The Attorney General’s office confirmed today that eleven National Bolivarian Armed Forces (NBAF) soldiers will be charged with the murders of twelve people killed some time between October 16 and last Friday in Barlovento, Miranda state. The killings appear to stem from a security operation (known locally as the OLP) that took place in the area in mid-October, although the circumstances that led to the murders is not yet clear.
The relatives of the deceased began to report their loved ones missing starting on October 16, but it was only on Friday of last week that the first bodies were discovered.
The media has dubbed the event the “Barlovento Massacre”.
Yesterday, the NBAF released a statement on the event, saying:
This isolated event contravenes the national legal and military order, and does not in any way represent the professional and the humanitarian vocation that characterizes the soldiers of the homeland.
At the same time, National Assembly opposition deputy Delsa Solorzano said that at least 14 more people were missing from the Barlovento area in connection with the same security operation.
Citizen security gets worse each day. The Opercaion Liberacion del Pueblo (OLP) doesn’t work to fix the problem of insecurity. It only serves to add to the death toll in Venezuela.
Solorzano published a list of the missing people on her Twitter account. The missing individuals are:
- Eliecer Ramírez
- Anthony Vargas
- Antonio Aledejo
- Denis Acevedo
- Luis Alirio Sanz
- Héctor Rodríguez
- Yorman Mejías
- Freddy Hernández
- Víctor Manuel Martínez
- Jairo Rivas
- Carlos Machena Silva
- Kendry González
- Yulma José Rengifo
- Wilmer Serrano
National Assembly opposition deputy spoke today on the apparent callousness of the PSUV government in relation to the Barlovento killings, and the ease with which it declared three days of national mourning after Fidel Castro’s death on Friday.
Speaking in a press conference, Guanipa said:
[Maduro] doesn’t declare official mourning here when people can’t find food or when people are killed by the OLP [a state security operation] and are then found in common graves.
Deputy Solorzano echoed Guanipa’s comments in a radio interview, saying:
It is shameful that [the PSUV] has declared official mourning over Fidel Castro’s death and not over the Barlovento Massacre.
Black Market Bolivar Tanks, Loses 60% of Value in 30 Days
Reuters published an article today in which it highlights the precipitous collapse of the value of the black market Bolivar. The currency is currently trading at Bs. 3,687.51 per US$ in the black market, up from Bs. 1,417 per US$ 30 days ago. At this exchange rate, the highest-value bill in circulation in Venezuela – Bs. 100 – is worth less than 3 US cents.
Venezuela counts on a two-tiered currency exchange system, the ineffectiveness of which has spurred the growth of a vibrant black market for U.S. dollars.
The government has two official exchange rates: one which trades at Bs. 10/US$ called DIPRO, and the other which trades at DICOM which currently trades at Bs. 663.89/US$. While the DIPRO rate is open only to the food and pharmaceutical industry, the DICOM rate is open to everyone else. However, a severe shortage of foreign currency makes it extremely difficult for the average Venezuelan to access these official rates, making the black market the stop of last resort for anyone wishing to exchange Bolivares for US Dollars.
The black market exchange rate is updated through a website called dolartoday.com. The Maduro government claims that the website is part of a vast, far-reaching conspiracy bent on destroying the Bolivarian Revolution.
DolarToday is run by a Venezuelan man named Gustavo Diaz. A former soldier who fled Venezuelan in 2005, Diaz works at a hardware store in Alabama. He launched the website in 2010, and has told the BBC that he does not earn money from its operation, and instead supports himself through his day job.
Maduro: “Washington” Behind Bolivar, Economic Collapse
Maduro spoke in a televised address today in which he said that the reason for the economic collapse in the country – including the Bolivar’s fast disintegration into worthlessness – is being orchestrated from within the United States government.
Without actually naming any one individual or organization, Maduro said:
They’re ordering the attacks against our currency and our finances from Washington. In spite of this, Venezuela has met its international [debt] obligations over the past 20 months in all of its forms to the tune of $60 billion….
Maduro also expressed pride in his government’s willingness to pay off debt, saying:
Venezuela might be in first place when it comes to meeting compromises. We could have the gold medal in [meeting debt obligations]. And we’re going against the persecution from the world’s banks.
VTV Cuña Navideña Causes Disappointment, Nostalgia
In Venezuela, it has long been a custom for television stations to stage a cuña navideña around the holiday season. The cuña navideña is a type of musical vignette that included famous television personalities who would sing and dance typical Venezuelan Christmas songs in elaborate, high-production numbers. The cuñas could last several minutes, and played during the holiday season in the station’s major television networks of the pre-Chavez era: RCTV, Venevision and Televen.
The novelty of seeing one’s favourite television personalities together singing popular folk songs made the productions a beloved fixture of television screens around Christmas.
Below, an example of a cuña navideña from 1994. This one is from the RCTV network:
This year’s cuña navideña from the state-owned VTV network has drawn ire and ridicule from Venezuelans on social media given the poor and overall disappointing quality of the production, specially in light of the elaborate numbers common in the pre-Chavez era. The number has also brought back nostalgic memories of former cuñas navideñas for Venezuelans who associate the poor quality of this year’s VTV production with the overall state of decay in the country.
Below, this year’s cuña navideña from VTV:
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