National Assembly deputy Diosdado Cabello gave a fiery speech today in which he reiterated his stance that Maduro would neither resign nor be forced out of office this year:
On January 15 of next year – you can be sure about this – President Maduro will give his yearly address to the country [at the National Assembly], Leopoldo Lopez and the murderers will still be in jail, and [Henry] Ramos Allup will not be president of the National Assembly, because on January 5 Ramos Allup will certainly stop being president of the assembly.
Approximately one month before the main opposition bloc – the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) – elected Henry Ramos Allup President of the National Assembly earlier this year, they proposed rotating the post every year so that no one party would hold control of the legislature for the entire parliamentary term. In all likelihood, Allup would not be president of the National Assembly next year as a result of this arrangement.
During the same press conference, Cabello dismissed the possibility that any of the MUD’s proposals would make it out of the National Assembly:
We have no doubt that, in light of whats coming, any of these initiatives will be successful. But we want to stress than in January 2017, Nicolas Maduro will be providing his yearly update at the National Assembly. You’ll think of me [when it happens], because it will happen. And they’ll be more fractured with each passing day.
At the same time, Cabello admitted that the PSUV had been at least temporarily stunned by the MUD’s victory in December, saying:
We’re in the process of regrouping our strength to launch a counter-attack. And our counter-attacks have historically shown that each time that we launch them, we steamroll the Venezuelan right wing. They know that, and that’s why they’re scared.
Below, a short clip with some more of Cabello’s comments from today:
Cabello: … while the right-wing refused to approve the economic emergency decree, President Maduro was meeting with an important group of business people who were willing to pay attention to the economic crisis in the country. Some people feel joy at the situation that is affecting our country. Those who feel that joy haven’t thought about having to run this country in the short term, because no one can be happy to receive a government [when] oil is at $20, $22.
Jorge Rodriguez, the PSUV’s electoral campaign head, sat to Cabello’s right, while Andreina Tarazona – another PSUV official – flanked Cabello on the left. The three sat in front of a large poster that said “No se rinde nadie”, which means “No one surrenders”.
Guri Dam 5 Meters Away From Shutting Down
The Guri hydroelectric power plant in Bolivar state is just five meters away from reaching a water level at which the turbines that generate electricity would begin to suffer damage and be forced to shut down, El Nacional reports. The newspaper cites an electrical engineer named Jose Aguilar as saying that were the water level at the dam reach 244 meters, the plant’s turbines would begin to suffer damage as air bubbles would interfere with their rotation. At 240 meters, the water level would be so low that the plant would not be able to operate.
CORPOELEC, the country’s electricity provider, measured the dam’s water level at 249 meters today.
Minister of Electrical Energy and head of CORPOELEC Luis Motta Dominguez warned on February 19 that unless Venezuelans took drastic measures to conserve water, the country’s electrical grid could suffer a complete failure as early as April.
Victor Poleo, ex-Vice Minister of Energy, told El Nacional that when the dam’s water level reaches 244 meters, the plant will have to begin to shut down to avoid catastrophic damage to the turbines. Poleo also said that only two hefty rainy seasons could begin to fill the dam to the point where the Guri plant could continued to operate, discounting the possibility of an improvement in the situation in the short term.
Jose Aguilar explained that many of the plant’s turbines have suffered air bubble damage in the past, but that repairs to the installations have been neglected. Aguilar also said that if the plant were to shut down, nation-wide blackouts would become a daily occurence:
We will enter unimaginable chaos when we get to 240 meters (…) [electricity] rationing will be more intense than what we saw in 2010, because the damage is more severe and prolonged. Many of the businesses and industries that are still around won’t be able to survive the rationing.
Aguilar calculated that a complete failure at the Guri power plant might result in electricity rationing spanning ten to twelve hours per day.
Capriles’ Office Under Investigation
The Comptroller General of the Republic has launched an investigation into spending at the office of Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles in the years 2011-2013. The investigation targets Capriles along with four other individuals, including MUD National Assembly deputy Adriana D’Elia.
Capriles was quick to dismiss the investigation as politically motivated, and insisted that his office had committed no wrongdoing:
Our accounts have always been and will always be transparent. We’re open to them investigating as much as they want. We’ve got nothing to hide [the exact phrase he used is, “Quien no la debe no la teme”].
Capriles also explained his theory as to why he thinks this investigation is taking place at all:
The government is trying to silence all dissident voices because it knows that it’s lost. They know that they’ve lost the people, and that’s why they’ve launched this new kind of repression against us. The government is apparently really scared of the recall [referendum], because almost immediately after we started touring the country to promote it, the government elite ordered this investigation.
Last week, Capriles launched a formal campaign to have Maduro removed from office via a recall referendum. He has been travelling the country since shoring up support for his proposal. While the official opposition bloc – the MUD – has yet to formally throw its weight behind Capriles’ recall proposal, it is expected to make a decision in the matter by the end of the week.
Int’l Reserves Hit 13-Year Low
El Universal reported today that Venezuela’s international reserves have hit a 13-year low, dipping to just $13.1 billion last week. The figure brings Venezuela dangerously close to a default, as it has $10 billion worth of debt due this year.
James Reusche, an analyst with the Moody’s financial firm, says that there is an 80% chance that Venezuela will default or be forced to restructure its debt this year.
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