Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz spoke at the National Assembly today to defend the national government’s economic performance and justify yesterday’s stealth extension of the economic emergency decree.
Isturiz said that the national government’s economic policy was grounded in reality, since it had conducted 122 meetings with economic players over the past year, and because it “hears what the people say every day”.
Isturiz also said that he wished that the National Assembly would be more supportive of the national government’s efforts to get the economy back on track:
I wish that we could understand each other and that we could resolve our differences. I wish I could hear: ‘We support that decision that Nicolas Maduro made because it’s good for the people”. No one measure alone produces an effect: when you take one measure, others are required.
Isturiz also said that since Venezuela lacked an abundance of foreign currency, the national government has to be extra careful on how to assign them to different economic agents:
We have to prioritize because we have only a little foreign currency (…) it’s not a secret that there is a rentier model crisis due to the fall in oil prices.
On the economic emergency decree, Isturiz reminded the National Assembly that it was “irrevocable”, as a February decision by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia declared it to be in full force and effect.
Deputy Critical of Isturiz’ Talk
Opposition deputy Jose Guerra spoke after Isturiz’ talk at the National Assembly, saying that he had provided no new information about the country’s economic situation or the emergency decree. Guerra said:
Today, the Vice-President’s [talk] made it clear to us that the economic model is no going to change, that he’s not interested in recognizing the government’s mistakes (…) there wasn’t a single measure to solve the fiscal deficit and the [currency exchange system].
Guerra also said that Isturiz displayed a clear lack of knowledge on the subject matter, and that he outright lied when he praised the government’s continuous increase of the minimum monthly salary, given the fact that purchasing power as collapsed. Guerra explained:
[Isturiz] made a huge mistake. He’s the vice-president and he says he doesn’t know if the foreign debt will be paid off, when $7 billion are due in March and in November. He’s creating uncertainty. This isn’t a vice-president who has information: it’s just a title. He’s not really carrying out his task, which is to articulate the government’s economic policies.
Authorities Still Looking For More Missing Miners
Last night, Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz announced through Twitter that the government had concluded the search for bodies believed to be the victims of a massacre near Tumeremo, Bolivar state two weeks ago. Diaz said:
We have concluded the search for the missing [miners] in Tumeremo after finding 17 bodies.
Initial reports suggested that at least 28 men had been killed by a gang conducting some kind of operation in the region, possibly with help from CICPC and SEBIN officers.
Earlier today, People’s Defender Tarek William Saab, contradicted Diaz’s statement on the state of the search, saying that it was in fact still going on. In an interview with Union Radio, Saab said:
The search is still going on. This is why we can’t discount the possibility that we could find [more bodies] (…) last week we didn’t dare give a definite number about how many people were missing. What we said was that we spoke with the family members of 11 of the missing men, and we said that this figure could go up – and it has.
Maduro: “I Can’t Dissolve National Assembly”
In an interview with TeleSur that aired last night, Maduro said that as difficult as it might be to work with an opposition-controlled National Assembly, he could not dissolve it even if he wanted to. Still, Maduro was coy when discussing other possibilities at his disposal as President of the Republic:
The Tribunal Supremo de Justicia [TSJ] is the highest guarantor of the Constitution and legality in the country, and above all of the public powers (…) I can only legislate through express conditions set out in the Constitution, one of which is the Ley Habilitante (…) I can’t dissolve the National Assembly, aside through elements set out in the [Constitution].
While Maduro did not elaborate on what these “elements” might be, he suggested that the TSJ would take measures to reign in his power if he did dissolve the legislature:
If I did that [dissolve the National Assembly], then the TSJ would be immediately obligated to place limits on me and issue an unappealable ruling saying what I had to do, and I would be obliged to follow it.
Maduro also decried that fact that he considers that the National Assembly has “brought new tensions” to the political reality in the country, and that it appears to be bent on “overthrowing the government”.
Twitter User Reports Outrageous Price Milk
A Twitter account (@ReporteYa) tweeted an image today showing the price of a 1.8 liter jug of milk at Bs. 1,080. The price appears to have been written onto the milk jug at the bottling plant, and is dated March 2016.
Below, the image in question:
If true, the price of the milk would put it beyond the reach of a non-trivial amount of Venezuelans. The minimum monthly salary for a Venezuelan worker is Bs. 11,577.81.
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