After weeks of speculation exacerbated by Sunday’s Constituent Assembly vote, the head of the controversial body that will have the authority to rule Venezuela by decree for an indefinite amount of time was finally announced today. Starting tomorrow, former minister of foreign affairs Delcy Rodriguez will be the most powerful woman in Venezuela as she begins her tenure as President of the National Constituent Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly, which will convene tomorrow for the first time, will commence work on writing a new national constitution. While it engages in this project–the completion of which has no time limit–the Assembly will be able to rule by decree, and its decisions may not be challenged by any individual or institution in the country.
Calling the Venezuelan opposition “huge human rights violators”, Rodriguez threatened that “justice would come” for them soon, suggesting that the political persecution with which the Maduro regime has become synonymous would continue and perhaps even intensify.
Rodriguez also suggested that action against the opposition would come swiftly, saying:
Don’t think that we are going to wait day, weeks or months (…) justice will come to the violent [ones] who wage economic and psychological war again the people. Do not be surprised [when it happens].
Rodriguez made the comments at a celebration held inside the National Assembly building, which the Constituent Assembly will take over starting tomorrow.
Demoralized and Routed, Opposition Supporters Largely Ignore Protest Calls
An opposition protest that had originally been planned for yesterday but was postponed until today was attended by a relatively small number of Venezuelans in what is the clearest sign so far that the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) is losing the confidence of anti-regime protesters.
Maria Corina Machado, an opposition leader and head of the Vente Venezuela party, spoke today on the low turnout for today’s protest in Caracas. Machado said:
Yesterday, we called for a protest, and today we see that the streets are not full. What is happening? I think that the people of Venezuela are sending us a clear message, and we [in the MUD leadership] should hear it with a lot of reflection.
Confidence in the MUD has been shaken this week, given the fact that the coalition has yet to clearly communicate a plan to Venezuelans for mounting a serious challenge to the Maduro regime. After the July 16 plebiscite, the MUD announced that the country had entered “Zero Hour”, a pivotal moment in Venezuelan history that would decide the fate of the country for years to come.
Today’s protest in Caracas, which was sparely-populated when compared to previous opposition events, was met with repression by state security forces, who fired tear gas and rubber pellets at protesters. At least 11 people were injured during the day’s clashes.
Below, a short clip of the march in Caracas this afternoon:
Bottom Falls Out of Bolivar Exchange Rate
The Bolivar has been experiencing a pronounced drop in value over the past month in what a trend that appears to be gaining momentum. Venezuelans looking to exchange their local currency for foreign ones have taken to frantically checking the online exchange rate website dolartoday.com multiple times a day, as the rates change every few hours.
Yesterday morning, the Bs/USD exchange rate was Bs. 14,760.80/1 USD. By 5:00 PM, it had risen to Bs. 17,980.85/1 USD, an 18% drop in value in just a matter of hours.
Since Monday, July 31, the Bolivar has lost 37.7% of its value against the US Dollar. Over the last month, the value has dropped by 57%.
The graph below, compiled by a web tool provided by Venezuelan Econ, shows the Bolivar’s collapse over the past year or so:
Maduro Congratulates National Guard on Job Well Done
Speaking at ceremony to honour the founding of the National Guard in the Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas this afternoon, Maduro thanked the soldiers of the military branch for their “key role in ensuring peace” in Venezuela over the last four months of protests.
During the event, Maduro defended the actions of the National Guard soldiers over the last several months, and said:
Their only crime has been going out to make sure that the roads are clear, and keeping the businesses that the right-wing has ordered to be burned safe, going out to guard people’s life, security, and society [sic].
National Guard soldiers have killed at approximately 30 protesters since the start of the anti-regime protests on April 1. National Guard soldiers have been filmed in dozens of videos committing brutal crimes against Venezuelans, including savagely beating protests, shooting at residential buildings and attacking medical facilities and journalists.
The videos below show a National Guard armoured vehicle deliberately driving into a crowd of protesters in Altamira, Caracas on May 3:
In the video below, National Guard soldiers on an highway overpass fire at a vehicle driving underneath them because one of the occupants was filming them:
The video below shows National Guard soldiers terrorizing pedestrians and destroying a private vehicle in Lecheria, Anzoategui state on July 14:
The video below shows National Guard soldiers shooting directly into a home, wounding the residents, on April 19:
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