Speaking during a televised address this evening, Maduro took his harshest stance against the five opposition winners of last Sunday’s gubernatorial elections, saying that if they continued to refuse to be sworn in by his Constituent Assembly, there would simply be new elections to replace them.
There is no law requiring the winners of gubernatorial elections to be sworn in by the Constituent Assembly. Governors are sworn in by their respective state legislatures. The fact that Constituent Assemblies are so rare (there have only been two convened in the past 20 years) makes Maduro’s swearing in requirement unprecedented.
Maduro’s comment came just hours after Barreto Sira, the opposition governor-elect of Anzoategui state, denounced that he was being denied access to his post over his refusal to be sworn in by Maduro’s Constituent Assembly. Miguel Arismedi, an Anzoategui state legislator who is part of the Sira’s transition team, told reporters earlier today:
At the gubernatorial office they told us that while Sira refuses to be sworn in by the National Constituent Assembly he will not be allowed to take office as governor.
The Constituent Assembly was elected in July 30 in an election that has been widely condemned as fraudulent, even by the company that provided the voting machines for the event. The opposition has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly, given the fact that it has devoted itself primarily to usurping the powers of the opposition-controlled legislative branch.
During the same address this afternoon, Maduro suggested that his regime would take a much harsher stance against street protests from now on, saying:
[Anyone who] tries to use violence on the streets again to generate chaos, guarimbas [a Venezuelan colloquialism for “street protest” or “street barricade”] and destabilization: jail, justice and the full of the law await you. [You will be sentenced to] at least 30 years [in prison].
The Maduro regime considers a wide range of public expressions of consent–even peaceful protest–to be destabilizing and unacceptable.
National Assembly Deputy: PDVSA Should Be Declared Bankrupt
National Assembly deputy Jose Guerra spoke in a radio interview on the precarious condition of the state-owned PDVSA oil firm, saying that the company should be declared bankrupt given its enormous debt: $120 billion. Guerra–who is the head of the legislature’s Economic and Finance Commission–said that the best move to make with PDVSA would be to “literally rebuild it” from scratch.
Guerra summarized PDVSA today by saying:
PDVSA is having a terrible time. If we had a bankruptcy law here, PDVSA would already have declared itself bankrupt. [Oil] production is falling 12% annually, it doesn’t have any oil to export because it’s not producing it, it owes everyone money and the bills go to the Banco Central de Venezuela [Venezuelan Central Bank], and that is what is generating the inflation that we have.
Venezuela is likely to end 2017 with the highest inflation rate on the planet, which could reach as high as 1,500% by some estimates. While the Maduro regime blames a nebulous conspiracy of enemies both domestic and international for the country’s high inflation rate, economists tend to point to the BCV’s policy of printing increasingly large amounts of money to pay its bills as the main culprit.
Guerra warned that Venezuela had likely entered a hyperinflationary spiral some time over the past four to six weeks, and that the unparalleled rise in the black market dollar was evidence of what little faith there is in the Bolivar.
Guerra also said that PDVSA is now “practically in the hands of Rosneft”, the Russian energy giant, partially because the Venezuelan company owes its Russian counterpart $3.5 billion.
Venezuelans Turn To Video Game Currency for Survival
Kotaku, a video game news website, published an article today in which it profiles several Venezuelan residents who claim to be “farming” video game currency in order to earn a living in the country. In the context of online video games, farming refers to the practice of conducting a repetitive in-game task–such as killing monsters or collecting items–with the goal of earning profit.
The Kotaku article contains an interview with an individual who claims to live in Venezuela and whose name is Fhynal. According to the article, Fhynal farms in an online multiplayer fantasy role-playing game called Runescape. By playing the game for prolonged periods of time, Fhynal is able to generate in-game currency which can then be sold online for actual currency, like U.S. dollars.
Fhynal told Kotaku about the appeal of his profession, saying:
I don’t have to go out. That may sound strange, but we live with a lot of crime. If you want to go out, you have to use a bus, [which increases your] propensity to be robbed.
Fhynal claims to be able to make Bs. 200,000-250,000 per week farming in Runescape, which at the current black market rate equals approximately $5.25-$6.56. This weekly sum would put Fhynal’s monthly earnings at Bs. 800,000-1,000,000, which is roughly 8-10 times what a Venezuelan worker earning the minimum monthly salary takes home.
The Kotaku article also contains an interesting analysis of the dynamic between Venezuelan farmers and the Runescape community, giving the fact that farming is generally discouraged in video games since it could distort the game’s economy.
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