Confusion over the introduction of a new set of currency continues to hang in the air today, as Maduro announced on television during a speech in the early afternoon that he was certain that the planes delivering the new bills and coins into the country would arrive this evening.
The new currency was originally set to arrive in early December so that it could begin to be introduced into circulation on December 15, but the government missed that deadline. While Maduro has not provided any concrete justification for mismanaging the timeline, he has suggested that the country was once again the victim of “sabotage” by a nebulous cabal of the Bolivarian Revolution’s enemies.
During today’s speech, Maduro laid blame for the tardy arrival of the new currency squarely on President Barack Obama’s lap, saying:
This is what I call “Obama’s Revenge” (…) I’m blaming the government of the United States for the attacks that our country has sustained.
As in previous occassions, Maduro did not provide any concrete evidence for his claims.
Maduro was optimistic that once the new bills arrived they would help to put an end to the chaos that has engulfed the country in recent days. Maduro said:
When the [new currency] arrives we’ll be totally set (… ) the value of our money will go up.
Looting, Rioting Continues in Bolivar State; Ciudad Bolivar “Devastated”
While the violence that broke out around the country on Thursday has subsided in other places, Bolivar state continued to see looting and rioting today as a result of the government’s mismanagement of the currency regime.
A local journalist named Pabeysa Ostos reported through her Twitter account that the state capital of Ciudad Bolivar has been “devastated” by the unrest, and that residents there were sporadic gunfights this morning as looting continued this morning.
Ostos also said that two state police officers were arrested today after they were photographed looting merchandise during the unrest. Below, images showing the officers apparently riding on a motorcycle with stolen merchandise, along with their mugshots:
A video uploaded to twitter at 9:31 AM this morning, presumably recorded at around that time, shows the looting of a pharmacy in Ciudad Bolivar:
Man: Look at how they are looting Farmatodo right now [woman corrects him: “It’s Farmahorro”, the name of the store] Farmahorro. Look at how they’re looting it. And look at how they’re looted this shit… well, they already looted it.
Below, a video recorded in Ciudad Bolivar, presumably today, shows a scene reminiscent of a war zone:
Man #1: Holy shit… and they haven’t found out about that one yet. The one [possible a store?] that’s back there.
Man #2: Yeah, he’s got lots of merchandise.
Man #1: Where did all these people come from, man?
In the video below, also recorded in Ciudad Bolivar, people loot a tire store:
The video below shows looters breaking into a store in the city:
Ciudad Bolivar is the capital of Bolivar state, and has a population of approximately 350,000 people.
SEBIN Prisoners End Hunger Strike
A group of eight political prisoners held by the country’s political police – the SEBIN – at the organization’s Caracas headquarters have lifted a hunger strike that they initiated on December 4 to demand the release of all political prisoners in the country.
The prisoners decided to end their hunger strike after speaking with Vatican nuncio Aldo Giordani and National Assembly Deputy Timoteo Zambrano.
The hunger strike officially ended yesterday, when the remaining striking prisoners released a letter explaining their decision. Below, my translation of their letter:
Helicoide [SEBIN Headquarters] December 17 2016
Today, Saturday December 17 2016 at 10:43 PM, after having been on a hunger strike since Sunday, December 4 2016, we reached the 368th hour today at 5:00 PM at the headquarters of the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN) Helicoide [to demand] our freedom [sic]. We eight (8) strikers took the unanimous decision [to lift the strike] after talking to and meeting with his excellency Holy See nuncio Aldo Giordano [sic] and deputy Timoteo Zambrano, representatives from the Human Rights Dialogue Roundtable. We have agreed to stop this method of struggle given the deterioration of our health, and to safeguard our lives. We appreciate the good will of those who fight for the freedom of the political prisoners, [and are] hopeful that in the next few hours freedom will be achieved.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5
Deputy Renzo Prieto
Ronny Jose Navarro Rodriguez
There are currently approximately 109 political prisoners being held by the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
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