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State of Surveilance

Beyond the never ending tear gas and rubber buckshot, it turns out the security forces have a second line of defense against the protests. Both the National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police (under orders of the Defense and Interior Ministries) are using spying tactics to infiltrate protests and identify its leaders. This excellent report…

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Notes on the Venezuelan Media Blackout

In a recent nationwide broadcast of a Peace Summit between the Government and some opposition people (none of the actors involved in the current crisis attended), Venevisión’s Carlos Bardasano, speaking on behalf of private media, gave a brief speech: “I believe everything has been said, you can count on the private media to help build…

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Sanity from the Prosecutor General

In a rare bout of justice, Venezuela’s Prosecutor General has charged five government intelligence agents with the murder of two people on February 12th. The two people in question are student Bassil Da Costa and chavista activist Juan Montoya. Initially, government blogs had said the opposition had killed Montoya. Government paramilitary gangs known as “colectivos”…

Plaza Altamira, February 15

Torture, Rape and Ransom

As the student protests continue, shocking stories of the detained are hitting social media and some news outlets. Detainees are not allowed to see their family members, some students have been beaten, shocked with electricity, doused with gasoline and threatened to be set on fire. There are personal accounts of detained students being stripped of their clothing…

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La Terrorista

Oh “La venganza de la Obrera” How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the faces of the men aghast with the piropos that you say. I love those that stammer and look at you with a bright red face. I love the ones that smile meekly and then quicken the…

Humanrights

HRW “unlikes” Maduro

The 2014 World Report from Human Rights Watch just came out. Let’s just say the chapter on Venezuela is not too friendly with the government. Among its many money quotes, we find: “The Supreme Court and the National Electoral Council rejected appeals filed by the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, challenging the results.” “For example,…

Economic cyberwar, cont.

CONATEL is continuing its Internet offensive against the “parallel dollar”, with the shutdown of more than 100 sites related to the black market. But looks like they decided to take the ongoing crackdown one step further. Enter URL shortening service Bitly. Apparently, it was used as a possible shortcut for those websites. So, the obvious response…

Economic cyberwar

Missing in the news whirlpool of the last few days was the recent online crackdown to shut down websites that informed (directly or indirectly) the prices of the black market foreign currency. Last weekend, CONATEL opened an administrative investigation against eight Internet Service Providers and ordered them to take down those websites ASAP. So far,…

A new kind of draft

Recluta… there’s a word that brings memories. (In most, if not all cases, not happy ones). For a country that’s gone over 150 years without a proper shootin’ war, the need for a military draft is a little hard to understand, and yet we’ve had one for as long as anyone can remember. My dad…

The Battle of Sabaneta Prison Ends (Updated)

In the end, there was no final battle between Sabaneta Prison pran-in-chief “El Mocho Edwin” and State forces. Instead, all the remaining inmates were moved out over the weekend. “El Mocho” backed down on his earlier promise to stay inside Sabaneta no matter what. He was transferred in an armored vehicle to a military aircraft,…

The Battle of Sabaneta Prison, cont.

Sabaneta Prison remains tense, even after a large number of inmates have been transferred to other prisons. Yesterday, the major pran of Sabaneta, “El Mocho Edwin”, made an appereance on the prison’s rooftop, asking for dialogue. Hours earlier, a member of the Prisons Ministry was “allowed” in to Sabaneta to negotiate directly with the pran himself.…

The Battle of Sabaneta Prison

For the second time in a month, a serious spasm of violence convulsed Sabaneta Prison in Maracaibo. The toll this time: 16 people dead. At the center of the violence is a major pran (prison gang boss) who’s known as “El Mocho Edwin”, who took uncontested power of the prison recently. In a garish Syrian twist,…

The government’s ombudsman

One of the new state institutions created in the 1999 Constitution was the figure of the People’s Ombudsman, in charge of defending citizens’ rights against the state. Fourteen years after its creation, the role of the Ombudsman has diverted significantly from its constitutional duties. It has simply become (just like the rest of the State’s…

Bronze medal in prison overcrowding

The Economist posted this chart today about prison overcrowding around the world. Only Haiti and the Philippines have a higher rate of overcrowding than Venezuela. Also, the country’s data sheet from the International Centre for Prison Studies indicate that the total number of inmates in our penitenciary system doubled between 2008 and 2012. The consequences of…