Venezuela’s top court, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), issued a surprise ruling this evening banning the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) bloc from participating in the upcoming presidential election, dealing a fatal blow to the country’s political opposition. The TSJ’s decision effectively leaves Maduro without a unified opponent in the presidential election, ensuring his victory in the race for the 2019-2025 presidential term.
The MUD is made up of dozens of individual opposition parties. Most importantly, it is made up of the four largest opposition parties in Venezuela: Accion Democratica, Voluntad Popular, Primero Justicia, and Un Nuevo Tiempo. Among its primary purposes, the MUD is meant to unify the Venezuelan opposition into a single ticket, the idea being that in a presidential election the choice would be between the PSUV candidate and a single MUD candidate instead of dozens of candidates from each individual opposition party.
In its decision, the TSJ has ruled that the Venezuelan opposition cannot present a single candidate to run against Maduro in the presidential election, splitting the opposition vote and almost certainly handing Maduro the presidency.
The ruling came via the TSJ’s Constitutional Chamber, the most powerful judicial body in the country. In its decision, the TSJ bans the MUD from participating in a political renovation process scheduled to take place this week. Without participating in the renovation process, the MUD will be unable to participate in the presidential election, which is scheduled to take place before April 30.
Below, a section of the TSJ’s decision:
The [National Electoral Council] is ordered to exclude the MUD from the renovation process, due to the fact that it is an organization made up of a group of diverse political parties that have already been renovated and others that are pending renovation that could participate in the [presidential election].
Founded in 2008, the MUD has already participated in several elections, including the 2010 and 2015 National Assembly elections, the 2012 presidential election, and the 2017 gubernatorial and municipal elections.
Today’s TSJ decision is arguably one of the most aggressively authoritarian moves by the Maduro regime in months, since it effectively dictates the results of the presidential election.
The TSJ’s full decision, in Spanish, can be found here.
NGO: 10 Forced Disappearances Linked to Oscar Perez Case
The Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV) held a press conference today in which it announced that there have been 10 forced disappearances linked to the case of Oscar Perez, the renegade police officer who was killed alongside six companions during a siege in El Junquito last week.
Referring to the 10 individuals as “technically missing”, the director of the FPV, Gonzalo Himiob, said that at least 52 others have been arrested for being allegedly connected tot the Perez case. Himiob also said that new arrests were occurring “each day” in relation to the case.
During the same press conference, Alfredo Romero–the head of the FPV–said that a new autopsy must be conducted on the body of Oscar Perez in order to determine the cause of his death.
Perez and his companions were likely the victims of extrajudicial killings by regime forces. In the hours leading to his death, Perez posted a series of videos to social media expressing his desire to surrender peacefully to the police, and claiming in increasingly frantic clips that the police were refusing to accept and were instead bent on murdering him and his companions.
Public Ministry Issues Asks INTERPOL to Capture Former PDVSA Head Rafael Ramirez
The Public Ministry announced today that it would ask INTERPOL to issue a red notice for Rafael Ramirez, the former head of the state-owned PDVSA oil firm and one of Hugo Chavez’s closest and most trusted allies.
The announcement came via attorney general Tarek William Saab, who taunted Ramirez by saying:
Don’t start crying now, citizen Ramirez. In the coming days we will ask for an arrest warrant corresponding to a red alert against you…
Ramirez is accused of a by the Maduro regime of corruption stemming from his tenure as the head of PDVSA from 2004 to 2014.
Ramirez was arguably one of Chavez’s most trusted and dependable allies, as evidence in part by his impressive decade-long stay in one of the country’s most important positions. Following his departure from PDVSA, Ramirez served the Maduro regime faithfully as ambassador to the United Nations until late last year, when he wrote a series of articles in a chavista website criticizing Maduro’s presidency.
Following the publication of the articles, Ramirez was forced out of his position at the United Nations by the regime, and subsequently became the target of legal and personal attacks by Maduro and other regime officials.
IMF: Inflation May Hit 13,500% in 2018
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its outlook for the Venezuelan economy this coming year, and predicts an inflation rate of 13,500% along with a GDP contraction of 15%. If accurate, the staggering figures would plunge the country and its residents deeper into the uncharted territory that is complete economic collapse.
The figures came from economist Alejandro Werner, who heads the IMF’s Latin American division. The figures also place the 2017 inflation rate at an estimated 2,400%, giving Venezuela the highest inflation on the planet for last year.
On the staggering inflation estimates, Bloomberg wrote:
That’s more than five times the inflation previously projected by the IMF, and way above the median forecast from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The fund estimates price increases surpassed 2,400 percent last year, according to a report published Thursday by Alejandro Werner, head of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere department. That was the fastest in the world.
Caracas Supermarkets Lay Bare As Economic Collapse Worsen
El Nacional published an article today in which it called attention to what appears to be a growing trend: mostly empty supermarkets in Caracas.
While food shortages have been a fact of daily life for millions in Venezuelans for years, Caracas has been relatively insulated from the scarcity. Until relatively recently–within the last four years or so–Caracas residents could reasonably expect to have greater access to food and other services that their counterparts in other parts of the country.
According to El Nacional, the culprit for the disappearance of food from the shelves is an order issued earlier this year by the Maduro regime for business to lower their prices to those set by the regime back in September.
Below, a video of a supermarket in Caracas shot earlier today:
The video below was shot in a supermarket in the La Alemada neighbourhood of the city yesterday:
Another video, also from Caracas:
Santos: No One Will Accept Results of Presidential Election
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressed certainty today that “no one” would accept the results of the upcoming presidential election in Venezuela, given that the regime’s democratic facade has completely crumbled.
Santos said that he did not believe that the election could take place in a free and fair manner “until there are enough guarantees” from the Maduro regime to reform the electoral system, something that cannot be done in mere weeks. Santos added:
Because of this, no one is going to recognize the elections in Venezuela until there are guarantees for transparency.
Santos also pointed out at even at the most superficial level, the election is invalid because it was proposed by the Constituent Assembly and not the National Electoral Council.
Venezuela Expels Spanish Ambassador Over “Continued Aggression”
The Maduro regime named Spanish ambassador Jesus Silva Fernandez persona non grata today, effectively severing ties between the two countries. In a statement issued through its official Twitter account, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited “continued aggression” by Madrid towards Caracas.
The expulsion was quickly followed by a statement from the Spanish government, which said through its foreign affairs minister that Madrid would act with “proportionality and reciprocity to Venezuela”, signalling that the Venezuelan ambassador in that country would soon be expelled.
Spain features heavily in the Maduro regime’s mythos as a key antagonist and main perpetrator of the so-called economic war.
Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, is often the target of toxic attacks from Maduro. In previous occassions, Maduro has called Rajoy “racist” and “a coward”, and has accused him of “being behind every maneuver against Venezuela”,
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