Vice-President of the Economy Ramon Lobo announced today that Maduro would be making change’s to the country’s currency exchange system in the coming days, giving hope to critics of the current system that the Maduro regime will finally relax its byzantine and counter-productive system of exchange.

Lobo did not provide any details on when exactly Maduro’s announcement would come, or what exactly it would entail. Lobo made the announcement by saying:

As part of all of the diagnostics that were done, the president will make currency exchange announcements in the coming days, when he will decide to take some measures when it comes to adjusting it to the national and economic scenario [sic]. The announcement will be made at an opportune time.

Lobo said that the announcement would be part of the country’s economic theme for 2017, which is “economic counter-offensive”. He also stressed that the measure – along with others to be taken at later times – would ensure that Venezuela would gain a “real, independent, sovereign and robust” economy this year.

Venezuela’s currency exchange system is a a complex, multi-tiered system that has been known for years to breed massive levels of corruption.

There are currently two official exchange rates in Venezuela: a fixed rate called DIPRO (Bs. 10/USD), and a relatively free-floating rate called DICOM (Bs. 689.98/USD). The rates are reserved for certain industries, with the DIPRO rate available only to industries involved in the production and import of food, medicine and other basic necessities. Along with the two official rates there is also the black market rate, which is the one that is most easily available to the vast majority of Venezuelans. The current black market rate is Bs. 3,323.02/USD.

Because of the large gap between the DIPRO and the black market rates, Venezuelans who can somehow convince the government to give them US dollars at the DIPRO rate can then sell those same dollars at the black market rate for huge profits.

At least $20 billion dollars destined on paper for food and medicine imports disppeared through the country’s currency exchange system between 2011 and 2013.

Opp. Party Demands Public Ministry Action Against CNE Over Elections

Vicente Bello, one of the leaders of the Un Nuevo Tiempo opposition party, led a delegation of opposition politicians to the offices of the Public Ministry today, and filed paperwork demanding that the institution launch an investigation against the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) over the electoral body’s apparent unwillingness to hold elections in the country. The motion comes as the CNE continues to remain silent on the schedule for regional elections that should have happened last year, but which it delayed til some time this year.

Bello told reporters:

Without any explanation, the CNE has ceased all work on the regional elections. 2017 has begun and the CNE continues to evade its responsibilities, and it has not explained to the country why it has not announced the election schedule… this is why we’ve come to the Public Ministry. [The Public Ministry] is the guarantor, according to the national constitution, and watchman over the conduct of all public institutions and its employees.

Bello argued that the CNE is violating the right to vote by refusing to hold regional elections in the country, following its postponement of the constitutionally mandated process for unclear reasons last fall.

Given the Maduro regime’s tight grip on the Public Ministry, it is highly unlikely that the body will take any kind of action against the CNE.

CONATEL Urges Venezuelans to Police Illegal “El Comandante” Airings

The Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CONATEL) issued a message this past Monday urging Venezuelans to report any cable channel showing El Comandante, a new television series based loosely on Hugo Chavez’s rise to power in Venezuela. While the series borrows heavily from Chavez’s life and real life events (styling the main character after Chavez personally and even naming the show after a common honorific title for Chavez), the shows’ creator has stressed that the show is ultimately a work of fiction.

On Monday, CONATEL tweeted the following messages:

#WeDon’tSpeakIllOfChavezHere Report any cable channel that insults the Legacy of Hugo Chavez by showing the series “El Comandante” to #Conatel #Venezuela

The series “El Comandante” is an attack against the Legacy of our Giant Hugo Chavez, report its illegal transmission to #Conatel

The show premiered to mostly negative reviews on Monday and aired in several Latin American countries, but not Venezuela.

Chavez’s ex-wife, Marisabel Rodriguez, said last month that she was considering a lawsuit against the show’s parent network, Sony, over the show.

Brigadier General: February 4, 1992 Day of “Wonderful Union” Between Chavez, People

Brigadier General Pedro Alastre Lopez spoke to the state-owned VTV network today on the important of the February 4, 1992 attempted coup against the government of president Carlos Andres Perez by an unknown army officer named Hugo Chavez.

Alastre categorised the events of that day as extremely important, since the marked the beginning of what he called a “wonderful union” between the Venezuelan people and Hugo Chavez.

Alastre also praised Chavez, saying:

Hugo Chavez was a genius. He had a wonderful magic about him. No one thought that one of us would one day become President of the Republic.

Venezuelan Oil Prices Climb to $45.85 per Barrel

The price for a barrel of Venezuelan crude oil rose this 52 cents this week, closing today at $45.85 per barrel.

Back in December, OPEC reached an agreement to cut oil production starting in January in an attempt to force the price of the commodity to rise after more than two years of anemic prices. Venezuela was one of the OPEC nations hardest hit by the drop in oil prices, given its near-total dependency on oil sales.

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