Banesco, the largest private banking institution in Venezuela, revealed today that it believes that inmates held in the Tocuyito Prison in Carabobo state have opened and are operating an illegal franchise of the bank.
The bank posted an image allegedly taken at the illegal branch inside the prison, calling the existence of the branch “surprising”.
The image, which was originally shared on Twitter by a journalist named Alexandra Belandia, shows individuals standing in front of what appears to be a bank styled after a Banesco branch. She also shared an image of what appear to be makeshift debit cards, including the name of the “cardholder” and their respective account number.
Below, the image in question:
Look at the bank inside the Tocuyito prison and savings accounts; [Who] runs the bank? The pran. Inmates say they need “the bank” in order to eat.
Venezuelan prisons are typically run by an inmate called the pran, who is essentially the king of the prison. The pran charges rent from prisoners, provides services, and upholds prison law.
Belandia said that the Tocuyito bank operates by having inmates deposit money into accounts for which they are charged a service fee. Belandia also said that she had video evidence of the bank in operation, and said that she would share that once her final report was finished.
The National Assembly reacted to t he news by saying that it would investigate the existence of the bank.
Guerra: NA Will Publish Monthly Economic Data
National Assembly deputy Jose Guerra announced today that in light of the fact that the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) no longer publishes timely financial information, the legislature would help fill the void by publishing its own set of monthly economic performance figures.
Guerra, who is an economist by training, said that the Assembly would publish the data within the first two weeks of each month in order to help Venezuelans have some sense of how the economy is doing beyond what they can deduce from their everyday experiences.
Aside from publishing inflation data, Guerra said that the legislature would publish other markers:
We will also publish the indicator of economic activity, the GDP, which is another thing that the BCV doesn’t reveal information about. [The GDP] is the sum of the goods and services that the economy produces in one year. Its purpose is to measure if the economy if growing or shrinking.
Guerra also explained why he believes the BCV no longer publishes economic data:
They don’t want to release the figures because we’re suffering through a very important [economic] contraction. It is estimated that last year the economy shrunk by 15%.
The BCV was mandated by law to publish economic data at regular intervals up until the end of 2015, when the PSUV-controlled National Assembly relieved that Central Bank of that responsibility.
Protein Consumption Plummets 30% in 2 Years
The percentage of proteins that Venezuelans consume in their meals has fallen by 30% between 2014 and 2016, according to a study led by the Universidad Simon Bolivar and the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello. The figures reflect a seismic shift in the Venezuelan diet, precipitated by the ongoing collapse of the economy and chronic food shortages.
The survey found that by 2016, the most-common food items on Venezuelan tables were corn flour, rice and flour. By 2016, only 43% of Venezuelans included proteins in their meals, and consumption of tubers (like potatoes and cassava) had increased from 9% to 52%.
The survey identified the exorbitant price of food and the constant increase in prices as one of the main reasons for the shift in the Venezuelan diet. Panorama reports that in January alone, the price of seafood rose 35.4%, while that of eggs and dairy rose 22.5%. During that month, the price of meat increased by an average of 3.3%.
93.3% of the 6,413 households included in the study claimed that it did not have enough money to purchase food.
University Professors Charged by Military Court of Treason
A university professor by the name of Santiago Guevara, who teaches at the University of Carabobo, was arrested last Thursday and subsequently charged with reason over his academic activities. Last week, Guevara received a letter from the Direccion de Contrainteligencia Miltiar [Military Counterintelligence Directorate] requesting that he present himself for questioning at one of their offices in Carabobo state. Guevara was arrested when he presented himself at the office.
Guevara was transported to Caracas that same day, and was presented before a military tribunal which proceeded to order his detention pending trial.
The Venezuelan Constitution does not allow for civilians to be presented before or tried military courts. The document is clear in that military courts exist only to adjudicate in matters involving active duty members of the armed forces.
Pablo Aure, a colleague of Guevara, said that Guevara is a personal friend of Rauel Baduel, a prominent political prisoner, and that he was sure that the reason for Guevara’s detention stemmed from that fact.
Santiago Guevara’s detention is another “trophy’ for the regime, [a pawn] it can use in eventual negotiations.
While it is not exactly sure exactly why Guevara has been charged with treason, it is likely that the charge comes from his academic work. Guevara is an economist who has written extensively on the possibility of a post-chavismo Venezuela.
Guevara is being held in the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas.
21 Soldiers Killed So Far in 2017
El Nacional published an article today in which it points out that in the first two months of 2017, 21 soldiers have been killed while conducting policing duties in the Greater Caracas region.The latest victims were a pair of National Guard soldiers named Jonathan Cardozo and Darwin Romero, who were killed in a bizarre incident involving another group of National Guard soldiers.
According to El Nacional, the victims were participating in a security operation in the vicinity of San Jose de Barlovento in Miranda state on Sunday when another group of soldiers arrived at the scene in a convoy and proceeded to “raid the businesses” in the area. The rogue soldiers fired on Cardozo and Darwin, killing them both,
Ambar Carreño, Romero’s sister-in-law, said that after the shooting, the attacking soldiers broke into local homes and looted them. El Nacional reports that the “several people” were injured in the raid, including a man who was shot twice.
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