The former head of the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), Jesus Torrealba, took aim at the organization in an interview that aired on the Televen network this morning. During the interview, Torrealba criticized what he considered to be the MUD’s inability to unite into a common platform, as well as the behaviour of some of the leaders of the bloc’s constituent parties.
The disaster [that is Venezuela] will continue until the leadership [of the MUD] truly comes to an agreement and decides on a strategy.
Torrealba, who led the MUD to its most important electoral victory in the 2015 parliamentary elections, said that the organization was unable to coalesce around a single strategy for tackling the Maduro regime throughout 2016, essentially leaving it dead in the water.
Without naming names, Torrealba spoke out against MUD leaders who he considers act contrary to the interests of the bloc, saying:
I think that there’s inertia when it comes to conventional political thinking. There are many politicians who say, “This is is a dictatorship!”, but then they go on to act as if [we were living in] pre-1998 Venezuela by giving privilege to their own parties and personal ambitions.
Some believe that their personal ambition, their particular agenda is more important than the needs of the collective, the nation. That’s a problem. How do we face this problem? I think that with pressure from the public, from the Venezuelan people.
Torrealba called on Venezuelans to stop being “uncritical ‘fans'” of their own personal favorite politician in order to force the opposition to build itself into an effective challenger to the Maduro regime. He said:
We have to be critical supporters. We have to support whatever is positive and correct, and we have to suppress sectarian behaviour.
Regime Threatens To Take Over Caracas Bakeries; Sets Strict Regulations
Speaking on his weekly Los Domingos con Maduro [Sundays with Maduro] television show, Maduro launched into a series of bizarre rants on a series of topics, ranging from what he calls the ongoing “bread war” to Pope Francis to “Comrade Trump”.
Maduro began by threatening to take over any bakery that is engaged in “the bread war” against Venezuela. Maduro first used the term during an address on the same show on February 12 of this year to describe the widespread, chronic shortages of bread in the country.
On today’s show, Maduro said:
Those who are making people who want bread suffer – because that’s one of the wars that they’ve launched against us, specially in the greater Caracas area – they are going to pay. I swear. Those responsible for the bread war are going to pay, and they won’t be able to say that it’s political persecution.
Maduro has not clarified in any way who exactly he believes is responsible for “the bread war” or how it actually operates. Regardless, he said that he had “identified” those responsible and that they would be arrested.
At the same time, vice president Tarek El Aissami explained that starting tomorrow, the PSUV would deploy inspection teams to all of Caracas’ bakeries to put an immediate end to the bread war. The teams would include a member from the Unidades de Batalla Bolivar-Chavez [Bolivar-Chavez Battle Units], a militia organization. El Aissami explained:
Starting tomorrow, March 13, we are going to deploy the teams that have been put together by SUNDDE [the agency in charge of business regulation]. They will be made up by the Bolivarian militia; one member from the CLAP [a regime-run food distribution program] and one from the Unidades de Batalla Bolivar-Chavez. There will be a political team in each bakery, and they will be joined by a SUNDDE inspector. That way, we will be able to permanently watch and control the 709 bakeries in Caracas.
Since the scarcity that affects virtually all basic food products in Venezuela is due to lack of raw materials for production, it is not at all clear how these political inspections teams will be able to solve the issue of bakeries simply not having bread. Still, El Aissami was clear that the teams would make sure that each bakery was producing bread “by 7:00 AM at the latest”, and that they all had bread ready for sale the next day by closing time. The goal of the new measures is meant to make sure bakeries are constantly producing bread.
Paradoxically, the demanding production quotas also come with regulations that will limit bread production. For example, bakeries will not be allowed to use more than 300 sacks of flour per month, meaning that they are limited to an average maximum of 10 per day.
To any bakery that would not conform to the new standards, El Aissami said:
Any bakery that does not meet these instructions will be temporarily occupied by the government and we are going to transfer it to the CLAP so that they can start producing.
Maduro: “Comrade Trump” is Helping Us
During the same show, Maduro made a cryptic comment regarding United States President Donald Trump and the CLAP system of food distribution.
Started a year ago, the CLAP is the name of a regime-run initiative that sees subsidized food – either produced in Venezuela or imported from countries like Mexico or Panama – packaged and delivered directly to communities around the country.
Maduro suggested that President Trump either had offered or was offering to sell Venezuela subsidized food products. Upending four years of violent anti-U.S. rhetoric, Maduro said:
We are bringing in imported products through our revolutionary government from several sister nations: Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua (…) even the United States. Comrade Trump is offering me CLAP [products] at a very good price.
The incredulous audience laughed at Maduro’s comments, since they stand in direct opposition to virtually every other public reference to the United States that he has uttered since becoming President of Venezuela in 2013. Reacting to the laughter, Maduro said:
You’re laughing? You’re in for a surprise.
Maduro did not provide any details regarding this new venture with the United States.
VP Survives Renewal Process
The Voluntad Popular (VP) opposition party appears to have survived a burdensome party-status renewal process that took place over the weekend, securing the party’s continued existence. The process, which involved the party along with six other organizations, required supporters to sign in favour of maintaining the power alive over the course of yesterday and today.
VP announced earlier today that it had received official word from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) that the party had collected the required number of signatures. VP needed to collect signatures from at least 0.5% of registered voters in at least twelve of the country’s states.
VP also announced that the CNE had begun to hastily closed its signature-collecting centres around the country starting at around 2;00 PM, even though they were scheduled to remain open until 4:00 PM. Also unusual is the fact that, according to VP, centres in at least seven states closed even though people were still in line to sign. During an electoral process, the CNE will keep centres open as long as there are still people in line.
The video below shows National Guard soldiers taking away the CNE’s signature-collecting machines from one of its voting centres while a large crowd of onlookers sings the national anthem and demands the right to be allowed to sign:
The CNE’s party renewal process has been universallydecired, even by parties allied with the ruling PSUV, as being designed with only one purpose in mind: to eliminate as many political parties as possible. The process requires parties to collect signatures from at least 0.5% of voters in at least twelve states over a course of just sixteen hours (one Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM on each day). For the task, the CNE has alloted just a little under 400 signature-collecting machines out of the thousands that it owns.
Last week, a group of 18 political parties – including PSUV allies like the Partido Comunista de Venezuela [Communist Party of Venezuela – filed a lawsuit with the country’s top court demanding that it put an end to the renewal process, alleging that the CNE had implemented the measure only to eliminate political parties in Venezuela. The supreme court has yet to rule on the matter.
Partial Remains of 14 Inmates Found at PGV
The partial remains of at least 14 individuals have been found on the grounds of the Penitenciario General de Venezuela (PGV), a prison in Guarico state. The Public Ministry has announced that the skulls belonging to five of the remains have yet to be found. Earlier in the week, Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela announced that the remains of “three people” had been found in the prison.
The Public Ministry also revealed that the remains were found in the vicinity of an animal pen that was located inside the prison walls.
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