National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello became the highest-ranking PSUV official to date to address last week’s arrest of First Lady Cilia Flores’ nephews, Efrain and Francisco. The two were arrested in Haiti on Thursday by DEA agents after an investigation found that the two were conspiring to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.
Speaking in an interview on Globovision, Cabello said that there is no proven link between Efrain and Francisco and Cilia Flores, despite worldwide media coverage to the contrary. He also said that the arrests were carried out “to hurt the Bolivarian revolution”, and that the men were not arrested but rather “kidnapped”:
It’s a really strange thing, really strange. It’s a very common DEA tactic.
Farmers Call For Beef, Milk Price Increases
The Federacion Nacional de Ganaderos [National Federation of Cattle Farmers] (FEDENAGA) has asked the national government to rethink its price-fixing schemes and raise the price of meat and milk in order to make up for the severe inflation the country is suffering from. Carlos Albornoz, the head of the organization, says that while FEDENAGA has formally presented proposals to the government regarding price increases, they have been ignored.
According to Albornoz, the organization believes that the price of meat must be increased by 332% while that of milk must see an increase of 968% or risk forcing more producers out of business.
Albornoz explained that farmers need to sell one kilogram of beef at Bs. 345 and one liter of milk at Bs. 171 in order to continue to operate. While the price of beef is set at Bs. 250 per kilogram, it is often impossible to find for less than Bs. 1,000. Milk is one of the products that is most scare.
According to Albornoz:
[Our members] have bared a heavy load for months due to scarcity and inflation in silence [for the sake of] the consumer.
In Venezuela, the government regulates the prices of basic necessities through the Ley Organica de Precious Justos [Fair Prices Law]. The same law also places limits on the amount of profit an individual or company can earn from selling a product or service. Albornoz points out that according to FEDECNAGA’s pricing scheme, farmers would only be making approximately 15% in profit, well below the legal limit of 30%.
BoA: Venezuela Has Lowest Currency Reserves in Latin America
Venezuela’s foreign exchange reserves – currently sitting at about $15 billion – are the lowest in all of Latin America, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The bank says that the total foreign exchange reserves in the region sits at $723.3 billion, with Brazil leading the pack at $350 billion. Venezuela’s reserves represent 2.07% of the total regional sum.
While Ecuador only has $3.9 billion in foreign reserves, the fact that its official coin is the U.S dollar means that the country does not rely on foreign reserves to back up its economy.
Leopoldo Lopez’s Mother Describes Visits
Leopoldo Lopez’s mother, Antonieta Mendoza, has written a letter outlining some of the conditions her son is being kept in at the Ramo Verde military prison, as well as the process visitors must adhere to whenever they want to see Lopez.
The letter beings with Antonieta lamenting the fact that to see her son she must past through “three roadblocks, 20 National Guard officers, and 20 locks and cells”. She says that Lopez is kept in a block that contains thirteen cells, although his is the only one that is occupied.
Mendoza claims that Lope is not allowed to receive or send any mail, and that all of his interactions – including those with his lawyers – are filmed.
Mendoza says that while her son is imprisoned, “his ideas, projects and dreams” are free.
State of Exception Extended in Zulia, Apure States
The state of exception in Zones 4, 5, 6 and 7 in Zulia and Apure state has been extended for another 60 days.
In Zulia, the affected municipalities are: Machiques de Perija, Rosario de Perija, Jesus Enrique Lossada, Catatumbo, Jesus Maria Semprun, Colon and La Cañada de Urdaneta.
In Apure the affected municipalities are Paez, Ramulo Gallegos, and Pedro Camejo.
States of exception were declared gradually over the entirety of the border with Colombia starting in late August. The measure places restrictions on civil liberties in the affected areas, including granting authorities the ability to arrest people and search homes without warrants. In some areas, border crossings with Colombia were closed.
Polar Fined Bs. 87 Million
Alimentos Polar [Polar Foods], the nation’s largest food producer, was fined Bs. 87 million (approximately $95,617 US) over alleged irregularities involving the production of dish washing liquid.
According to the state-owned Agencia Venezolana de Noticias, Polar ran afoul of inspectors when:
… [it] failed to provide information in a timely fashion regarding a reduction in the production and distribution of dish washing liquid in bottles smaller than 500 gramgs and 500 cc.
Polar and the national government had had a tumultuous relationship. As the country’s largest food producer, Polar stands as a bastion of private enterprise and interests in the face of a government that has often been criticized for having less-than-friendly attitudes towards the private sector.
Only July 29, the national government expropriated warehouses belonging to Polar in La Yaguara, Caracas, saying that it needed the land to build homes. At the time, La Yaguara was the largest and most important distribution center serving the greater Caracas region.
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