Maduro announced yesterday that he would call on OPEC to hold a meeting in which he will propose that the organization create a base price for crude oil. Maduro says that in the meeting, he hopes to convince the organization to:

… place a base price, a ground floor, and adapt the base price to world regions.

Maduro also said that he believes that the time is right for a “presidential meeting” of OPEC members, and to increase collaboration with non-member oil producers.

Venezuela, which gets more than 90% of its foreign revenue from oil sales, has been hard-hit by the fall in oil prices. While the average price for a barrel of Venezuelan oil was $98.08 in 2013, that number fell to $88.42 in 2014. So far in 2015, the average price for Venezuelan oil is $48.18.

Group of 20 NGOs Condemn Lopez, Students Verdict

A group of 20 Venezuelan non-governmental organizations have released a statement condemning last week’s verdict in the Leopoldo Lopez trial that also saw three students given lengthy conditional sentences.

The group released a statement which calls the trial proof that the Venezuelan judiciary is being used by the national government to criminalize constitutional rights, and cites an August 26, 2014 statement by the United Nation’s Working Group for Arbitrary Detention highlighting some of the irregularities of the case.

In reference to Christian Holdack – one of the co-accused – the release also mentions an Amnesty International statement issued last March, which highlighted some of the abuses and tortures that Holdack claims to have been a victim of while in detention. According to Amnesty International:

Holdack has stated that he was beaten, insulted and forced to remain on his knees for extended periods of time while in detention and while he was under the custody of the investigative police, until he was presented in court two days later.

The statement also points out the national government’s “open disregard for all statements” made by international human rights organizations, and warns that the trial is evidence that spaces for democratic discourse are becoming rarer in Venezuela.

One of the organizations that signed the statement, the Foro Penal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum] has issued a separate release in which it calls attention to what it calls the increasing use of the judiciary to punish individuals for political reasons.

The organization’s director, Gonzalo Himoib, notes that “this has been going on for a long time”, and highlights a number of politically-motivated cases over the last thirteen years, including that of Ivan Simonovis, the former PDVSA employees, Francisco Uson, and Otto Gabeaur, among others. Himoib said:

In all of those cases, without evidence and ignoring the law, people were processed and even sentenced whose only sin was to maintain a critical view of power, or having become a bother to the government.

The organization’s executive director, Alfredo Romero, pointed out that while there were only 13 political prisoners in the country, 2014 saw “an alarming increase” in that number, and that at one point the organization classified 350 political prisoners in detention. However, that number has decreased to 78 today, Romero claims. Romero said:

It is evident that there exists a systemic pattern of response by the government towards the opposition and political dissent, which under the guide of law arbitrarily uses the legal system as a tool to neutralize any form of political opposition.

PDVAL Forced To Cut Back Sales Due to Scarcity

PDVAL, a state-owned supermarket chain, has been forced to cut back some of it’s outdoor market sales due to the continued scarcity of food and basic necessities affecting the country.

El Nacional quotes an anonymous source close to the organization as saying:

These operativos [I think this means, “drive”, as in “food drive”] used to be carried out five days a week. The sales took place from Tuesday to Saturday, but starting in May – seeing as we can count with a really small quantity of food – these sales in mobile sites are only happening on Saturdays.

The same source told the newspaper that the brick-and-mortar PDVAL stores are also suffering from scarcity. Whereas PDVAL used to regularly carry 13 basic necessities without difficulty, that number is now between 5 and 7. The source said:

We sold cooking oil, margarine, rice, corn flour, sugar, coffee, eggs, pasta, grains, chicken, salsa and cereal. However, starting a few weeks ago we’ve only been offering sugar, milk, corn flour, coffee and eggs. The sale of meat, chicken, and canned goods is very irregular, and that of grains even more: lentils, at least, we haven’t seen in months.

El Nacional claims to have sent a reporter to the PDVAL in Los Cortijos, Caracas, who reported that stock was “scarce”. A woman interviewed after leaving the establishment said:

There’s nothing in there that I need. What you find on the shelves are sardines and chicha and chocolate drink mixes. Today is my turn to buy because my I.D ends with “1”, and I had no luck. I’m going to another supermarket to see if I can find something.

At a PDVAL in San Jose, El Nacional reports finding scarce levels of corn flour, sugar and powdered milk. The newspaper points out that a worker could be heard yelling to shoppers in line:

It’s one sugar, one milk and three corn flours per person. Please don’t bring more because they will be taken away from you at the register.

While shopping on certain dates depending on your national I.D. number is a tactic that has been employed for a while now to combat the scarcity, it appears as if supermarkets are coming up with novel ways to tackle the issue. At a PDMERCAL in San Juan, Caracas, El Nacional says that it spoke to a worker there who said:

If it’s your turn to buy on Monday [based on your national I.D. number], you should have come yesterday [Sunday] to receive your ticket. That ticket guarantees you a spot in line the next day.

In order to receive the ticket, the newspaper claims that citizens must show their national I.D. card, another kind of I.D. known as RIF [Registro de Identificacion Fiscal] or a “letter of residence” verifying that they leave in the area around the supermarket.

Protests Planned for September 19

The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica has thrown its weight behind protests called by Leopoldo Lopez for this coming Saturday. The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, said:

The activity was proposed to the country by our most emblematic spokesperson, Leopoldo Lopez. There will be activities in all of the [state] capitals of the country; some of them will be demonstrations, and some will be marches. In Caracas there will be a big demonstration.

Torrealba stressed the opposition’s “compromise with non-violent protest“, and applauded the restraint shown by opposition supporters who, rather than fighting back against the attacks by government supporters outside the Palacio de Justicia last Thursday, instead fled the area.

Guyana Asks Google to Redraw Maps

The government of Guyana has asked Google to redraw the border with Venezuela in a few areas of the Essequibo region that point to its neighbour as the owner of the territory. Carl Greenidge, the Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a press conference earlier today:

We want the technology giant Google to eliminate from its system certain places in the Essequibo region that show them belonging to Venezuela.

The Guyanese government also claimed that Venezuela has satellites that allow it to provide geographical information to Google, and that Google might not be aware of the bias it claims might come with that information.

According to La Patilla, Guyanese newspapers recently picked up a story about a road that runs along the coast of the Essequibo region roughly between the towns of Charity and Suddie. The name of that road appears on Google Maps as “Av. 100 Bolivar”, but Guyanese media claim that it is actually called “Calle 100 Guyana”.

Greenidge pointed out that aside from causing confusion for residents of the area, the renaming of the road that they consider to be inside Guayana by Venezuela is an assault on Guyana’s sovereignty.

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

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