I’m seeing pictures and reports on Twitter of a demonstration in front of the Miraflores palace, the official centre of the government. This is the first time since these protests started back in earl February that I’ve seen a crowd gather in front of Miraflores.

It looks like the demonstration there was organized by a group of veteran paratroopers who fought for Chavez in the coup attempt of 1992. The paratroopers were demanding increased wages and pensions, among other things. At some point, the National Guard troops there used tear gas to attempt to disperse the crowd.

Below are some recent pictures:

In Other News

In a televised statement this morning, newly-elected San Cristobal mayor Patricia Gutierrez de Ceballos, responded to Maduro’s statement last that judicial removal from office of elected officials could become a common occurrence. Patricia said:

Yesterday in cadena, the president said that if in three months they have to hold another election, he will do it. I call on the president – I demand – that he listens to the people of San Cristobal. There are a people here demanding respect and recognition who made a decision on December 8 [when they elected Daniel Ceballos] which was overturned by force by the government through their orders.

Speaking on her victory in San Diego, Rosa de Scarano said:

I am satisfied and proud by this unconditional support. Quietly, my people who endured peacefully opened a path for me and it has manifested itself. My people, who support the legitimate mayor [Enzo Scarano], and me, the part of him that is free, from now on San Diego has two mayors.
San Diegans understood that they had a commitment  not only to the municipality, but with the whole country. No to threats and warnings, listen to the voice of the people, because we are not violent, they came to bother us. We are the defenders of what we deserve.

Sandra Gonzales, the executive vice president of the Asociacion Venezolana de Agencias de Viajes y Turismo [Venezuelan Association of Travel and Tourism] revealed that air plane ticket sales have fallen to nearly 50% since last year. Venezuela has been unable to repay a roughly four billion dollar debt it owes to foreign airlines, which has caused some of them (like Air Canada and Alitalia) to suspend operations in the country, while Lufthansa has halted sales of new tickets to Venezuelan travel agencies.

Yolanda Rodriguez, owner of the Venus Travel Agency in Caracas, commented:

Here, in a week last year, I would sell two million bolivares [in tickets]… now, we don’t even get to 400,000 a month. This week, we’e only sold one ticket for an international flight.

Gonzales pointed out that 15,000 Venezuelans are currently employed in the travel and tourism industry, and that the drastic reduction in business puts them at risk of losing their jobs.

Keeping up his conspiratorial streak, Maduro announced today that he would soon provide evidence that a member of the National Assembly was conspiring with “multimillionaires in Miami” to turn Venezuelan army officers against the country in an attempt to overthrow the government. Maduro said:

I’m going to bring to light a scientific investigation, adhered to the law so that you can see how re-offending politicians bent on a coup d’etat, holding the office of deputies, along with multimillionaire businessmen linked to Miami are scheming and trying to buy members of the army.
They were preparing to attack institutional objectives in our homeland and generate chaos throughout the country. They must pay before justice. They made a group of officials lose their careers. In the end, all of that was found out thanks to the great moral reserve of the majority of the armed forces who raised the alarm on time.

This isn’t the first time that Maduro has claimed to be in procession of irrefutable evidence of some grand conspiracy against his government. In early March, the government claimed to have evidence that the opposition was hiring Middle Eastern terrorist mercenaries to plant car bombs and unleash a terror campaign in Venezuela. Most recently, the Minister of the Interior and Justice provided evidence he claimed pointed to an elaborate conspiracy involving dozens of individuals and NGOs, both at home and abroad. In both cases, the evidence provided was – at best – circumstantial and extremely dubious.

Finally, a video that has been making the rounds lately. It shows the Defensora del Pueblo Gabriela Ramirez answering an anchor’s question regarding the fact that she might be one of the people on a possible list of Venezuelans officials to be sanctioned by the United States. The video is below, along with a translation:

Anchor: What do you say to Senator Marco Rubio, who says that you might possibly be one of the people sanctioned?
Ramirez: Well, I feel that this isn’t a personal thing against me. First of all, I’ve never been to the United States. I’ve only been there twice for work.

It’s quite likely that she simply misspoke, but the gaffe has been making the rounds on social media recently none-the-less.

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