The Rendon Group
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Food Riots in Venezuela as Political and Economic Crisis Worsens
This week’s snapshot focuses on the deteriorating political, economic, and security situation in Venezuela. Exacerbated by the global collapse of oil prices, Venezuela’s economy has been hit by triple-digit inflation and a scarcity of basic goods, which has led to widespread food riots and looting. The opposition is campaigning to recall President Maduro, who vows to hold on to power and push on with the “socialist revolution” launched by his late predecessor Hugo Chavez. Worried about the growing crisis, the Organization of American States (OAS) has stepped up its attempts to mediate a solution.
News summary of events during the week of 13JUN16 – 19JUN16
- 13JUN: Henrique Capriles, a senior figure in the opposition MUD coalition, launched a tour of Latin American countries to rally support for his side in its bid to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office. (AFP)
- 13JUN: Venezuela registered its biggest monthly oil-production decline in a decade in May, according to data released by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, signaling further trouble for the country already enduring severe economic hardship. (WSJ)
- 13JUN: Venezuela’s socialist government eased a nationwide energy-saving program, bringing to an end a controversial two-day work week since April for nearly 3 million public sector workers. (Reuters)
- 13JUN: Peruvian President elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski called for Latin America’s leaders to increase pressure on Venezuela to uphold rights for political opponents and address an economic crisis that has led to shortages of basic goods. (WSJ)
- 14JUN: A man was shot dead during looting, opposition legislator Milagros Paz said. (Reuters)
- 14JUN: US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the OAS general assembly, called on Venezuela’s government to release political prisoners and permit a recall referendum on President Maduro. (WSJ)
- 14JUN: Venezuelan FM Delcy Rodriguez rejected Secretary Kerry’s criticisms, saying her country was the victim of “international bullying from the right.” (WSJ)
- 14JUN: US Secretary of State John Kerry said Venezuela and the United States will immediately start talks to ease tensions between the two countries and does not support its ouster from a regional diplomatic bloc. (Reuters)
- 15JUN: A fourth person died as a result of spontaneous food riots as security forces increased their presence in the looting-hit coastal city of Cumana. (AP)
- 15JUN: Venezuela asked its regional neighbors to meet next week with international mediators trying to help settle the country’s economic and political crisis, officials said. (AFP)
- 16JUN: The US Citizenship and Immigration Services released data showing that the number of Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States has soared as the oil-dependent economy crashes and more of the middle-class flees. (AP)
- 16JUN: Police arrested 400 people in Cumana after the country’s food crisis erupted into looting this week. (AFP)
- 16JUN: Venezuelan oil minister Eulogio del Pino said that recent rains have helped produce electricity from hydro-electric power production, which is essential for oil production and the overall health of the country’s economy. (Reuters)
- 17JUN: A group of former Latin American presidents warned OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro that the region’s commitment to democracy will be tested next week when the Organization of American States debates whether to intervene in Venezuela’s economic and political crisis. (McClatchy)
- 17JUN: Residents continued to barricade their shops in the eastern city of Cumana following violent food riots. (AFP)
- 19JUN: An unknown armed group seized one of the facilities of Empresas Polar, Venezuela’s largest food company and the brewer of 80 percent of the country’s beer. (EFE)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the Venezuelan political and economic crisis
- @philgunson – Phil Gunson, Senior Analyst, International Crisis Group
- @marazuniga – Mariana Zuniga, Freelance journalist in Caracas
- @orozcomjo – Jose Orozco, Journalist, Bloomberg
- @miguelsantos12 – Miguel Angel Santos, Senior Research Fellow, Harvard Center for International Development
- @MoisesNaim – Moisés Naím, Distinguished Fellow, Carnegie Endowment
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Venezuelan political and economic crisis
José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director, Human Rights Watch
“I’m very pleased with [Mr. Kuczynski’s] statements [criticizing Maduro], which are very refreshing, very reassuring, and very important ones not only for Venezuela but for the entire region. It is absolutely central that democratic leaders in the region are united around the protection of fundamental principles of democracy and human rights.”
- “Peru’s Incoming President Pressures Venezuela on Human Rights, Economic Crisis ,“ WSJ, 13JUN16
Roberto Briceno Leon, Director, Venezuelan Observatory of Violence
“The looting is going to continue because there’s hunger. The government’s response appears to be insufficient or politicized, so people are resorting to robbery.”
- “4th person dies as a result of food riots rocking Venezuela,” AP, 15JUN16
Tulio Ramirez, Professor, Central University of Venezuela
“A year interrupted like this cannot be recovered. These kids are growing up with an educational deficit.”
- “Kids, Teachers Ditch School as Crisis Engulfs Venezuela,” Reuters, 16JUN16
Adelba Taffin, Spokeswoman, Movement of Organized Parents
“This country has abandoned its children. By the time we see the full consequences, there will be no way to put it right.”
- “No Food, No Teachers, Violence in Failing Venezuela Schools,” AP, 17JUN16
Rafael Uzcategui, Coordinator General, Provea
“What is currently preventing a general explosion of social unrest is the possibility that people can make their voices heard by means such as a referendum. Not allowing a referendum would unleash a very serious situation.”
- “Deaths, arrests as looting erupts in Venezuela,” AFP, 17JUN16
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the Venezuelan political and economic crisis
- Venezuela Returns to 5 Day Workweek as Energy Crisis Eases
Media: Associated Press
Date: 14 June 2016
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela’s two-day workweek is no more.
Public workers will now work five days a week again because officials say a severe energy crisis has eased.
- OPINION: Can Venezuela be helped off the ledge?
Media: Washington Post
Byline: David Ignatius
Date: 14 June 2016
NOTE: David Ignatius is an opinion writer for the Washington Post.
With Venezuela spinning into chaos and collapse, the Obama administration has pondered how to nudge the imploding nation toward political change — without making Uncle Sam a target. The administration appears to have found the right formula this week.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced Tuesday at a meeting of the Organization of American States that the United States will support an OAS plan for a “fair and timely” recall referendum that could replace the failing government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. A senior State Department official specified that “in our view, ‘fair and timely’ means this year.”
- Venezuela accuses Washington and the OAS of fostering a coup
Media: Washington Post
Byline: Carol Morello
Date: 14 June 2016
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — The United States and Venezuela will work to improve their strained relations, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday after meeting with his counterpart from Caracas, who hours earlier had accused Washington of helping foment a coup against Venezuela’s socialist government.
On a day that started with Kerry backing calls for a referendum to recall President Nicolás Maduro, as well as Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez saying Washington was “bullying” her country, Kerry and Rodriguez spoke privately for about half an hour. Initially they avoided eye contact when posing for photos and exchanged an awkward handshake, but Kerry later described their conversation as “very congenial and very respectful.”
- Looting and unrest continue roiling Venezuela as shortages persist and protesters demand food
Media: Los Angeles Times
Byline: Chris Kraul and Mery Mogollon
Date: 15 June 2016
Venezuela, where anger over food shortages is still mounting, continued to be roiled this week by angry protests and break-ins of grocery stores and businesses that have left five dead, at least 30 injured and 200 arrested, according to various news reports.
The latest fatality came from the southwest city of Merida, where 17-year-old Jean Paul Omana died Wednesday after being shot Tuesday during a disturbance amid looting.
- Kids, Teachers Ditch School as Crisis Engulfs Venezuela
Date: 16 June 2016
LA FRIA, Venezuela — Mariangel Caceres’ teachers, whose salaries do not buy enough food to live on, stopped showing up for classes early this year.
The state school in the verdant Andean state of Tachira in Venezuela also had to cut back on providing meals due to nationwide food shortages.