Venezuela took another step forward closer to uncertainty today, as Sunday’s Constituent Assembly looms ever closer over the horizon. Despite an official ban on protests that was supposed to start today, Venezuelans took to the streets of their towns and cities today to protest against the Sunday vote, which many fear will result in the country’s final descent into the dictatorial abyss.

At a protest in the municipality of Cardenas in Tachira state, a retired lieutenant colonel from the National Guard was shot to death during a protest, bringing the number of people killed in anti-government demonstrations over the past two days to 10. The death toll since the protests began on April 1 is now 114.

El Nacional reports that the former army officer, Eduardo Gil Rodriguez (53), was participating in an anti-regime protest last night in front of a voting centre that will be used in Sunday\s election. National Guard soldiers responded to the protest and fired at the demonstrators, killing Rodriguez and wounding 8 others.

In Tovar, Merida state, protesters broke into a voting centre and burned voting equipment belonging to the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), the country’s electoral authority:

The image below shows a small barricade on the Francisco de Miranda avenue in Los Cortijos, Caracas. In response to the opposition’s call yesterday to continue with the protests, many Venezuelans either stayed home from work or blocked roads:

In Ejido, Merida state, five priests walk towards a National Guard armoured convoy. Fighting in Ejido has left at least three people dead over the last two days:

In the Rio de Janeiro avenue, a dump truck empties its load of tree branches onto the road. A group of protesters then gets to work on building a barricade:

Below, an image of a barricade on the Romulo Gallegos avenue of Caracas:

More barricades. These ones are in La California, Caracas:

In Rubio, Tachira state, regime militias known locally as colectivos armados patrolled the streets looking for opposition supporters. Below, an image of a colectivo patrol in Rubio this afternoon:

It is not exactly clear where the video below was recorded, but it was likely recorded today. It shows a man in civilian clothing — a colectivo armado member — driving a motorcycle. On the back of the same motorcycle is a National Guard soldier, who calmly hops off the bike to throw a tear gas grenade into a home:

National Guard Assault Leaves Caracas Residential Complex Reeling

Yesterday, National Guard soldiers attacked a residential complex in the Terrazas del Avila neighbourhood of Caracas. The National Guard will often attack buildings, including private homes and apartment units, if it believes that protesters reside or are hiding there.

According to residents of the complex, the National Guard broke into the building with an armoured truck and began attacking both installations and anyone they saw in the area.

Below, an image of some of the damage tweeted by one of the area residents, who claims that soldiers “looted” the building office:

The soldiers also smashed windows and damaged vehicles:

Famed Violin-Wielding Protester Wuilly Arteaga Arrested

Wuilly Arteaga, a protester who has captured the national spotlight for braving bullets, rubber pellets and tear gas with his violin, was arrested during a protest in Caracas yesterday alongside a friend named Gian Marco Centerome.

Alfredo Romero, the head of a local NGO that provides legal assistance to arrested protesters and political prisoners, said this he was denied access to Arteaga this morning when he attempted to visit him in the police station in which he is being held.

Romero also said that it is not yet known why Arteaga and Centerome were arrested.

National Guard soldiers shot Arteaga in the face with rubber pellets at a protest in Caracas on July 23. The video below shows Arteaga playing his violin at a protest in Caracas recently:

Black Market Breaks Bs. 10,000/USD Mark

The black market exchange rate hit Bs. 10,389 per USD today, marking the first time that the exchange rate has reached the Bs. 10,000 mark.

Currency exchange in Venezuela is strictly controlled by the Maduro regime through an institution called CENCOEX. A Venezuelan wanting to exchanged Bolivares for foreign currency must navigate a bureaucratic maze that often results in a dead end. As a result, most Venezuelans acquire U.S. dollars on the black market, making the black market rate the de facto exchange rate in the country.

The official exchange rate, which is set by the government, is currently Bs. 10/USD.

At the current black market rate, a Venezuelan person working for the minimum salary will earn just $9.39.

El Aissami’s US Fortune Estimate To Be At Least $500 Million

Michael J. Fitzpatrick, a senior U.S. Department of State official, said during an interview with the NTN24 network yesterday that vice-president Tareck El Aissami is estimated to have at least $500 million in U.S. assets, a shockingly high figure for the civil servant.

El Aissami was placed on a U.S. Department of the Treasury sanction list in February of this year, which resulted in the freezing of his assets in the country and in the revocation of his U.S. visa. El Aissami is suspected by U.S. authorities of being a key player in the regional drug trade.

El Aissami responded to the sanctions by taking out a full-age ad on February 22, in which he denied the accusation that he was involved in drug trafficking. El Aissami also said in the ad that he had no assets in the U.S.:

I have no assets or accounts in the United States or in any country of the world, and it is both absurd and pathetic that an American administrative body —without presenting any evidence— adopts a measure to freeze goods and assets that I do not own at all.

Yesterday, Fitzpatrick said that the U.S. government had positively identified $500 million in assets belonging to El Aissami in the United States. During the interview, Fitzpatrick also said:

The question is, where else in the world does he have more money?

National Guard Soldiers Shoot Unarmed Man at Point-Blank

A video showing National Guard soldiers shooting an unarmed protester at point-blank range while he was on the ground made a splash on social media this afternoon. The video was recorded in Bello Campo, Caracas on July 26. While the name of the individual being shot in the video is not known, El Nacional claims that he is deaf-mute.

Below, the video:

The  man was likely shot with rubber pellets, which are a less-lethal ammunition. At point-blank range, the pellets can penetrate skin and damage organs.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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