The Banco Central de Venezuela announced on Tuesday that the country’s economy was officially in recession. According to the bank, the inflation rate between November 2013 and November 2014 sat at 63.6%, and that the country’s GDP dropped 2.3% between July and September of this year. The GDP drop marks the third in as many trimesters, which means that the Venezuelan economy is officially in recession.

The central bank blamed the protests that shook the country early last year for the sorry state of the economy, saying:

[The protests] impeded the proper distribution of basic goods to the people, as well as the normal development and production of goods and services.

Lopez Sends Message to Venezuelans

Leopoldo Lopez wrote a message to Venezuelans from inside his cell at the Ramo Verde military prison outside of Caracas. The full text of the letter (in Spanish) can be found here. My translation is below:

From my cell inside the Ramo Verde military prison I send a brotherly hug to all of my beloved Venezuelan people, and the sincerest wishes that the year 2015 becomes one of hope for all of you.

The forecasts I’ve been able to read about next year agree that it will be a very difficult year thanks to the severe economic crises, and the repressive and arbitrary nature of the dictatorship.

Despite these forecasts, I want to propose to you a vision of optimism and hope for next year.

We who wish for our country to return to prosperity and democracy are the majority, and change is in our hands. It will all depend on our ability to organize ourselves, unite, and mobilize politically. Adversity must become a fertile ground for change.

In a few weeks, I will mark one year in prison. My experience in this prison has been marked by injustice, isolation and loneliness. Out of my 10 months in detention, I’ve been isolated for 5, and I’m still not able to receive visits except from my parents, wife and lawyers. They’ve even thrown excrement at our cells in an attempt to silence our voices and break our will.

It hasn’t been a pleasant experience. But, despite the adversity that prison poses, it has been a space to reflect and [I’ve turned it] into an opportunity to grow morally, physically and spiritually.

I feel enthusiastic by knowing that this process of growth is shared by all of us political prisoners. I know that those of us who are today in prison due to the intolerance and repression of Maduro share a deep hope and optimism that our incarcerations are temporary and that we will see a Venezuela reborn.

Every isolation, every beating, every manipulation of the judicial process – far from discouraging us – has strengthened us.

Just as we have been incarcerated, so have all Venezuelans. Our prison wardens are an corrupt and repressive elite who have collapsed the country. Despite this situation, i invite you to see opportunity in this adversity. An opportunity for change. To achieve this, we have to find a common cause, a purpose shared by all, or at least by the immense majority of Venezuelans.

I am convinced that this common cause that should unite all Venezuelans is the simple exercise of our rights. If our rights and [the guarantee the safeguard those rights] was truly the concern of the state, we would be living in a democratic country today, prosperous and full of opportunities.

Standing between the Venezuela of today and the Venezuela which we want is an obstacle that must be removed:  the corrupt and repressive elite of no more than 100 people who have kidnapped our institutions, ended the rule of law and replaced it with a rule of criminals. If anyone still doubts this, the last illegal and immoral assignments to the [government ministries] made it clear how far this gang is willing to go to remain in power so that they can continue to steal from Venezuelans.

There can be no doubt that by uniting, Venezuelans should strive to remove this corrupt elite and bring about the Venezuela we all deserve. This unity must go beyond the MUD [Mesa de Unidad Democratica], which – while a necessary political alliance – is not representative enough of the great majority who want change. This is why we’re proposing an alliance of students, youth, teachers, unionists, workers, business owners, the unemployed, intellectuals, and the army. Everyone, everyone must unite a common cause: the promotion and respect of the rights of all Venezuelans.

Unified around this clear goal, and ware of the obstacle that the ruling elite pose, it is necessary to create a path to substitute the corruption and open the doors to a new Venezuela, a better Venezuela.

There are three concrete proposals at the table: 1) Force Maduro to resign and call elections, 2) Convene a constituent assembly by popular means to demonstrate the kidnapping of our institutions and unconstitutional laws, and 3) The election of an ample majority to the National Assembly.

We believe in, and are actively promoting, the collection of signatures to convene a constitutional assembly, because we believe that this is the fastest and most inclusive option. However, all three options are valid viable. The most important thing is that regardless of the situation, the main priority is to remove the corrupt elite that has kidnapped the state and destroyed the country. Only then will we be free.

In order to achieve this, we cannot fall into the trap set by police and judicial repression and feel afraid.

Democratic movements – not only in Venezuela, but all over the world – have recognized that they have to take advantage of every peaceful and non-violent means to fight and participate [in the democratic process]. Elections are such a means. The electoral process. So is the path of the street, and the peaceful and non-violent protest. Protests must promote and accompany any of the options that will lead to a substitution of those who govern us today.

Venezuelans, I invite you to not lose faith and to not fall into despair, which is the greatest ally of tyrannyTo those of you who are pessimists and don’t see a successful exit from this situation and to those who have lost hope, I ask that you look around you. Look at how many thousands of Venezuelans, young, full of values, face with courage and determination the regime of Nicolas Maduro and its perversities.

May you find the necessary inspiration to become part of the unstoppable force for history change that is just around the corner. Venezuela cannot be content with mere survival as its goal. We are not a country of line ups or rationing. We are a nation marked by history to become great and happyWhen this new year begins, don’t pray just for you and for your family, pray for Venezuela, and most importantly, ask yourselves how far you’re willing to go to fight for her. Happy New Year. May 2015 be a year of hope.

Venezuela Begins Security Council Stint

Venezuela takes her seat at the United Nations Security council effective today. Venezuela was elected to the seat earlier this year, with 181 out of 193 United Nations member states voting in favour of the motion to give the country a spot on the organization’s most powerful body. Venezuela will sit on the council for the next two years.

The United Nations Security Council usually deals with the gravest, most pressing of world issues, including the authorizing of military action and establishment of sanctions against targeted states. It is made up of five permanent members (Russia, China, United States, France, United Kingdom), and 10 non-permanent members which are voted in every two years.

As a non-permanent member, Venezuela will be given a vote whenever an issue comes before the council.

Caracas Sees +510 Murders in December

Caracas alone saw over 510  murders in the month of December, making it the most violent month of 2014 in the city.

One of the victims was named William Salas Moreno (29), who was murdered a block away from his home by a group of armed men.

Maduro in Brazil for Roussef’s Inauguration

Maduro was in Brazil today to attend the inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Roussef:

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