Salvatore Lucchese and Enzo Scarano, the former police chief and mayor of San Diego, Carabobo (respectively) were released from the Ramo Verde military prison today, following the conclusion of their 10 month prison sentences.
Almost immediately upon his release, Lucchese gave an interview in which he spoke about the abuses he suffered while in detention. Lucchese said:
Ten months and fifteen days of torture, horror, of unconstitutional detention. 23 hours a day inside a cell, three and a half months in solitary confinement. You don’t do that to a human being. Venezuela is worth any sacrifice. If it means sacrificing life, it must be sacrificed, because this is the most beautiful country in the world with the noblest people in the world.
Lucchese was arrested last year after the government convicted him of failing to suppress the anti-government demonstrations that were taking place in San Diego. Lucchese explained:
I took responsibility for refusing to obey an unconstitutional order, refusing to attack my people. These are things I will never do, and if I have to go to jail again, let them throw me in jail. I won’t attack my people. We believe in democracy.
At the height of the protests in March of last year, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, the nation’s top court, ordered both Scarano and Lucchese to put an end to the protests in their city. Arguing that Venezuelan law does not give jurisdiction over protests to municipal police, Lucchese refused to carry out the order.
Nelson Mandela’s Lawyer to Visit Leopoldo Lopez
Carlos Vecchio, the national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party, announced today that Irwin Cotler has become an honourary member of Leopoldo Lopez’s legal defence team and is expected to travel to Caracas in the coming days to assess the situation. Cotler is currently a Member of Parliament in Canada, and was at one one of Nelson Mandela’s lawyers.
Cotler is a highly regarded human rights advocate, and is scheduled to received the Law Society of Upper Canada’s first Human Rights Award for a lifetime of work in the field.
Vecchio is currently in Canada on a mission to bring the situation in Venezuela to the attention of the Canadian government. Vecchio met with several Canadian members of parliament today at Montreal’s McGill University, where he said:
We’ve also received the support of the leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, who added her name to a petition from the Liberal and Conservative parties asking for the release of Leopoldo Lopez and other political prisoners, which points to a new round of international support to the cause of our national coordinator and for democracy in Venezuela.
Below, a picture of Vecchio with Cotler:
Polar Airs Grievances
Alimentos Polar, a former powerhouse producer of Venezuelan food and beverage staples, spoke out today against a set of new government regulations, arguing that the government is essentially “forcing us to work at a loss”.
Manuel Felipe Larrazabal, the company’s director,made the comments today as a pair of controversial regulations come into effect: 1) an increase of the price of corn flour, and 2) a decree barring the company from producing mixed-flour products, usually used in the preparation of a number of Venezuelan staple dishes.
Larrazabal argued that the new price of corn flour, set at Bs. 19, is still not enough to cover the cost of production, which he points out is a violation of the government’s own price-control laws:
The new price does not follow the Fair Prices Law. There should be a profit margin, [but] they’re forcing us to work at a loss.
The Ley de Precios Justos [Fair Prices Law] allows companies to make a profit not exceeding 30% on any product they sell. The law contains no provisions calling for companies to operate at a loss.
Speaking on the ban on producing mixed-flour products – presumably enacted to force Polar to focus 100% of its resources on producing only corn flour – Larrazabal said:
To solve the scarcity problem we need to increase production. What the government is dong is substituting production of one product for production of other products, but we’re not producing a kilogram more of what he have to produce. The real solution comes when all of the actors in this industry produce at 100% capacity. Polar cannot, operating at 49% capacity, supply the entire national market.
Larrazabal said that the only thing restricting the production of mixed-flour products does is put more limitations on what Venezuelans can and cannot buy.
While announcing the restrictions today, Maduro said that they were being put in place to stop Polar from lying to people by trying to sell them fake products at a premium:
There will be no more production of corn flour with some fake additive, with some fake flavouring, so that they can charge 15, 10, 20 more Bolivares for it.
Polar is the primary producer of harina pan, a corn flour used in the most basic of Venezuelan staples, the arepa. Until today, Polar also produced other kinds of flour which, being different from corn flour, allowed for the preparation of other Venezuelan staples, including empanadas and arepitas dulces.