Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke on the issue of political prisoners in Venezuela, and said that he was “seriously worried” over the legality of their arrests and the conditions in which they’re being jailed.

The commissioner also explained that he believes that the prisoners in question were jailed “for peacefully exercising their right to expression and assembly”, and said:

They should be released quickly and unconditionally.

This is not the first time that al Hussein has spoken out against the issue of human rights abuses in Venezuela. Most recently, on March 5 of this year, al Hussein qualified human rights in Venezuela as “deteriorating”, and criticized a government policy allowing the use of lethal weapons to suppress peaceful protests, calling it “deeply disturbing”.

+500K Families No Longer Shop at Mercal

El Nacional is reporting today that more than 500,000 families across the country no longer do their grocery shopping at Mercal, one of the state-owned supermarket chains.

The newspaper points to a survey conducted by the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica [INE], the government’s official statistics body. According to the survey, called Encuesta de Seguimiento al Consumo de Alimentos, 558,231 fewer families shopped at Mercal between January and June 2014 than they did during the same period in 2013.

The INE survey also tracked the corresponding shift to private supermarkets. While 3.2 million families bought rice at private supermarkets between January and June of last year, only 1.3 million bought the same products at a Mercal. The same trend was observed for meat (1.3 million vs. 634,000), and cooking oil (2.2 million vs. 1.66 million).

El Nacional spoke to a shopper by the name of Jessica Lugo who was in line to shop at the Puente Baloa Mercal in Caracas’ east end. Lugo explained the difficulties Venezuelans face when looking for food:

This line up is here because chicken has arrived. It’s too expensive to buy on the street, if you can find it. This is how it is; you run over there wherever you see a line so you can buy whatever you can. But there’s more meat, sugar and flour in the Bicentenario and in PDVAL.

Prices Rise Even in State-Run Markets

Although Mercal sells products subsidized by the government, prices have still risen dramatically over the past year.

El Nacional reports that according to prices listed on Mercal‘s own website, the price of sugar rose from Bs. 3 in May 2014 to Bs. 18.60 at the same month this year, equaling a jump of 520%. Rice saw a similar increase at 483% (from Bs. 3 to Bs. 17.50), while corn flour jumped 280% (from Bs. 3.5 to Bs. 13.30).

INE Finds Growing Number of State-Owned Markets are Inactive

The scarcity crisis appears to be affecting not only what kinds of products Venezuelans can find on shelves, but also which markets are open at all.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Nutrition revealed in an address to parliament that out of the 14,657 Mercal stores in the country, only 6,725 were active, meaning that 54.1% were closed. Similarly, only 470 out of 2,057 PDVAL markets were operational last year. The only government-run market chain that saw 100% of its centers open was Bicentenario, since all 50 of its stores were operational throughout 2014.

Torrealba: Haiti Meeting Shows “Deep Divide” in PSUV

The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, said today that Diosdado Cabello’s meeting with U.S. Department of State officials in Haiti over the weekend is evidence of a “deep divide” within the PSUV. For Torrealba, Diosdado Cabello heads “the other piece of chavismo”, a faction within the PSUV that is distinct from that loyal to Maduro.

Torrealba also called out the often fiery Cabello for not confronting the U.S. officials with the forcefulness and and rancor he often expresses towards “El Imperio” during his speeches.

Torrealba specifically referenced the signatures the PSUV collected earlier this year calling for President Barack Obama to repeal the sanctions placed against seven Venezuelan officials last year. Speaking during a radio interview, Torrealba wondered how the Venezuelans who signed the petition feel seeing Cabello and Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez apparently failing to press the issue.

Torrealba said:

If was in their shoes [the Venezuelans who signed the petition], I would ask [Cabello]: “If you met with [U.S. Department of State official Thomas] Shannon, why didn’t you give him the petition, having such direct access? Why? Wasn’t it you guys who said, even recently, “Go to hell, gringos!” Wasn’t it you guys who said that El Imperio protects terrorists? Weren’t you the guys who said that El Imperio finances coups? Oh, boy! They didn’t need to be asked twice to get a picture taken with El Imperio so they could save their lives.

He also pointed out the seemingly haphazard way in which foreign affairs are conducted in Venezuela. Whereas countries tend to conduct international diplomacy through their foreign affairs departments, Torrealba said, diplomacy is often conducted behind closed doors and involves non-diplomats.

Protesters Block Road Near Salamanca

A group of neighbours from the Salamanca sector of the Ocumare-Charallave highway in Miranda state blocked access through the road earlier today to protest insecurity in the area.

Below, some shots of the protest:

Questions/comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com



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