Speaking on his weekly En Contacto Con Maduro television show earlier today, Maduro made a number of comments relating to elections in Venezuela.

Perhaps most importantly, Maduro said that holding elections was simply not a priority for his government. He said:

But the priority is not holding elections. The priority in Venezuela is to fix the economy, attend to the people, continue to develop education and homes. It’s not holding elections.

Maduro’s comments are important for two reasons. First, term limits set out in the constitution require that regional elections be held this year for governors and state legislatures. Second, the calls to hold a recall referendum against Maduro have only intensified since the electoral process was first proposed earlier this year.

Maduro also gave his opinion on what the result of a parliamentary election held this year would be, even though the next parliamentary elections are not scheduled until 2020. Maduro said:

I’m telling you, if we had elections for the National Assembly today again, the revolution would regain the National Assembly and we would have a really good victory.

Maduro and the PSUV are currently experiencing the lowest approval ratings in their respective histories. Eight in ten Venezuelans would vote to remove Maduro from office, and only 24% of Venezuelans consider themselves PSUV supporters compared to 54% who support the opposition.

During the same speech, Maduro called National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup “a demon”, compared him to Hitler, and called on all Venezuelan women to speak out against him, saying:

[Every Venezuelan woman should] denounce – nationally and internationally – this demon who hates women [Allup] (…) he’s a demon, man. We can’t put up with this. Who does he think he is? Hitler? He thinks he’s Hitler, [full of] vengeance. Watch yourself, Ramos Allup. If you take one false step, Ramos Allup, you know that I won’t hesitate. I’m not afraid of anything or anyone, Ramos Allup. You’re taking a false step.

Allup Continues Heated Exchange with Rodriguez

Henry Ramos Allup continued a heated exchange with Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez one day after Rodriguez filed a formal complaint with the Public Ministry accusing Allup of vilipendio [roughly, “abuse”, “contempt” or “humiliation”]. Rodriguez based her allegations partially on the fact that Allup often speaks out against government officials in particular, some of whom are women.

Allup had stern words for Rodriguez on her future in a post-chavismo Venezuela, saying:

Let’s be clear. She can go anywhere she wants. Once the administration of justice is restored, you [Rodriguez] will pay for your systemic violation of the constitution and your involvement in crimes that affect the integrity of the country. You will discover that being a woman will not absolve you from judgement.

Venezuela Must Pay $.18B in Debts This Month

Bloomberg Markets published an article yesterday in which it provides a great deal of detail on Venezuela’s economic situation heading into the month of October. The article points out that Venezuela has $1.8 billion worth of debt obligations that it must pay this month, after clearing $310 million in debt payment in September.

The article also talks about the importance of PDVSA’s proposed bond swap for notes that mature next month. If successful, the bond swap would allow PDVSA to avoid paying over $2 billion to investors next month. The article points out that “whether or not Venezuela can avoid default over the next 12 months” could depend on how successful PDVSA is with the bond swap.

The article also suggests that the medium-to-long-term macroeconomic situation in the country appears healthier today than it did in February of this year. Since February, Venezuela’s dollar bonds have rallied, while its risk of default in the next 12 months decreased to 43%. In February, creditors had calculated that risk at 83%.

At the same time, the country’s international reserves have hit a 13-year low of just $11.8 billion, while the government-set SIMADI Bolivar has lost 70% of its value since the start of the year.

Hostage Situation Enters 26th day in San Cristobal

26 days ago, eight inmates held in the Tachira State Police Department (Politachira) jail in San Cristobal, Tachira state took two police officers and ten visiting relatives hostage at the installation. The inmates have told authorities that they initiated the hostage situation in protest of the overcrowding that they experience in the jail.

Noticiero Digital cites and NGO called Una Ventana a la Libertad [A Window to Freedom] as claiming that the inmates are demanding that they be transferred to the Tocoron prison in Aragua state, a demand that the authorities are refusing to consider.

The Politachira jail in which the hostage situation has been unfolding is build to house a maximum of 120 inmates, but there are currently 350 individuals being held there. Moreover, while the jail is intended to hold inmates for a maximum of 48 hours, they are actually held there indefinitely.

The website reports that while the inmates released a woman on September 15 who was eight months pregnant, they have over the past two weeks sent videos and pictures of abuses that they have perpetrated against the hostages. The media allegedly includes a video of someone having their finger cut off, as well as videos that feature clearly distressed individuals threatened with “knives and guns held against their heads”.

DEA Hints at More Sources in Flores’ Drug Trafficking Activities

As part of the ongoing drug trafficking trial of Efrain and Francisco Flores, the DEA has revealed that it independently corroborated allegations that First Lady Cilia Flores’ nephews were involved in the drug trade with sources that have so far been not named in the trial.

The DEA claims that it first became aware that the Flores were planning to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States last October from an informant named CW-1 in court documents. According to the DEA, CW-1 was “a drug trafficker” who wanted to help the organization with information in an attempt to cement a cooperation deal with the agency, since CW-1 was facing drug charges himself.

However, the DEA claims that it did not in fact enter into any kind of cooperation agreement with CW-1, implying that CW-1 had taken it upon himself to provide information on the Flores’ activities as a token of goodwill. Once the agency had received CW-1’s tip, it corroborated the information with its own sources, which confirmed the information.

This added layer of complexity – through the revelation of previously unnamed corroborating sources – appears to be part of a DEA strategy to distance itself from CW-1 as the only source on the Flores’ drug activities. This is because the defense appears to have honed in as CW-1 as a weak link in the prosecution’s case, and appears to be attempting to paint him as an opportunist who was desperate to do whatever it took to give the DEA viable information – even if that meant falsifying information about the Flores cousins.

CW-1 was murdered in Honduras earlier this year.

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

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