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Earlier today, two political parties aligned with the ruling PSUV filed a lawsuit with the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) demanding that the top court put an end to the party-renewal process currently underway in the country. The two parties—the Partido Comunista de Venezuela [Communist Party of Venezuela] (PCV) and Patria Para Todos [Homeland For All] (PPT)—are basing their request on the assertion that the requirements to renew their parties’ official status are so onerous that they are impossible to meet.

The move puts the parties in agreement with the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the official opposition bloc. Back in February, the MUD argued that the party-renewal process was designed to disqualify political parties.

The lawsuit puts the PSUV-controlled TSJ in the awkward position of having to rule against allied parties, possibly sealing their fates.

That decision might not be so difficult to make, however. Douglas Gomez, a member of the PCV, told El Universal that his party’s alliance with the PSUV was purely ideological and involved essentially no practical engagement between the two. Still, Gomez warned that with the renewal process, the PSUV risks alienating the very few friends that it has left:

If they eliminate the most loyal allies of the government, the [PSUV alliance] would cease to be.

Angry Citizens Protest at Governor’s House

Angry citizens of Vargas state staged a protest outside the home of governor (PSUV) Jose Luis Garcia Carneiro, demanding that he take action over chronic food shortages.

El Nacional reported that a protester at the scene said:

We want the governor to come out and show his face. Just as we put him up there, we can bring him down. The people are hungry.

Below, images of the protest shared by National Assembly deputy Jose Manuel Olivares:

In #Vargas there are protests over food every week. This time, the people, angry, made it to the home of #CarneiroMeansHunger

Residents from the Hugo Chavez neighbourhood protest outside Carneiro’s house. They demand food! #CarneiroMeansHunger

Carneiro the people are looking for you to put you to work, don’t hide! #CarneiroMeansHunger

National Assembly Begins Releasing Inflation Numbers

Following an announcement last week that the National Assembly would begin tracking and releasing its own inflation numbers, deputy Jose Guerra announced yesterday that the country’s inflation rate for January and February of this year sat at 42.5%. The legislature took the measure given the fact that the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) no longer published economic information, making it extremely difficult for Venezuelans to gauge how the economy is doing.

Guerra also said that it is likely that the inflation rate for 2017 will reach 741%, likely making it the highest on the planet for the second year in a row.

Guerra explained the corrosive effect of the high inflation on the earnings of Venezuelans, even when the regime’s constant increases to the minimum wage are taken into account:

This data suggests that what we are seeing is the destruction of purchasing power of the salaries, wages, pensions and [social security payments] of Venezuelans. In fact, a good chunk of the 50% salary increase instituted by the government on January 15 2017 has been eroded by a rise in prices.

On the cause of the dangerously high inflation, Guerra blamed the BCV’s absolute refusal to reconsider its policy of simply printing more money to pay for public spending. Guerra said that so far in 2017, the BCV has increased the amount of money in circulation by 275%.

Lopez Maya: Democracy is Dead in Venezuela

Dr. Margarita Lopez Maya, a renowned historian and social scientist, gave an interview to La Razon published earlier this week in which she stated her belief that Venezuela had slipped into dictatorship under Maduro, and that there would be no elections in the country as long as he remained in power.

Below, an excerpt of the interview:

La Razon: Where does democracy stand in a political landscape in which elections appear increasingly far away?

Lopez Maya: There will be no elections here. President Maduro has moved very clearly towards authoritarianism as a way to stabilize himself. A government as unpopular as this one that won with less than 1% of the votes [in the 2013 elections] has two options: it can widen its support base in an attempt to consolidate itself and in that way open itself to negotiation, or it tries to stabilize itself through authoritarianism. In other words, it begins to close itself and to rely on repression and brute force. That was the path that Maduro took. Ever since the Consejo Nacional Electoral [CNE] suspended the recall referendum they put an end to democracy in Venezuela, because a week earlier they had also announced the suspension of the regional elections until further notice. There is nothing left of institutional democracy. We can still say that there are some spaces left for free expression, for protest, but in reality we Venezuelans have been robbed of all of our civil and political rights. We live in a state of defenselessness. We have no guarantee that the constitution or our laws will be upheld.

But thinking about holding elections is very superficial. I know that there are politicians who say that the cost of not holding elections in 2018 would be very high, but the truth is that the government has done many things with very little political cost and it is not clear that it would accept regional or presidential elections that it could not win. Another possible scenario is that the government would try to manipulate elections in order to achieve victory, because that would give it international legitimacy. It’s moving towards a scenario like the one in Nicaragua, where it’s trying to neutralize the most important [opposition] leaders through this process of political party renewal in order to get right of most [political parties], maybe even allies that they care little about so that they can move to a PSUV-only ticket. It’s a scenario similar to what Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua has done.

(…)

Is the support of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces the only thing that has kept chavismo alive?

Lopez Maya: I would that that it is one of its two largest weapons. The government is not popular. The latest statistics show Maduro’s approval rating at 10%, and that of chavismo at 20%. If he called people to the streets, they wouldn’t show up. If he called elections, he would have no way of winning. That is clearly a factor that plays against him. That’s why this is a very specific kind of dictatorship that maintains itself through the mask that is the control that it has over public institutions. It maintains itself through the Supreme Court, which approves of everything that it does and that is completely subjugated by [Maduro]. It also has the CNE that is completely in his hands. With those two pieces it has castrated the National Assembly and destroyed the possibility of elections. The other weapon is oil income. The elites in power still control [access to US] dollars and the preferential exchange rates. 60% of the dollars that come in through PDVSA it sells for Bs. 10, which is unbelievable and a sign of brutal corruption schemes. So, the Venezuelan is defenseless before a government that devotes itself to crime and to looting the public treasury.

Maduro controls these things, but if the moment of truth comes he also control the weapons, because he controls the army [and the army] obeys. [Minister of Defense Vladimir] Padrino Lopez is completely on board with the chavista cause. And he also counts with a great number of militias and unofficial pro-government armed groups, which are willing to bet it all on Maduro if he makes the call. This is a world that has served to paralyze civil society insofar as it instills fear and attacks citizens. It keeps them at home starting at 6:00 PM. [Minister of Penitentiaries] Iris Varela and her pranes [the “king” of a given prison] also make up another armed sector that is completly dominated by crime and plays on Maduro’s team.

Maya Lopez’s full interview, in Spanish, can be found here.


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