The hallaca is a staple dish Venezuelans prepare during the Christmas season, and is ubiquitous in Venezuelan dinner tables during the holidays. Similar to the Mexico’s tamale, entire families come together to make hallacas in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Today, El Nacional published an article which seems to suggests that the price of making hallacas might place them beyond the reach of poorer Venezuelans. One of the newspapers journalist’s visited a market in Guaicaipuro to calculate the cost of making hallacas this year. El Nacional reports that while making a batch of 50 hallacas cost approximately Bs. 5,000 last year, the price for the same amount this year is likely to be at least Bs. 16,200.
When El Nacional asked a shop attendant for an estimate on the price of hallacas for December, the woman replied:
Why are you asking about prices for then, if prices go up every week?
El Nacional points out that the main culprits for the dramatic price increases are the different types of meat products used to stuff hallacas. While a kilogram of beef cost Bs. 200 last year, it now costs Bs. 1,200. Pork butt (or leg; the Spanish word for the cut is pernil) went from Bs. 200 to Bs. 1,400 per kilogram, while chicken prices per kilogram rose from Bs. 95 last year to Bs. 600 this year.
While the corn flour used to make hallacas is relatively inexpensive – having risen from Bs. 12.40 to Bs. 19 in the past year – the fact that it is a regulated product makes it difficult to find in store shelves. Street sellers carry the product, but it can cost up to Bs. 75.
Over the past year, the price of the basic nutritious food basket in Venezuela has increased by 280%.
Unofficial Numbers: Inflation Hits 198.4%
La Patilla published an article today in which it claims that unofficial, internal figures from the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) put the inflation rate for October at 12.1%. If true, that would but the annualized inflation rate at 198.4%, the highest in the history of the country.
Even thought the BCV is mandated to publish inflation figures every three months, it has not done so once so far this year.
MUD Placing Observers In Border Municipalities
The head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, Jesus Torrealba, said yesterday that the MUD would take care to place observers in municipalities under a state of exception, namely those along the border with Colombia. Torrealba also repeated statements that the MUD would focus its observer teams on areas of the countries that have reported the most irregularities in previous elections.
On the possibility that a UNASUR observer team might not be be able to attend the elections, Torrealba said that it had become clear that even Maduro’s closest allies were deserting him.
While Maduro dismissed international observers out-of-hand for the upcoming December 6 parliamentary elections, he did agree to having representatives from UNASUR observe.
However, the UNASUR mission has yet to receive official clearance to attend, a fact that UNASUR said puts the mission “at risk”. A mission from Brazil scheduled to observe the elections withdrew its intent to do so on October 20 after it failed to receive satisfactory guarantees from the Venezuelan government that it would be allowed to carry out its mission “objectively and impartially”.
CNE Head: Be Careful of “False Expectations” on Observers
Tibisay Lucena, the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral, shot back at Torrealba’s comments today, calling them “a show of bravado”. Lucena appeared to take issue with the fact that Torrealba seemed to suggest that the MUD had some kind of control over where observers could be sent. Lucena said:
There cannot be false expectations that a person from any country can come and enter the voting centres without permission.
Earlier, Torrealba said that the MUD would be inviting its own individual international observers to help oversee the elections. Lucena said that her office had received a request from the MUD for permission to bring in 500 international observers, something that “does not exist in any country”, according to Lucena.
This is a neo-colonialist proposal. They come to see, to watch what type of democracy this is. How can you stand up and say, “I’m going to go and watch your elections, whether or not you invite me to”?
Lucena also explained that the reason why the UNASUR mission had not been confirmed yet was because its application is still being processed, and because the special representative and technical coordinator had not been named yet. Lucena said that she hoped that “these types of things would be worked out” so that the mission could participate in the elections.
Lucena Sidesteps Questions on Campaign Fairness
Speaking Vladimir Villegas on the show Vladimir a la 1 on Globovision, Lucena was pressed to take a stand on the use of state resources and figures to campaign on behalf of PSUV National Assembly candidates. Below, my translation of the exchange between Villegas and Lucena:
Villegas: It’d be good if there were similar electoral conditions when it comes to public resources. You’ve called the government out on that, right?
Lucena: When we started the campaign — I’m not sure if you remember this — we always talked to the political organizations, and we called them out, and we gave them two or three days to adapt. This time we’re not going to do this. Starting on the first day [of the official campaign period] we’re going to apply these norms.
Villegas: Well, for example, what about when [PSUV National Assembly] candidates show up at events with the President, or hand over some kind of social benefit [public works] — is that valid?
Lucena: Well, as I’ve said, when the campaign starts we’ll have to start regulating those things. We have to watch for them when the campaign starts, because obviously the campaign isn’t on right now. There always ends up being a pre-campaign, which isn’t regulated by law. Moreover, the law isn’t made by the CNE. We make regulations, but not laws.
Machado: UNASUR Needs to Act Immediately on Observer Mission
It’s very worrying that 33 days away from the election, UNASUR has not voiced a firm and clear position, and that there is no knowledge of any meeting to define the details of an electoral observer mission to Venezuela.
In the same letter, Machado criticized the fact that the CNE denied observation rights to qualified organizations, including the European Union and the Organization of American States.
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