Nine political prisoners held in the jails beneath the SEBIN headquarters in Caracas have entered the 100th hour of a hunger strike they launched to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in Venezuela. The striking prisoners are: Ronny Navarro, Villca Fernandez, Angel Contreras, Gregory Sanabria, Renzo Prieto, Yeimi Varela, Betty Grossi, Andrea Gonzalez and Venus Medina.

The prisoners began their hunger strike on Sunday. Throughout the week, National Assembly deputies have denounced that the prisoners are being subjected to beatings and other torture by the SEBIN in order to force them to end their strike. Originally, fourteen prisoners pledged to take part in the strike.

Argentina to Assume MERCOSUR Presidency

Venezuela was suspended from the MERCOSUR regional trading bloc on December 1 after the organization’s member nations determined that the country had not complied with the human rights and economic requirements needed to become a member of the bloc. Since then, the Venezuelan government – through statements from Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez – has outright refused to recognize the suspension, and has simply insisted that it will remain in the organization.

The situation at MERCOSUR is further complicated that until its suspension, Venezuela was exercising presidency over the bloc. The title of president rotates among the bloc’s member states by alphabetical order.

Yesterday, the government of Argentina confirmed that it would take over the presidency from Venezuela starting on January 1. The announcement came from Argentinian Foreign Affairs Minister Susana Malcorra and her Brazilian counterpart Jose Serra.

The two also confirmed that MERCOSUR would meet in Buenos Aires next week, and clarified that Venezuela would not present at the meeting. Malcorra said:

The matter of Venezuela isn’t a suspension. It’s a cessation of participation in MERCOSUR.

The MERCOSUR dispute has become the loudest repudiation from an international of the Maduro regime’s systemic human rights violations and complete inability to run the country’s economy. The dispute has also become a matter of embarrassment, as the Venezuelan government’s official response to the matter appears to be to simply ignore it in the hopes that it will go away.

Survey: 67% of Caracas Homes Didn’t Have Food To Last Week (July-August)

A survey by the Centro de Investigacion Social [Social Research Centre] (CISOR) conducted between July and August of this year found that 67% of homes surveyed did not have enough food to last for one week. The results of the survey serve as confirmation of a reality that has become too real for millions of Venezuelans, particular over the last two years: chronic food insecurity.

The survey also found that 61% of respondents did not feel that the food that they do eat “satisfies their appetite”, suggesting that having regular access to food is not the only issue Venezuelans are having. 31.39% of households (representing 1,526 people) said that they have stopped eating one of the day’s three meals.

The survey involved 1,099 homes and was conducted between July 14 and August 28 of this year.

SUNDDE “Decommissions” Nearly 4 Million Toys

The government agency in charge of setting and ensuring what the government calls “fair prices” for consumer goods – SUNDDE – announced today that it had decommissioned over three million toys that it claims businesses were “hoarding”. The announcement came from SUNDDE superintendent William Contreras, who said that the measure was “preventative” given the upcoming holiday season.

Contreras explained the circumstances of the measure by saying:

Starting on November 7, we asked business in the textile, shoe, and toy industry to send us some information. They told us that they had 360,000 units [of merchandise], but when we conducted an inspection we counted at least three million. We found four floors full of toys.

The total amount of decommissioned merchandise totals 3,821,620 toys.

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

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