Students at the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) held a rally today along with the country’s other autonomous universities to demand that the government provide adequate funding for their universities. The UCV students’ plan was to march to the Ministry of University Education building in central Caracas to hand-in a list of demands to minister Jorge Arreaza.
The area around the UCV awoke this morning to heavy police and National Guard presence, as authorities blocked many of the university’s exists onto Caracas.
Initially, it appeared as if the students would be prevented from exiting the campus, but the demonstration was able to make it onto the adjacent Paseo Los Ilustres without any problems. The march moved north, and once it got closer to Plaza Altamira, National Bolivarian police officers prevented the students from going further.
The situation was defused by the arrival of a representative from the Ministry of University Education, who spoke with the march leaders and agreed to get back to the students on their concerns within 48 hours. Once the agreement was made, the students marched back into the UCV campus.
Later in the afternoon, Maduro made the surprise announcement that bursaries for university students would increase to Bs. 8,000, a 100% increase from their current level. Maduro made the announcement before a crowd of “revolutionary” university students whose demonstration was scheduled for the exact same time as that of the UCV students, and who were able to march to the Miraflores Palace unhindered by authorities.
Below, pictures from today’s student demonstration at the UCV:
The sign in the picture below reads, “We carry the weight of the crisis in our backpacks”:
The police response to the demonstration today included a tactic that appears to be gaining popularity: placing female officers at the front line of police barricades:
Vargas Hospital Patients Required To Buy Own Supplies
El Nacional published an article today which highlights the deep crisis affecting the country’s healthcare system, pointing out that patients at Caracas’ Jose Maria Vargas Hospital are forced to pay to cover all of the costs associated with their hospitalization.
The news appears to signal the increasingly grim situation in which the country’s healthcare system finds itself today, since the hospital is public and is supposed to be free.
A woman named Geysa Salcedo, who has been hospitalized for three months, told the newspaper:
We have to buy everything here, starting with water. We’re surviving.
Salcedo says that the company contracted to provide food and drinks to the hospitals no longer services the health centre due to extensive debts it has incurred, so the nurses taking care of her have to go out to buy food for her.
Orquidea Soto is another patient at the hospital. She has been a patient there for ten days now, and she told El Nacional:
I told the doctor that I want to leave, that I want them to let me go because I don’t have the money to remain hospitalized. My daughter has had to borrow money. We’ve spent almost Bs. 25,000 because we have to buy everything: water, food and medicine.
Soto also said that the fact that she has to buy her own food means that she has had to go hungry. She told the newspaper that all of yesterday she only had to small arepas to eat: one that was given to her as a gift by another patient, and one that was brought to her in the evening by her brother.
Soto explained that aside from having to pay for food, she has also had to pay for medical supplies and procedures, something that should not have to happen since she is staying at a public hospital. Soto explained:
They said that I had to have an MRI, and I can’t afford to pay for it. They’ve already done a tomography on me in the La Arboleda clinic, and it cost be Bs. 12,500. How can I pay if I’m incapacitated, and I’ve been waiting seven years for my pension payment?
Doctors in Merida On Hunger Strike Over Healthcare Crisis
A group of five doctors from the Hospital Universitario de Los Andes in Merida state have been on hunger strike since Monday, May 23, at the College of Doctors building in Merida. The doctors began their strike as a way to protest the collapse of the country’s healthcare sector. One of the striking doctors told Analitica:
In Merida, we are tired of seeing our patients die due to a lack of supplies. We have the human resources, but we have no way to save them.
Today, three graduate students from the Universidad de Los Andes‘ medical faculty joined the doctors.
Earlier today, a team of representatives from the local Catholic archdioceses visited the striking doctors and students. Reinaldo Muñoz, the priest at the university’s chapel, said:
This hunger strike shows a beaten, very hurt Venezuela, in which we are all affected equally. [It is] a manifestation of social decomposition and a lack of policies that lead towards progress and the improvement of the quality of life of each and every one of us.
NA Approves Special Commission to Address Hunger Strike
The National Assembly approved the creation of a special commission team to evaluate the conditions at the Hospital Universitario de Los Andes in response to the ongoing hunger strike there. The commission is made up of a number of National Assembly deputies, including William Barrientos, Jose Trujillo, Carlos Paparoni and Oneida Guaipe.
Along with creating the special commission today, the National Assembly drafted a document stating that it believes that the national government’s figures on healthcare in the country do not accurately reflect the lived reality in Venezuela, and that medical supplies (including medicine) are on average 90% scarce.
Despite the fact that the National Assembly declared a health emergency in the country back in February, Maduro has refused to admit that one exists, and has refused to consider accepting humanitarian medical aid from foreign sources.
PSUV Deputies Criticize Striking Doctors
National Assembly PSUV deputy Ramon Lobo spoke during today’s National Assembly session to say that the five doctors on hunger strike in Merida state are actually opposition militants, and suggested that the “alleged” hunger strike might not even be taking place
PSUV deputy Carmen Melendez also spoke during today’s session to criticize the striking workers, saying that the Maduro government was already working “to improve the difficulties facing the healthcare sector”.
Melendez also sent out a number of tweets during today’s legislative session, and asked:
If the doctors go on strike and stop working, who will help to solve the problems?
More Allegations of Torture By Authorities Against Students
Earlier today, a lawyer representing a university student arrested during the protests in Caracas last Wednesday was tortured while in custody by the SEBIN, the country’s intelligence agency. Joel Garcia said that his client, Jheremy Lugo, is being charged with attempted murder, instigating a crime, damaging public property and assault, and was remanded into custody by a judge in Caracas today pending his trial.
Garcia said that Lugo was transferred to a prison in Guarico state on Sunday without a judicial order, a move which he claims is illegal.
Describing the physical torture that he claims Lugo has received while in SEBIN custody, Garcia said that it was “beyond the limit” and said:
Jheremy and the other [arrested students] were the objects of savage torture. They’ve been the victims of electrocutions, beatings and asphyxiation with bags full of insecticide. Moreover, they forced them to eat arepas with flies [on or in] them, and they threatened them with rape.
Garcia said that the purpose of the torture was to break the students and have them sign a confession saying that they had been paid to commit crimes by opposition leaders, including Maria Corina Machado, Henrique Capriles, Lester Toledo and the National Assembly’s chief of security, Coromoto Rodriguez.
Garcia said that Lugo informed him that he signed a coerced confession to make the torture stop.
Lugo had an opportunity to speak before judge Magdalena Diaz in Caracas at his hearing earlier today, and he took the opportunity to speak about the torture he claims to have endured. At one point during the hearing, Lugo lifted up his shirt to show the judge the bruises he claims to have received at the hands of SEBIN agents.
Judge Diaz ordered Lugo to be held in detention in the infamous Yare I prison, but Garcia successfully argued that Lugo should remain under SEBIN custody.
La Patilla claims that Lugo was previously arrested by National Guard soldiers in June of 2014 during a protest. The website claims that the man arrested in the video below is Jheremy Lugo:
Surprise TSJ Ruling Allows Dual Citizens To Hold Office
The Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) has issued a surprise ruling stating that an individual’s Venezuelan citizenship supersedes any other he or she may have and that a Venezuelan with dual citizenship may hold public office, contrary to the Constitution.
The ruling comes as a result of a case brought to the court by a woman named Isabella Magual stemming from a dispute involving her estranged husband and her daughter.
Magual’s husband, Francois Guerin, holds a dual Venezuelan and French citizenship. Magual wanted to get her daughter – who was born in the United States – a Venezuelan passport, but Guerin refused to allow it. In 2015, Magual took the case to a Venezuelan court, which ruled in her favour by allowing her to get her daughter a passport. Guerin appealed the decision, and argued that because his daughter had been born in the United States, she did not qualify for a Venezuelan passport.
In its decision, the TSJ ruled that the girl could indeed have a Venezuelan passport, because even thought she has dual citizenship, that of Venezuela supersedes that of the United States. The ruling partially reads:
[In the case that a person holds] multiple nationalities and one of them is Venezuelan, [the Venezuelan nationality] will take precedence over everything concerning legal matters.
The ruling essentially means that a person with dual citizenship will be able to enjoy every right granted to an individual who has only Venezuelan citizenship. This would appear to include even holding office, which is in direct contradiction to the constitution.
Article 41. Only Venezuelans by birth and without any other citizenship may hold the office of President of the Republic, Vice President of the Republic…
The TSJ ruling is currently making waves on social media, where Venezuelans who believe that Maduro was actually born in Colombia and is therefore unable to be President of Venezuela argue that this decision essentially grants Maduro that right.
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