Agents from the Dirección General de Contrainteligencia Militar [General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence] (DGCIM) raided the home of a high-ranking army officer this afternoon in Caracas. The raid took place in the area of Los Naranjos, and targeted the home of Lt. Colonel Erik Peña Romero.

Lt. Colonel Peña was formally charged on March 2 of treason and instigating rebellion alongside eight other officers, in connected to an alleged conspiracy ring that sought to overthrow the Maduro regime.

At the same time, the DGCIM also raided the home of another officer accused in the March 2 ring: Lt. Colonel Igbert Marin Chaparro. Chaparro’s home is also located in Caracas, in the Bosque Valle neighbourhood.

The raids follows weeks of increased regime action against members of the military, fueling rumours that Maduro fears an insurrection against him.

Pollster: Maduro Would Be “Obliterated” By Any Other Candidate

Luis Vicente Leon, the head of the Datanalisis polling firm, made an appearance on the daily political interview show Vladimir a la 1. During the show, Leon provided data pertaining to the upcoming May 20 elections, and the presidential race in particular.

Leon echoed months of polling data by saying that in a fair contest, Maduro would lose against virtually any other candidate given his disastrous tenure as president. Leon said:

In a normal election, whoever you put up against president Maduro would obliterate him.

At the same time, Leon suggested that the May 20 election would not be a normal one, a fact that is reflected by the expected low voter turnout. According to Leon, only 41% of Venezuelans–most of whom are regime supporters–are planning to vote.

If the expected voter turnout is reflective of the actual voter turnout on May 20, the election could make history as one of the most widely-rejected in Venezuelan history. For comparison, the 2013 presidential election had a voter turnout of 79.68%; the one in 2012 had a turnout of 80.52%, while the ones in 2006 and 2000 had turnouts of 74.6% and 56.31%, respectively. The 1998 vote–which saw Hugo Chavez elected president for the first time–had a turnout of 63.45%.

Leon also said that the opposition is currently in a difficult position, since while there is near-universal discontent with Maduro’s presidency, the coalition has been so far unable to turn that into an actionable solution. For Leon, it is not enough that the opposition has called for a boycott of the election:

If the opposition calls for a boycott and the next day explains how they will turn that into action to force the government to create conditions [for a fair election] or change its course, then I would be willing to abstain [from voting on May 20].

The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD), the country’s largest opposition bloc, called for a boycott of the election after arguing that it would be rigged in favour of Maduro.

CORPOELEC Rations Power in Four States

CORPOELEC–the state-owned electrical utility company–announced today that it will begin to ration electricity in Trujillo, Barinas, Merida and Tachira states, following weeks of unreliable service in the region. The electrical failures caused civil unrest in Merida and Trujillo states over the weekend.

Under the rationing plan, the states will not receive electricity for at least four hours per day starting immediately. It is not clear how long the rationing is expected to last.

The company made the announcement in a tweet which read:

[CORPOELEC] wishes to inform the residents of Tachira state that due to the low reservoir levels in the southwestern [part of the country], a rationing regimen will be implemented starting on March 15, which will last for four hours.

The company also clarified that the same rationing regimen will apply to Merida, Trujillo and Barinas states.

During an inspection of a hydroelectric plant in the region on Wednesday, Minister of Electrical Energy Luis Motta Dominguez told reporters that low water levels were to blame for the electrical failures, and explained:

Out of the 1,100 megawatts that we should be generating, we’re only generating 150. This is the reason why these unpredictable interruptions in service are taking place.

According to a national engineers’ union, the actual reason for the electrical failures has to do with what the union’s president, Winston Cabas, called the “structural crisis” affecting the country’s electrical grid.

Cabas explained that Venezuela is producing 82% less energy than it needs to function, due in part to broken down equipment. Cabas also said that a lack of diesel fuel is keeping some generating plants partially offline, as is the case with the Don Luis Zambrano and Tachira Plant stations.

The country’s electrical problems are not limited to its western states, Cabas said. The Caracas, Miranda and Vargas regions–also prone to blackouts with increasing frequency–can only count on 30% of their energy requirements at any given moment. Cabas said:

Out of the 16,000 megawatts hour capacity in the area, only about 500 megawatts are available as a result of lack of maintenance, which translates into the use of obsolete equipment due to a lack of investment.

Maduro: Neighbouring Countries “Stealing our Brains”

Maduro spoke at a rally in the La Carlota airport in Caracas today, and addressed the exodus of Venezuelans–particularly young ones–who are fleeing the country in unprecedented numbers for greener pastures elsewhere.

In a rare display of vulnerability, Maduro conceded that Venezuela is experiencing “difficulties”, and alluded to these difficulties as the reason for the exodus of Venezuelans from the country. Maduro said:

There are young people who go abroad. That’s fine: go, and come back, because there is no country more beautiful than Venezuela. Whoever leaves should come back, come back to study, work, get ahead.

Taking an accusatory tone, Maduro then said that foreign countries were “stealing our brains”, in reference to the mass exodus of Venezuelans in recent months as a direct result of his disastrous tenure as president and the country’s economic and social collapse.

Turning to Colombia, Maduro said that it was impossible for a youth in the country to attend university unless they were “loaded”, and that in comparison the education system in Venezuela is “public, high-quality and easily accessible”.

Five Political Prisoners Released in Last Two Days

The Foro Penal Venezolano [Venezuelan Penal Forum] (FPV), a human rights NGO, announced today that five political prisoners have been released from regime cells over the last 48 hours.

The list of released prisoners is:

  • Madison Aviles: Arrested for allegedly damaging the Chacao magistrate’s office in Caracas during an anti-government protest on July 12, 2017.
  • Moises Marquez: Arrested for allegedly damaging the Chacao magistrate’s office in Caracas during an anti-government protest on July 12, 2017.
  • Hector Pedroza: Arrested on December 12, 2017.
  • Daniel Gonzalez: Arrested on January 25, 2018.
  • Jameson Jimenez: Arrested on January 17, 2017.

Below, images of the released prisoners.

The image below shows Madinson Aviles and Moises Marque holding up what are likely to be their release orders:

The image below shows Jameson Jimenez and Hector Pedrosa after their release:

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

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