Merida

Venezuelans braced themselves as a series of long-anticipated economic measures came into effect on August 20, including the launch of a new paper currency called the Sovereign Bolivar.

The new currency brings with it a revaluation of all prices, wages and pensions, which will be cut by five zeros. Both the old Strong Bolivar and Sovereign Bolivar will co-exist for a period of time yet to be announced by the government.

The fourth national congress of Venezuela’s largest political party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), wound up on July 30 following three days of intense activities. The congress was inaugurated on July 28, on the 64th birthday of the party’s late founder, Hugo Chavez.

The PSUV congress took place in an increasingly complicated context, amidst a collapsing economy, hyperinflation, international financial sanctions and an upcoming monetary reconversion.

“La Manada” (The Wolf Pack) is the name of a WhatsApp group chosen by five men to organise a trip to los sanfermines — the running of the bulls — in Pamplona, Navarra. During the festival, in the early hours of July 7, 2016, they gang raped an 18-year-old woman in a small room under the stairwell of a block of flats.

Three hours later, one of them shared a video of the attack in another male-only WhatsApp group with 28 members, called “Danger”. One of the five was an off-duty National Guard officer, another a soldier. During the trial, evidence of another attack committed by four of the five several months earlier was uncovered.

Despite this, although the trial found the men guilty of sexual abuse, it cleared them of rape.

Incumbent presidential candidate Nicolas Maduro prioritised visits to dissatisfied campesino communities over April 28-29 as part of a campaign strategy aimed at shoring up support in rural communities that have traditionally voted overwhelmingly for both ex-president Hugo Chavez and Maduro.

The countryside represents a critical constituency for the government in the upcoming May 20 election.

Venezuelan workers’ organisations have denounced illegal arrests, firings and persecution in the Lacteos Los Andes state-run dairy company and private Venevision TV station. Meanwhile, campesino (peasant) leaders in Barinas state were freed and authorised to return to their land after persecution by an ex-land owner.

Across Venezuela, commune activists are creating regional Presidential Councils of Communal Governance in order to play an greater role in the management of local and regional affairs in conjunction with national authorities.

Communes in Venezuela are made up of representatives of groups of smaller communal councils. These councils are direct participatory organisations that help manage community affairs. Communes cover a larger territorial area than communal councils and can receive public funds for larger scale projects and responsibilities.

Activists from across Venezuela met this month to form the National Communard Council, which aims to coordinate the country’s commune movement and present its demands to the national government.

The council was formed in the western state of Lara during a three-day meeting of about 2000 communards (commune members) from around the country. Most represented a particular commune.

The meeting was the fifth national gathering of the independent National Communard Network since the organisation was founded in 2009.

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