Miguel Otero, the head of El Nacional, gave an interview to Globo published today in which he discussed the socio-political situation in Venezuela.
Otero is currently involved in a lawsuit launched by National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello over the publication of allegations that Cabello is involved in drug trafficking operations. The lawsuit, which was launched in April, caught Otero while on a trip overseas.
When asked if he was afraid to return to Venezuela, Otero replied simply, “I will return, although I’m not sure when”.
On the nature of the lawsuit against him, Otero clarified that, “I have not said that Cabello is a drug trafficker, only that he is being investigated”. This important distinction was also made by Juan Forero, one of the authors of the Wall Street Journal article which broke the Cabello investigation story in North America. Like Otero, Forero said that all his article said was a fact: Cabello and other Venezuelan officials are under investigation by United States authorities.
On the state of civil liberties in the country and the nature of the Venezuelan government, Otero had the following to say:
Globo: Is El Nacional at risk of closing due to persecution and the lack of printing paper?
Otero: We used to have circulation of 150,000, and now it’s 40,000. We used to have 1,100 employees and now we have 350. We’ve survived through the help of other newspapers in the region, such as GLOBE, El Mercurio, La Nacion, and El Pais, among others.
Globo: Do you believe that Venezuela is currently experimenting with dictatorship?
Otero: It’s a dictatorship. All of the public power [institutions] have been co-opted. There are human rights violations being committed, authoritarian decisions being made. It’s a dictatorship… more sophisticated than those of the past.
Lopez Moved to Palace of Justice
Leopoldo Lopez was transported today from his cell in the Ramo Verde military prison to the Palacio de Justicia [Palace of Justice] in Caracas to continue his trial.
Lopez was transported via ambulance, as he has been on a hunger strike for the past seven and a half days. He, along with fellow prisoner Daniel Ceballos, are demanding the release of all political prisoners, the announcement of the exact date for this year’s parliamentary elections, and an end to political repression in the country.
Int’l Reserves Hit Lowest Point Since 1997
El Nacional reported today that the country’s international reserves are at the lowest level they have been in nearly twenty years.
Today, Venezuelan has approximately $17 billion in international reserves; the last time it had that number was in 1997. Efrain Velasquez, an economist and head of the Consejo Nacional de Economia [National Economic Council] explained that country’s economic woes stem from the mismanagement of international reserves:
[Foreign currency] reserves have not been administered in a manner consistent with the financing of imports. Without imports, productive machinery cannot operate, which in turns lessens the supply of goods and services.
The same article cites figures from international economic organizations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the International Monetary Fund, which forecast the Venezuelan economy to shrink anywhere between 3.5% to 7% this year. The same organizations also foresee triple-digit inflation by the end of 2015, with one firm – Econometrica – calculating a rate of 130.1%.
Anabella Abadi, an economist by ODH Consulting Group, explained the reason for country’s spiralling inflation:
National production has fallen, and the Banco Central de Venezuela continues to print inorganic money which drives up the difference between the prices of goods and services. The government, instead of looking to attack inflation, instead chases it. Inflation goes up, and all they do is increase the minimum wage.
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