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National Assembly deputy Carlos Berrizbeitia released some shocking figures regarding Maduro’s trip to New York City this week.

According to Berrizbeitia, Maduro took an entourage of 175 people with him – including family members – to the United Nation’s 69th General Assembly this week. Barrizbieta said:

The price of the hotel rooms alone in the luxury 5-star Stanhope Hotel is over $550,000. We’re talking about the fact that they booked over 35 rooms at a price of $1,000 per day, starting two weeks before their arrival (…) the presidential suite that President Maduro stayed at in the Hyatt Hotel cost $10,000 per day.

The exuberant cost of the trip went beyond the price of lodging alone, Berrizbeitia claims:

As far as travel allowance goes, every one of the 175 people travelling [with Maduro] received an allowance of $500 per day.

Berrizbeitia has made it a personal mission to track spending by government officials, and has repeatedly criticized the Maduro government for its extravagance.

Torrealba Interview: Excerpts

Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba, the new executive director of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, gave an interview to a El Universal, which was published today. I’ve selected a few interesting bits from the interview and translated them below:

What is the strategy?

To build a majority to make change possible and guarantee governability.

I understand that you argued, as a way to turn down the request [to become leader of the MUD], that what was needed was a consensus builder. Did you not feel able to fill that role?

I thought that if that was the role, then others would be able to fill it with the same emphasis as I could, but the activities that I carry out on the streets don’t have many other candidates. But the circumstances of building the consensus, which built up into a refusal to meet, indicated that we should go in that direction. Another reason was the strangeness of the role. I’m not a partisan politician, nor do I have political aspirations. I am on a path of community work, so the question becomes, “Is this the beginning of an entrenchment of relations between political leadership and community workers?”

There’s a tacit understanding that it is necessary to come closer to a portion of the country that has not yet come into the opposition camp.

That’s the most important part. I’m not here thanks to my beautiful head of hair or my overwhelming charisma. I’m here because I fit the profile of someone who fights for social rights, and that brings about two possibilities. You can think, for example, that this is a façade: “Let’s put someone at the front to make it seem like we’re addressing the issue, and let’s use him as a marketing tool”. But I think that this is an answer to compression that the coming together of leadership causes, and furthermore, the idea of a pact between the political class that wants to provide an alternative and the poor and marginalized.

Why do you say, “poor and marginalized”?

We don’t make the mistake of separating the middle class from the poor. First of all, because our middle class is a new phenomenon, which came about [at the same time] as democracy. This means that the nexus between the poor and the working class is not only theoretical, but that they are related. Every middle class family has a dad or a grandpa who lives in a barrio. In other words, the middle class are [the poor] who took advantage of the opportunities given by democracy to improve oneself.

The fact that you come from a poor family challenges common notions of political leadership. You’re breaking a stereotype. 

There’s a very beautiful phrase from Pope Francis: “If you want to be a shepherd, you have to smell like sheep.” I think that whoever wants to be a political leader, in the Venezuela of today and tomorrow, has to smell like the people and relish in that.

Isn’t that a problem of the opposition, that it doesn’t smell like the people?

That’s a problem of the political class in Venezuela, not just the opposition. In the [government] political class there are terrible problems. The alleged working class beginnings of many of [the PSUV] leaders contrasts sharply with their current standard of living as boliburgueses [bourgeois born out of PSUV policies]. There is nothing further from the people than an enchufado [government politician] driving around in an armoured SUV with five thugs on motorcycles as escorts. This is repugnant and insulting to the people. 

Clorox Expresses Concern Over Factory Take-Over

Clorox shut down its factories in Venezuela last week after announcing that it was ceasing all operations in the country due to economic instability and government controls. After the factories closed, approximately 400 workers occupied the factory located in Valles del Tuy, Miranda, as well as one in Carabobo.

In response, Clorox issued a statement today in which it warned that work at the plant is “specialized and technical”, and that it was “seriously worried” about the safety of the workers and of those living near the plants. The statement also said:

The actions of the Venezuelan government give rise to worry. Clorox and its associates are not responsible for the security of the workers and of the communities surrounding the plans, nor do we assume responsibility for any damages caused by this occupation.

The company also stressed that, due to strict government controls, it had been forced to sell its products in Venezuela at a loss over the last three years. The situation became untenable last week, forcing Clorox to leave the country.

While Vice-President Jorge Arreaza assured that the two factories in question would be reactivated in the future, he did not offer any details.

Finally, pictures of a protest that blocked a road somewhere in Barquisimeto, Lara state, earlier today:

The sign reads: “President Maduro, the neighbours from the Villa Productiva ‘Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias’, condominium number 9, need your help to (…) have our services.

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