Maduro published his end-of-the-year message yesterday, admitting that 2016 was “difficult” but hopeful that 2017 would be better. Maduro published the message in two posts on his Facebook account. The messages reads:
With love we continue the March! With love we have made progress in this difficult year 2016, but the same love has given us the strength not to give up, to keep fighting, to overcome every day. With love a people has been able to face adversity, so your peace and independence gained over 200 years of struggle will not be stolen. With love, commander Hugo Chavez has revived the bolivarian dream and with that same love, we build it every day. With love we end this year of challenges and look forward to the 2017, certain that we will achieve our people’s hopes. A hug to all Venezuela!
Our desire for this year 2017, is that with love for the motherland, we will make Venezuela a great and prosperous land that overcomes the challenges, with all of us, with the conviction that nothing can take away that hope. Happy new year, my dear Venezuelan people, let’s stick together building the dream of Bolivar and Chavez!
Leopoldo Lopez Releases 2016 Message
A letter written by Leopoldo Lopez was released todday, bringing the jailed opposition leader’s end-of-the-year message to Venezuelans. The full letter can be seen here, and my translation follows below:
2017: Dictatorship or Democracy
2016 has come to an end, and the crisis of which we have warned is growing more severe at an increasing rate, bringing with it unprecedented acts in our history. When it comes to the economic and the social, the shortages no longer affect only food, medicine, repair parts and basic necessitieis for the economy. Now there is rationing of currency, the very money of Venezuelans, something which set off lamentable events in diverse areas of the country. The high cost of living, as it does every year, has reached the highest levels in our history, placing us as the country with the highest inflation rate in the world. The same happens with violence, the other evil that plagues Venezuelans, which will similarly surpass the number of homicides from last year. These are enormously serious facts, but they are nothing more than the preventable consequences of an erroneous model and system, which if not changed will significantly worsen our people’s suffering.
Venezuelans know that this crisis is the consequence of this model, and it fills me with strength to know that our people are growing more and more aware each day over the cause and origin of their political, social, and economic sitaution, despite the communicational hegemony and propaganda that this same system has managed to deploy. Today, 70% of Venezuelans consider this to be a non-democratic government, one that has become a dictatorship, while 90% clamor for change.
I am surprised to hear some say that the people do not care if we live in a dicatorship or a democracy, because what is important for the Venezuelan is that his problems be solved. My response to that is that the intelligence of our people cannot be understimated. The Venezuelan has as many material and basic necessities as spiritual and liberty [as necessities]. Without a doubt, the Venezuelan people today are burdened by the most basic problems, but they are also asphyxiated by a regime that wants to control everything as a dictatorship, one that seeks to suppress our liberties and that crossed a line in 2016 that Venezuelan democrats and those abroad cannot tolerate: ignoring the National Assembly, the institutional dismantling of the rule of law through the total control of public institutions, specially the TSJ [the Supreme Court] and the CNE [the body in charge of elections], and, most grievously, the arbitrary elimination of the constitutional referendum that in essense suspended the right to vote in our country.
For more than three years we insisted that objects must be called by their proper names, and Venezuela is a dictatorship. Unfortuantely, it has been long since we have been in a situation where the regime could correct itself. On the contrary, its intention is to strengthen its model. I have always believed that as democratcs, if we do not have a clear and firm position about that which we are facing, we run the risk of allowing it to continue to cement its position and destroy the country. That is why I stress that the first step for any strategy shared by democratic forces is to recognize and know what we are facing.
However, it is not enough to identify the origin of these problems and those responsible for them. It is up to us to define a goal and set out a common and unified path for 2017: TO RECOVER THE RIGHT TO VOTE AND MOVE BEYOND THE CRISIS. With this objective as our priority, I want to humbly insist on the following for Venezuelans and the whole of the democratic Unity [the opposition]:
1. Political and Constitutional Responsibility
Once the National Assembly beings its new session, it will be a necessary first step to move beyond the crisis to place political and constitutional responsibility for this crisis [on the regime]. The National Assembly must continue the debate that it began this year, and end with deciding over the political responsibility of Nicolas Maduro and the abandonement of his constitutional responsibilities and duties. There can be no doubt that the National Assembly is wholly legitimate [as it was given legitimacy] through an election. Our people trusted the opposition. Not a simple majority: the people trusted 2/3 of its memebers [at the National Assembly], a clear mandate for political change. We must exercise our majority, take decisions and call on our people to back [legislators up] on the streets. THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MUST BE DEFENDED BY THE PUBLIC.
2. Recover the Right to Vote
The right of the sovereign people to vote cannot be revoked indefinitely, and this is why the second step that the National Assembly msut take is to assign rectors to the CNE [essentially giving the opposition control of elections in the country].
3. Civil organization and mobilization
Whenever the decisions taken by the National Assembly are ignored, the Democratic Unity [the opposition] must call on citizens to organize into citizen assemblies and large protests to support the declaration of political responsibility [against Maduro] and the assigning of the new rectors. We must be clear on the fact that victory and change can only be acheived with a leadership and a people who mobilize and pressure the dictatorship.
4. From the Democratic Unity TABLE to the Democratic Unity MOVEMENT
We’re not talking about a new organization: rather, we’re talking about the transformation of a unified organization into a new phase that will require the inclusion of different sectors and movements. The Unity Table [the official name of the opposition] appeared as an partisan articulation that has demonstrated its enormous efficiency when it comes to electoral matters. Now, in times of resistance and the conquest of democracy, and this struggle requires a wide audience. This is why we call for a shift from the table to the movement within the Democratic Unity, the central objective of which will be to revover the right to vote and defeat dictatorship to restore constitutional order and recover democracy.
5. National Agreement
Certain that Venezuelans will achieve change, it is up to all of to jointfly define what it is that we want for the Venezuelan that we are going to build. For this reason, we must promote a wide and inclusive debate with urgency to define national goals and priorities in different spheres to allow us to reinstate the constitutional path, democratic coexistence, and to promote wellbeing through inclusive projects. The result of this debate must be a great National Agreement, which I am convinced we must not be afraid to submit to the citizenry via an electoral referendum.
As 2016 comes to an end and with the utmost sincerity and accountability, it is necessary to say that difficult times await us next year. Despite this, I ask you to fill yourself with strength, faith and optimism, because in 2017 we will continue to fight with all of our will to achieve The Best Venezuela.
We will continue to fight for all of you Venezuelans who believe in a better country without care for the sacrifice that must be made for a Venezuelan where all Venezuelans have all the rights, and we are convinced that the change that we all long for is coming sooner rather than later, because there are millions of us on this path and we will not rest until pushing all of the changes that our country needs forward.
I wand to send a warm hug to every Venezuelan living in every corner of the world as the year comes to an end. The same goes to my colleagues at the Unity [opposition], my brothers at Voluntad Popular [Lopez’s party] and to all of their families, as well as my fellow political prisoners who have been separated from their loved ones only because they think differently and wish for a better Venezuela.
Strength and faith, Venezuela
Prisoner of Conscience
Ramo Verde Military Prison
Manuel Rosales, Five Other Political Prisoners Released
Former Zulia state governor and presidential candidate Manuel Rosales was released in the early overnight hours after spending two and a half months in prison. Rosales – who had been living in exile since 2009 in Peru – was arrested immediately upon landing in Venezuela back in October 15. Rosales was accused of embezzling money while he was the governor of Zulia state in 2009.
Alfredo Romero, the head of the Foro Pneal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum] (FPV), said that the individuals were not released unconditionally: they are banned from leaving the country and must present themselves before a court at regular intervals.
The releases bring the total number of political prisoners in the country down to 103. Romero pointed out that while the Maduro regime released 43 political prisoners in 2016, it arrested 56 new ones, bringing the net total up for the year.
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