The Wall Street Journal reported today that two of Cilia Flores’ nephews, Efrain Antonio Flores and Francisco Flores were arrested in Haiti on Tuesday by DEA agents over allegations that they conspired to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The men were allegedly flown to New York City were they were scheduled to appear before a judge today.
The newspaper claims that Efrain Flores “identified himself on the DEA plane as a stepson of the president”, and that he was raised by Cilia.
According to the article, Efrain and Francisco contacted a man in Honduras in October about smuggling the cocaine through the island of Roatan. The man then met Efrain and Francisco in Venezuela, where they provided him with a kilogram of cocaine to sample. The man turned out to be a DEA informant.
Spain’s ABC is reporting that the suspects have told the DEA that the cocaine they wanted to move was connected to National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Aragua state governor Tarek el Aissami, although it is not clear how the publication received that information.
Almagro Writes Scathing Letter to Lucena
Yesterday, Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, released an open letter written to the Tibisay Lucena, the head of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE). The letter strongly criticizes the Venezuelan electoral system, and calls into question the body’s ability to carry out free and fair elections on December 6.
In the letter, Almagro laments the fact that the Venezuelan opposition is forced to run on an uneven level against PSUV candidates while the CNE does nothing to rectify the situation:
In an atmosphere characterized by serious political polarization and mistrust, the electoral authorities – far from ensuring the candidates are afforded entirely equal conditions – repeat the official line and make the opposition electorate more distrusting of the elections and of the country’s institutions.
Almagro singles out the fact that PSUV candidates have access to state funds and resources for campaign purposes, an advantage opposition candidates do not count on. He also points out that the national government “deploys large numbers of civil servants for campaign purposes”, giving PSUV candidates yet another edge over their opponents.
Almagro also points out that opposition candidates are not allowed the same opportunities to use media for campaign purposes as PSUV candidates, and that the national government uses media networks it owns for campaign purposes while shutting opposition candidates outs.
On the issue of the ongoing Operacion Liberacion de la Patria (OLP), a months-long, widely-scoped security operation, Almagro points out that some of its effects appear to include “mass arrests and extrajudicial executions”. He also criticizes the government for using judicial proceedings to ensnare opposition candidates in lengthy and expensive legal proceedings with the goal of disqualifying them from office.
The core of Almagro’s argument is summed up in his conclusion:
Because of all that I have mentioned in this letter, there are reasons to believe that the conditions in which the people will vote on December 6 will not enjoy the level of transparency and electoral justice that you, at the National Electoral Council, should guarantee.
An English translation can be found on the OAS website here.
Gutierrez: Maduro Has Done Everything To Lose the Election
Political scientist Edgar Gutierrez, the head of the Venebarometro polling firm, said in a panel on Saturday that Maduro has committed “many errors” during his tenure as president, with the likely result that they will cost the PSUV the December 6 parliamentary elections.
Gutierrez said that his polling firm has found that approximately 86% of Venezuelans buy less food today due to scarcity and inflation, wit the latter having particularly heavy impact on Venezuelans. Gutierrez said:
I don’t understand how a family that earns Bs. 20,000 a month can buy shoes when a pair costs Bs. 60,000.
He also said that such is the discontent with the PSUV that voters appear to not be interested in who is actually running in their districts:
They don’t know [the candidates] because they know they’re going to vote for one option or the other… those who say they want change reach up to 80%, and half of those want Maduro to leave immediately.
Gutierrez said that the near universal discontent with the national government has given rise to two peculiar facts:
First, voter intention is higher in the opposition than in [the PSUV]. It’s the first time that I see this is polls. Second, for the first time the opposition is expected to win instead of [the PSUV].
He summed up the opposition’s current situation with a comparison to the 2010 National Assembly elections:
In 2010, the opposition won 32 districts and chavismo won 55. In 2015 up until today, from what I’ve seen – and I’ve shared this with colleagues – the MUD [opposition bloc] maintains a lead in 31 of those 32 districts. The 32nd is a tie, which is Aragua’s District 1. In the 55 that it lost, it’s leading in all but 25.
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