At least 22 people were arrested in Ciudad Bolivar overnight as distraught residents poured onto the streets of the city and engaged in sporadic looting. The looting broke out during generalized protests for food which began in the city yesterday evening.
Venezuela is currently facing the worst economic crisis of its modern history, affecting the poorest Venezuelans worst of all. The price of food in November rose by an average of 148.2% from October, an unprecedented ascent that has placed even the most basic food items out of reach of millions of Venezuelans.
As news of the unrest spread throughout social media, the mayor of the city issued a statement through his Twitter account calling for calm:
To the residents of the city, I call for calm. The authorities have now been deployed as part of operation #SafeChristmas2017 in order to deal with any situation and guarantee peace
The video below was recorded in the city sometime last night. It shows residents looting establishments:
The image below shows how people broke into one establishment by tearing down a section of a wall:
According to El Nacional, National Guard soldiers have responded to the unrest in the city by forcing store-owners to sell their products by as much as 50% off, which has caused “large lines and tumult” in front of many establishments in the city.
The city–capital of Bolivar state–is no stranger to unrest. Last year, a days-long looting spree left sections of the city in ruins. The city experiences two simultaneous realities that make it a likely site for unrest: it has a relatively large population (approximately 350,000), yet it is in the political and logistical periphery of Venezuela, which has left it in a state of severe neglect.
Ramirez Blames “Improvisation” For Country’s Economic Collapse
Former PDVSA president and regime outcast Rafael Ramirez published an article on Aporrea on Sunday in which he chimed in on the country’s economic collapse.
Calling the state of the Venezuelan economy “a disaster”, Ramirez said that
[The economic crisis] is the product of lots of improvisation, lack of knowledge, irresponsibility, and inefficinecy in the management of complex matters [like] inflation, monetary devaluation, shortages, falling oil production, falling internal production….
Once a linchpin of chavismo, Ramirez served as president of the state-owned PDVSA oil company from 2004 and 2014. The National Assembly estimates that as many as $11 billion were embezzled from company coffers while Ramirez as at the helm of PDVSA.
A natural rival for Maduro’s power, Ramirez was made ambassador to the UN in 2014 and sent away to New York City. He remained at his post until earlier this month, after becoming a vocal critic of the Maduro regime.
Ramirez’s December 24 Aporrea peace is his largest break to date from the political system that he helped to build. Dismissing a central tenet of the PSUV world view–that the economic crisis is the fault of a nebulous conspiracy that includes private business interests–Ramirez said:
The economy has a lot to do with perception, with information that is available, estimates and projection. It’s not the private sector: we’re talking about the projections and the estimates of the government, The Plan. What is The Plan? We’re living through a serious economic crisis, and there is no plan. Many have been presented. We even presented one in 2014 which was later thrown away, cast aside. We’re in the middle of a storm without radar, without compass, not knowing what the final destination is or where we are going to end up.
Political Prisoners In Dark About Released Conditions
Some of the 44 political prisoners released by the Maduro regime since the weekend attempted to learn the conditions of their release were surprised to find the courtrooms assigned to their cases closed today.
A lawyer representing some of the political prisoners, Joel Garcia, told Spain’s EFE that his clients have been kept in the dark about the conditions of their release, and that courts are not scheduled to open until January 8.
Jhosman Paredes, a student leader who was arrested for his anti-government stance in 2014, was one of the people who waited outside Caracas’ Palacio de Justicia [Palace of Justice] today in order to find out information about his release conditions. He wrote the following message on his Twitter account:
It’s 12:30 PM and we’re leaving the Palace of Justice without answers. We, the former political prisoners, showed up but once again the courts were closed.
The fact that the judicial system has yet to make clear the conditions for the release of the 44 individuals suggests that the measure to free them came not from the courts, but rather from a personal decision from a Maduro regime official.
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