Jesus Torrealba, the head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) opposition bloc, suggested today that removing Maduro from office via elections is not a viable option, calling that goal “beyond the horizon”. Torrealba believes that the MUD should instead focus on goals that it can hope to achieve, as would be winning back governorship from the PSUV in the regional elections that are supposed to take place in 2017.

Maduro’s presidency is widely regarded as the single most disastrous political event in Venezuela’s history. Under Maduro, the Venezuelan economy has virtually collapsed, and widespread shortages of food and medicine make everyday life in the country extremely difficult.

The MUD dedicated most of 2016 to kickstarting a recall referendum process against Maduro, but failed to meet the required timelines after the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) and Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) effectively deployed institutional roadblocks to the measure.

For Torrealba, the MUD must focus on and follow through clear goals, lest it lose its way and fall into disarray. Torrealba said:

The [MUD] cannot lend itself to [individual parties] or names, but rather goals. It must provide a project of national reconstruction for the country, a model of political transition that we want and a unity government that will make both of these possible.

Torrealba also suggested that starting on January 10, infighting within the PSUV might reveal itself publicly in actions against Maduro. This is because according to the Venezuelan Constitution, if a sitting president resigns or is forced from office in the first half of his term, there must be presidential elections to replace him; if this happens in the second half, then the vice-president becomes president.

Maduro will reach the halfway point of his presidency on January 10.

Torrealba said:

Next month will be the fourth anniversary of Maduro’s non-government (…) Until January 10th, the entire regime has been working on behalf of Maduro’s defense, but after that date there are sectors within the regime that could begin to nurture the idea of getting rid of Maduro to ensure that they remain.

Torrealba also said that the MUD will not attend the next round of scheduled talks with the PSUV on January 13, since the Maduro regime has so far failed to meet any of the points it agreed to during the first round of talks in November.

Venezuela Concerned Over Colombia-NATO Talks

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today on Colombia’s interest in collaborating closely with NATO, saying that it was “firmly opposed” to the move.

The release reads:

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela expresses its profound concern and rejection of the announcement by the President of the Republic of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, over the start of talks in order to cement a military cooperation agreement between Colombia and NATO.

This announcement breaks the promise that President Santos made in 2010 before President Hugo Chavez of not entering into a military alliance with NATO.

The Venezuelan government is firmly opposed to this attempt to introduce external factors with nuclear capabilities in our region, whose past and recent acts revive the politics of war, break bilateral and regional agreements to which Colombia adheres (UNASUR, CELAC) which have declared Latin American and the Caribbean a Peace Zone. This announcement dishonours the Bandung Principles, which gave origin to the Non-Aligned Movement, which expressively prohibits its member states from entering military alliances.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will take all diplomatic and political measures to stop warmongering organizations on a pernicious path of war and violence in the world to disturb the peace in our region.

The Bolivarian government of Venezuela, in the spirit of the union of the Patria Grande [a reference to the fact that Colombia and Venezuela were once one country], calls on the Colombian government to not generate elements of destabilization and war in South America, and wishes that it listen to the historic call for peace and unity that our liberators made.

The release also says that Venezuela will take “all diplomatic measures” to “stop” Colombia from extending NATO influence into South America.




Amnesty International: Authorities Refusing to Release Prisoners

Carlos Lusverti, the head of documentation at Amnesty International, said in an interview with Union Radio that the Venezuelan judiciary is exhibiting “growing weaknesses“, particularly when it comes to “impartiality and independence”.

Lusverti said that he was worried by the Venezuelan judiciary’s inability to enforce its rulings, particularly when those rulings involve the release of prisoners.

Lusverti said:

We’ve received worrying information regarding detained individuals who have received release orders from courts, but the police authorities do not receive them [and therefore the orders] are not carried out.

In such a situation, an individual whom a judge has ordered to be released – perhaps because their sentence has been completed, or because they are cleared in a case – will remain in prison indefinitely.

Lusverti blamed the Public Ministry and the People’s Defender for this issue, along with issues relating to the lengthy delays in court proceedings.

On the plight of prisoners, Lusverti said that the lack of attention they receive while serving their sentences can be considered to be a form of violence. Lusverti said:

According to information from the Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones [Venezuelan Prison Watch] [OVP], there are many cases of people who have said that prisoners have died from malnutrition. This also calls for the entire structure of the Ministry of Penal Services to be reviewed, to find out where the resources are going.

Lusverti also pointed out that the Working Group for Arbitrary Detentions at the United Nations has conducted reviews on the Venezuelan legal system and found instances of arbitrary detentions, as well as politically-motivated arrests. Lusverti said:

We have cases of people who have been held in pre-trial detention [and the authorities have refused] to say where they are being held, people detained for clearly political reasons or for exercising their right to free expression, others who have been freed as part of dialogue processes [between the MUD and the PSUV], but they [the government] has not yet reviewed the cases of many people who have been arrested for political reasons.

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