Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez has refuted the Colombian Ministry of Defense’s claim that two Venezuelan military airplanes violated its airspace on Saturday.
Through her Twitter account, Rodriguez said that “there is no evidence” of the event, and blamed the Colombian government of “making up” the event in order to hinder attempts by Maduro Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to hold talks on the border crisis. Rodriguez called the event further evidence that the Colombian government “tends to systemically make up events that don’t exist to affect relations”.
Following a release by the Colombian Ministry of Defense on the alleged violation of its airspace, Santos ordered his government to make a formal complaint immediately before Venezuelan authorities over the matter.
Earlier this morning, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs replied to Rodriguez’s claims, reminding Rodriguez that the violation had been “verified” by the country’s air defense systems. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained:
The information was verified by going over the information from the Riohacha radar, which form part of the air defense systems of the Colombian Air Force.
The Ministry also confirmed that it would send Caracas a formal letter of complaint demanding an explanation for the event tonight.
Ministry of Defense Speaks On Incursion
Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez spoke today on the Saturday incursion into Colombia, saying that Venezuelan K-8 fighter jets were in fact engaged in patrols of the Zulia border with Colombia on Saturday, but that the the aircraft did not enter Colombian airspace.
Colombia Claims Second Incursion on Sunday
Later in the day, the Colombian Air Force announced that a second violation of its airspace by Venezuelan aircraft took place over the weekend.The commander of Colombia’s Air Force, General Carlos Bueno, said that a Venezuelan airplane flew 10 kilometers into Colombia’s Vichada department on Sunday.
Bueno explained that 10 minutes before the incursion, Colombian radar had picked up to Venezuelan aircraft flying close to the border in the area. Bueno said that the Colombian air force communicated to their Venezuelan counterparts that care should be taken to ensure that the Venezuelan pilots did not inadvertently fly into Colombia, to which Venezuelan authorities allegedly replied, “the aircraft will take precautions”.
Minutes after the exchange, the single aircraft entered Colombia’s airspace unannounced. Bueno said that Venezuelan air force explained at the time that the airplane had flown into Colombia “due to adverse weather conditions” at the time. While Bueno explained that the countries share agreements to allow for such incursions in the interest of safety, the Colombian air force did not receive the appropriate notification that the aircraft would enter Colombia.
Gov’t Names State Minister for the New Peaceful Border
Gaceta Oficial 40.744 has named Gerardo Jose Izquierdo Torres the State Minister for the New Peaceful Border.
Izquierdo Torres is a Major General in the Venezuelan army, and has been the Commander General of the Bolivarian Army General Command since July 2014.
Lopez Moved to Smaller, Darker Cell
Antonieta Mendoza, Leopoldo Lopez’s mother, said today that her son had been transferred from his cell at the Ramo Verde military prison to a smaller one without any light.
When he was taken back to Ramo Verde, he found that he wasn’t in the same cell as before. The new one is 2 meters by 2 meters, smaller than the last one. It doesn’t have any light, so he’s asked for a candle.
Mendoza also explained that there are at least 14 cameras trained on Lopez when he enters the prison’s cafeteria, and that he is accompanied by two guards at all times when he is outside his cell. Mendoza explained that Lopez is only able to speak for five minutes at a time with his family, and that the calls are recorded by the authorities.
Economist: BCV Must Issue Bs. 2,500 Bill
Asdrubal Oliveros, the head of the Ecoanalitica economic firm, told Puerto La Cruz’s El Tiempo that given the inflation levels in the country, the Banco Central de Venezuela [Venezuelan Central Bank] must issue bills for Bs. 200, 500, 1,000, and 2,500. Oliveros also said that he believes the BCV should get rid of the Bs. 2, 5, 10, and 20 bills.
Currently, the BCV prints Bs. 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. However, the country’s inflation rate – which Oliveiros estimates will reach 200% by the end of the year – has quickly eaten into the purchasing power of the bills, forcing Venezuelans to carry around stacks of cash in order to purchase even modestly priced items. Last month, a street hot dog in Caracas sold for around Bs. 90.
The Central Bank has not published inflation numbers since December, and it has refused to consider printing bills worth higher than Bs. 100, possibly a sign that the institution does not want to bring more attention to the country’s inflation crisis.
Venezuela Losing Out on $30 Billion in Oil Sales
An article published in El Nacional today claims that Venezuela will bring in 44% less money this year than it did the last from oil sales, given the sharp decline in the commodity’s price over the last year. Venezuela receives 96% of its foreign currency income through oil sales.
Economist Luis Oliveros told El Nacional that for every dollar that the average price of oil loses in a year, Venezuela loses $640 million in sales. The average price of oil is expected to close the year off at below the $49 per barrel mark, down from the average price for 2014, $88.42 per barrel.
El Nacional points out that the steep drop in oil prices have clearly forced the national government to look to other sources for income, as evidenced by Maduro’s approval to offer discounts on the debt owed to Venezuela by the Dominican Republic and Jamaica and his recent visit to China.
On the $5 billion Maduro secured from China, Oliveros said:
I don’t think that this money will be used to increase oil production, but rather to boost international reserves, which have taken a beating. This will help. The problem is that more future oil barrels are being compromised.
UN Calls for Deported Families to be Reunited
Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the United Nations, said that he was “disturbed” by Venezuela’s mass deportation of Colombian citizens, and called on both Bogota and Caracas to take “immediate measures” to reunite separated families and “avoid further abuses to Colombian citizens”.
al Hussein made the comments at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
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