National Assembly deputy Hugo Carvajal announced today that he is willing to travel to the United States to defend himself against allegations that he aided FARC operations while he was the head of the country’s military intelligence service, stemming from his arrest in Curacao in 2014 at the request of U.S. officials. Carvajal had arrived on the island in order to commence a diplomatic assignment, but was quickly detained and was nearly extradited to the U.S. before Curacao yielded to pressure from Caracas and released him.

Today, Carvajal said:

I want to confirm my firm decision to travel to the United States in order to give a statement so long as they lift their previous arrest warrant against me.

Through his Twitter account, Carvajal also said that he had made numerous requests for the U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide him with evidence of the claims against him, but that he has not received any kind of response.

Carvajal also said:

I have always been willing to collaborate with the clarification of truth. The only demand that I’m making is [for the U.S. authorities] to respect the presumption of innocence, the right to a defense and due process, all of which have been systematically violated in my case by judicial and political institutions in North America in an arbitrary manner, which is unacceptable under the rule of law.

Carvajal’s connections to the FARC came to light after Colombian media reported in 2008 that documents linking him to the Colombian guerrilla group were found on the laptop of one of its leaders, Raul Reyes.

Brazil Bends Immigration Rule to Help Cope with Influx of Venezuelans

The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday that individuals arriving on foot from a select number of neighbouring countries can now apply for temporary resident status in the country rather than making a refugee claim, which would trigger a more complicated and lengthy process. This change, which became effective yesterday, only affects the non-MERSOCUR countries that neighbour Brazil, of which Venezuela is one.

El Nacional reports that the decision was made after Brazil’s attorney general’s office, in conjunction with human rights NGOs, requested legal assistance with the influx of Venezuelans arriving in Brazil through its northern border in an attempt to escape the deteriorating crisis in the country. Prior to yesterday’s announcement, the only way that a Venezuelan citizen could hope to live legally in Brazil would be by making a refugee claim.

Camila Asano, a coordinator at an NGO called Conectas, explained a flaw with the refugee claim system that affects Venezuelans:

Venezuelans coming to Roraima [a province in northern Brazil] are not fleeing persecution (…) [so] they don’t necessarily fit within the definition of refugee.

Brazilian authorities said that the number of Venezuelans claiming asylum in the country has skyrocketed in recent years. While in 2010 only one Venezuelan person claimed asylum in Brazil in 2010, 1,805 did in 2016.

The other countries affected by the measure are Guayana, Suriname, and French Guayana.

Car Sales Plummet 99% in 9 Years

A new report by the Camara Automotriz de Venezuela (Venezuelan Automotive Chamber) released today reveal that the effects of the country’s economic collapse have taken a devastating toll on the sale of vehicles in the country. According to the report, while Venezuelans purchased 491,899 new vehicles in 2007, they only purchased 3,008 in 2016, representing a meteoric drop in car sales of 99.3%.

The report only covers vehicles made by Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Iveco, MMC, and General Motors.

2016’s numbers were down 82.89% from those of 2015, which saw 17,585 vehicles sold. The 2015/2016 saw a similar collapse in vehicle production, which plunged from 18,300 vehicles to 2,849.

Economist Luis Vicente Leon spoke on the figures today, saying:

Only a few people can afford new cars, much less if they’re [sold in dollars].

On the future of the automotive market in Venezuela, Leon said:

It’s very likely that the market has received a death sentence. It could survive via the import of vehicles in order to meet the little demand that there is. Buying a new car will continue to be just a dream for Venezuelans…

NA Votes to Censure Minister Motta Dominguez

The National Assembly voted today to censure Minister of Electrical Energy General Luis Alfredo Motta Dominguez over what it considers to be his inability to fulfill his role given the ongoing electrical problems affecting the country. According to Venezuelan law, the vote means that Motta Dominguez is no longer Minister of Electrical Energy, but it is unlikely that either Motta Dominguez himself or the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) will give the move much thought.

During the discussion leading up to the vote, deputy Jorge MIlan pointed out that since Motta Dominguez took control of the Ministry of Electrical Energy in August 2015, at least $25 million have disappeared from the ministry.

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