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Maduro took to Twitter today to wish Venezuelans a happy and safe Palm Sunday. In a series of tweets, Maduro urged Venezuelans to continue to support their country by singing a petition demanding that President Barack Obama repeal sanctions against Venezuelan officials.

The tweets can be seen below (translated in reverse order, from earliest to latest):

Happy Palm Sunday to all. Let’s continue to support the homeland with your signatures, in town squares, houses, we’ve reached 5 million and we’re on our way to 10 and more…
(…)
Homeland… homeland… homeland… Let’s go homeland with love let’s continue forward with strength defending this blessed land of liberators… homeland…
(…)
Christ with his hope and the Good News [is] with us… Christ is with you, with me, in me, in you, Christ with his blessings for the homeland…

Venezuela is an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, and as such, religious holidays such as Palm Sunday are widely observed.

Comptroller Discovers Gross Mismanagement

The General Comptroller of the Republic released the findings of an audit into the Plan Barrio Nuevo Tricolor, a project under the control of the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works in 2012. The project received Bs. 66.7 million to make repairs to the homes of the country’s poorest citizens.

According to the audit, 25.61% of the money (Bs. 17.1 million) went missing, as the ministry could not provide the adequate paperwork to show where it had been used. According to the Comptroller, much of the rest of the money (Bs. 49.6 million) was accounted for, but had not been used properly:

… it was determined that a large part of these costs [the Bs. 49.6 million] were not directly related to the objective of the project.

The Comptroller found that Bs. 5.6 million were used to buy insurance for ministry vehicles, while Bs. 219,000 were used to buy food and drinks for an event to commemorate the opening of a new bus system in Caracas.

Finally, the audit discovered that Bs. 43.4 million were used to pay workers, although no work on any homes ever took place. The Comptroller found that instead, workers only improved “drainage systems, ditches, sewers, amongst others”.

Brazilian Deputies to Visit Venezuela

A delegation of Brazilian parliamentary deputies will travel to Venezuela in the near future to acquaint themselves with the political prisoner situation in the country, particularly the cases of Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma.

The Brazilian delegation will include members of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira [Brazilian Social Democracy Party] (PSDB). The party’s leader, Aecio Neves, announced the trip in a press release, which partially reads:

We’re organizing a trip with important Brazilian leaders, and I plan to be part of this group. It’s a clear gesture of commitment to democracy and freedom. We want in our country the same thing we want for our neighbours.

PDVSA Claims Commandos Sabotaged Plant

PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, claimed today that an unidentified armed group attempted to sabotage one of its plants in Monagas state. According to the company, a group of armed men stormed the Centro Operativo el Tejero plant on Friday and damaged vital equipment.

Below, the official PDVSA statement on the event:

PDVSA informs that an armed commando group broke into the Centro Operativo el Tejero, located in the Punta de Mata Division of the Oriente en Monagas Executive Production Division, subdued the workers, and proceeded to break through doors with high-tension cable soldering equipment.

The event took place in the early morning hours of Friday, March 27, when the commando group proceeded to cut and remove feeding cables for the plant’s crude oil pumping system, which caused crude oil store tanks to overflow, which resulted in the closure of 80,000 barrels of oil and 1.2 million cubic feet of natural gas.

The impact of this act of sabotage against the oil industry was counteracted by the activation of a contingency plan, and thanks to the actions of patriotic workers, who were able to restore the pumping system in record time. This allowed for crude oil and natural gas operations in the west of the country to normalize.

Had they not acted in time, gas production might have been gravely impacted, given the fact that this area is the country’s most important natural gas area.

National authorities are currently investigating this act which we do not hesitate to call terrorism against our industry. Moreover, the necessary steps will be taken to ensure that this kind of event does not happen again.

In this way, oil workers continue their compromise with the oil industry and the Venezuelan people, and call [on everyone] to repudiate any act of sabotage that might affect our homeland’s economy.

Minister: Gas Price Increase Won’t Affect Fares

Minister of Transportation and Public Works Haiman El Troudi said today during an interview on Televen’s Jose Vicente Hoy that the planned increase to gas prices will not affect public transit fares. He also said that “everyone” he has spoken to agrees that gas prices in the country should be increased.

El Troudi explained:

We’ve spoken to the transport sector. If the prices increase in steps, then their price structure will not be affected. So, it wouldn’t be necessary to adjust transit fares.

Although Maduro began hinting at increasing gas prices months ago, virtually no details regarding the increase have been released.

Caracas Sees +450 Murders in March

El Nacional is reporting that at least 453 murder victims have been taken to the Bello Monte morgue so far in March, with two days left to go in the month. In the last 45 hours alone, 33 murder victims have been taken to the morgue, Caracas’ only such facility.

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