Venezuela Weekly: Boston Group Seeks to Maintain US-Venezuela Contact

US Senator and Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker traveled to Venezuela with his top aid Caleb McCarry. On Monday, October 8, they met with government officials, including President Nicolás Maduro, opposition politicians, as well as a small group of journalists (see this detailed account from Nelson Bocarranda). The visit was held in the framework of the “Boston Group” which seeks to maintain high-level contact between politicians of the US and Venezuela.

Three of the main opposition parties—First Justice, Popular Will, and The Radical Cause—published an open letter thanking Corker for his concern for Venezuela but warning him that his visit could be used by Maduro as a stalling tactic. They interpreted Corker’s visit as an attempt at mediation and said they would not participate in any such effort in the current circumstances. From exile in Colombia, Julio Borges said Corker’s visit was an “insignificant smoke screen” created by the Maduro government to show a democratic disposition.

Corker’s visit was overshadowed by the death of Councilman Fernando Albán. (See our coverage of the latter, including international reaction, here.) But at the end of his visit he suggested that he had had a good meeting with Maduro and saw some possibilities for moving forward. He will be discussing them with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Human Rights

  • Yesterday, October 10, the National Press Workers Syndicate (SNTP) warned that journalists covering the Albán case were receiving threats and reminded the Venezuelan government “of its obligation to respect the freedom of expression. The safety, integrity, and freedom of journalists is one of its primary responsibilities.” The Press and Society Institute (IPYS) likewise reminded the government that “it cannot use censorship, intimidation or abuse of its powers to restrict the liberties of journalists that are covering issues of public interest.”
  • The family of retired General Raúl Baduel demanded the government give them evidence of his well-being since they have not seen or heard from him in two months. They said he is being held in the basement prison of the Intelligence Police headquarters without proper ventilation or access to natural light.

Migration

  • Delcy Rodriguez announced the creation of a new Migration Police that would maintain security at the 72 control points on borders and at ports and airports. It will be headed by General Luis Santiago González Rodríguez. This police force will also seek “to make sure the truth is told instead of the imperial lies that Washington tries to sell the world.”
  • The government announced that passports will now cost two “petros,” Venezuela’s truly cryptic crypto-currency. This would amount to approximately 4 times the monthly minimum wage and would be out of reach for most Venezuelans. Worse yet, the petro is not actually supposed to go on sale until November 5. Several previous launches of the petro over the past eight months have left analysts scratching their heads (see Reuters’ deep dive here).
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited Colombia, including visits to Bogotá and the border city of Cúcuta, to observe the situation of Venezuelan migrants
  • An increasing number of HIV+ Venezuelans are migrating to Colombia as they give up trying to obtain consistent antiretroviral treatment in Venezuela. Many of them die when they get there. (See our Q&A on the situation HIV+ Venezuelans face here.)
  • Foreign Ministers of the European Union will again discuss the Venezuelan crisis on Monday, October 15

Violence

  • A group called Ciudad Laboratorio (City Laboratory) has been carrying out a study of urban spaces at night for the past four months. Among their preliminary findings are that there is more activity in poor, working class sectors in the evening than in middle class neighborhoods, and that the biggest factor in the disappearance of nightlife is the lack of transportation, not the lack of light or police protection.
  • Cronica.uno published the testimonies of family members of two of the most recent victims of extrajudicial killings at the hands of the Special Actions Forces (for more on the FAES see the September 27 Venezuela Weekly.)

Mobilization

  • On October 5, thousands of government supporters marched in Caracas in support of peace and rejecting international interference in Venezuela.
  • Unionized workers protested in front of the Ministry of Work and Social Security demaning that the government respect collective contracts instead of unilaterally announcing raises that do not reflect established wage scales and benefits. They threatened a national strike on October 18.
  • The Peaceful Protest Alliance held an event in the Plaza Brion of Chacaito. With the dissolution of the 2017 protest movement and the implosion of the political opposition they seek to construct a network of civil groups that protest non-violently and work to document, denounce and communicate regarding government abuses (documentar, denunciar y difundir).
  • Rector of the Ándres Bello Catholic University Jose Virtuoso suggested it was time for civil society to lead the way forward to a new social pact.

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]