December 26, 2017

Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, has been subject to hyperinflation for months, with shopkeepers reportedly weighing bundles of near-worthless bills rather than counting them. The bolivar's value changes so often now, Reuters reports, that Venezuelans increasingly refuse to accept their own country's money in a desperate bid to retain real purchasing power.

In place of the bolivar, the dollar is demanded. "I can't think in bolivars anymore, because you have to give a different price every hour," a jeweler named Yoselin Aguirre told Reuters. "To survive, you have to dollarize," he added, which is why his prices are now tied to the dollar.

Currency exchange limits, low wages, a devastated economy, and an artificial exchange rate set by the socialist Maduro government make dollars hard to come by for most Venezuelans. The official exchange rate is 10 bolivars to one dollar, but on the black market it's more like 110,000 to one. So useless are the low-denomination bolivar bills that Reuters describes them being used as Christmas decorations in a "grim festive joke" for a holiday this year marked by deadly hunger.

For more, read The Week's Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on Venezuela's socialist hell. Bonnie Kristian

August 6, 2017
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Venezuelan soldiers shot and killed two armed attackers who stormed into a military base on Sunday in the city of Valencia, President Nicolas Maduro said.

About 20 armed men — some civilians, a few soldiers — entered the base, and went straight to where the weapons were stored; Socialist party officials said eight were arrested, including at least three members of the military, while the rest escaped with weapons. Anti-government protesters are angry over Maduro move on Friday to install a controversial Constituent Assembly, which backs him and has the power to dissolve all government bodies. Anti-government protests have been raging across Venezuela for four months, with the opposition speaking out against Maduro and the country's recession, inflation, and food and medicine shortages. Catherine Garcia

August 6, 2017
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A Venezuelan military base was subject to a "terrorist" attack late Saturday night, said Diosdado Cabello, head of Venezuela's ruling party and a loyalist of the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Maduro.

However, video posted on social media before the incident suggests it may have been a coup attempt instead, as the clip shows members of a Venezuelan army unit demanding "the immediate formation of a transition government." "This is not a coup d'etat," the speaker says. "This is a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction."

Meanwhile, Venezuela's new Constitutional Assembly on Saturday ousted the nation's top prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, sending guards in riot gear to keep her from her office. Ortega, a Maduro critic, was replaced by one of his supporters.

The Constitutional Assembly was created a week ago under a Maduro proposal to dissolve the country's former legislature, which was dominated by his opposition. The vote that installed the new legislature is under investigation, as independent polling suggests the Maduro government massively inflated turnout numbers and rigged the election in its favor.

All this political unrest comes as Venezuela continues to suffer a major economic crisis under Maduro's regime; food shortages are serious and inflation is high. Read The Week's explanation of the country's descent into chaos. Bonnie Kristian

August 3, 2017
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is expected to install the country's highly controversial constituent assembly on Friday, which will have more power than any other branch of government.

The 545 delegates were elected on Sunday, but because the opposition boycotted the election, most are pro-Maduro. Maduro has already said the assembly will take away constitutional immunity from opposition lawmakers and target Luisa Ortega Diaz, the country's chief prosecutor, by putting the office in a state of emergency and restructuring it; she has already filed a court order to get the assembly's installation stopped, and has ordered prosecutors to investigate allegations of election tampering, The Associated Press reports.

Opposition leaders have called for protests on Friday, and several lawmakers have said they won't step aside quietly. "The only way they'll get us out of here is by killing us," said Freddy Guevara, first vice president of the National Assembly. "They will never have the seat that the people of Venezuela gave us." Catherine Garcia

August 1, 2017
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Early Tuesday, Venezuela's intelligence service, Sebin, raided the homes of two leading opposition leaders, Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, and took them away, according to statements and video posted online by López's wife and Ledezma's daughter. Both men were under house arrest for their role in 2014 anti-government protests, and they were presumably re-arrested over recent protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, including one on Sunday in which at least 10 people were killed. Both López, the 46-year-old founder of the People's Will party (pictured), and Ledezma, a 62-year-old former Caracas mayor, made recent videos encouraging protest.

Maduro held a vote on Sunday to create a powerful constitutional assembly with the authority to rewrite the constitution in his favor, bar gubernatorial candidates, and disband any branch of government deemed insufficiently loyal, likely starting with the opposition-controlled legislature, the National Assembly. The National Electoral Council said the new assembly was approved amid a robust turnout of 8.1 million people, despite the opposition boycott, Maduro's terrible poll numbers, and Venezuela's terrible economy and food shortages; an outside exit poll put voter turnout at 3.6 million. The U.S., Europe, and most Latin American countries called the vote a sham, and the U.S. slapped sanctions on Maduro. Peter Weber

July 30, 2017
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As many as 14 people were killed Sunday in Venezuela during violent protests against President Nicolas Maduro's election to create a constitutional assembly.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said as many as 14 people died during demonstrations, while the prosecutor's office confirmed gunfire killed at least six people, including a national guardsman. Many Venezuelans stayed away from the polls, calling the election a sham. The assembly would rewrite the constitution and have nearly unlimited powers to dissolve institutions like the parliament, now controlled by the opposition. The opposition believes the assembly would turn the country into a dictatorship, and the election is being criticized by many foreign governments as being illegal. Catherine Garcia

July 30, 2017
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Venezuelans vote Sunday on a proposal from the widely unpopular President Nicolas Maduro to create a new legislative body called the Constituent Assembly and dissolve the National Assembly, which is dominated by Maduro's opposition.

Because opposition leaders have called for a boycott of what they consider an illegitimate vote, Maduro's plan to consolidate his power is expected to pass. The ballot comes after months of unrest over massive shortages of basic foods and goods thanks to the Maduro government's socialist policies.

President Trump recently issued targeted sanctions against pro-Maduro Venezuelan politicians and has threatened "strong and swift economic action" against Maduro if the Constituent Assembly is created. Mexico, Colombia, and Panama sanctioned the same leaders, and the Organization of American States denounced Sunday's vote. Bonnie Kristian

July 16, 2017
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A woman was killed and four others wounded Sunday in Venezuela, as opposition leaders held a symbolic referendum on President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the country's constitution.

The woman, a 61-year-old nurse, died during a shooting in western Caracas; the mayor of the borough of Sucre said pro-government paramilitary fighters on motorcycles attacked voters waiting outside of a church. The official vote for a new assembly that would be able to rewrite the 1999 constitution is set for July 30, but opposition politicians decided to hold the symbolic referendum to put pressure on Maduro. The voters on Sunday were asked to vote yes or no on three questions: Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they support an early election being called before Maduro's current term expires in 2018? Do they believe the military should protect the government the way it is? Hundreds of thousands of people are thought to have voted in Venezuela and expat communities.

Venezuela is experiencing an economic crisis, made even worse due to falling oil prices. Since anti-government protests stared earlier this year, at least 93 people have been killed, 1,500 wounded, and more than 500 arrested. Catherine Garcia

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