Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles stressed today that the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) would walk away from talks with the PSUV if the governing party did not take concrete steps to resolving the crisis in the country by November 11. These concrete steps were enumerated in a MUD press conference yesterday, and include releasing all political country and calling for early elections, among others.
Earlier today, Capriles said:
If on [November] 11 the country does not see results [from the talks], then the government will have closed the possibility of dialogue and it will be up to the people to take up the struggle. We’ve made every effort. We are serious people. The people who’ve launched a coup are in the Miraflores [Palace].
At the same time, Capriles rejected the idea that the dialogue process would be a long one, saying that the crisis that Venezuela lived through has afforded “little time” for country and its citizens.
Speaking specifically on the issue of political prisoners, Capriles said:
The government made a promise to release people, and we want to see signs [that they will do this]. There are not political prisoners here, only hostages.
Thomas Shannon, a representative from the U.S. Department of State who spent part of this week in Caracas to help kick-start the dialogue process, told reporters today that the end goal of the dialogue should be – as the opposition has requested – the scheduling of elections in Venezuela. Shannon said:
The two sides have to establish some kind of electoral schedule that will make it clear to Venezuelans that they will have an opportunity to vote.
30,000 CLAP Bags “Diverted” From Families in Vargas State
A government official in Vargas state has revealed that approximately 30,000 CLAP bags have been “diverted” from government warehouses, presumably into the black market for re-sale, stolen, or otherwise given to people who do not qualify for them.
The CLAP bag is a shopping bag containing a number of basic food staples, including flour, sugar and cooking oil. The CLAP bags are supposed to be delivered directly into communities and sold to residents at subsidized prices. Each family is entitled to purchase one CLAP bag per month.
However, according to PSUV secretary for Vargas State Jose Manuel Suarez, the government is aware that thousands of bags are not ending up where they are supposed to. Suarez said:
In the census that the CLAP sends us… we have 163,000 families registered. However, according to the the last census conducted by the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica en Vargas there are no more than 130,000 families [in the state]. Therefore, there are more than 30,000 bags that are being diverted to caminos verdes [literally, “green paths”, meaning non-official channels]. Some families are receiving extra bags and in other cases there are [families] registered multiple times.
Suarez also said that some communities are being serviced multiple times per month while others are going entirely neglected, which is contrary to the goal of the CLAP system.
The government unveiled the CLAP system earlier this year as a way to combat the chronic scarcity crisis in the country.
Oil Price Dips, Maduro Blames “Parasites”
The price for a barrel of Venezuelan oil dropped $3.37 this week to $39.14, resulting in an average price for the month of October of $42.63.
Maduro reacted to the news by pointing out what he perceives to be the unfairness in the way that the price of oil is calculated on the world markets. He blamed Wall Street “parasites” for keeping the price of oil low, saying:
I can’t be that we sweat, we’re the ones who do the sweating (…) [and that] four parasitic speculators in the world are the ones who say how much oil is worth. It can’t be like this.
Last week, Maduro went on a tour of OPEC and non-OPEC countries to try to persuade them to cut production in order to force the price of oil upwards.
Venezuela has been particularly hard-hit by the global dip in oil prices since 95% of its income comes from oil sales. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Venezuela will end the year with a GDP contraction of 6.2% and an unemployment rate of 18.1%, ranking it as the worst economic performer in the region.
Maduro Launches Salsa Show, “Gifts” Moves to Venezuelan People
On Tuesday, Maduro premiered a new radio show called “La Hora de la Salsa” [The Salsa Hour]. The show will air every day at noon, and will be devoted to broadcasting and discussing salsa music. While he will not personally host the show, Maduro said that he would be in close contact with the show “wherever I am”, hinting at a close collaboration with the program.
Maduro made an appearance in the studio during today’s show along with his wife, Cilia Flores. Shortly after his appearance, Maduro tweeted the following message, which reads:
#PeaceHasNoDeadlines I’m gifting these moves to everyone who struggles and loves… We are happiness and life. Que viva la Revcolucion Bolivariana!
The link Maduro provided in the tweet contains a video of him dancing salsa with his wife:
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