Following an agreement between Bogota and Caracas on Thursday to re-open the border between the two countries, pedestrians were able to walk across into the neighbouring country in Tachira and Apure states starting early this morning for the first time in over a year.
The re-opening of the border followed a statement by Colombian Minister of Immigration Christian Kruger, who called on Venezuelans to refrain from taking to the border en mass this weekend, and to instead wait to cross in smaller numbers of the next days and weeks. Kruger’s call comes after a partial re-opening for two weekends in July saw tens of thousands of desperate Venezuelans flock into Colombia looking for food, medicine and other basic necessities.
Maduro Announces Salary Increase Starting Sept. 1
Late last night, Maduro announced an increase to the minimum monthly salary in Venezuela. This is the third salary increase this month, and another is expected in December.
The increase means that a Venezuelan worker’s salary will go up 50% to Bs. 22,576.6 per month. At the official free-floating exchange rate, this equals approximately $35 per month. At the black market rate (currently sitting at Bs.1011.95/USD), the increase translates to $22 per month.
Maduro made the announcement by saying:
A socialist, revolutionary government like the one over which I preside (…) must always protect work and its stability.
On top of the salary increase, Maduro also ordered an increase to subsidies given to Venezuelan workers, including the cestaticket food stamp program. The total value of these subsidies when added to the workers’ earned salary is Bs. 66,056.
With an inflation rate expected to hit 700% this year, the salary increases become obsolete very quickly, leaving Venezuelans in a losing race against skyrocketing prices.
Lopez Loses Appeal, Will Serve Out 13 Years Left of Sentence
The leader of the Voluntad Popular (VP) party, Leopoldo Lopez, has lost the appeal on his 14-year prison sentence. The appeals court announced its decision late yesterday a week after the hearing.
Lopez was sentenced to 13 years, nine months and seven days on September 10, 2015 for his role in the 2014 anti-government protests. His co-accused – students by the name of Angel Gonzalez, Demian Martin and Christian Holdack were given conditional sentences, which were also upheld by the appeal court yesterday.
Lopez’s trial was universally denounced as a farce by international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, and the Organization of American States.
One of the two prosecutors on the case, Franklin Nieves, escaped Venezuela shortly after the conclusion of the trial and admitted that he had received orders to falsify evidence against Lopez to secure a conviction. Last month, the key prosecution witness in the case – a linguist named Rosa Amelia Asuaje – said that the trial judge “manipulated” her testimony to justify finding Lopez guilty, and that she never would have made the conclusions the trial judge claims to have gathered from her report.
National Assembly deputy Luis Florido spoke on the result of the appeal today, saying that the case would be “taken to the United Nations”.
Maduro in Havana For Fidel’s Birthday Party
Cuba’s Fidel Castro turns 90 today, and Maduro traveled to Havana today to help the former head of state celebrate. Through his Twitter account, Maduro said that Fidel has had “a life full of dignity and victory”.
Other PSUV officials also sent Fidel birthday greetings. PSUV vice president Diosado Cabello tweeted:
Commander Fidel, it’s been 90 years of revolutionary strength, dignity, [and] loyalty to principles and friends. A big hug.
Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez wrote:
We grew up [following] the example and the teachings from the Commander of Dignity [Fidel]. Invincible fighter against imperialism.
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