The country’s opposition bloc, the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), announced today that it was launching a campaign to “defend” the October 15 gubernatorial vote, which will see Venezuelans voting to elect governors in the country’s 23 states. The vote will be the first one to take place after the July 30 Constituent Assembly election, which has been universally recognized as fraudulent.
The MUD’s decision to participate in the gubernatorial election caused a great deal of debate within opposition circles, as some argued that the Maduro regime would either steal the election, or that participating in the event would lend legitimacy to a dictatorial government. Such was the intensity of the debate that Maria Corina Machado’s Vente Venezuela party left the MUD in protest.
During a press conference today, Baruta municipality mayor Gerardo Blyde made the case for voting in principle:
Even while facing adverse conditions, we believe in and want to vote. That is fundamental. It’s no secret that if we had been allowed to hold a recall referendum last year, Maduro would not be in charge.
Blyde also highlighted some reasons why Venezuelans should participate in the October 15 vote:
We are going to vote against hunger. We will protest by voting. That is the fundamental goal of [the MUD]. This is part of a democratic battle. This isn’t how we will get Maduro to leave, but it’ll be sweet when [the PSUV] loses the governorships.
The PSUV currently controls 20 out of 23 governorships. The last gubernatorial elections took place in 2012.
On the matter of defending the vote, Blyde said that the task would involve motivating Venezuelans to recognize that the vote is worth defending at all. He explained:
The government is going to make up any number of lies in order to demotivate voters. But we will continue to create awareness. We ask you to reflect, to not give up, and to go out on vote on October 15.
Saab Provides Evidence of Currency Exchange Fraud
Attorney general Tarek William Saab held a press conference today in which he provided an update on fraud investigations involving the Maduro regime’s byzantine, multi-tiered currency exchange system. The system–currently called CENCOEX, formally CADIVI–allows for enumerated industries to purchase foreign currency from the government at a preferential rate for the purposes of importing products or producing them in Venezuela.
The system has long been known to cause corruption given how easy it is to exploit. For example, the top-tier of the system sells Bs. 10/USD, but the current black market rate is Bs. 27,051.64/USD. If an individual or company can convince the government to sell them $1 USD, they can then sell it on the black market, making an instant profit of 2,700%.
During his press conference, Saab presented evidence of this type of fraud in action. Saab announced the arrest of two brothers, Juan Miguel Lozano and Andres Lozano, whom he accused of defrauding the government out of $15 million through their company, Bates Gil C.A., and some 25 affiliates.
Saab explained that the company received money through the official currency exchange system, but claimed expenses that surpassed their actual expenses by 130,000%.
The attorney general also explained that there are at least 18 (but possibly up to 900) other companies suspected of having been involved in similar schemes, and had harsh words for the currency exchange system. He said:
The Republic’s fiscal deficit may well be clearly defined by these two great monsters [CENCOEX and CADIVI] of fraud and crime towards the nation.
and blamed his predecessor–Luisa Ortega Diaz–for “doing absolutely nothing” to prosecute the cases during her tenure as the head of the Public Ministry.
Ortega Diaz was attorney general from 2007 until August of this year, when she was replaced with Saab by Maduro’s Constituent Assembly after spending the preceding five months publicly denouncing the regime’s dictatorial turn. Ortega Diaz was forced to flee the country on August 19 after it became increasingly obvious that she was going to be incarcerated for her stance against the regime.
Yonny Bolivar’s Sentence Extended to 27 Years
Yonny Bolivar, the man convicted of killing Adriana Urquiola on March 23, 2014 during an attack on anti-government protesters in Los Teques, Miranda state, had his sentence extended to 27 years by a Caracas judge today after initially being handed a 17 year sentence at the conclusion of his trial.
The news came from Luis Sucre, one of the lawyers representing the Urquiola family, who said that the family launched the appeal on the grounds that the initial 17 year sentence was not harsh enough given the severity of the crime.
On the night of March 23, 2014, Urquiola heading home from work when the bus in which she was riding came across a protest barricade. Urquiola–who was pregnant–got off the bus and began to walk across the street. As she did so, a vehicle carrying Bolivar and several accomplices approached the protest barricade. Bolivar exited the vehicle and opened fire on the protesters. A bullet struck Urquiola, killing her.
After killing Urquiola, Bolivar escaped Venezuela and was found hiding in Barranquilla, Colombia in 2015.
“Narco Nephews” Will Hear Fate on October 3
The sentence in the case of Efrain and Francisco Flores will be read in a New York City court on October 3, according to journalist Maibort Petit. The two men were found guilty in November of last year of attempting to smuggle 1,7000 lbs. of cocaine into the United States through Haiti. The men are related to first lady Cilia Flores.
The two face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
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