Tensions in the country are high tonight as Maduro prepares to be sworn in tomorrow as the country’s president for the 2019-2025 term following his victory in the May 20 election, which was widely condemned by international and domestic observers as being rigged in his favour.
Contrary to tradition, Maduro will not be sworn in by the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which stated earlier this week that it refused to do so. Instead, Maduro will be sworn in by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court, which is stacked with hand-picked regime loyalists.
Ofelia Rivera, A spokesperson for the Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre [Free Venezuela Broad Front] called on Venezuelans to protest tomorrow, and said that Maduro was “usurping” the presidency. Rivera:
Tomorrow, January 10, at 2:00 PM, we’re asking all Venezuelans to stop where they are and start honking their horns.
Rivera also said that he hoped that the protest would last 15 minutes, during which he said that the country would be “paralyzed”.
Then, Rivera explained, Venezuelans should prepare to take part in a cacerolazo at 10:00 PM “in defense of the country and democracy”.
Likely in an attempt to preempt criticism that the measures would be hopelessly ineffective, Rivera said:
We’re giving people a mechanism for people to express themselves. Our intention is not to bring down the government, it’s to create a civil, peaceful protest to look towards gathering the necessary strength so that we can take more decisive action.
The vast majority of countries in the continent as well as Europe have denounced Maduro’s electoral win as fraudulent, and a a number of them–including the 12 members of the Lima Group–have vowed to not recognize Maduro as president starting tomorrow.
In a testament to his status as a pariah, only five heads of state will attend Maduro’s inauguration: Evo Morales (Boliva), Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Miguel Diaz-Canel (Cuba), Salvador Sanchez (El Salvador), and Anatoli Bibilov (South Ossetia, a disputed territory that is not recognized as a country by the United Nations).
Heavy Police, Military Presence in Caracas Ahead of Inauguration
National Bolivarian Police officers and National Guard soldiers were deployed near the TSJ building today in preparation for Maduro’s inauguration there tomorrow. The authorities are blocking traffic through the area.
The deployment forms part of the regime’s response to what it alleges to be a plot by foreign and domestic enemies to remove Maduro from power by force, possibly tomorrow. As in previous instances when the same claim has been made, there is no evidence to suggest that a coup is imminent.
Below, images of soldiers and police in Caracas today:
The deployment also appears to include colectivos armados (literally “armed groups”), which are groups of pro-government armed civilians. Below, a colectivo on the move somewhere in Caracas earlier today:
Protests, Looting Shake Maracaibo
Venezuela’s second-largest city was the site of violent confrontations and looting today after National Guard soldiers tried to clear street hawkers from the Las Pulgas market. According to Diario la Verdad, a local newspaper, at least 17 people were arrested during the protests, which were staged by the hawkers to demand access to a market from which the authorities had removed them.
One of the hawkers told NTN24 that they were also protesting against the fact that they have to bribe the police and the National Guard to sell their goods. Below, comments from one of the protesters, beginning at approximately the 0:25 mark:
Man: We work. We’re informal labourers. We have to pay the police and the [National] guards to work here. We have to pay them for us to bring in our merchandise.
[Unintelligible shouting. One person asks, “How much do you have to pay them?”]
Man: About ten, twelve million Bolivares Soberanos [approximately $8,900-$10,700] for the merchandise.
[Another man in the crowd: And $400 for the mayor!]
Man: And we have to pay the mayor, too.
Reporter: How do you feel about this situation?
Man: How do we feel? We feel humiliated! We can’t do anything because they’re taking bread off our tables.
The protest began in the early morning, and was met quickly by the National Guard response. The image below shows National Guard soldiers facing off against protesters as clouds of tear gas fill the air:
By 10:45 AM, protesters had built barricades on the Libertador Avenue:
In the video below, protesters throw stones at a National Guard armoured vehicle, which is forced to retreat:
More scenes from the protest. A demonstrator throws a tear gas canister back at the National Guard:
A journalist at the scene captured the moment when a National Guard armoured truck swerved towards another journalist. The journalist was forced to jump over a protective barrier on the side of the road to avoid getting hit by the truck:
As it became apparent that the National Guard was not quelling the unrest, looters broke into the PDVSA Towers on the city’s Libertador Avenue. Below, a video of that event:
National Assembly: 2018 Inflation Hit 1,698,488.2%
The National Assembly’s Finance and Economic Development Commission released its estimate of the 2018 inflation rate today, placing the figure at 1,698,488.2%, giving Venezuela the sad distinction of having the highest inflation rate on the planet.
Rafael Guzman, the head of the Commission, blamed the regime’s poor monetary policies and complete unwillingness to take action for the inflation.
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