Today, Maduro admitted for the first time since oil prices began their precipitous fall in the summer of 2014 that Venezuela’s national income was suffering. Maduro said that Venezuela “has lost 50%” of its foreign currency income. 96% of the country’s foreign currency income comes directly from oil sales.
Maduro made the admission at an event to commemorate Cuba’s Cinco Heroes, a group of intelligence officers who had been arrested by the United States in 1998 for espionage and recently released.
Maduro stressed that despite the troubling fall in foreign currency income, the country has not suffered many adverse effects, and called on Venezuelans to look to Cuba as an example:
No child has had his school, or his university, closed. This will never happen. We continue to invest in healthcare, socialist missions, and [we continue to make progress] when it comes to homes. We’ve [built] one million homes because revolutionary people cannot be stopped. At one point, Cuba lost 70% of her foreign currency incomes from oil and industry, and the Cuban people stood tall with Fidel as their leader.
Below, some pictures of the event today at the Panteon Nacional in Caracas:
Int’l Media Waging “Psychological War”
During the same event, Maduro accused Reuters, the Associated Press, the Agence France-Presse, and Spain’s EFE of being part of a “machine of psychological warfare” against Venezuela.
Maduro accused the news agencies of manipulating public opinion through lies, saying:
They declare war when war has to be declared, [then] they apologize and pretend they’re angels when they have to, [and] they turn whoever they have to into an angel even if that person is the world’s biggest murderer.
In the face of intensifying economic and social crises at home, Maduro has taken to blaming the media – both foreign and domestic – for the country’s problems. On Sunday, Reporters Without Borders released its 2015 World Press Freedom Index, and ranked Venezuela 137 out of 180 countries.
The report made note of the country’s aggressive stance towards the media, saying:
Many local and foreign journalists were the targets of threats, insults, physical attacks, theft, destruction of equipment and arrests during a succession of protests. The Bolivarian National Guard was mainly responsible, but protesters and small paramilitary groups were also sometimes to blame. And the harassment of journalists and media was not limited to demonstrations, either.
DiaDia On Defensive Once More
DiaDia [alternatively spelled “Dia a Dia”] is a convenience store chain in Venezuela. Back in February, the government took over the chain of 35 stores after Maduro accused it of hoarding and withholding products to create lines.
This past Sunday, May 3, in the small DiaDia store in the Agua Salud sector of Caracas, Jorge Fernandes – the manager of the [chain] of the capital district’s western zone – was unexpectedly arrested by order of the Minister of Nutrition. [He was arrested] under suspicion of “sabotage”, because allegedly there were lines to get into the store. The worker was taken to the National Bolivarian Police Headquarters in [the neighbourhood of] 23 de Enero.
The company pointed out that DiaDia is a convenience store chain, and that as such its stores tend to be very small, limiting the amount of people that can be in one locale at the same time.
Most importantly, a lawyer for the company stressed that the PDVAL, the state’s food distribution wing, has been running DiaDia since February, and that as such stores are under constant government supervision.
Capriles Calls on CNE to Announce Elections
Nearly a week after the self-imposed deadline before which the Consejo Nacional Electoral said it would announce the date of this year’s parliamentary elections, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles called on the organization to set a date for the highly anticipated electoral event. Capriles called on the body’s head, Tibisay Lucena, directly:
Mrs. Lucena, Venezuelans have a right to know the date of the elections for the National Assembly. It’s May 5 already. What are you waiting for?
The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, said that he had high hopes that the opposition would win the as-of-yet-unannounced elections:
We’re going to have a new National Assembly, we’re going to interpellate [formally question] the Minister, and we’re going to hold those responsible for our electrical problems accountable. If the government doesn’t respect the people, we will use the tools given to us by the National Assembly, the [same tools] to which we’ve acted as opposition. We’re going to build the Venezuela of work and hope we all want.