Venezuela Weekly: Economic Recovery for Some

Venezuela’s economic context is in transformation yet again with a process of liberalization and dollarization leading to a small recovery, alleviating some but leaving others even worse off.

After almost twenty years of extreme state intervention and repression, the government of Nicolas Maduro has started to allow a certain flexibility in the economic sector. Chavista leader, Fredy Bernal, recognized the importance of the private sector in this new economic direction and even celebrated that for the first time ever, Venezuelan commercial outlets celebrated “Black Friday,” the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season in the U.S.  The partial dollarization of the economy and relaxation of controls has created bubbles of well being in middle-class areas, where bodegones (small stores that sell exclusively imported goods) have mushroomed.

The fact that Venezuela’s oil production appears to be slowly improving (in November increased more than 20% from the prior month) means that probably Maduro government will have more funds to provide a sense of economic recovery.

Maduro is moving the oil sector to private hands, promoting partnerships with relatively unknown international companies.

Nevertheless, this new economic reality runs parallel to the continuing collapse of infrastructure and production. Civil society organizations have denounced kids dying in hospitals due to the lack of equipment and medical supplies. Protests over the lack of water continue throughout the whole country, while the shortage of domestic gas creates an extra headache for many. It is unlikely that the Venezuelan economy will return to growth rates anytime soon, especially as electric power shortages continue. The government has only managed to tame, not control hyperinflation. The National Assembly reports inflation was 35.8 % just in November, and suggests it will be 5,515% for 2019.

Negotiations

  • In an extended interview with El País, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó underlined the possibility of a new National Electoral Council that could lead to free elections.
  • Nicolás Maduro also expressed his desire to reach a consensus with the Venezuelan opposition and elect together a new CNE that will lead the country to next year’s National Assembly elections.
  • The prominent Venezuelan lawyer and former president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Pedro Nikken, passed away. Nikken’s death is a significant loss for the country as he was an active proponent of dialogue and negotiations as the best way to resolve any political crisis. Numerous international and national organizations have expressed their sorrow for Nikken’s death and sent condolences.
  • A recent report of the International Crisis Group reviews the negotiation process in Venezuela during 2019, identifies the pitfalls of these processes, and argues that Maduro’s government and the opposition should return to the negotiating table and try to reach a workable agreement.

Government

  • Nicolás Maduro announced that state-sponsored civilian militia in Venezuela reached three million, three hundred thousand people, and that soon each of them will have a weapon, This has been a recurrent promise-threat of Maduro in the last years.
  • Venezuela’s comptroller requested the freeze of bank accounts of the directors of the opposition’s managed company Citgo, as well as those of the deputies of the National Assembly involved in the allegations of corruption that the Armando.info portal reported.

Human Rights

  • Director of digital news outlet Efecto Cocuyo, Luz Mely Reyes, received the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
  • Representatives of NGO’s Foro Penal and Una Ventana a la Libertad argue that the situation of the human rights in the country has not improved since UN High Commissioner, Michele Bachelet, published a highly critical report of the Maduro government last July. In fact during 2019, the number of political prisoners, and deaths at the hand of police increased.
  • The Cotejo.info reported that there were 362 women killed in Venezuela in 2019. Almost one-third were related to gender violence.

Humanitarian Crisis

  • In the recent “Global Humanitarian Overview 2020” report, the UN estimates that 7 million Venezuelans require humanitarian assistance. The report mentions that the main drivers of the humanitarian situation are likely to continue in 2020.

Civil Society

  • The executive director and founder of Transparency International Venezuela, Mercedes de Freitas, in an interview, expressed her preoccupation with the corruption in the country’s political institutions and authorities, including the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
  • The Venezuelan justice will continue to investigate the journalist Luis Carlos Díaz for one more year, despite, as many civil society groups have denounced, there is no evidence to support the accusations against him (public incitement).

Migration

  • Human Rights Watch said that Venezuela’s migrant kids in Brazil face the risk of becoming homeless, abused, or recruited by gangs. The organization stated that more Venezuelan children flee the country alone.
  • The Brazilian government granted refugee status on 21,432 Venezuelans in an extraordinary one-day event. The number of Venezuelan refugee applications in Brazil increased from 17,685 in 2017 to 61,681 in 2018 (a 245% increase).
  • The Dominican Republic is the latest country that will require a visa for Venezuelans that plan to visit the country, a measure that will go into effect on the 16th of December. Guaidó said that he would ask from the Dominican authorities to revise or Roll back l this decision.