After OPEC leaders failed to agree to decrease output in order to slow down plummeting oil prices, Maduro assured the country that there was nothing to worry about. At a speech before a military parade in Aragua state today, Maduro said that his government would continue to spend money on social programs and the military, and that he hoped that OPEC will eventually works towards making “[oil] prices arrive at the level they should be at.”.
Maduro also tried to ease the country’s fears that money would soon start drying up, saying:
If we have to find savings in the budget, it’ll be on luxury spending, our own salaries.
Earlier in the day, an OPEC meeting in Vienna ended with the cartel deciding to not take any action on the decreasing oil prices. OPEC secretary general Abdallah Salem el Badri encapsulated the organization’s current philosophy with this quote:
There’s a price decline. That does not mean that we should really rush and do something
Brent crude oil prices fell to their lowest level in four years today, and ended the day’s trading at $72.56 per barrel.
Maduro also spoke on Venezuela’s ongoing attempts to convince its OPEC counterparts to do something to help oil prices increase. Below, a video showing Maduro’s comments with my translation below:
Maduro: … OPEC. And for the time being, it wasn’t possible to achieve the proposal several OPEC members made along with us. There was no consensus to make an important cut to oil [production] to help the markets recover, and above all else to help oil prices recover.
Venezuelan oil prices – and in general, around the world – have fallen between 35-45% in the last few weeks. The enemies of our homeland are rubbing their hands together because they think that that this is going to stop the Bolivarian revolution, that it will affect investments. I’m going to tell you right here, right now, before all of you army brothers and sisters of our homeland: we haven’t achieved our goal yet. But we will achieve it, and we will continue to try until oil prices arrive at the level they should be at, around 100% a barrel. But, despite the fact that national income has fallen between 35-40%, I guarantee you all that every social and economic investments for the development and growth of Venezuela – I guarantee them to you. All of these investments for the missions, education, health, housing —
If we have to find savings in the budget, it’ll be on luxury spending, our own salaries, but we would never cut even one bolivar from education, food, homes, and the missions of our people.
Death Tolls Continues to Rise at Uribana
Up to 25 inmates have died and approximately 150 have become seriously ill after allegedly willingly consuming harmful chemicals in protest, according to government officials. The protest is a continuation of a hunger strike Uribana prisoners initiated early this week to protest, among other things, the subhuman conditions in which they live.
According to the Minister of Penal Services, inmates forced their way into the prison infirmary, where they proceeded to attack the “facilities and consume various drugs”. However, this official version of events is being called into question by the Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, an NGO that monitors Venezuelan prisons.
According to the OVP’s director, Humberto Prado, some family members have said that their loved ones became sick after drinking water provided to them by prison authorities. Also, whereas the government official tally sits at 13 dead, OVP observers counted 25 bodies at the morgue where the dead prisoners are being taken to.
A relative of an Uribana inmate told the media that prisoners are only allowed one visit per month, are beaten regularly, and are fed rotten food.
The father of one of the dead – 28 year old Renzo Alexander Gomez – said that when his son arrived at an aid centre from the prison, he was having a seizure and showed signs of beatings. Banser Mendez said:
He arrived and was having seizures, and they [doctors] didn’t see him. The autopsy said that he had died of an overdose… his ears, nose and head were covered in blood. I thought that was strange.