National Assembly president Julio Borges and vice president Freddy Guevara continued their European tour today by meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. The chancellor’s office released a message following the meeting, part of which reads:

The chancellor assured the people of Venezuela and all of its democratic forces of her support in the search for a peaceful and constructive solution to the conflict.

Chancellor Merkel’s office also stressed that it would not “discount the possibility of European Union” sanctions against the Maduro regime. The comments constitute the first time that Berlin, a powerful player in the European Union, has publicly spoken on sanctions against the regime.

The same statement also stressed that the focus of the meeting was “the worrying human rights situation” in the country.

The images below shows Chancellor Merkel speaking with Borges and Guevara earlier today:

Borges and Guevara are leading a diplomatic mission made up of opposition legislators in Europe this week. The legislators met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, and are scheduled to meet with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May later this week.

Purchasing Power Falls 50% in August

The Venezuelan workers’ ability to purchase goods fell by 50% in the month of August from a year ago as a result of the Maduro regime’s inability to alleviate the ongoing economic crisis.

In an article published today, El Nacional points out that the total monthly salary (minimum wage earnings plus food subsidy) in August 2016 was Bs. 57,531.15. Last month, the total monthly salary for a worker earning the minimum wage was Bs. 250,531.56.

Henkel Garcia, a financial analyst and head of the Econometrica firm, told the newspaper that one of the reasons for the collapse in purchasing power is the fact that there are fewer and fewer goods on shelves. Garcia said:

There are fewer products available for purchase on the market, and when that happens the probability for a fall in purchasing power is high.

El Nacional points out that the fall in purchasing power is arguably most evident when one compares what the highest denomination bill allowed an individual to purchase in the past versus what that same bill purchases today.

According to the newspaper, a Bs. 20,000 bill could purchase one kilogram of turkey meat. Today, Bs. 20,000 can only purchase approximately 350 grams of turkey meat, depending on the brand. Garcia points out that the value of the Bs. 20,000 note has fallen 80% since the start of the year.

PDVSA Executives Arrested for Alleged Corruption

Nine executives from the state-owned PDVSA oil company were arrested yesterday by the Direccion General de Contra Inteligencia Militar [Military Counterintelligence General Directorate] (DGCIM) on suspicion that they were were involved in financial “irregularities” at the company.

One of the arrested individuals was Gustavo Malava, the man in charge of oil exploration and production for the western region of Venezuela. Malava is the most senior executive arrested yesterday.

The DGCIM claims that the men were involved in a scheme that saw crude oil manipulated in fraudulent ways and siphoned into companies to profit the individuals involved in the operation. The scheme had been operational since 2010, the DGCIM claims, and may have resulted in a loss of as many as $500 million for PDVSA.

Tajani Snubs EU-CELAC Meeting

The president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, announced through his Twitter account today that he would not be attending an August 8 joint summit of the European Union and Community of Latin American an Caribbean States (CELAC) as a sign of protest against the Maduro regime.

Tajani made the announcement today after meeting with diplomats from 10 Lima Declaration countries. Tajani also opined that the European Union should also refuse to participate in the event for the same reason.

Tajani explained his stance by saying:

[By not attending the summit], we are supporting the Latin American countries that made the brave decision to diplomatically isolate a dictatorial regime. This is the path forward towards re-establishing democracy in that country through a peaceful and negotiated exit [of the Maduro regime].

Pope Francis to Meet with Venezuelan Church Leaders in Colombia

Popa Francis arrived in Bogota today as part of a five day trip to Colombia. The visit, which was announced weeks ago, stirred hopes in Venezuela that the Pope might make a definitive statement condemning the Maduro regime, something the pontiff has apparently been hesitant to do.

News broke today that the Pope will meet tomorrow with Venezuelan church leaders, including cardinals Jorge urosa Savino and Baltazar Porras. The meeting will also be attended by monseigneurs Jose Luis Azuaje, Mario Moronta, and Jesus Gonzalez de Zarate.

While the Vatican has been reluctant to weigh in on the Venezuela crisis beyond calls for dialogue between the regime and the opposition, Church officials in Venezuela have been much more vociferous in their condemnation of the regime’s systemic human rights violations.

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

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