Venezuelans lined up at registration centres all across the country today to register for the carnet de la patria [loosely, “homeland card”], a new kind of government identification card that will consolidate housing, subsidized food and social security benefits in a single card.
The card will identify the holder as belonging to their local PSUV organization, and will grant them access to food from the CLAP distribution system. The carnet de la patria will also act as a debit card into which the government can deposit money, which the holder will be able to spend at state-run supermarkets.
Maduro has called on all Venezuelans to register for the card, and said that it would become an important tool in rooting out corruption. Maduro said:
I hate what I’m about to say, but [the card] will allow us to capture the fraudsters that are walking around. I know everything. I’m like Superman. I can see through walls.
Speaking from Aragua state earlier today, vice-president Tarek El Aissami said that the registration for the card was going well. El Aissami said:
Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have been turning up to the registration centres all throughout the day.
El Aissami also described the card in the following way:
It’s going to allow us to establish a direct relation with our communities and our workers (…) it’s an instrument for the liberation of the people (…) it will guarantee the exercise of constitutional rights and the access to the misiones [social benefit programs] (…) it’s the beginning towards the consolidation of a direct relationship, where the people remain in power and we continue to obey our people’s sacred mandate.
He continued by outlining his hopes for the new card system, saying:
Starting with this card, we are going to kick off a set of public revolutionary policies from the Bolivarian government in order to understand our people’s every need. Through this tool, [we will be able to] communicate directly with each patriot in order to know their needs and expectations.
Former vice-president Aristobulo Isturiz also spoke on the card today, saying that it would allow the PSUV to “intensify” its programs by providing the regime with more information about its citizens.
Below, some images of the registration for the carnet de la patria as it unfolded today (taken from Maduro’s Twitter account):
Don’t be left without your carnet de la patria! Check out one of the 1,876 registration points across the country #MyCardForTheHomeland
#GetYourCard this #HappySaturday with the chavista commitment to continue to build the Great Homeland! We will be victorious!
#MyCardForTheHomeland is also for you! All of us who are protected by the policies of the state will get our cards #GetYourCard
Capriles: Card Registry “Nothing More than a Census”
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles said that the PSUV was “lying” to Venezuelans by suggesting that registering for the card would somehow result in them suddenly receiving services.
Capriles also said that he considered the registry nothing more than an attempt to gauge support for the party by seeing how many people would agree to register for the card, calling the initiative “nothing more than a census for the PSUV”.
Reuters: Maduro Asked BCV President to Resign
Reuters reported yesterday that Maduro asked Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) president Nelson Merentes to resign yesterday afternoon. Reuters cited two sources “familiar with the case”.
If true, the news has yet to be confirmed, and it is not clear if Mentes agreed to resign.
Merentes was the head of the BCV from 2009-2013, and then from 2014. During his tenure as the country’s head of financial and monetary policy, Venezuela suffered the worst economic meltdown in its history, culminating in an inflation rate of at least 784% for 2016 and a GDP collapse of at least 15%.
National Assembly deputy and economist Jose Guerra reacted to the reports of Merentes’ possible resignation through his Twitter account, saying:
If it is true that Merentes is out, the new head of the BCV has the following homework: lower inflation, publish figures and straighten out the institution.
The issue isn’t Merentes’ exit (which should have happened long ago), it’s that the BCV should stop financing the fiscal deficit and publish information.
Last January, Maduro decreed that the BCV no longer had to publish economic and financial data. The move introduced opacity into an already difficult situation by relegating the job of making sense of the Venezuelan economy to educated guesses by economists and international organizations.
Baduel Releases Statement from Prison
General (ret.) Raul Isaias Baduel, once a loyal follower of Hugo Chavez, was arrested last week and sent to the Ramo Verde military prison after he allegedly violated the conditions of his conditional release.
Today, Alberto Franceschi, one of Baduel’s friends, delivered a message from Baduel after visiting him in Ramo Verde some time in the last few days.
Below, my translation of Baduel’s message from the Ramo Verde military prison:
My arbitrary detention by the regime in the National Centre for Military Prisoners, better known as the Ramo Verde Military Prison, has only resulted in this place becoming the principal command centre for constitutional disablement by the citizenry of a totalitarian regime that stands against democratic values and guarantees while it violates human rights.
With this words, I allude to that which is established in Article 350 of the Constitution.*
Let no one doubt that I will promote this constitutional principle with all of my moral strength, [and that this principle] orders actions necessary to rescue democracy and to restore the National Constitution, as established in the Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria [which is where new laws are officially written into existence] No. 5453 from Friday, March 24, 2000.
It is important to note that I am referencing the original  Constitutional text without amendments, nor acts that have contradicted it such as decrees that violate fundamental rights or twisted [judicial] interpretations, which come from the crooked and spurious body that is the current Supreme Court.
Taking advantage of the fact that this military prison is under the command of the Ministry of Defense, I ask [Minister of Defense] General Vladimir Padrino Lopez to reflect on his behaviour because he has the ability to turn this military prison into the new command centre for the National Armed Forces.
Interpret these last words, which I commend to the dignified members of the National Armed Forces, to abide by what is established in article 328^ of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
General Raul Isaias Baduel
Political prisoner of conscience
Ramo Verde Military Prison
*Article 350 of the Constitution establishes the duty to “disown” dictatorial regimes.
^ Article 328 of the Constitution establishes the National Armed Forces as an independent, non-partisan organization that can serve no single political party or individual.
Alberto Franceschi is a marxist politician who was a member of the 1999 Constituent Assembly that drafted the current Constitution.
Russia Criticizes Opposition
The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement today criticizing the Venezuelan opposition by calling the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) the “radical wing of the anti-government camp”, and warning that a protest planned for January 23 would result in violence.
The same released called the opposition’s rhetoric against the Maduro regime “aggressive”, and claimed that the opposition had failed to gain any kind of regional support for its struggle against the PSUV.
Part of the release reads:
The situation in Venezuela is still tense. The radical wing of the anti-government camp, which has taken control of the national parliament, has strengthened its aggressive rhetoric and has set a course for “civil disobedience”. There are preparations underway for protests that will take place in the next few days that are plagued – or have been deliberately planned beforehand to include – confrontations with police organizations and provocations that lead to violence and victims.
The same release calls for the dialogue between the MUD and the PSUV to continue in order to guarantee “peace and stability” in the country.
Russia has been willing to speak in favour of the Maduro regime in the past, and the two countries enjoy close relations. Just this week, Maduro awarded Russian President Vladimir Putin with the Hugo Chavez Peace Price.
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