The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) announced today that it would not return to the dialogue table for talks with the PSUV, calling the effort “an experiment” and “a closed chapter that will notbe re-opened”. The announcement came via a press release in which the MUD explained its decision for pulling out of the talks for good, citing the Maduro regime’s complete lack of willingness to abide by any agreements that it made with the opposition as its primary justification for the withdrawal.

Part of the press release reads:

As the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica warned, there was no “dialogue” on December 6 or January 13 between the government and the opposition. This occurred as a consequence of the fact that the Venezuelan government did not meet the commitments it made at the dialogue table, as was pointed out by High Excellency Monseigneur Pietro Cardenal Parolin, Secretary of State for the Holy See, in his statement from December 1 2016.

The press release also outlines the reasons why the MUD does not intend to ever engage in a dialogue with the Maduro regime again:

The “dialogue” experiment that took place in Venezuela between October 30 and December 6 of 2016 is a closed chapter that will not be re-opened. The inability to meet commitments by the government, and above all else its arrogant and crass response of the regime to the demands made by the Vatican through Monseigneur Pietro Cardenal Parolin revealed before the world what the Venezuelan people already knew too well: that the regime lacks legitimacy, and without any guarantees it does not make sense to reach “agreements” that it has absolutely to intention to keep. The govenrment’s inability to meet its commitments demolished the dialogue, even though [the dialogue] had the support of the international community. This is why this dialogue experiment (which was poorly planned from the beginning, since it lacked mechanisms to verify and guarantee compliance with agreements) will not count on our support going forward, nor will any “second round” [talks].

The MUD leadership came under an intense amount of criticism when it suspended a series of growing street demonstrations in early December in favour of the dialogue with the government. Over the course of the next several weeks, the Maduro regime agreed to a number of measures, including the liberation of political prisoners in the country, but failed to meet them.

The PSUV’s insistence on holding and continuing the dialogue was seen by many opposition supporters as a tactic to “cool down” growing unrest in the country.

The MUD’s press release ends with a call for Venezuelans to “intensify” a campaign of peaceful protests in order to push for political change in the country:

We call on the Venezuelan people to intensify their peaceful, constitutional and democratic protests. No dialogue team, no political negotiation, no agreement of any nature will succeed at achieving urgent political change in defense of the economic and social rights of the people unless it is backed up by growing and sustained civil mobilization. This mobilization must always be combative and peaceful, overwhelming and democratic…

Venezuela Slips in Democracy Index

The Economist published its annual democracy index yesterday, which is a measure of the democratic “strength” of countries around the world. Venezuela slipped to its lowest position since 2006, signalling a deepening decline into authoritarianism.

The report categorizes countries into four government types: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes. According to the index, a country like Norway is a full democracy, Sri Lanka is a flawed democracy, and North Korea is an authoritarian regime. Venezuela was ranked as a hybrid regime, which The Economist defines in the following way:

Hybrid regimes: Elections have substantial irregularities that often prevent them from being both free and fair. Government pressure on opposition parties and candidates may be common. Serious weaknesses are more prevalent than in flawed democracies—in political culture, functioning of government and political participation. Corruption tends to be widespread and the rule of law is weak. Civil society is weak. Typically, there is harassment of and pressure on journalists, and the judiciary is not independent.

Other examples of hybrid regimes include Pakistan, Ukraine and Iran.

Venezuela is joined by a long list of hybrid regimes in Latin America, including Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Haiti. Uruguay classified as the region’s only full democracy, while Cuba maintained its place as the only authoritarian regime in Latin America.

The full report can be found here.

Reuters: 4 Million Barrels of Oil Idling in Ships Due To PDVSA Money Woes

Reuters published an article today citing “internal [PDVSA] documents and Reuters data” in which it claims that there are approximately 4 million barrels worth of oil sitting in approximately 12 tankers anchored off the Venezuelan coast due to PDVSA inability to move the ships due to financial difficulties. According to the article, PDVSA is having problems paying for services including “hull cleaning, inspections, and other port services”,  leaving the ships stranded.

The article claims that most of the stranded ships belong to PDVSA’s own tanker fleet. The ships cannot leave their current locations because they must first be cleaned before they enter international waters, a requirement of maritime law.

The stranded ship fiasco is the latest in a series of stinging loses for the state-run oil company. Reuters reporters that PDVSA’s oil production averages fell 13% in 2016 alone, from 1.82 million barrels per day in the first quarter to 1.59 in the fourth.

Survey: Maduro’s Approval Rating Crumbles to 10%

A recent survey by the Delphos polling firm has found that Maduro’s approval rating has sunk to a new low, reaching only 10% in the first weeks of 2017. Aside from continuing to confirm Venezuelans’  near-universal disapproval for Maduro, the figures are likely to alarm the regime since they are the lowest approval numbers that Maduro has seen since taking office in 2013.

The head of the firm, Felix Seijas, said that he considers it impossible for Maduro to ever recover from such abysmal numbers, and that the data that Delphos is tracking suggests that the figures are likely to decrease even further.

Public Ministry to Investigate Odebrecht Corruption Case

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz announced today that the Public Ministry had officially opened an investigation into a corruption scandal involving the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht that allegedly saw at least $98 million in bribes paid to corrupt Venezuelan officials in exchange for contracts. The bribes are alleged to have been paid between 2006 and 2015.

While Diaz refused to provide any concrete details as to the targets of the investigation or how many suspects were involved, she did say that her office had requested information from Swiss bank accounts allegedly belonging to Venezuelans suspected if being involved in the scheme.

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