Maduro said today that a police operation that took place along a stretch of the Panamericana highway near Caracas dismantled “a famous communal council” that was actually a Colombian paramilitary unit that used the highway “for a thousand things“. He also said that he actually had evidence to back up his claim, but that he was not allowed to share any of it with the public at the request of the Public Ministry.
Speaking at a literacy event in Caracas earlier today, Maduro said that the council/paramilitary unit was engaged in a number of illicit activities, including:
... driving down to Caracas and robbing everyone. They were horrible. Another thing is that they had links to slum mafias. We found out that a famous communal council was given financing through a municipality, and they built houses and they rented them out, and one of the houses turned out to be a — what’s the name of that thing with the cars? — they took apart cars, picked them apart in a house built with money from the communal council. These slum traffickers are already under arrest. They stole public water and they sold it at exuberant prices to families they brought from over there, the Andes, and they stole electricity and then sold it four of five more times to those families that they brought over here to be miserable… What should we do? Should we sit here with our arms crossed, or should we act?
In Venezuela, a communal council is a political community organization that operates at the neighbourhood level. On paper, the councils receive support from the government, and they in turn shape the kind of development they believe their community needs.
Panamericana Operation Evicts 113 Families
The police operation to which Maduro referred took place in the El Cuji stretch of the Panamericana highway near Caracas. The operation evicted 113 families to allow for the construction of a park. The affected families were asked to place their possessions on the street so that the demolition process could begin immediately.
Aura Rodriguez, one of the evicted, told El Nacional that the affected families tried to negotiate with the national government to come to some kind of arrangement, but that their efforts were ultimately futile. Rodriguez explained:
They never sat down with us to discuss. There are lots of children here. They promised us that people from LOPNA [Child Protection Services], but no one came. Some of the women were have been assaulted and arrested for protecting our property.
Another resident, Ester Leal, said that the National Bolivarian Police assaulted her daughter, who is four months pregnant. Leal said:
I’m asking the President to explain why this is happening. I’ve always worked for them [the PSUV], for their votes. They’re in office thanks to us. They can’t just throw us on the street like dogs.
Granger: Venezuela “Threat to Survival”
Guyanese President David Granger spoke at an event at the William J. Perry Centre for Hemispheric Defence Studies in Washington D.C. on its border dispute with Venezuela. Granger qualified the issue as multi-faceted, and concluded that Venezuela’s claim on the Essequibo region was a threat to Guyana’s experience.
Guyana is currently facing a threat against its survival by a state larger than ours.
There are several issues at play: the sovereign right of a nation to draw from its own natural resources; the principle of arriving at peaceful resolutions to conflicts; avoiding the use of force, threats, intimidation; the sanctity of international agreements and respect for international law.
Granger also called for the creation of a joint security body that could help Caribbean nations “face new threats”.
Maduro Compares Granger to Uribe
Speaking at an event commemorating the birthday of Simon Bolivar, Maduro accused Granger of being “the Guyanese Uribe”, in reference to former Colombian President and go-to scapegoat Alvaro Uribe. He also hinted at a series of diplomatic measures on the Guyana border dispute to be believed in the next few days.
Below, a video of some of Maduro’s comments, along with my translation:
Maduro: I’ve already denounced – and faced – this new provocation. I talked about it in Brasilia while leaving the Mercosur Summit a week ago. This gentleman, David Granger, is playing a similar role – the same role – played by Alvaro Uribe Velez, when he tried to build seven military bases in Colombian pointed right at Venezuela, to threaten Venezuela, and then he said that he didn’t have enough time to attack our homeland. But really, we all know what he didn’t have enough of. Commander Chavez told him clearly. I’m saying that this David Granger is the Uribe of the Guyanese right wing.
His role is to provoke Venezuela, to ignore international law, to look for friction and intrigue in Latin America, in the CELAC [Community of Caribbean and Latin American States], in UNASUR, in PetroCaribe, in the Caribbean. But it goes much further than that. It’s about using – misusing – Venezuela’s historic claim for her Guyana Essequiba to generate a high-level conflict, as he did today through some comments he made in Washington after meeting with Sub-Secretary Roberta Jaconson [sic] — and you believe that he’s in Washington… doing what? Is he doing anything good in Washington? Is he talking about peace, understanding, and the respect for international law in Washington? No! On the contrary. So, let’s get ready, Venezuelans, fellow patriots in Latin America, ambassadors – some of them are here – let us prepare ourselves with the strength of UNASUR, CELAC, PetroCaribe, ALBA, to raise awareness about peace, regional unity, and look through the way of dialogue to neutralize and put an end to the provocations from the current President of Guyana against Venezuela, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Let’s do this through diplomacy, politics, words. I’m asking for your support! Maximum support from the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean to put an end to this latest provocation against Bolivarian Venezuela. Que nadie se chupe el dedo [literally, “let no one suck their thumb”; akin to, “let no one play stupid”] Whatever is done against Venezuela is done against Latin America. Because Venezuela goes forward with their historic flags at the vanguard of independence. It’s at the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle of our times. And of future times. In the next few days, the Presidential Commission under the command of our Vice-President Jorge Arreaza — he has made some proposals to me. In the next few days I will activate a number of measures when it comes to international diplomacy. The framework of respect for international rights is fixed; this is the respect for the Geneva Agreement. Within the Geneva Agreement lies everything. We won’t accept anything beyond the Geneva Agreement, I’m telling the world and the President of Guyana.
During his speech, Maduro held a reproduction of the Spanish Capitulation of 1823, the document that ended the Venezuelan War of Independence. Maduro vent of what happens to empires that pretend to tell Venezuela what do to.
Head of Liquor in Venezuela Arrested by SEBIN
JULY 26 EDIT: The articles I quoted incorrectly identified Fray Roa as the head of FEVELICOR. This is incorrect. FEVELICOR is the Federacion Venezolana de Licores. Roa is not the head of FEVELICOR; he is the head of FEVELIF (Federacion Venezolana de Licoreros y Afines].
Fray Roa, the head of the Federacion Venezolana de Licores y Afines [Venezuelan Federation of Liquor and Spirits] (FEVELICOR) was arrested yesterday by agents from the country’s intelligence service, the SEBIN.
While it is not clear why Roa was arrested, he made headlines on Wednesday when he warned that the country was running out of raw materials with which to make beer and other malt beverages, and urged the national government to take steps to resolve the economic problems that are leading to shortages.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Roa said:
We’re running out of beer. They keep raising our taxes and decreasing our earnings. For our sector, this means a complete shutdown and a fatal crisis. Only through dialogue can we resolve this issue and hold on to 400,00 direct jobs and 1,000,000 indirect ones. We’re on our way to running out of beer by August 3.
During the same press conference, Roa explained that there are four processing plants in the country that are completely shut down due to lack of materials, and said that there are seven states in the country which are currently not receiving any new shipments of beer or malted beverages due to the shortages: Anzoategui, Portuguesa, Zulia, Capital District, Carabobo, Bolivar and Aragua.
Below, some shots of a large crowd of people gathered outside the Bicentenario in San Bernardino, Caracas earlier today:
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