The trial of Efrain and Francisco Flores began in a New York City courtroom today, squaring off Cilia Flores’ nephews against the United States government over their alleged attempt to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the country last year.
At today’s session, prosecutor Emil Bove argued that the two men attempted to used the power afforded to them by virtue of their connection to the president of Venezuela do to wrong, saying:
They are the nephews of the Venezuelan first lady. They thought that they were so powerful that they could transfer a tonne of cocaine from one airport to another without being detained…
On the other hand, it appears as if the defense strategy will be to paint Efrain and Francisco as innocent victims of crafty DEA agents who were interested only in finding suspects gullible enough to be lured into their traps.
John Zach, one of the defense lawyers, said that Efrain and Francisco were only guilty of being “too stupid” to realize what they were doing:
There were a bunch of stupid, stupid decisions from my client and his cousin that do not amount to criminal conspiracy (…) Efrain and Franqui [Francisco] were too stupid and too naive [to realize they were falling into a DEA trap].
Zach also argued that his clients “could never have produced the 800 kilograms of cocaine” they stand accused of having attempted to smuggle.
The trial is expected to conclude around November 18.
Jaua, Bernal: No General Elections in 2017
In light of rumours that the PSUV and the opposition were attempting to negotiate holding general elections in 2017 to replace Maduro, National Assembly deputy Elias Jaua said today that the matter was simply out of the question for the government.
Jaua said that there was no legal way to hold the elections next year – as opposed to 2018, when they are scheduled to take place – because holding early presidential elections in this manner “is not established by the constitution”.
Despite attempting to pain general elections as an impossibility dictated by the constitution, the government was able to do the reverse earlier this year. In mid-October, the Consejo Nacional Electoral postponed regional elections that must take place this year according to the constitution to “mid-2017”.
Freddy Bernal, a high-ranking PSUV official, echoed Jaua’s comments and called the demand for elections a type of “blackmail” by the opposition:
The constitution does not allow for holding general elections ahead of schedule, and we will not accept this type of blackmail.
New Law Makes “Decorative” Flags Illegal
A new law effective immediately has banned the use of the Venezuelan flag for “decorative” purposes, calling into question the legality of baseball caps that bear the Venezuelan flag popular among opposition supporters, as well as other non-official displays of the Venezuelan colours.
The new law came into effect via the Gaceta Oficial 41.019 dated October 26 2016. The law, called “Norms to Regulate the Use of the National Flag in the National Territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”, seeks to “regulate the use of the flag” given its importance as a symbol of the country.
Article 7 of the law reads:
Article 7. The National Flag may not be use in any case whatsoever as a decorative item.
The simplicity of the article leaves the meaning of the word “decorative” unclear.
The Venezuelan flag has become an important symbol of the opposition protest movement, best exemplified in the ubiquitous Venezuelan flag baseball hat.
Below, an image from a protest in Caracas two months ago showing a large percentage of the opposition crowd wearing the baseball hat in question:
Caracas Sees 134 Murders in Seven Days
The first seven days of November 134 murders in Caracas, with 51 of them occuring over this past weekend alone.
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