Following yesterday’s declaration from the National Assembly that Maduro had abandoned his position as President of the Republic, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles issued a call for Venezuelans to take to the streets in protest on January 23 to demand that elections be held in the country.

Capriles made the call in a set of tweets in which he also spoke in favour of the legislature’s declaration of abandonment, saying:

The National Assembly wants to give an outlet for that which more than 80% of Venezuelans want: elections for everything [national and regional positions]! A solution to the crisis!

Using the hashtag #23EnPaLaCalle [roughly, “#EveryoneOnTheStreetOnJan23], Capriles said:

On January 23 ALL Venezuelans will take to the streets to demand ELECTIONS! Maduro and his clique do not want any more elections!

Capriles’ call was followed early this morning by Voluntad Popular, one of the largest opposition parties in the country. The call came from National Assembly vice-president Freddy Guevara, who said:

We call on the people to take part in a great mobilization on January 23 to begin anew our struggle in the streets for general elections.

Guevara also pointed out that Venezuelans were past the point of expecting the Maduro regime to rule in accordance to the Constitution, saying:

We cannot continue to hope in the illusion that those in power will adhere to the Constitution (…) Nicolas Maduro and the PSUV should put an end to their cowardice and [face elections].

It is likely that Capriles picked January 23 as the date for the protest given the date’s importance in Venezuelan history.

On January 23 1958, Venezuelans overthrew their last dictator of the 20th century, Marcos Perez Jimenez. The coup signaled the beginning of the democratic period in Venezuela.

Maduro: NA Declaration “Laughable”

Maduro reacted to yesterday’s declaration from the National Assembly that he had abandoned his position as President of the Republic due to gross incompetence and wanton disregard for the Constitution order and the rule of law today, referring to the incident with few – but strong – words.

While speaking at an event to kick-off a new security initiative called the “Comando Anti-Golpe” [Anti-Coup Command], Maduro said:

I am the President of the Republic as per constitutional mandate (…) The act from the National Assembly about the abandonment of my position is laughable.

Maduro also said that the political opposition in the National Assembly is using its legislative powers to illegally remove him from power, and called on the rest of the Venezuelan state to take action against the legislative branch:

As President, I ask the public institutions that the violations against the Constitution and contempt for the legal order at the National Assembly cannot be left unpunished. What the National Assembly approved yesterday was the manifesto of a coup.

Maduro’s comments came at the same time that the PSUV bloc at the National Assembly submitted a formal request before the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) to annul yesterday’s declaration on account that it is “illegal and unconstitutional”.

The request was submitted by PSUV deputy Hector Rodriguez, who told reporters afterwards:

We cannot allow irrationality and madness to continue to impose itself as a manner of conducting politics.

NA Session Cancelled Due To Pro-PSUV Crowd

The National Assembly’s scheduled session today at the Jose Maria Vargas Hospital in Caracas was cancelled after individuals broke into the building, stealing equipment from the premises and robbing staff of the legislature’s television channel.

The news broke via National Assembly deputy Jose Manuel Olivares, who said that the individuals were part of a pro-PSUV crowd that had gather outside of the building. Olivares said that the attacks made it onto the roof of the hospital building, which was at the time occupied by staff from Capitolio TV. The attackers proceeded to demand identification from the television staff, “and robbed them off their cellphones, laptops, and [transmitting equipment]”. Two of the network’s staff were also briefly taken hostage by the attackers.

The National Assembly had planned to use the hospital as meeting place as part of a symbolic gesture, since they were planning to declare a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela today given the chronic shortage of medicine and medical supplies.

Olivares estimated the pro-government crowd to number approximately 60 individuals, a number that is consistent with pictures from the scene. The pictures and videos from the scene appear to show a peaceful crowd with many of its individual members wearing red, the colour of the PSUV.

El Nacional cited one of the individuals who made up the pro-PSUV crowd said that National Assembly was simply looking to generate unrest and “disturb the peace” of the hospital’s patients.

Below, some images showing the pro-PSUV at the hospital earlier today:

La Patilla: BCV Initial Figures Point To Worse-Than-Expected Economic Performance

La Patilla published an article today in which it cites “preliminary figures” from the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) that appear to show that Venezuela’s economic performance last year was worse than expected by many economists and international banking organizations.

According to the article, the BCV is currently handling figures that show that the country’s GDP collapsed by 23% last year, and that the country experienced an inflation rate of 830%. According to the same figure, the rate at which inflation increased shot up in the last three months of 2016, at an average rate of 22% per month.

The article claims that the figures are being presented to the BCV’s directorship today.

The BCV no longer publishes timely economic data, leaving the work of measuring and announcing the country’s markers to NGOs, reporters, and international banking and financial institutions.

17 Political Prisoners Remain Behind Bars Despite Release Orders

Theresly Malave, the head of an NGO called Justicia y Proceso [Justice and Procedure] said today that there are currently 17 political prisoners behinds bars despite having received release orders from the courts. According to Malave, the authorities have simply refused to abide by the orders, and are essentially holding the individuals hostage.

Malave pointed out that according to Venezuelan law, an individual who receives a release order from a court must be freed immediately, but that the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional Bolivariana [SEBIN] has ignored the orders in at least 17 cases. Malave said:

… the SEBIN does not have any legal justification [for holding these 17 people]. What is doing is completely in violation of the constitution, and this is happening because we live in a country that is in anarchy, where no one respects institutions and everyone does whatever they want.

14 of the 17 individuals are members of the Chacao Police Department in Caracas, while the rest are political activities, including Voluntad Popular (VP) politicians Yon Goicochea and Jose Vicente Garcia.

Iris Azocar is the mother of one of the individuals in question, a man named Victor Ugas. According to Azocar, a court issued a release order for her son on July 9, 2015, but that he remains behind bars to this day. Azocar said:

They [the authorities] promised all kinds of benefits [for Ugas] that they have never kept, while we have adhered to all of the requirements from the court (…) we’ve done all the paperwork and gone to all of the different government institutions but they will not answer us. As a mother, I’m asking for the release of my son and of the other political prisoners.

Ugas was arrested in October 11 2014 for publishing pictures of the body of PSUV politician Robert Serra in a morgue through his Twitter account.

Varela Praises Minimum Salary Raise

Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela praised Maduro’s raising of the minimum monthly salary to Bs. 40,639 earlier this week as another great achievement of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Varela wrote through her Twitter account that the raise was possible “only in revolution”.

At the current black market rate (Bs.3,355.23/$US), a Venezuelan individual earning the minimum monthly salary earns approximately $12.11 per month.

This latest increase to the minimum monthly salary is the fifth such measure from Maduro’s office in less than a year. Last February, the minimum monthly salary sat at Bs. 11,577.81.

While PSUV officials tend to welcome increases to the minimum monthly salary as evidence of the party’s socially progressive and worker-oriented policies, as Varela did, critics point out that the increases are meaningless given the fact that Venezuela is currently experiencing the highest inflation rates in the world.

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