On October 9, the Maduro-controlled National Constituent Assembly (ANC) approved a controversial new measure known as “the anti-blockade law,” which gives the executive branch unilateral authority to confidentially sign new economic deals with private firms and foreign nations.
The government argues that the law will protect foreign investment in the country. The opposition has been critical of the measure, especially of the fact that it was approved by the ANC rather than the democratically-elected National Assembly. In remarks on social media, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó described the measure as “an operation of the dictator to continue looting the country,” which “cannot be called a law.”
While the ANC lacks constitutional legitimacy, let alone a clear sense of internal norms, the “passage” of the measure was notable even for the ANC. The measure was approved in a bizarre session where very few of the total 545 ANC members were present, and no debate took place. Some ANC members even claimed that the government blocked them from being present in the session, an unusual occurrence for a body that consists of government supporters.
A notable element of the response to the measure was the strong resistance from left-wing sectors. These critics argue that the “anti-blockade law” opens the possibility for the privatization of Venezuela’s oil and other natural resources, which are constitutionally protected as publicly owned. Several of these organizations pressed the government to put the law up for a vote in a referendum. While their criticisms went largely ignored by the ruling PSUV, it is a sign of growing dissatisfaction with the Maduro government among actors historically associated with Chavismo.
- Reuters reports on the spread of protests across the interior of the country, in particular in rural strongholds of Chavismo. The protests are focused on the government’s crippling public services, fuel shortages, and the difficulty of obtaining food. The government has responded to these protests with repression and arrests. According to the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social, September was the month with the most protests during 2020.
- In the Washington Post Luz Mely Reyes, co-founder and editor of Efecto Cocuyo, has an overview on the surge in small-scale protests in the interior, noting that similar waves of protests have occurred in recent years, though the gas shortages, overall deterioration in living standards, and the pandemic makes these more notable.
- Last week saw three members of the National Armed Forces (two lieutenants and a sergeant) were killed while carrying out robberies and clashed with police forces. In previous weeks, another army officer was killed in a similar event. These incidents may be a demonstration of a an ongoing breakdown in the institutionality of the armed forces, as well as an indication of the low pay and difficult conditions they face.
Freedom of Press
- Journalists and news portals denounced that three independent digital media suffered government censorship and cyber attacks last week. The site “La Gran Aldea” and “Qué pasa web” suffered attacks on their websites, while the country’s major public internet provided, Cantv, blocked for hours the access to the “Efecto Cocuyo” webpage. Also, state security forces raided the office of web portal 15minutos.com offices without giving specific reasons for the raid.
- Venezuelan migration appears to be on the rise again after months of COVID-19 lockdowns in Venezuela and abroad that had frozen it, reports the Associated Press. In Colombia, authorities expect 200,000 Venezuelans to enter the country in the following months. However, the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions in the country and the region in general, together with the global public health crisis, make migration movements more difficult than before.
- The head of the regional integration organization Andean Community (CAN) issued a statement that 60% of the approximately five million Venezuelan migrants are in the countries of the organization (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador). For the organization, the impact of Venezuelan migration goes beyond the social and economic impact and extends to security, health, education, employment, and even in the countries’ cultural and political sphere. For these reasons, CAN asks for more international cooperation to help the countries to deal with the migration situation.
- Chile is moving towards a tougher stance towards migration. The Chilean parliament is discussing the approval of a controversial new migration law, which has the government’s support. The new law is tougher on irregular migration–and has received criticism from the opposition and civil society.
- A series of civil society organizations that work on Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela have written to Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister about the Venezuelan migration situation in the island country. The organizations express deep concerns regarding the recent deportations of Venezuelan migrants for Trinidad and Tobago. They also ask the government to protect asylum seekers and others from deportation and open the registration process to ensure that Venezuelans in Trinidad and Tobago get legal status.
- The collateral damage of U.S. sanctions have ecological dimensions, too. The Italian oil company Eni has delayed for weeks its plan to drain a Venezuelan floating oil vessel because of concerns over U.S. sanctions, Argus media reports. The ship, moored offshore of the country’s east part, is a potential environmental risk, and Venezuela’s neighbor, Trinidad and Tobago, worries about it.
- Writing in the National Review, Venezuelan Alliance President and Abigail Adams Institute Fellow Jorge Jraissati argues that the U.S. sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry have the unintended consequence of bringing Iran and Venezuela together, and he suggests that the U.S. government re-evaluate the sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector.
- In an update to a September letter signed by 115 Venezuelan organizations and individuals, the groups that spearheaded the initial letter have issued a joint statement calling on the United States to not to end sanctions exemptions for diesel swaps. As the signers note, limiting the flow of diesel to Venezuela could have devastating effects on the Venezuelan people. The organizations note that in 2018, 85% of diesel consumption was concentrated in freight transportation, with 15% concentrated in transportation of people.