On June 8, Vice President of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Enrique Márquez announced that the council would be investigating the state-operated news station, Venezolana de Television (VTV) for the “use of public resources for partisan ends.” Ahead of regional and municipal elections scheduled for November, Márquez has accused VTV of using the news station to promote the ruling PSUV party and its internal nomination process.
Enrique Márquez, who acts as both CNE Vice President and President of the CNE’s Political Participation and Financing Commission (COPAFI), published an official statement to his Twitter account on June 8 announcing the launch of an investigation into VTV, citing that Article 145 of the Venezuelan Constitution states that public officials are “at the service of the state and without any partiality.” The statement also makes note of Venezuela’s Anti-Corruption Law, which states that public officials who use their role to promote a specific candidate, group, organization, party, or movement, could face between 1 and 3 years in prison. Márquez explains in his statement that the CNE will be initiating an investigation into VTV on the grounds that the station has unfairly promoted candidates for the PSUV party, making specific reference to Socialist party Vice President Diosdado Cabello’s program “Con el Mazo Dando,” in which Cabello detailed internal PSUV party processes and its internal elections onJune 2. The statement appeared to send a message to all public officials to comply with legal obligations to use public resources towards the shared goal of “growth and restoration of democratic institutionality.”
Communications Minister and VTV head Freddy Ñáñez responded to Márquez’s statement on Twitter, arguing that he is compromising his role on the CNE by speaking from a personal position of “opposition militancy.” Diosdado Cabello also responded on Wednesday’s episode of Con el Mazo Dando, during which he accused Márquez of “unilaterally” opening such an investigation and seeking to “sabotage” November’s elections, and defended his discussion of internal party processes, which he described as “extraordinary for democracy,” on his program. Márquez defended the announcement in an interview with EFE on Thursday, stating that he is simply fulfilling his duty as COPAFI President to ensure that state resources are not used to support political campaigns.
- On June 7, the Frente Amplio civil society coalition announced the launch of an initiative called ‘Las ideas de todos’ to promote dialogue and cohesion among groups advocating for democratic change in the country. The meetings will take place from June 7 to July 17, and dialogue will be facilitated by representatives of universities, the health sector, labor unions, communities, NGOs, and political parties.
- On June 7, the National Electoral Council (CNE) President Pedro Calzadilla announced details of an electoral schedule ahead of regional and municipal elections programmed for November 21. The schedule includes dates for national voter registration, the nomination for candidates, and electoral campaigns.
- Although the mainstream opposition led by Juan Guaidó has yet to make an official announcement regarding plans to participate in upcoming regional and municipal elections, opposition parties are reportedly in the process of selecting candidates and are gearing up for electoral campaigns ahead of the official nomination period in August.
- In an interview with Voz de América, U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Jimmy Story expressed the U.S. government’s support for recent efforts to advance negotiations between the Maduro government and the opposition with the facilitation of the Norwegian government. Story urged the parties involved to achieve an accord that allows for free, fair, and inclusive elections.
- Following reports that the U.S. is monitoring the movement of Iranian Navy ships believed to be carrying weapons destined for Venezuela, the Iranian Foreign Ministry defended the right to free movement in international waters. The Biden administration is reportedly considering measures to interfere with the shipment, regarding the impending delivery as a “threat to our partners in the Western Hemisphere.”
- On June 8, de facto National Assembly president Jorge Rodríguez accused members of the Voluntad Popular party of financing criminal groups in poor neighborhoods of Caracas such as La Vega, Petare and Cota 905. On the same day, Nicolás Maduro similarly claimed that members of the opposition have paid armed groups to “generate violence” and “attack the Venezuelan people.” The claims come just over a week after the New York Times published an article exposing the extent to which the Venezuelan security forces have lost control over segments of Caracas to organized criminal groups.
- Facing reports that International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda plans to make an announcement in the coming weeks regarding the results of a preliminary investigation into crimes committed by the Maduro government, Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab announced on June 9 that he had made a formal request with the ICC to “convene a meeting with involved parties” to ensure a fair process and cooperation with the Maduro government. Just a few days prior, Saab made a separate request that the ICC discard evidence of crimes committed by the Venezuelan security forces that was “obtained illegally.”
- Espacio Público reports that the Maduro government is believed to be behind increasing restrictions on digital media access, including the recent blocking of access to three news sites—La Patilla, Caraota Digital, and AlbertoRodNews—from nearly all major internet providers in Venezuela. On June 4, El Nacional columnist Rafael Rattia was briefly detained by the Venezuelan security forces after his home was raided due to alleged “instigation of hate” after publishing an opinion piece. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, Espacio Público documented at least 150 violations of the freedom of expression in Venezuela, including but not limited to intimidation, defamation, administrative restrictions, harassment, threats of judicial action, and raids.
- This week, the 10th Circuit Court in Zulia state ordered the detention of five members of a labor union for “criminal association” after they demanded improved conditions for workers at a local construction site. Among the detained is Luis Ramon Valles Nuñes, leader of the leftist labor rights organization Izquierda Unida.
- On Sunday, Juan Guaidó spoke out publicly against the “constant persecution” of the Venezuelan people after reports emerged that his pregnant wife, Fabiana Rosales, and infant daughter had been harassed by the Venezuelan security forces on their way to a doctor’s appointment.
- This week, the Piñera government received backlash after reports emerged that the Chilean government had deported at least 53 Venezuelan nationals on June 6, which some human rights activists claim occurred without any sort of due process. UN Special Rapporteur for Migration Felipe González expressed his concern over Twitter, reiterating that mass deportations are in violation of international law.
- This week, municipal authorities in Arauquita, Colombia reported that many of the nearly 6 thousand people displaced by the armed conflict in Apure have started to return to Venezuela. The authorities informed that approximately 3,500 of the displaced remain in shelters in Arauquita.
- This week, an immigration attorney exposed on Instagram that a group of approximately 80 Venezuelan migrants were deported from the United States. The individuals were reportedly deported to Mexico without their documentation after being assured that they would be taken to a safe location.
- On June 7 the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Mauricio Claver-Carone met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to discuss the situation of Venezuelan migrants and refugees in the region.
- This week, well-known Venezuelan infectious disease expert Julio Castro and the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV) called on the Maduro government to provide greater clarity around a national vaccination plan after photos emerged of hundreds of Venezuelans waiting in line for up to 10 hours after the second phase of public vaccination was launched on May 29.
- On June 10, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza published a letter signed by Santiago Cornejo, the regional official for the COVAX initiative, which claims that UBS bank blocked four separate transactions in which the government attempted to pay outstanding debts to the mechanism. Why these payments were blocked, possibly due to overcompliance, and not previous payments totalling over $109 million, is unclear.
- Medical associations and NGOs have spoken out against the Maduro government for manipulating data around COVID-19 vaccination rates after Vice President Delcy Rodríguez stated on June 5 that nearly 11 percent of the Venezuelan population had been vaccinated. The NGO Médicos Unidos suggested that the true rate of vaccination is likely closer to 1.1 percent.
- On June 5, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez announced that the Maduro government had reached a deal with Russian pharmaceutical company Geropharm for the purchase of 10 million doses of the EpiVacCorona vaccine, and for Venezuela to produce doses of the vaccine domestically.