Yon Goicoechea, a political figure with the Voluntad Popular opposition party, was kidnapped by armed men at approximately 9:30 AM this morning, and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
News of the kidnapping came from David Smolansky, the mayor of the El Hatillo municipality. In a series of tweets, Smolansky cited an eye witness who said that the vehicle Goicoechea was traveling in this morning was intercepted by two white SUVs in the La Trinidad area of Caracas. Once the vehicles came to a stop, at least eight armed men pulled Yon from his car took off with him.
Smolansky said that he believes that the kidnapping was carried out by either the SEBIN [the Venezuelan intelligence police] or the DGCIM, the military intelligence service.
Later in the day, PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello confirmed that Goicoechea had indeed been arrested by SEBIN agents, and that he was currently in custody.
Cabello: Goicoechea Arrested with “Explosives”
National Assembly deputy and fellow Voluntad Popular member Freddy Guevara confirmed in the early evening that Goicoechea was indeed under SEBIN custody, and that he had been “framed”.
Shortly before Guevara’s statement, PSUV vice president and National Assembly deputy Diosdado Cabello spoke at a government rally in Barinas state on the case, saying:
This gentleman [Goicoechea] was trained by the North American empire for many years. Remember that he left in 2007. Someone gave him $500,000 and he left Venezuela. It looks like he ran out of money and he came back looking for blood.
Cabello said that Goicoechea was arrested with “explosives and detonators”. He provided no evidence for any of his claims.
In 2007, Goicoechea became the recipient of the Milton Friedman Award for Advancing Liberty from the Cato Institute, a U.S.-based think-tank. Goiocoechea was awarded the price for leading a student protest movement that year that challenged Chavez’s drive to amend the constitution that year. The award was valued at $500,000.
On Cabello’s comments, Guevara said:
Now Diosdado Cabello is a prosecutor and a judge. This is a set-up. Who is going to believe that Goicoechea, a student leader who participated in the 2007 Student Movement and the White Hands [peaceful] movement is going to have explosives?
Caracas Subway Says It Will Operate Fully on Sept. 1
The Metro de Caracas announced today that the city’s subway service would not be disrupted or otherwise altered during the opposition protest planned for September 1.
A tweet written through the company’s official Twitter account earlier today said that on September 1, the subway would operate “during its normal hours” from 5:30 AM to 11:00 PM.
The announcement is unusual because the Metro often sees partial closures during opposition protests, specially of stations that are near demonstrator gathering points of protest routes.
Villegas: Venezuela Suffering From “Crisis of Humanity”
PSUV official Ernesto Villegas spoke today on the claims from opposition members and international organizations that Venezuela is experiencing a humanitarian crisis due to the severe shortages of food and medicine. Villegas said not only that there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, but also that there is actually a “crisis of humanity” in the country.
There is a crisis of humanismo [literally “humanism”, but I think the meaning is closer to “humanity”], of sensibility. Beyond the economic crisis, how can they play around with the Venezuelan people’s food?
With the comment, Villegas appeared to be suggesting that the Venezuelan government’s enemies – the opposition, business owners, primarily – were deliberately withholding food and other basic necessities from Venezuelans in order to harm the Maduro government.
Villegas also said that the PSUV wants to “finish what it started” in terms of fixing the country’s economy, and urged supporters to stay positive during these difficult times:
We have to be positive to overcome the difficulties that they’ve planted. Venezuela doesn’t want violence. It wants the economic difficulties that exist to be fixed.
Spain’s ABC: Rampant Corruption Still Draining Food Imports Dry
Spain’s ABC published an article today in which it shows that the endemic corruption affecting the Maduro government is still drying the country of resources even Venezuelans suffer through the worst scarcity crisis in living memory.
According to the article, the Corporacion Venezolana de Comercio Exterior [Venezuelan Foreign Commerce Corporation] (CORPOVEX), a state-run company, agreed to pay for $197.1 million to import soy oil, corn and wheat in July. However, the article points out that the market price for the quantity of those products is actually $106.7 million, meaning that the government paid $90.4 million more than it needed to for the food, with no clear indication of where that extra money went.
Below, ABC‘s breakdown of the quantities of food purchased by the government, how much it agreed to pay, and how much those quantities actually cost:
- 50,000 tonnes of soy oil
- Government paid: $970 per tonne
- Actual market price: $668.8 per tonne
- Total extra paid: $15.1 million
- 330,000 tonnes of corn
- Government paid: $357 per tonne
- Actual market price: $162.4 per tonne
- Total extra paid: $64.2 million
- 150,000 tonnes of wheat
- Government paid: $205.9 per tonne
- Actual market price: $131.5 per tonne
- Total extra paid: $11.1 million
When Venezuela’s total annual consumption of these products is taken in consideration, ABC estimates that $500 million disappear in a single year on those three products alone “into the pockets of those who participate in this corruption”.
Mitzy Capriles Harassed By SEBIN Agents at Airport
Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, Antonio Ledezma’s wife, was greeted at the Simon Bolivar International Airport this weekend by a SEBIN agent dressed in all-black who started recording her the moment that she cleared customs. Mitzy was accompanied by her daughter, Antonietta.
Antonio Ledezma is the mayor of Caracas and one of Venezuela’s political prisoners. He was arrested in 2015 over allegations that he was involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government. His trial is ongoing.
Below, the video showing the SEBIN agent’s harassment:
Antonietta: We are being shamelessly recorded. Look how they are recording us. They’re covering their faces like cowards.
Mitzy: Hang on, this guy is recording me — why don’t you take off your…
Antonietta: Take off your mask! Why are you afraid?
Mitzy: Are you afraid of September 1? Is that it? Take off your mask. I’m not wearing a mask and I’m unarmed. Coward! You are afraid because the people of Venezuela are taking to the streets on September 1. That’s why you’re all afraid. That’s why you’re recording us. That’s why you’re kicking the Ecuadorans out.
Antonietta: Be a man and take off your mask, please.
Mitzy: You’re starving, too, just as the rest of us Venezuelans are starving and lining up [for food]… they’re afraid! They feel terror. They feel panic. Know my name well: I am Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma! Antonio Ledezma’s wife, who was unjustly imprisoned.
You have no shame! Maduro is afraid. How can you record a woman like this?
Antonietta: Coward! You’re a coward! Take off your mask if you’re going to record my mom!
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