Venezuelans greet the Christmas holiday this year with melancholy, as the severe economic crisis that essentially collapsed the country this year drags on into the next.

La Patilla published an article today in which it tells the story of a couple, Carlos and Gabriela, who went out to buy their eight-year-old son Hartos a remote-controlled car for Christmas. The article points out that the couple initially saw the toy two weeks ago, and began to save up for it so that they could purchase it around Christmas. When they finally went to purchase it, the toy had increased in price by 40% due to the country’s runaway inflation, and they were unable to afford it.

The toy was worth Bs. 105,000, which is just over what a worker making the minimum salary earns in three months. At the black market exchange rate, the toy costs $38.

The boy’s grandmother, a woman named Antonia Cabrera, told La Patilla:

Honestly, this is going to be a sad Christmas. Very sad; but we must keep moving forward.

Like many other Venezuelans families, the Cabreras are saddened not only by the current situation they were living, but also by the prospect of future Christmases separated from their loved ones since Hartos, Gabriela and Carlos are planning to emigrate to Argentina next year.

Vargas State Has Virtually Zero Ambulances

The entire state of Vargas is virtually without ambulances, given the chronic and severe lack of repair parts for the units. The announcement was made by National Assembly deputy Jose Manuel Olivares, who said:

There are no ambulances in Vargas, neither for emergencies nor for routine transports. Ambulances aren’t a luxury: the people need them.

Olivares said that out of the 36 ambulances that exist in the state on paper, only 3 are operational on any given day.

Vargas has a population of approximately 350,000 people.

Maduro Ends Year Breaking Political Prisoner Record

Maduro is set to end 2016 on a record: holding more political prisoners than his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. While Chavez’s high-water mark for political prisoners came in 2009 when 49 individuals were imprisoned for speaking out against his government, the Maduro regime currently holds 109 political prisoners.

The Foro Penal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum] (FPV) is an NGO that, among other activities, tracks the status of political prisoners in the country. The executive director of the organization, Alfredo Romero, spoke broadly on the situation in Venezuela today regarding political repression, saying:

The situation is getting worse. The mechanism of repression is more severe. The lack of medical attention [for political prisoners] is a torture mechanism. They [authorities] don’t look after them. Their diseases are getting worse. The psychological damage is evident, and the threat is constant.

The FPV also tracked other criminal justice statistics this year, including:

  • 2,500 politically-motivated arrests, 80% of which involved students.
  • 31 political prisoners released, with 51 new ones detained.
  • 22 of the 109 political prisoners are students.
  • 35 of the 109 political prisoners have medical issues.
  • 31 of the 109 political prisoners are held in calabozos [literally, “dungeons”, meaning cells likely to be found in the basements of police stations or state security agencies].

Maduro has also beaten Chavez in another statistic: total number of political prisoners held during the lifetime of the presidency. While Chavez only ever held a total of 253 political prisoners during 15 years in office, Maduro has held 416 political prisoners in only 3 years in office.

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