The Trappist monastery in Caraguatay, Merida state was the scene of a mass robbery yesterday, as at least nine subjects entered the premises and proceeded to “rob, tie-up, beat and hold in several rooms” of the complex.

Witnesses told El Nacional that the robbers arrived at the monastery yesterday afternoon carrying “long weapons”, which means rifles and/or shotguns. The individuals proceeded to rob and steal a wide arrangement of items, including:

 … personal computers, tablets, mobile phones, money, clothes, some vehicles and the coffee produced by the monks.

The individuals remained at the scene for several hours. Witnesses claim that despite their repeated calls for help during the ordeal, the local police force did not respond to the scene. According to El Nacional:

The victims claim that they called for help in numerous occassions but never received a response from the police in the Estanques area, since the officers there do not have patrol vehicles or motorcycles. In fact, private citizens had to take the [police officers] to the scene in their own vehicles.

Maduro Delays Phasing Out of Bs. 100 Bill To January 20

During a televised speech that aired early this afternoon, Maduro extended the life of the Bs. 100 for a second time, laying bare the continued problems his regime has had in phasing out the old bills by introducing a new set of currency. Maduro announced that the Bs. 100 bills would now become obsolte on January 20.

The Bs. 100 bills – the most widely circulated in the country – were originally scheduled to go out of circulation on December 15, and then on January 2.

During the same speech, Maduro assured listeners that he was almost universally beloved by the people of Colombia, and that he was certain that if he were to run for elections in the neighbouring country, he would win with at least 70% of the vote.

Maduro Caught in I.D. SNAFU

During today’s televised speech, Maduro held up his Carnet de la Patria [roughly, “Homeland I.D.”], a new piece of I.D. that will entitle the holder to purchase subsidized food and basic necessities through the CLAP distribution network.

At one point during the broadcast, Maduro proudly showed his own Carnet de la Patria to the camera. The I.D. appeared to accurately portray Maduro’s personal identifiers, including a recent photograph, his full name, as well as his date of birth. However, the card showed one flaw: Maduro’s National Identification Number [shown on the card as “C.I.” for cedula de identidad].

According to the carnet de la patria that Maduro showed on television today, his national I.D. number is V-5.812.144. However, according to the official voter registry records of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), Maduro’s national I.D. number is V-5.892.464. It is not clear why the I.D. that Maduro showed on television does not correspond to the CNE’s records.

The SNAFU was caught by opposition deputy Delsa Solorzano, who tweeted the following messages:

Could it be that the carnet de la patria is so lame that not even Maduro wants one?

Or could it be that they’re so inept that they can’t even make an I.D. properly?

The discrepancy would suggest that either the CNE or the body that issues the carnet de la patria does not have accurate records on Maduro for some reason.

In Venezuela, the national I.D. number need to be safeguarded, as a social security number must be in Canada or the United States. It is common for individuals being interviewed on television to state their full names along with their national I.D. numbers as a way to prove to the cameras that they are indeed who they say they are.

El Impulso Runs Out of Paper, Will Cease Print Edition

El Impulso, a large regional newspaper out of Lara state, has run out of paper and will print its last daily edition on December 31. The newspaper becomes the latest – and one of the largest – in a long list of oppostion-leaning newspapers that have been forced to shut down due to issues acquiring printing paper.

The president of the newspaper, Carlos Eduadro Carmona, made the announcement via an editorial published today. Calling the newspaper’s shutdown “not a surprise”, Carmona said:

The government has once again, through its [different] organizations, impeded daily circulation from taking place, which is why we find outselves urgently needing to suspend circulation starting on Saturday December 31, at which time we will print out last edition.

The reason for the newspaper’s shutdown has become all too familiar in Venezuela in recent months: lack of printing paper. In Venezuela, newspapers must apply directly to the national government for U.S. dollars with which to import printing paper. Newspapers that are critical of the government tend to find it difficult or impossible to receive the money they need to import paper.

On March 17 of this year, El Carabobeño – the oldest newspaper still in circulation in the country – was forced to stop its print edition for the same reasons.

Caromna said that the reason why he left the announcement of the newspaper’s end to just two days before its demise was that he had been hopeful that, as in previous occassions, the publication would have somehow managed to receive more newsprint.

2016 Ends With ~28,500 Murders

The Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia [Venezuelan Violence Watch] (OVB), an NGO that tracks crime statistics in the country, estimates that 2016 will close with 28,479 homicides, or 91.8 per 100,000 residents. The figure would give Venezuela one of the top spots for the infamous “Homicide Capital of the World” distinction, along with Honduras and El Salvador.

The toll for 2016 will also be higher than that of 2015, which saw 27,875 homicidies.

The most violent state in the country this year was Aragua, with 142 homicides per capita. The Capital District (Caracas) came in at second place, with 138 homicides per capita.

Roberto Briceño León, a criminologist and director of OBV, said that one of the noteworthy statstics for this year has to do with the number of people killed by authorities. Briceño said:

In previous years, 65% of cases involving people resisiting authorities ended in fatalities, but by looking at primary figures this year we see this figure increased to 79%. This has to do with the operations that have taken place this year.

Briceño was refering to the Operacion Liberacion del Pueblo [Operation People’s Liberation] (OLP), an ongoing pseudo-military operation that sees heavily armed police officers and soldiers assault crime-ridden neighbourhoods, typically in urban areas. OLP operations tend to be deadly. On October 11 alone, 23 individuals were killed during OLP operations in Caracas and the surrounding areas.

Venezuelan authorities do not publish official crime statistics in a regular or systematic manner, leaving the OBV to rely on other sources to compile its own data. Among them are reports from individual police officers corraborated by the media and statistics maintained by academic centres around the country.

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