Eight military officers were sentenced to prison today by a military tribunal after being found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the Maduro government. The officers were arrested this past February as part of “Operation Jerico”. Most of the officers, including an active-duty Air Force general, were sentenced to eight years in prison.
Minister of Defence Vladimir Padrino Lopez announced the convictions on Twitter:
The homeland carries out justice! Military tribunals have sentenced eight officers in “Operation Jerico” for instigation to rebel and against military decorum.
No other details on the case have emerged, and there appears to be some confusion over the number of sentenced officers. La Patilla cites defence attorneys as saying that the actual number of defendants is 9.
Back in March, Maduro announced the arrests as part of an investigation into a plan that he alleges would have used an airplane to bomb targets around Caracas. At the time, Maduro also said that United States and Venezuelan opposition officials were involved in the plot, although he never provided any evidence to support his claim.
Ministry of Health Launches Audit Into Money for Medical Imports
Minister of Health Henry Venture announced today that the government was launching an investigation into medical import companies – including Merk and Bayer – over their use of dollars acquired through CENCOEX for the purposes of importing medicine into Venezuela.
At the heart of the problem lies Venezuela’s convoluted currency exchange system. A company wishing to import medicine into the country must first exchange bolivares for dollars, for which it applies to the government. If the medicine to be imported is considered to be of priority importance – as is the case with medicine for hypertension – then the company is given dollars at the lowest CENCOEX rate, which is Bs. 6.30. If, however, the medicine is deemed to not be a priority (as is the case with multivitamins), then the dollars are exchanged through the less-favourable rates of Bs. 12 up to Bs. 199.
Ventura believes that medical companies deliberately manipulated import figures and projections in order to ensure the greatest return through the currency exchange system.
Pharmaceutical companies have longed complained that the government owes them $4 billion of dollars for imports, making it nearly impossibly for them to bring medicine into the country.
Venture summed up his suspicions in the following way:
We want to talk about the [$4 billion] dollar debt from 2012, 2013, and 2014, but we also want to talk about what was produced during that time. Why was Bayer given more than $200 million in 2014, and there are no contraceptives in the country?
Aragua Governor Accused of Corruption
National Assembly Deputy Ismael Garcia said today that he would ask the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia [the country’s top court] to initiate impeachment procedures against Aragua state governor Tareck El Aissami so that he may face trial over allegations of corruption.
Garcia’s allegations stem from a corruption investigation involving former Aragua governor Rafael Isea. Isea was implicated back in 2013 in the disappearance of state funds destined for public works in the state. Isea, who was a long-time close friend of Chavez, subsequently fled the country and is believed to be collaborating with United States law enforcement officials, although Isea has denied the accusations.
New Subway Trains Use 39% Less Electricity
New trains now servicing line 1 of the Caracas subway use 39% less electricity than their older counterparts, according to the Minister of Land Transport.
The tidbit was announced by Minister Haiman El Troudi, who is also the president of the Caracas Metro. El Troudi explained that the new trains are equipped with regenerative braking systems which allows the trains to create some of the electricity they need to run whenever they brake.