El Nacional published a piece today in which it argues that the PSUV is trying to buy votes for the December 6 Parliamentary elections with programs that give out free appliances and subsidized groceries. Programs like Mi Casa Bien Equipada [My Well-Equipped Home] give people home appliances for free.
Serbando Carbone, the leader of the Union Nacional de Trabajadores [National Worker’s Union], told the newspaper that he believes such moves will ultimately prove futile for the government:
The government thinks that it’s buying the conscience of public employees with these initiatives, but they [public workers] understand fully that the ballot is secret.
An anonymous civil servant told El Nacional that government officials handed out bags full of groceries at her office, which included two chickens, a cut of Nicaraguan beef, rice, pasta, cooking oil, sugar, corn flour, milk and margarine (some of the scarcest products in the country) at a price of only Bs. 1,400. The employee told El Nacional:
They surprised us at work with a bag of groceries. However, we’re well aware that this is all looking forward to the Parliamentary elections.
Another anonymous civil servant told the newspaper that handing out bags of groceries is a hopelessly short-sighted solution to the scarcity crisis:
The bag helps for a little bit with the lines, because I still have to line up to buy cleaning and personal hygiene products, diapers and sanitary napkins. If they think I’m voting for them because of this bag, they’re wrong.
Workers at Siderurgica del Orinoco (SIDOR) welcomed a grocery drive at their workplace recently, but the process was so disorganized that there were not enough bags for everyone, resulting in an increase in the price of the bags to Bs. 1,900. El Nacional reports that the display “caused disgust” among the workers. Operations at SIDOR have been suspended for the last four days due to a lack of spare parts and “operational issues”.
Orlando Chirino, the head of Union de Accion Sindical [Syndicate Action Union] told El Nacional that the drives “betray the working class” because “no one in Venezuela earns a decent wage because of inflation”. Chirino argues that the subsidized grocery bags still cost one quarter of a worker’s monthly minimum wage, and that they still do not address the core issues affecting Venezuelans.
Guarenas Sees Two Nights of Protests
Residents of the 27 de Febrero neighbourhood in the city of Guarenas just east of Caracas have been protesting over the last two days over “recurring failures” in electrical and water services.
Overnight, some residents set fire to rubble along an intersection. Below, pictures of the scene in Guarenas last night:
The National Guard deployed a motorized rapid response force to the are starting at midnight last night under the command of General Rall Vilalobos.
Ultimas Noticias reports that as of this morning, at least 70 National Guard officers were present in the area.
The video below shows a group of National Guard soldiers operating in the area last night. The second half of the video appears to show National Guard soldiers indiscriminately firing their weapons in the direction of residential buildings:
Maduro Warns of Coming Violence
On Tuesday, Maduro said that that it had uncovered a plan by enemies of the country called “Plan Detonante Octubre” [Plan Detonate October] to create “large violent actions in Caracas” through the placing of explosives throughout the city. Maduro made the comments on his weekly television show, En Contacto con Maduro.
Maduro claims that the information about the plan came from gang members arrested over the past few days. Maduro said that six members of a gang called El Bemba and three members of a paramilitary group called Los Urabeños gave details of the plan.
This paramilitary group [Los Urabeños] had a great deal of war materials, including a TM-500 demolition charge, an explosive used by the army to demolish buildings.
Supreme Court Resignations Raise Flags
The expected resignation of nearly half of the Justices sitting on the Tribunal Supreme de Justicia [Supreme Tribunal of Justice], the country’s top court, has critics claiming that the move is a way to circumvent the authority of the National Assembly to be elected on December 6.
Former Supreme Tribunal Justice Jose Peña Solís told El Nacional that the National Assembly appoints judges to the body for 12-year terms. Based on the last round of appointments that took place in December 2004, Solis argues that the Justices have not yet completed their terms, and can only resign once the new National Assembly is elected on December 6.
Solis speculated that the reason for the rushed retirements might stem from the PSUV’s fear that if they loose the National Assembly, they will loose the ability to appoint Justices to the Tribunal. Solis said:
The National Assembly is acting suspiciously prematurely by calling for candidates to replace those who will retire. It looks as if they’re acting out of fear that the opposition will win an absolute majority in the Parliamentary elections and assign new judges next year. It’s an advanced retirement. We don’t know the exact situation of the ones who will retire, but there was also little clarity in the way the call for candidates was announced. [We don’t know] how many vacancies there will be, and to which chamber they belong.
The Supreme Tribunal of Justice is made up of 32 Justices. They divide themselves based on their area of expertise into six chambers, which deal with different realms of the law, including constitutional, electoral, penal and administrative law.
Movimiento Progresista de Venezuela‘s Jose Luis Pirela believes that as many as 14 Justices may be retiring within the next two months. Pirela was the first to bring attention to the early retirements back in July:
We’ve found out that high-level government officials have placed undue pressure on Justices so that they will retire before their time. The majority, close to 14, have accepted. This is an ambush for the new National Assembly, which will be different, plural, and which the government will not have majority over.
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