Following a year of questionable effectiveness, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) appears poised to restructure itself in its quest to mount a serious challenge to the Maduro regime. The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, announced today that the opposition bloc will be entering a “redefinition process” in the coming weeks, and while he was tight-lipped on details, he did say that the process will involve making the bloc more agile when it comes to its “internal regulations”.
In an interview with Union Radio this morning, Torrealba stressed the importance of the MUD continuing to stick together, particularly what are called the “Big Four”: the Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia, Accion Democratica, and Un Nuevo Tiempo parties. Torrealba said that these four parties alone make up 90% of the MUD’s voter base.
Torrealba also admitted that the MUD’s work in 2016 fell short of expectations, saying:
There were high expectations that were fanned by the opposition itself which were not met.
Torrealba also welcomed the release of six political prisoners on New Year’s Eve, calling it an important step towards cooling tensions in the country:
This is the way to break down confrontation and re-build coexistence. This is fundamental.
Datanalisis: Economy to Worsen in 2017
Luis Vicente Leon, the head of the Datanalisis economic firm, explained in a series of tweets this morning why he believes that the Venezuelan economy will perform worse in 2017 than it did in 2016.
The foundation of Leon’s arguments is that the Maduro regime continues to exhibit a complete lack of anything that could be considered to be a coherent national economic plan. For Leon, the perfect economic storm facing Venezuela in 2017 stems from a set of failed policies that brought the economy to ruins, the regime’s unwillingness to reconsider these failed policies, as well as an overall environment that is toxic to both national production and foreign investment.
Below, my translation of Leon’s tweets as they were published chronologically:
2017 begins without a serious proposal to face the crisis. On the contrary: the strategies that gave rise to it are being strengthened.
There is no other way to recover the [currency] exchange equilibrium without unifying [the country’s three different exchange rates] [and] opening up to and injecting foreign currency, which by the way we will need to ask for.
We cannot recover production levels without stimulating private investment and guaranteeing a rational price structure.
There is no possibility to stimulate investment, production and the offer of goods and services without a model that can bring back confidence.
The price of merchandise cannot be stabilized without a significant increase in the supply of private goods and services.
There can be no increase in private production and import in an atmosphere of hostility to investments and property.
To summarize: there can be no economic result that is different from last years’ if you do the same things that generated [this crisis].
Jesus Casique, another economist, also pointed out today that the International Monetary Fund calculates that the inflation rate for 2017 will be much higher than that of 2016, which is already the highest in the world.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that the inflation rate for 2017 will be 2,200%. That would be 30% per month. We hope that we don’t reach this figure because that would annihilate Venezuelans’ purchasing power.
Maduro Takes Out Illegal $5 Billion Loan from China
National Assembly deputy Jose Guerra, who is a member of the legislature’s Economic and Finance Commission, revealed today that the Maduro regime took out a $5 billion loan from China illegally on December 29. The loan appears to have a 6.5% interest rate due twice a year, and has a lifetime of 20 years.
Because the loan appears to have been taken out by the executive without the knowledge of the legislative branch, it is not clear exactly who has the money, or for what purpose.
The loan was acquired illegally because the article 312 Constitution of Venezuela clearly states that all matters related to public debt – including the taking out of loans – must be approved by the National Assembly.
13 Killed in Amazonas Military Crash
The wreckage of a military helicopter that went missing over Amazonas state on December 30 was found by search parties today. The bodies of all thirteen passengers – including that of five civilians and a four-year-old child – were found at the scene.
The helicopter disappeared over the Piapoco mountain in central Amazonas. The state is sparsely populated and made up mostly of dense jungle. The helicopter had taken off from Puerto Ayacucho, and was heading to La Esmeralda.
El Universal reports that the helicopter was part of the GB Florencio Jimenez Helicopter Battalion, which is based out of the Cocorete municipality in Yaracuy state.
Venezuela Hands Mercosur Presidency to Argentina
Venezuela has formally handed over presidency of the Mercosur regional trade bloc to Argentina, in accordance with the organization’s rules on the rotation of the position.
The scheduled move comes at an awkward time, as Venezuela was officially suspended from Mercosur in early December after the country failed to adhere to the Treaty of Ascension, the document that sets out the goals that states must meet in order to become full members of the Organization.
According to previous statements from the government of Argentina, Venezuela will not be allowed to re-join the organization until it adheres by all of the requirements of a member state.
Venezuela’s suspension from Mercosur has been one of the biggest black eyes for the Maduro regime as it becomes increasingly isolated from the international community over its continued human rights abuses and disastrous mishandling of the country in general.
National Assembly deputy Williams Davila ridiculed Venezuela’s move today, saying:
Do Maduro and [Foreign Affairs Minister] Delcy Rodriguez think that the international community is stupid? What do they want to prove, that they exercised a presidency that they never had in the first place? Maduro’s only achievement at Mercosur was to get us suspended.
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