken off already, a fact that opens a new crisis hotspot in the national healthcare sector so battered by inflation, shortages, and disinvestment.
This migratory wave made up by thousands of Venezuelans in their best productive age, mostly young people with training and work experience, is hitting companies already affected by anti-investment policies harder than ever before. The exodus of local talent is creating a decapitalization in human resources and, therefore, weighs on the progress of the nation.
Without prejudice to the reasons that each person has to take that difficult path known as exodus, it is the adverse consequences that mass emigration may have for the future of Venezuela where, to VenEconomy, lies the importance of a message of optimism and confidence given by Lorenzo Mendoza, head of Venezuela's largest foodmaker and brewer Empresas Polar, to all of his workers on Sunday.
Mendoza said that 30 million Venezuelans cannot leave for Panama, or Colombia or any another country. That he is with "the people who cannot go anywhere". He also said that "as any Venezuelan company, they have to work, they have to produce, they have to achieve better things somehow."
Mendoza claims that he shall stay in Venezuela because it is his home country. Because it is what he loves most. Because it is his responsibility; it is what he believes in; it is what he likes better than anything.
He sent the youth a message of hope: Firstly, "this country has so much more to offer us than any other foreign country, as persons emigrating somewhere else". Secondly, "it is very important for you to analyze your own reality and your own personal context, and then make your decision".
He confirmed that within the Polar business group "there is a future, there is an approach to continue thinking forward, to continue working and to continue producing, and generating opportunities..."
"This business group has gone through different stages for 74 years; here we are and here we shall remain".
His message of optimism is for everyone. "As Venezuelans, we have to deal with our problems, we cannot be indifferent no matter the way we think, no matter the way we feel about things, no matter what we believe in, we have to deal with our problems because we Venezuelans have rights and duties. Let's fulfill our duties and demand our rights; if we do that, Venezuela is going to be a better place regardless of how we think".
He offered "an optimistic view" and concluded that there is a future in Venezuela and that the country needs all of its citizens.
See VenEconomy: There is a Future Here in Venezuela! (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 20, 2015)
On Monday, the governor of Aragua state and reportedly one of the pivots of the Venezuelan revolution, Tareck El Aissami, gave a hint on one of the many reasons why corruption levels in Venezuela have grown so much in these times of "socialism of the 21st century". A fact that becomes tangible in the corruption perceptions index released annually by Transparency International, in which Venezuela has had the top places among the most corrupt countries for more than a decade.
In a fit of (naivety or cynicism?), El Aissami said during the Regional Assembly of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) that the former governor of Aragua, Rafael Isea, had been accepted to a witness protection program in the U.S. in exchange for "garbage information" against the Government of Venezuela. This way he confirmed a rumor that had been circulating across several sources of information.
What was "original" about this announcement was not that El Aissami referred to his countryman as a traitor to the "Bolivarian Revolution", or that he linked him to alleged acts of corruption. That's most likely to happen when someone decides to leave the revolutionary lane.
The detail that catches our eye is that he was already aware of Isea's alleged acts of corruption and that he did not denounce him at the request of the late president Hugo Chávez.
According to the media, El Aissmi said: "I wanted to make a serious complaint. I remained silent for two years because Commander Chávez told me as soon as he sent me here (the Governorship of Aragua): I'm withdrawing a son of mine from here because he is a traitor; do not fail me because you're another son to me". We need to ask how to define this kind of automatic cover-up. Maybe complicity? Prevarication? Incitement to impunity? Tolerance toward the crimes committed by their fellow party members?
Is this kind of automatic solidarity, supported by a Government-State that has monopolized the country's public authorities, the perfect ingredient for the development of corruption and for making the civil service opaque? In Venezuela, the monopoly of power is being applied with particular pressure to the System of the Administration of Justice, a system used in a discretionary manner to exonerate those who support Venezuela's "socialist process" or to punish those who disagree with it; also being applied the same political pattern for the exercise of their functions are the Parliament (aka the National Assembly) and the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, bodies responsible for the monitoring and control of the public sector.
The result of this has been, as described on several occasions by Mercedes de Freitas, executive director of NGO Transparencia Venezuela: The Venezuelan State is one of the most powerful in the region, one of the most closed and less exposed to public scrutiny.
These are the reasons why so many allegations of money laundering, influence-peddling, kickback schemes, direct public contract awards from national and/or international bodies are kept under wraps by the Public Ministry, the courts of justice, the National Assembly and the Office of the Comptroller.
Thus, no public authority in Venezuela would seriously and openly make an investigation on the billions of dollars that went through the Swiss branch of London-based bank HSBC or the complaints of money laundering schemes in Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) and its Banco Madrid offshoot, where officials close to the Presidency of the Republic would be involved in the payment of commissions to Spanish companies for "consulting services" in the attraction of contracts. One of these contracts was for the recovery of the Line 1 of the Caracas Metro ($1.85 billion for a commission of about $88.8 million) and another for the construction of a thermoelectric plant (1.5 billion euros for a possible commission of more than 82 million euros).
This "indifference" on the part of the judiciary in the face of specific allegations of corruption is in contrast, for example, to the performance of the system of justice in Brazil, an autonomous and solid system with good investigative capacities that has exposed corruption at state-run oil company Petrobras, where officials of the government party that belongs to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and President Dilma Rousseff are involved.
There is an urgent need in Venezuela to put an end to corruption, where officials and frontmen from the Bolivarian revolution are squandering the public money that should be invested in healthcare, education, infrastructure, security and food production.
See VenEconomy: For This and Many Other Reasons (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 21, 2015)
In a government that has taken the public authorities by assault, that believes itself as owner of the lives and thoughts of citizens, that has transformed the non-transparency, impunity and lawlessness into an institution, corruption is not limited to the theft of public funds, which as we all know is the customary practice of Venezuelas ruling elite.
No, in this era of the so-called socialism of the 21st century, the lack of transparency (which facilitates corruption) in the actions of public authorities and other State bodies is the channel where Venezuela's democracy has been going away, thanks to a vicious circle created by the government's hegemonic power.
By forcing changes in the electoral law and with the acquiescence and permissiveness of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Parliament, the late Hugo Chávez - and now Nicolás Maduro - have been able to move ahead with a so-called "Plan for the Homeland" that is leading the country to utter economic and social disaster. Changes in the electoral system that granted both of them a majority of parliamentary seats without this being proportional to the votes obtained. A parliamentary majority that was then inflated through manipulations to get the opposition out of the electoral game, or to buy consciences of some people with lack of scruples.
Dirty little tricks by no means negligible, since thanks to that spurious majority (1) enabling powers to pass laws that have curtailed civil and economic rights and freedoms were granted; (2) several extraordinary funds for campaign and propaganda expenses during election times were approved; (3) absolute majorities of the ruling party were guaranteed in the National Electoral Council and the Supreme Court of Justice, as well as the fact of appointing supporters of the "socialist process" to the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, the Attorney General's Office and the Office of the Ombudsman.
That is to say, all the power of the State is concentrated to favor the ruling political bias.
To this it can be added an existing communicational hegemony that not only has taken over the public information network to put it at the service of the State, but has also put economic and legal limits to independent privately-run media in a gradual - but steady - way. From there is a new alert issued by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) on the deterioration of democracy and press freedom in Venezuela, due to discriminatory measures and recurring restrictions imposed by the Government against the critical and independent press. Measures currently affecting several media outlets, including El Correo del Caroní, El Impulso, El Carabobeño, El Nacional and El Regional de Zulia, all battered by a serious newsprint supply crisis caused by the rationing of foreign currency on the part of the Government as a form of political control. A political control that is also being applied to the rest of the private productive sector.
Similarly, the nontransparent political discretion also applies its control after the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic announced alleged inconsistencies in a sworn statement of net assets against María Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles Radonski and Julio Borges. A decision that seems a first step before eventual political disqualifications for these three leaders of the democratic opposition.
Another act of political corruption is that, in a desperate attempt to win the upcoming parliamentary elections, the National Institute of Statistics in conjunction with the National Electoral Council have modified the criteria for the allocation of population values in at least 19 of the 24 states. This modification at the level of municipalities, parishes and districts producs a displacement of parliamentary seats from an electoral constituency to another.
It turns out that the ruling-party bloc in the Parliament on Tuesday, disregarding the opinion of the opposition, gave the go-ahead to these changes, which in all cases benefits the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV. This because the same percentage of votes in 2010 would give the Government's party four additional lawmakers to the detriment of the parliamentary representation of the opposition.
These dishonest political actions radicalize positions and put a new shackle on the democratic alternative, whose fastest route out of this mess is through elections.
See VenEconomy: The Other Face of Corruption in Venezuela (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 22, 2015)
Nicolás Maduro, in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections this year and in observance of Labor Day on May 1, stepped up his attacks on the private business sector.
Perhaps he will do so in a bid to repeat the "Dakazo" experience on the country's retail stores that yielded so many electoral dividends for him in 2013, and that way regain some popular support. What there is no doubt about is that he is doing things by faithfully following the Socialist Homeland plan that the late Hugo Chávez left him as inheritance, and that has also left Venezuela in ruins.
Over the last couple of days, Maduro has been threatening and intimidating the nation's entrepreneurs with having a new enabling law enacted soon and sending all of them to prison. He announced that he is making, together with his general staff, the final adjustments to a special plan through which he will face an alleged "economic war" from the private sector of the economy, and that he will unveil the details on May 1, Labor Day.
From his show Contacto con Maduro (contact with Maduro), broadcast on national TV and radio, the President urged the labor sector to "take charge of the plan for the economic counteroffensive" that will consolidate "a great economic revolution of socialist and productive character".
Now Maduro aims to create "popular supply councils". He sees these councils as groups of people that would oversee the operations of each supermarket in order to avoid irregularities and ensure supplies of basic products.
The goal is to defeat, according to Maduro's own words, "the parasitic and thieving bourgeoisie and oligarchy, who is pulling the strings of the country's product distribution network and has broken all the rules of the game of the law, the Constitution and the economy. Who has broken all of the basic rules of coexistence, respect for the laws and rules of the economy".
Then, on Wednesday from Puerto La Cruz in Anzoátegui state, Maduro threatened entrepreneurs again by telling them that Fedecámaras (Venezuela's main business association) won't be getting any more dollars as he accused them once more for being responsible of the economic war, which he insists is taking place as we speak.
Perhaps Maduro may convince again a specific sector of the population that entrepreneurs are to blame for the general shortages and unbearable inflation issues thanks to this virulent message. Perhaps because of that saying that goes "a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth", a few thousands of Venezuelans may buy him that capitalists caused the devastating problems of production and distribution of food, medicines and other products and basic goods.
But surely Maduro will not be able to get the country out of the hole it has been plunged into for the last 16 years of a failed political and economic model if he doesn't rectify the course, no matter how many tall stories he may come up with, or how much he insults the private sectors of the economy that are producing and keeping the country afloat, or how many times he corners them, prosecutes them and put them behind bars.
Foreign suppliers will not deliver their inputs, raw materials, and other products and goods until they get paid some $10 billion owed to them for merchandise already delivered. The investment capital will not flow into the country unless the rules of the game are clarified and the rule of law in the country is restored. The production apparatus will not start up if the resources to operate are not guaranteed. It has been written in the pages of history that no country in the world with controls, a persecution of the productive sector and no clear rules of the game, has been able to lift its people out of poverty and misery.
As simple as that!
See VenEconomy: Maduro's 'Plan for the Economic Counteroffensive' to do Nothing for Venezuela's Battered Economy (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 23, 2015)
People just need to have a look at news reports coming from the Government to realize the magnitude of the economic crisis affecting Venezuelans.
On the one hand, President Nicolás Maduro announced new "economic steps" as he will no longer allocate foreign currency to entrepreneurs linked to business association Fedecámaras, which means that the shortages issue will worsen further. And on the other, the Health Minister said he is going to start rationing medications for chronic diseases through the so-called Integrated System for Access to Medicines, or Siamed. In other words, more controls for Venezuelans.
In addition, the public opinion is shocked because the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) has pawned part of the gold of the international reserves for almost $1 billion, a fact that may drain the public coffers.
The central bank said, for example, that the National Institute of Statistics (INE) had reported that unemployment stood at 5% in December of last year (a month in which employment commonly peaks). In reality, unemployment must have been twice as high because what the INE understands as being an "employed person" is someone who recorded a single hour of remunerated activity during the previous week.
Another conundrum is inflation. Although the BCV reported that the inflation rate was 68.5% in 2014, it also explained that it restructured its basic basket of products since the middle of last year to make it "more representative of current consumption patterns", without elaborating on the details of the structure of the new index. Therefore, it can be assumed that the intention was (and still is) to present inflation figures lower than the real ones. Perhaps what they are trying to hide is the Cendas-FVM index, whose figures have historically differed very little from those of the BCV: According to this index, the cost of the family shopping basket rose 99.9% from April 2014 through March 2015.
Another conundrum raised by VenEconomy is PDVSA. The state-run oil company claims it is exporting between 2.4 and 2.5 million barrels per day and that is producing 2.85 million barrels per day. This doesn't add up because: 1) Domestic consumption is approximately 650,000 barrels per day, so that leaves 2.2 million barrels per day for exports. Unless, of course, this includes 200,000-300,000 barrels per day of light crude imported for mixing to be reexported again. 2) OPEC believes that Venezuelan production is about 2.35 million barrels per day (only crude oil) from which it can be inferred that Venezuela's net exports are about 1.8 million barrels per day, a fact that helps explain the drought of dollars in the country. Why doesn't the Government invite the OPEC to the country so that it can corroborate the real figures?
VenEconomy also explains that the balance of payments is shrouded in mystery. The few figures released by the central bank are questionable. The BCV announced earlier this year that it would count certain non-monetary assets (for example, diamonds) as "reserves". Likewise, the BCV valued its vast holdings of gold at $1,258 per troy ounce in February, when gold was trading at $1,210 an ounce in London. Just like PDVSA, the BCV has disguised its total exports (by offsetting differences in the Capital Account), a procedure that allows it to present surpluses in the current account when, in reality, the country is running deficits.
VenEconomy concludes that "paralysis" is the term that best describes the economy.
Venezuela has too many problems, but these can be solved. However, the first step to take must be clearing the path of lies and distortions so that everyone, including our policymakers, becomes aware and understands where we are standing.
See VenEconomy: Venezuela Goes Downhill! (Latin American Herald Tribune, April 24, 2015)
Warning: Use a High Security Level for browsing in these sites.
www.aporrea.org aporrea.org - Venezuela "Agencia popular alternativa de noticias"
Also see the official sites of the Venezuelan Government in the main section of this page.
Adolfo R. Taylhardat
ABC.es: Internacional (Madrid, España)
Acción por la Libertad (Presos Políticos en Venezuela)
Did High Oil Prices Cause the Financial Crash? (Oil-Price.net)
See PetroleumWorld.com (Latin American Energy, Oil & Gas)
* [This change was again delayed, till December 9, 03:00]
This is the original time zone for the Legal Time in Venezuela, adopted in 1912 and based on the meridian of Villa de Cura (Longitude 67.5° W, Estado Aragua). It replaced the meridian based on Punta de Playa (Longitude 60° W, Estado Delta Amacuro) adopted in 1965 for GMT - 4 hrs.
Longitude on Earth is related to Local Time:
Topocentric Positions of Major Solar System Objects and Bright Stars
at the US Naval Observatory,
With a time zone of GMT - 4.5 hrs, for Caracas:
This page was updated in: April 25 '15
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