National Assembly deputy Luis Florido revealed today that an upcoming signed agreement with the ruling PSUV party may result in the release of 114 of the country’s 382 political prisoners. Florido is a leading opposition negotiator in the talks with the Maduro regime that began in the Dominican Republic on December 1, and that are scheduled to continue on the island this Friday.

Speaking during an press event in Caracas this afternoon, Florido suggested that the release of the unnamed individuals might occur sooner rather than later. Florido said:

From the list of 283 political prisoners that we presented [to the PSUV in the Dominican Republic], there are 114 that could be released in the days following the signing of an agreement.

While it is not clear when an agreement might be reached, the two sides appeared close to reaching a consensus at the conclusion of the first round of talks on December 2.

Florido explained that out of the 114 individuals who have been targeted for potential release, 27 of them might be granted freedom due to illness, while another 17 have already been ordered released by a court but the order is simply being ignored by the authorities that are holding them.

Public Ministry Confirms Ramirez Investigation

Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced today that his office was investigating former PDVSA president Rafael Ramirez for corruption in connection with allegations that the former PSUV heavyweight has laundered embezzled money through a bank in Andorra.

The timing of Saab’s announcement is telling. Ramirez was the president of the state-owned PDVSA oil company from 2004 to 2014, and was one of Chavez’s closest allies throughout his presidency. After Chavez died in 2013, Maduro likely viewed Ramirez as a threat, and sent him to New York City as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations at the end of 2014.

Ramirez and Maduro maintained an uneasy truce until last month, when Ramirez published two articles critical of the president on a popular pro-government website. Maduro retaliated by removing Ramirez from his position at the United Nations last week.

The allegations that Ramirez used PDVSA coffers to enrich himself date back years. Allegations implicating an Andorran connection to the corruption first surfaced in 2015, when the United States announced that a bank–the Banca Privada D’Andorra–was being investigated for laundering dirty PDVSA money.

Last October, the National Assembly estimated that $11 billion were embezzled from the company between 2004 and 2014.

Capriles Takes Early Shot at Presidential Wild Card

Former Miranda state governor and leading opposition figure Henrique Capriles took an early shot at presidential candidate wild card Lorenzo Mendoza during an interview today, saying that the business giant should stay out of politics.

Mendoza–who is the popular head of the country’s most popular company, Polar–has occasionally waded publicly into political debates, particularly those involving economic matter. Polar is the largest private company in the country and produces a range of food products. Despite the dire economic conditions affecting the country, Mendoza has managed to keep the company afloat.

During a radio interview today, Capriles spoke on the possibility that Mendoza may decide to run for president in next year’s election. Capriles said:

It’s totally valid in this [national] crisis situation for someone who feels the calling to put his name forward. But you have to know that running a country is not the same as running a company.

While Mendoza has not formally announced his candidacy for next year’s election, his name tends to top the list of likely contenders–and sometimes, winners.

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

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