Details of the arrest of Efrain and Francisco Flores, First Lady’s Cilia Flores’ nephews who are currently awaiting trial in New York City for allegedly attempting to smuggle cocaine into the United States, have been published for the first time.

El Nacional cites a journalist named Jessica Carillo, whom it claims has had access to written statements made by the cousins, as providing the first bits of insight into the arrest of the two men.

According to the newspaper, Francisco initially thought that the arrest was actually a kidnapping, because “kidnappings are frequent in Venezuela”. Francisco also said:

I know more than 15 people in Venezuela who have been kidnapped for ransom (…) when the authorities declined our questions [to identify themselves?], my theory that we were being kidnapped was strengthened.

Francisco also said that the arrest took place in a hotel room, and that as many as 20 heavily-armed officers took place in the operation. Once handcuffed, Francisco and Efrain were taken to a safe-house nearby, and were then transported to a local police station where the two men were processed by Haitian authorities.

Efrain said that at no point were they read their rights, and that a phone call he requested upon learning he had been arrested was denied.

The two men are currently being held without bail at a detention facility in New York City. Their trial is set to start on November 7.

PDVSA Earnings Fell 40.7% in 2015

The total amount of money brought in to Venezuela by PDVSA, the state-owned oil company, fell by 40.7% in 2015 to $72.166 billion, down from $121.895 billion in 2014.

When factoring in all operation costs, PDVSA’s net earnings in 2015 were just $7.345 billion, down 19% from 2014.

Marco Torres Promoted

Minister of Nutrition Rodolfo Marco Torres – the man in charge of ensuring the import, production and deliver of food in Venezuela – received a promotion to the rank Divisional General of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces at an event in the Caracas Pantheon. The promotion means that Marco Torres now hold the third-highest rank in the Venezuelan army.

Maduro personally gave Marco Torres the promotion, alongside First Lady Cilia Flores and minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez.

Caracas Chronicles Tackles Murder Rate Figures

The Caracas Chronicles has published a set of articles casting serious doubt on the most commonly-cited murder rate figures in Venezuela from the Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia [Venezuelan Violence Watch] (OVV).

The first article is titled “How to Count Our Dead”, and was written by Professor Dorothy Kronick, who works out of the political science department at the University of Pennsylvania. Kronick’s work strongly suggests that OVV’s figures are deeply flawed, and that it overestimated the number of murder victims in the country last year by as much as 6,000 victims.

Kronick’s figures differ from those from OVV because Kronick pays close attention to official figures from the Ministry of Health and the CICPC, a police agency in Venezuela. Kronick points out that the figures are often difficult to obtain and that the data often takes two years to emerge, but her calculations show a 2015 murder rate of 70 per 100,000 to OVV’s 90 per 100,000.

Kronick also argues that part of the discrepancy comes from the fact that in 2013, OVV calculated its murder rate based on projected increases in murder in the country rather than on any solid official data from the country.

The second article is titled “OVV Understands it Blundered: Time to Retract Publicly”, and provides a very brief overview of the first. The article also calls on OVV to make a public statement acknowledging the error in its methodology.

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

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