The Swiss government announced today a set of sanctions against seven high-ranking PSUV officials, becoming the latest jurisdiction to respond to the increasingly authoritarian Maduro regime with targeted measures. The sanctions include a ban on travel by the seven named individuals to the country, the freezing of all of their assets, as well as the ban of weapon sales to Venezuela.
In a statement announcing the sanctions, the Swiss government said that it was implementing them given its concern over “the repeated violations of individual freedoms in Venezuela”, and because:
… the principle of separation of powers is severely undermined and the process in view of the forthcoming elections suffers from a serious lack of legitimacy.
On 28 March, the Federal Council adopted an arms and repressive goods embargo and financial and travel sanctions against Venezuela. It bans the sale, supply, export and transit to Venezuela of arms and goods which can be used for internal repression. A similar ban also applies to equipment, technology and software that can be used to monitor and intercept internet and telephone communications. Furthermore, assets have been frozen and entry and transit bans have been issued for listed natural persons, companies and organisations. These measures are currently directed against seven Venezuelan ministers and high-ranking officials. Assets frozen under the measures must be reported to SECO without delay.
- Minister of the Interior Nestor Reverol
- PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello
- Consejo Nacional Electoral president Tibisay Lucena
- Chief Magistrate at the Supreme Court Maikel Moreno
- Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) head Gustavo Gonzalez
- Chief of the Capital District and former National Guard commander Antonio Benavides Torres.
With its sanctions, Switzerland joins the European Union, Canada and the United States in taking targeted action against the Maduro regime and its officials. Aside from targeted sanctions barring travel and seizing assets, the Unites States has also implemented broader financial sanctions, barring all U.S. citizens and companies from conducting business with the regime.
As Many as 66 Feared Dead in Police Station Fire
As many as 66 people are feared dead after a fire broke out inside the Carabobo State Police headquarters in Valencia, Carabobo state earlier today. The first is thought to have started during a mutiny staged by inmates held in the installation’s jail. The mutiny started at approximately 4:00 AM this morning.
The exact number of casualties is not known as this time, and neither is the proportion of deceased inmates and police officers. As of the writing of this update, official sources claim that five people were killed in the fire, two of them police officers.
While the exact casualty figures are not yet known, if the 66 fatality figure is accurate,
the fire would constitute the deadliest mass-casualty event in a prison facility in Venezuelan history.[March 29, 2018 Update: This is incorrect. The deadliest prison mass-casualty event in Venezuela occurred in Maracaibo in 1994, when 108 prisoners died in a fire at the Sabaneta prison).
Lissette Mendoza, the mother of a 19-year-old man being held in the jail, told reporters outside of the facility:
They haven’t told us anything. I ask [the authorities] to not treat [the inmates] like dogs. Don’t douse them in gasoline. They shot at them [inside their cells] as if they were dogs.
Mendoza said that her son was arrested for theft.
The image below appears to show relatives of jail inmates engaged in a scuffle with Carabobo State Police officers outside of the jail just after the noon hour:
The video below shows relatives outside of the jail. The relatives are demanding that the authorities provide updates about the status of their loved ones:
The images below show smoke at the headquarters:
2017 Protest Movement Turns One
Today marks the one-year anniversary of a Supreme Court decision that precipitated the 2017 anti-government protest movement. The ruling stripped National Assembly deputies of parliamentary immunity, and was followed the next day by a ruling in which the Supreme Court gave itself all of the powers of the legislative branch indefinitely. The decisions were met with such outrage from the opposition and civil society groups that they sparked four months of daily, nation-wide protests.
The protests left 137 people dead.
The March 28 2017 Supreme Court decision also precipitated another monumental event in the political history of Venezuela: the public break of attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz from the Maduro regime. In an unprecedented televised address on March 31, the life-long Chavez ally called the decisions evidence of “a break in the constitutional order” in Venezuela, and called on Venezuelans to “reflect” on the poor state of democracy in the country.
In retaliation against her public opposition, the Maduro regime went on to forcibly remove Ortega Diaz from office in August. Ortega Diaz reacted to the increased political pressure on her by fleeing the country that same month.
Regime: All Prices Must Be In Bolivar Soberano Starting May 1
The Maduro regime clarified today that the prices of every item sold in the country must be expressed in Bolivares Soberanos–the new currency set to roll out on June 4–starting on May 1. The requirement means that between May 1 and June 4, all items for sale in the country will have two listed prices: one in Bolivares Fuertes (the currency currently in effect), and one in Bolivares Soberanos.
Maduro announced the launch of the Bolivar Soberano back on March 22.
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