Yesterday, a military tribunal ordered the conditional release of 27 university students from the Universidad Pedagogica Experimental Libertador (UPEL) who were arrested during an anti-government protest on July 4 of this year. The students were released under the condition that they remain in Venezuela, that they do not speak to the media, and that they periodically appear before a judge.
However, nearly 24 hours after the order was given to release the students, all 27 are still behind bars because the Aragua State Police appears unwilling to abide by the tribunal’s decision.
Katherine Aray, the spouse of one of the detained students, was in court yesterday when the students were released. She recalled the moment that it became obvious that her husband was not actually going to be released:
We were so excited. We sent for clothes so that they could change [out of their prisoner uniforms]. Kevin [her detained husband] was crying of joy, and then suddenly they brought them out dressed in yellow [prisoner uniform colour] and then they took them once again to the Las Acacias police station.
Aray also told the newspaper that her husband is currently suffering from malaria, which he contracted at the El Dorado prison in which he is being held.
Dimas Daniel Rivas, a lawyer with an NGO called Foro Penal Venezolano [FPV], said this morning that the students were scheduled to appear before a judge this morning at 10:00 AM in order to receive formal instructions on their conditional release, but that they were still incarcerated at that time for reasons that are not clear.
This is not the first time that Venezuelan authorities have chosen to ignore court orders releasing individuals under custody. The FPV estimates that aside from the case of the 27 students, there are currently 18 people who have been ordered released by courts, but who are still in detention because the authorities have ignored the order.
MUD Brings End–But Keeps Door Open–to Dialogue with PSUV
The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) issued a statement today solidifying its position on exploratory talks with the PSUV that may have opened the door to a formal dialogue process with the ruling party. The statement, which was issued in the form of a tweet, compiles and clarifies comments made by MUD officials in the last several days to the effect that the opposition would not proceed with formal the talks with the PSUV because of the Maduro regime’s apparent unwillingness to honestly engage in the process. However, the same statement makes it clear that the opposition bloc will continue to explore the possibility of a dialogue with the Maduro regime.
The [MUD] informs the people of Venezuela and the international community of the following:
- We stress that our struggle is so that Venezuela may achieve the standard of living, prosperity and liberty that democratic countries enjoy.
- We stress that we will pursue that goal on every field as demanded by the national social dynamic and as allowed by the Constitution.
- We stress that we will continue on with the exploratory phase that we hope will lead towards negotiation and an international agreement in the Dominican Republic as soon as the obstacles that have been place by the government are removed, [obstacles that] motivated our unanimous decision to not attend the [September] 27 meeting, as per our timely announcement to the president of the Dominican Republic and [former Spanish prime minister involved in the dialogue efforts Jose Luiz] Zapatero.
- We stress that we will promptly announce any progress, pause or setback to the people of Venezuela.
- We stress our thanks to the government of the Dominican Republic and the international community for the support that they have given to the cause of the Venezuelan people, and for their willingness to aid us during this exploratory process; and also, [for their aid with] the process of negotiation, accord and follow-up, once we get there.
Caracas, September 28 2017
The release of the statement coincided with a meeting between National Assembly vice president Freddy Guevara and the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.
In a tweet sent out after the meeting, Almagro posed for a picture with Guevara and said:
I talked to [Guevara] today, and we agree: There is NO effective dialogue in Venezuela without [first spelling out] the conditions for the transition. We must keep up the international pressure.
Educational System in Crisis As School Year Begins
The start of the 2017-2018 school year has brought into sharp relief the crisis affecting the country’s educational system.
According to Luis Bravo Jauregui, a researcher with the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV), the Venezuelan government has failed to match population growth with appropriate investment in infrastructure, namely primary and secondary schools. Jauregui told El Nacional that the Venezuelan government is woefully behind in terms of new school construction, leaving an increasing number of children without a space in a classroom:
Since 2012 [the government] has not built the proportionate number of schools required by the growth in the population of students. According to our estimates, they would have to build 5,000 new [primary and secondary] schools. However, instead of speeding up, construction has stagnated, which has quadrupled the number of school-aged children without a school.
El Nacional pointed out that according to construction statistics, the Venezuelan government has only build 202 new schools since 2004 at an average rate of 16 pear year. This figure includes every category of school, from primary school to university facilities to vocational schools. This figure is irreconcilable with comments made by Minister of Education Elias Jaua two weeks ago, in which he claimed that the Bolivarian Revolution has built 15,000 new schools since 1999.
Jaua’s figure is also at odds with official Ministry of Education annual reports, which demonstrate that no more than 30 schools per year have been built since 1999.
Alexis Ramirez, the head of a the national parent’s association, claims that the reason why the Maduro regime claims such high numbers if because they are counting not only newly-built schools, but also schools that have been simply renovated.
For Ramirez, the lack of classroom space for children puts many of them in a difficult position, one that can often result in the student simply dropping out of school. Ramirez said:
All of this leads directly to dropping out. A child who has nothing to eat or that does not have a guaranteed desk at the nearest school drops out. We urgently need more schools.
The crisis in the education system is likely to hit Miranda hard, according to the state’s secretary of education, Juan Maragall. He told EFE that the state expects at least 10,000 students–9% of all primary and 13% of all secondary students–to drop out this year. He clarified that the crisis in the system is not only related to infrastructure by pointing out that one in three schools in Miranda is the site of “gang confrontations or shootings”.
Official figures from the Ministry of Education show that this year, 251,180 fewer students were registered for school than last year.
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