The National Assembly postponed today’s session until tomorrow in the wake of a decision yesterday by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) that renders all of the legislature’s acts null under the law. Tomorrow’s session is scheduled to begin at 10:30 AM.

National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup explained that the session was cancelled due to a lack of quorum, since “there was a lack of presence from both the [PSUV] and opposition sides”.

Allup said that if the National Assembly manages to meet quorum tomorrow, it would address yesterday’s decision by the TSJ.

Cabello: TSJ Should Replace National Assembly

Diosdado Cabello spoke to the media shortly after the postponement of the session, and said:

We are not going to be complicit in what these right-wing deputies are doing. They can’t just come in here and do whatever they want. There are five powers [branches of government] and they have to do what the Constitution says.

Cabello also told the media that if the National Assembly continues to be in contempt of the supreme court, the TSJ should replace it as the country’s legislative branch.

Cilia Flores Breaks Silence on Arrested Nephews

First Lady and National Assembly deputy Cilia Flores finally spoke about the arrest of her two nephews on conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States on November 10 of last year.

NTN24 reports that while answering questions from reporters, one journalist asked Flores about her nephews. Flores replied:

We’d been waiting to get more information. What we do know for sure is that the DEA was inside Venezuelan territory here attacking our sovereignty and committing crimes inside our territory (…) the DEA committed the crime of kidnapping, which the defense will prove. We have evidence; we have pictures of the DEA agents who carried out this kidnapping, this act of revenge.

Flores suggested that the reason her nephews were arrested was to sabotage her candidacy for the National Assembly. She also said that she would like to not talk about the issue any further out of a respect for the legal process:

We can’t keep talking about this because we have to respect the fact that there’s a process underway. The defense will present the evidence, because we don’t want to disturb a process where we have evidence of kidnapping, of an invasion of Venezuelan territory by the DEA, and the motive for these. We would prefer that the defense and the trial work that out because we don’t want to cross any lines or release any evidence until [the trial].

Flores’ nephews, Efrain Campos Flores and Franqui Flores de Freitas were arrested in Haiti in November by DEA agents after the two allegedly arranged to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States.

Head of Economy: Inflation “Doesn’t Exist”

Since the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) no longer publishes data on economic statistics such as inflation, calculating the country’s rate is difficult. Last week, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said during a press conference that Venezuela’s inflation rate for 2015 sat around the 270% mark. If true, the figure would mean that Venezuela has the highest inflation rate in the world.

The country’s inflation crisis appears to have little chance of subsiding; Minister of the Economy Luis Salas does not believe that it existsRunRun.es has compiled a list of public declaration Salas has made in the past, including the following:

Inflation doesn’t exist in real life. When someone goes to a store and she sees that prices have gone up, she’s not witnessing “inflation”. In reality, what she’s witnessing is only that: an increase in prices, a problem to which inflation presents itself as the only possible explanation both in terms of theory and common sense. However, the reality is that it’s only one [theory] and it’s not the best one. It presents itself as the only possible one because it comes from the most dominant sector of the economy, so it imposes itself.

Inflation is to the economy what fascism is to the political (…) there’s not much sense in continuing to talk about “inflation and scarcity” when what we’re talking about is speculation, usury and hoarding.

Salas also believes that inflation is caused by the deliberate increase of prices:

Inflation is not a market distortion. It’s the result of transferring income and social wealth from some sections of the population to others through the increase of prices Fundamentally, this transfer occurs between the wage workers and the owners, but it also occurs between a fraction of the owners towards another fraction of the owners. Or, better said: inflation expresses the struggle between owners fractions or sectors (specially the most concentrated) to increase their earnings at the cost of the worker’s salary (in other words, the majority of the population), but also involving the earnings of other owner sectors, specially the small, medium and less concentrated ones.

Economist Jesus Casique believes that the inflation rate for 2016 will likely be in the 300%-550% range.

In December, Maduro passed a law by decree that reformed the way the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) operates. Among the reforms Maduro passed is one that allows the BCV to print money at the request of and directly for the use of the Executive branch, rather than having to go through the National Assembly. The reform means that Maduro will be able to print money almost at will, a fact that is likely to exacerbate the inflation crisis.

Maduro Speaks on Economy, Oil

Maduro spoke to supporters outside the Miraflores Palace late this afternoon on the state of the Venezuelan economy and the continued dip in oil prices. On the latter issue, Maduro announced that the price for a barrel of Venezuelan oil had officially hit its lowest point in 12 years: $24 per barrel

Maduro blamed the United States for somehow setting the current oil prices, saying:

We have to [get together] with Russia, Saudi Arabia and all of the OPEC and non-OPEC countries because El Imperio [the United States] has managed to impose these prices in order to choke us, independent countries who produce oil.

On his plan to help rescue the Venezuelan economy, Maduro said:

We have to take on a new work culture, and I’m going to continue to maintain the rights of every worker in Venezuela. This is not a promise: a promise is what you make during a campaign; a promise is what the right wing made, that they were going to put at end to the lines that they themselves created.

American Airlines Writes Off $592 Million Debt in Venezuela

American Airlines announced today that it was giving up trying to access $592 million dollars the Venezuelan government owes it and that it has written off the debt. The airline said that it was forced to accept the situation “due to continued lack of repatriations and deterioration of economic conditions in Venezuela”.

When American Airlines sold tickets to travelers in Venezuela, it was forced to do so for bolivares. The company would take the bolivares to the government’s currency exchange body, CENCOEX, where the bolivares were supposed to be converted into U.S. dollars. This process did not work as intended, leaving the company waiting for dollars that eventually never came.

Reuters reports that airlines have a combined total of $3.7 billion “trapped” in Venezuela due to the country’s ailing economy and its inefficient currency exchange system.

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

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