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WAR AT RODEO JAIL. That which started on Sunday, June 12 as a riot among prisoners at El Rodeo jail lingered for an entire month, due to a confrontation that ended with the militarization of the prison and the jailbreak of prison leader Yorvis López, alias Oriente. He was caught afterwards in the state of Bolívar. Although opposition deputy Richard Blanco warned at first that there were 40 dead, Minister of Interior and Justice Tareck El Aissami confirmed there were 22. After cutting the electrical service and firing some shots, the government acknowledged that prisoners had hand-thrown bombs and assault rifles.
HIGHER INFLATION RATE. Although the goal was to reduce the inflation rate between 2% and 4% in order to place it between 23% and 25%, President of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) Nelson Merentes pointed out that 2011 maintained the inflation rate of 27% which stood at the same rate by the end of the previous year. Food shortages also remained, as well as the decrease in production of agricultural goods. The Government, for its part, passed in July the Law of Costs and Fair Prices in order to fine those who increase sales prices without prior authorization.
SUPPORT LENDED TO GADDAFI. Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez supported his Libyan counterpart Muamar Gadaffi during the revolts which ended up overthrowing him after 42 years in office. "Long live Libya and its Independency! Kadafi is facing a civil war!" warned President Chávez on February 24 on his Twitter account. Eight months later -when the news of Gadaffi's death broke- he added that Gadaffi would be remembered as a "martyr." In the middle of critical times in Arabian territories, London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released in May documents from Raúl Reyes' computer, in which links between Venezuela's Government and the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) are noticeable.
LAND DISPUTE OVER THE ESSEQUIBO TERRITORY. Guyana requested in September the UN (United Nations) to extend its continental shelf from 200 to 350 miles, which as a consequence, makes of departing from Venezuela to the Atlantic Ocean a difficult task. The Venezuelan Government labeled the event as an "irregular situation," but this time it opted not to come up with "the past threatening attitudes of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie" that "bothered the sister nation." After meeting in Trinidad, Foreign Ministers Nicolás Maduro and Carolyn Rodrigues agreed to keep holding the talks on the border issue through diplomatic channels. Days after, Georgetown granted new licenses to extract gold in the "disputed zone."
MAKLED IS SILENCED. Walid Makled was deported to Venezuela on May 9. Since then, he has not featured on newspapers in company with general officers and ministers accused of drug-dealing or corruption. Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos made the decision to extradite Makled on April 6 and simultaneously the bond with "his best new friend" Hugo Chávez have continued to strengthen.
THE MAFIA OF THE REBAR. The Military Intelligence Division (MID) raided several facilities of Sidor (Venezuelan state-run steelmaker Siderúrgica del Orinoco) company located in Caracas and the state of Bolívar; in which a series of raid operatives brought to light a black market of rebars, whose prices are regulated. Commercial manager of Sidor Luís Velásquez - whom they started to call "The king of the rebar"- was detained on June 9. Since then, a series of arrests - which warn about corruption and hoarding- were made in Guayana's basic industries. Denunciations on the "Mafia of the rebar" were first issued in 2010 but the scandal ended up breaking in June 2011.
TRAIN CRASHES AND AIRCRAFT FAILURES. Three trains collided with each other on September 29 inside the tunnel of Los Valles del Tuy. That same month, either 31 aircraft accidents or failures were recorded.
GOLD IS BROUGHT INTO THE COUNTRY. President Hugo Chávez made an order to repatriate 17,000 gold bars stored in banks from England, Switzerland, the United States and Canada. "The gold must be stored in the bank vaults of the Central Bank of Venezuela," said President Chávez on August 18, when the historical record - set on September 6 with USD 1923,2 per ounce- started to rise. Just one day before President Chávez's announcement, Deputy Julio Montoya leaked -on August 16- a memorandum account from the Ministry of Planning and Finance, which was aimed to moving the gold stocks of the nation to countries such as China, Russia and Brazil.
AFIUNI, FORERO AND VIVAS AT HOME. In 2011, five political prisoners were released because of humanitarian measures: judge María Lourdes Afiuni, political leader Alejandro Peña Esclusa and police commissioners Lázaro Forero, Henry Vivas and José Sánchez "Mazuco."
REAL ESTATE LAW IS INTRODUCED. After being passed at Venezuela's National Assembly (AN), President Hugo Chávez enacted the Law of Real State Rental on November 12; law which enables the State to regulate the rates conditions for a property owner to recover his/her home from tenants' hands and taxes on unoccupied dwellings. The home deficit is above two million housing units. Although the mission was to build 153,549 houses in 2011, Chávez promised on December 10 that 130,000 houses would be constructed. However, he later, on December 26, offered a new number: 140,000.
FRAUD AT STATE-RUN COMPANY PDVSA. One of the major scandals of the year came from abroad - the United States - in March, when the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought to light a fraud regarding bank accounts, such as the pension funds that retired people from Petróleos de Venezuela company (PDVSA) had entrusted to Francisco Illaramendi, a government adviser who by then had kept a low profile. Illarramendi pleaded guilty in September for defrauding his clients for about USD 540 million, through a pyramidal structure which offered sudden interests to those who made deposits to his bank account.
ACCOUNTABILITY AT THE UN. The Venezuelan state had to render an account on October 7 in Geneva, when it took the first exam - Universal Periodic Review (UPR) - that the United Nations of Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) make the member countries take. That very day, even representatives from allied governments criticized the official policies: the Brazilian delegation requested more autonomy for the judiciary, whereas Russia expressed concern on the existing delays of judicial proceedings.
POLITICAL CYBER-ATTACKS. Journalist Ibéyise Pacheco's and political leader Eduardo Semtei's twitter accounts were hacked on August 31. From that moment on, a series of cyber attacks were carried out against other political dissenters. A group - which named itself "N33"- claimed responsibility for the action after reporting an "inappropriate use of social network twitter (...) under the excuse of freedom of expression."
Translated by Adrián Valera Villani
Luis Jiménez Alfaro seems to have hidden under the rocks. The last time he was seen was on April 2006 walking calmly around Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetía, located nearby Caracas. At that time, more than five tons of cocaine arrived in Mexico in an airplane which took off from Venezuela, and his name featured as a missing piece of the puzzle of one of the most massive drug shipments that has been witnessed in the Western Hemisphere.